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Opener's Rebid When Responder Has Shown A Fit

This lesson shows how the partnership conversation continues after opener opens with 1 of a major suit and responder makes a bid which shows a fit.

Responder has shown a fit for the suit you opened, so you now know where to play the hand. The only questions that remain are "how many points does the partnership have" and "is it possible that there is a game: where does the partnership play the hand"? [See the lesson on three important questions for a discussion of these questions.]

Most of the time you'll have a good idea of how many support points partner has for your suit, so you add them to yours. If there can't be enough for game, you PASS. It's important that you PASS since any other bid you make tells partner that there's still a chance of game even with the points she's shown already. If you think game is possible, you need to let partner know more about the points that you hold. Right now (since you opened 1 or 1♠), she thinks you have anywhere from 13-21 points (along with your five or more hearts [or spades]). If you think that game is still possible, you need to make a bid which tells her more about your hand and points (is it a minimum opening hand? a strong opening hand? a maximum opening hand?).

There is one thing you can do now that you know a fit is found. You can also add support points just as responder did. That is, you can add 1 point for every doubleton in your hand, 2 points for every singleton and 3 points for every void. Sometimes this changes your hand from (e.g.) a minimum opener to a strong opener!

Responder makes a minimum raise

Suppose you open 1 and (after the opponent to your right PASSes) your partner bids 2.

  1. If you still have a minimum opener (13-15 points or 7 or so losers), game is unlikely. Partner has shown 6-9 points or 9 or so losers. Thus, the partnership has (least) 13+6=19 points to (most) 15+9=24 points, or 19-24 points which isn't up to the "magic number of 26 points." Also, the partnership has 7+9=16 losers. This suggests that the partnership has 24-16=8 tricks. Removing the first six tricks ("book"), this suggests that the partnership shouldn't go above the 2-level. Your partner has bid 2 so you should just PASS.

  2. If you have a maximum opener (19-21 points or 5 or so losers), game should be bid. Let's look at it like you did just a moment ago. The partnership has (least) 19+6=25 points to (most) 21+9=30 points. The partnership also has 5+9=14 losers or 10 winners (24-14=10). This is enough for game. [Ok, if the partnership has only 25 points, you might be a point short of the "magic" 26 points. Unfortunately you won't be able to find out if partner has 7 to 9 points so you have to guess that most of the time she'll have 7 to 9. Sometimes you'll be wrong, but what you're trying to do in bridge is to be right more often than wrong.] Since the partnership has enough for game but not for slam (the partnership needs 33 or more points for that, remember?) and you know that the partnership has a fit in hearts (in this example), you can just jump and bid 4! Responder shouldn't get terribly excited by this since she's told you everything you needed to know and you just told her that slam can't be made. She should PASS at her next turn to bid.

  3. If you have strong opener (16-18 points or 6 or so losers), game is still possible. The partnership has anywhere from 16+6=22 points to 18+9=27 points. [LTC suggests that you can bid safely to the 3-level since you only have 15 total losers: 9 winners.] So, with the partnership points being 22-27, sometimes you'll have enough for game and sometimes you won't. What you'd really like to know is: does my partner have 8-9 points [a "maximum" minimum responding hand]? If she does, the partnership probably has enough for game. How do you tell her this? Well, first of all, you don't PASS. And you can't jump all the way to game either. So, you make an invitation to her by bidding 3. This says "Thanks for letting me know me have a fit in hearts. You might still have enough for game if you have the top point range for your minimum response. Do you?" She'll bid game if she can and PASS otherwise.
So when partner raised you, 1) you added support points to your hand, 2) you added up the partnership points (and determined winners using LTC) and 3) made a decision. If game wasn't possible, you PASSed. If the partnership had enough for game, you bid it. If game was possible but not certain, you issued an invitation. Bidding isn't all that hard if you listen, is it?

Responder makes a limit raise

Suppose you open 1♠ and partner makes a limit raise of 3♠ showing 10-12 support points (or 8 or so losers) and indicating that the partnership has a spade fit. Add any support points to your hand since a fit has been found.
  1. If you have a strong opening hand (16-18 points or 6 or so losers), the partnership has 26-30 points (or 14 or so total losers which gives 10 winners). This is enough for game, but not enough for slam, so you just bid 4♠.

  2. If you have a minimum opening hand (13-15 points or 7 or so losers), the partnership has 23-27 points (or 15 or so total losers which gives 9 winners). This is sometimes enough for game but not always, so you have to make a decision as to whether you want to try for game or not. You need to look at whether your points are "good" points or "bad" points and whether you have the "top" of a minimum opening hand.

    What makes certain points "good" and other points "bad"? Well, there are lots of things that can be considered. Let's look at probably the two most important ones for this situation. If your high card points are mainly aces and kings, these are somewhat better than the points given by the Milton Work Count we've been using. So if most of your points are from aces and kings, then this would tend to make your points "good". The other thing that can help you judge whether your hand has "good" points or not is trump length.If you have extra trumps (six or more of them), then your hand is a bit better than one which just has the five you've already told partner about (with your 1♠ opener, right?).So this also helps make your hand "good."

    So, if you have a "top of the range" opening hand (a very good 15 points or an excellent 14 points), you can consider bidding game. There is no guarantee that the hands will be able to make game, I'm afraid. These will often be "close" decisions.Just remember that most of the time, the partnership will not have enough for game. Sometimes you'll make the right decisions and sometimes you'll make the wrong decision. No one (and that includes bridge experts) makes the correct decision every time, so do your best and you'll be fine.
    If partner puts a "bad" 10 point dummy down on the table and you get that sinking feeling in your gut, just remember to say "thank you, partner!" And SMILE. It will drive your opponents crazy.

  3. Finally, if you have a maximum opening hand (19-21 points or 5 or so losers), the partnership has 29-33 points and 11 or so winners (13 or so losers). On good days, the partnership might have a slam in spades [for this example.] On bad days it will be a struggle to make game (due to bad luck: not due to bad bidding judgment). You can explore slam only if your hand is a very good 21 points or an excellent 20 points. Most of the time you won't have this.

    If you don't have this, then you can just bid game, 4♠. This indicates that you have enough points for game, but aren't interested in slam opposite partner's limit raise.
    If you do have a terrific maximum opening hand, check your judgment again. [Why? If the partnership gets to slam and it doesn't make, then you've not only lost the slam but you've also lost the 4♠ game that the partnership would have made. So bidding a "risky" slam risks a lot and shouldn't really be done unless you're desperate. (Don't ask me about when you need to be desperate! I'm never that desperate!)] OK. So, you have that fantastic maximum opener. Don't forget that partner might have a meager 10 point limit raise. You have to make a slam invitation. Partner is free to decline the invitation or may cooperate with the invitation. Listening to your partner's bids becomes very important!
    How do you "invite slam"? By using a cue-bid. Since it's important to have every suit stopped in a slam, you let partner know that you have the ace of a suit. [You'll almost never cue-bid a king in this situation.] You do this by bidding the next lowest suit (sometimes called the "cheapest suit") in which you have an ace. For example, you hold

    ♠ AJ973
    ♣ 74

    and open 1♠. After your left-hand opponent PASSes, your partner makes a limit raise of 3♠. After your right-hand opponent PASSes, you would bid 4to let partner know that you have diamonds "stopped". Since you didn't bid 4♠, your partner will know that you think the partnership might have a slam in spades, that you have diamonds "stopped", and that you don't have clubs stopped. Thus, if she has a "good" limit raise (12 good points or 11 excellent ones) and she has clubs stopped, she can make an encouraging bid (by bidding Blackwood 4NT for example, or by bidding 5♣ depending on what she thinks the partnership needs to find out). If she doesn't have one of them, she can make a discouraging bid by just bidding game: 4♠. She's telling you that she doesn't have a great deal of slam interest (unless your hand is very, very, very good) or she's saying that she doesn't have clubs stopped.

    If she did bid 4♠ (discouraging), you have to decide whether you say you have that "very, very, very good" hand and bid again or you just PASS. It's probably best to PASS for the following reasons. First, you're missing two of the top honors in spades (the K and the Q). Partner probably has at least one of these, but that means that there's a chance your opponents have the other and might take a trick with it. Second, the partnership is very likely to have a club loser (since partner didn't make an encouraging bid). So, you envision two losers. Maybe your "x-ray vision" is correct and maybe it's not. If she has a "perfect limit raise" of ♠ KT82 T74 K2 KQ64 (for example), the partnership has a chance of making a small slam in spades (if the opponent's ♠Q doesn't win a trick, the partnership will only lose the ♣A). However, this not only requires your partner to have the exact cards you need but also requires some luck (the opponent's ♠Q doesn't take a trick). So this is asking Fate to be awfully nice to you. Maybe you should just PASS partner's 4♠ bid and let Fate tempt someone else.
We'll be talking more about trying to bid slams intelligently later. You've probably had enough for now.

Responder makes a game-forcing raise
(Jacoby Two NoTrump)

You opened 1 and, after your left-hand opponent PASSes, your partner makes a bid of 2NT! She's just said that she has 13 or more points or 7 or fewer losers. She's also making an initial invitation to see if the partnership can make slam!

Unlike the previous section where we were talking about you being interested in slam, you aren't very sure what she has other than support for your hearts and the points/losers just mentioned. Since her hand isn't very clear to you, you need to tell her more about yours and her 2NT bid has asked you to give her a very specific picture of your hand. When responding to her Jacoby 2NT bid, you do the following after adding support points to your hand:

  1. If you have a singleton or void in a suit, bid the next highest suit in which you hold a singleton or void. Now, it may sound funny to make a bid in a suit where you hold one (or no) cards, but you and partner are carrying a conversation and she knows what you're saying. If the bidding goes (your opponent's PASSes won't be shown or mentioned to save some space: but the opponents must PASS for this kind of bidding), 1 by you, 2NT by partner and 3♣ by you at your next turn, your partner will not be expecting you to hold clubs. To the contrary! She'll be expecting you to hold very few of them (singleton or void, remember?) We'll see what she does with this information in the next lesson.

  2. If you do not have a singleton or void in a suit, you tell her whether you have a maximum, strong, or minimum opener. Actually, these ranges are modified slightly from what you've learned. If you have a "good" hand, you upgrade your hand to the next range. That is, a "good" minimum opener is treated like a strong opener. Or a "good" strong opener is treated like a maximum opener. You can do this because partner also has a good hand and you'd like to look for slam if possible. If you have a "bad" minimum opener, you still treat it like a minimum opener.

    • With a minimum opener (and no "side" singleton or void), you bid game [in this example: 4]. You've just told her: "I have a minimum opener and no side singleton or void." That's a lot of information in one bid!

    • With a maximum opener (and no "side" singleton or void), you bid the trump suit at the three level [in this example: 3]. You've just told her: "I have a maximum opener and no side singleton or void. I'm really interested in slam!"

    • With a strong opener (and no "side singleton or void), you would dearly love to bid "three-and-one-half hearts". Unfortunately half-bids aren't part of the bridge bidding vocabulary. Hmm... what to do, what to do. Oddly enough, you have a perfectly good bid to do this: 3NT!

      "Whoa!" I hear you cry. Doesn't 3NT mean that I think the partnership should play the hand in NoTrump? Think about this for a moment and you'll see why partner won't be deceived. When do you look for a NoTrump game? When the partnership does not have a major suit fit. But, both you and partner know there is a fit so when you bid 3NT, partner won't be thinking that you're looking to have the partnership play in a NoTrump game! Tricky, tricky! Just remember that you and partner are carrying on a conversation. It just sounds a bit "slang" right now.

    Again, we'll see what she can do with this information in the next lesson! You've told her a lot and she'll have to make some decisions based on what she now knows about the partnership's hands.

WHEW! Take a deep breath again. There has been a lot of words in this lesson but hopefully you've noticed that ideas were repeated again and again. When you're bidding, don't try to blindly remember rules. It's more important to remember what you and your partner are telling each other. Sometimes this is pretty easy, sometimes it's a little tricky. Just keep on trying and I know you'll get it!

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