Opener opens 1 of a major and
Responder doesn't have a fit:
Less than slam-interested hands
After the discussion in the interlude, this isn't going to be too hard. Occasionally responder has a difficult decision to make, but most of the time the bid is easy to figure out.
In this lesson, I'm going to always assume that responder has enough points to bid something other than PASS. (That is, she holds 6 or more points with 9 or fewer losers, right?)
I'm also going to assume that responder doesn't have a really strong hand (17 or more points). What responder can do with this strong a hand will be discussed in an up-coming lesson.
The search for a fit in the other major
If opener starts with 1♥ and responder doesn't have a fit for hearts, then responder should bid spades if she thinks that the partnership might have a fit in spade. Well, what does responder need in order to think that a spade fit is possible? In this case, responder should have a least four spades.
"Why only four spades and not five of them", I hear you ask? To have a fit, the partnership needs eight cards in the partnership's hands in a major suit. If one of the partners was not allowed to bid a four card major suit, then the partnership would not find their good "4-4" major suit fits. That is, one partner holds four cards in a major suit and the other partner also holds four cards in that major suit. This is still an eight card fit between the two hands. So one of the partners needs to be able to bid a four card major suit at some point.
Opener is required to have five cards in a major suit when she bids it on her first bid. This allows the partners to find a "5-3" fit (five cards in that suit in the opener's hand and three cards in the same suit in responder's hand) very quickly. Long time bidding and play have suggested that this has some sound reasoning behind it.
[In all honesty, I feel that I must tell you that some other bidding systems use "four-card majors" which allows opener to bid a major suit with only four cards at her first turn. This is not part of Standard American-Yellow Card. Because these lessons are intended to teach you about using Standard American-Yellow Card, I won't say anything more about these other systems. If you're interested in these kinds of bidding systems (rather than SA-YC), you might try finding out about a "Goren" bidding system, ACOL, Schenken and Jacoby Modern bidding systems.]
Since responder doesn't have a fit for partner's hearts (in this example), she can bid 1♠ if she has at least four spades. She's telling opener that a) "I don't have a fit for your heart suit," b) "I have 6 or more points with 9 or fewer losers," and c) "I have at least four spades." In a way, she's asking "Do you have a fit for my spade suit?"
If opener starts with 1♠ then responder has to have at least 10 points to bid hearts. Oddly enough responder will have to have five hearts to make this bid. The explanation will be given in just a moment.
Responder has an invitational responding hand or more
Now responder has more lee-way in the bidding. She has enough points to bid at the 2-level and won't have to use the "dreaded" 1NT response because she's stuck for a bid.
Holding 10 or more points with 8 or fewer losers, responder should bid "naturally," giving a preference to bidding 1♠ if partner has opened 1♥. This means that she should bid her longest suit at the lowest level. If her partner opens 1♠ and she holds
♠3 ♥KQ62 ♦KJ974 ♣432
she should tell her partner about her diamond suit and invitational or more points/losers by bidding 2♦. If her partner opens 1♥and she holds
♠KQ73 ♥74 ♦KJ974 ♣42
she should prefer to tell her partner about the spades first by bidding 1♠. Yes, her longest suit is diamonds, but she is preferring to try to find out if the partnership has a "4-4" spade fit.
Responder should bid her long suits as cheaply as possible. If two suits have the same length, then she should make a bid in the suit which is the lowest one above the opening bid. If opener has bid 1♥ and she holds
♠K73 ♥T3 ♦KQJ5 ♣Q732
then she should bid 2♣. Her "long" suits are diamonds and clubs and they are of equal length. Since the 2♣ bid comes before a 2♦ bid (in order of rank), she should choose that bid first. If opener has bid 1♠ and she holds
♠T ♥KQJ3 ♦KQJ4 ♣8653
she should still bid 2♣! It's not the greatest response, but it's the most honest one. If responder skips a suit (or two) with her rebid, she's either saying that this new suit is longer than the others or she doesn't hold an equal number of cards in the suits she skipped. Sound confusing? Take a deep breath. Relax. Looking at the last hand, if she bids 2♣ she's telling her partner that she has 10 or more points with 8 or fewer losers, that she doesn't have a fit for spades, and that she has four clubs (or more) since she bid clubs! That's quite a lot for one bid, don't you think?
"The explanation for a 2♥ response to a 1♠ opening bid requiring five hearts." If opener has bid 1♠ and she responds with 2♥, what did responder just say with her bid? Think about it for a moment. How many points/losers? Good: 10 or more points with 8 or fewer losers! How many spades does she have? Think... I know you can get it! Great: fewer than three of them, since she didn't make a bid which shows the partnership has a fit. Ok, how many clubs do you think she has? Hint: she didn't bid 2♣ which is a lower bid than 2♥, so she has... RIGHT! She has fewer than four clubs. And how about diamonds? Just like clubs, she has fewer than four of them. So, adding this all up, she has at most two spades, at most three clubs, and at most three diamonds. This only accounts for eight of her thirteen cards, so she has to have at least five hearts in her hand! It's 'simple' when you think it through. Well, ok. You might not think it's so simple since you're just learning. But if you keep on trying to figure out what your partner is saying with her bids, you'll eventually be able to figure this out quickly. [Or, as some players do, you can just memorize this. Obviously I'm of the "figure it out" school since you need to be thinking at the table when you're playing bridge. Of course, I hope that you're having fun too!]
So you try to tell partner about your suits as cheaply as possible (unless you have a very strong hand when you're interested in slam). She'll tell you more about her point range and something more about her suits with her next bid. When the partnership doesn't have a fit from the start, it can be difficult to find the partnership's fits and can be difficult to know what to do. As the discussion of what you're trying to tell partner (and learn about the partnership's hands) continues you'll get a better idea.