Opener's rebid when responder bids 1NT
So far, you (opener) have shown your partner that you have five or more cards in one of the major suits and that you have 13 to 21 points with seven or fewer losers. In lesson 14, we saw that your partner (responder) had a few different ways to let you know about her hand when she did not have a fit for your opening suit and she probably didn't have a very strong hand (fewer than 17 points). She could:
- bid 1♠ after your 1♥ which showed 6 or more points with at least four spades;
- make a bid at the 2-level which showed at least four cards in the suit bid and 10 or more points with eight or fewer losers; or,
- bid 1NT which indicated that she didn't have a fit for your suit, couldn't bid a suit at the 1-level and didn't have enough points to bid at the 2-level: 6 to 9 points (sometimes a bad 10 points) with nine or so losers.
In the first two cases, you have no idea what the top number of points your partner has except that it's probably less than 17. With "6 or more points", she could hold only 6 points or she could have as many as 16 points (or occasionally more if her hand was going to be very hard to bid). If you have a minimum (13 to 15 points with 7 losers) or strong opening hand (16 to 18 points with 6 losers), it's still possible for the partnership to have enough for game. If you have a maximum opening hand (19 to 21 points with 5 or fewer losers), you're virtually positive game is possible for the partnership.
Did you notice though: with any kind of opening hand after your partner makes a "6 or more" response game is still possible? That's because these bids are unlimited. After the next section, we'll see what you should be telling your partner. However, what if...
Responder bids 1NT
In this case however, your partner has put a top and bottom to the number of points she has: 6 to 9 points. This bid limits her hand. After a bid which limits one of the partner's hands, the other partner should be able to assess the partnership's potential for game: game is not possible (partscore hand), game might be possible (game invitational), or game is very likely (game-forcing).
Responder bids 1NT and
Opener has a minimum opening hand
If you have a minimum opening hand and your partner responds 1NT, you know the partnership does not have a game. You have 13 to 15 points with seven or so losers and your partner has 6 to 9 points with nine or so losers. This gives the partnership 19 to 24 points with 16 or so losers (which translates to 8 or so winners). So you're interested in stopping in the safest contract you can find and you want your partner to know this too.
The bids you cannot make are jump shifts and reverses. There's an "invisible ceiling" of "2-of-your-opening-major" to your bids. If you open 1♥, then any bid above 2♥ shows more than a minimum opening hand. If you open 1♠, this "ceiling" is 2♠. As in the last lesson where responder couldn't bid at the 2-level unless she had the right number of points, you (opener) cannot bid above this "ceiling" without more than a minimum opening hand. Sometimes you'll be able to make a bid you really want to make and that's always a nice thing to be able to do. Sometimes this "ceiling" will make some awkward bids for you and then you'll need to make a reasonable guess. Sometimes these guesses will be wrong and sometimes they'll be right. The important point is to get the partnership to stop bidding at the safest contract.
So let's look at a few hands to see what you can do. Suppose that for each of the following hands, you open 1♥ and your partner responds with 1NT [the opponents, as they are always doing right now, PASS].
you can bid 2♦. You aren't interested in playing in NoTrump since you have so few clubs. You'd rather be able to ruff clubs in your hand. So you're telling partner that you have four diamonds (in addition to the five hearts that you showed with your opening bid). You're also telling her that you don't have enough to force the partnership to get to game so you don't have a maximum opening hand. When you bid a second suit, you're essentially asking your partner to choose which one she likes best. In this case, if she likes diamonds better, she will PASS. If she likes hearts better, she will bid 2♥.
you can PASS. It's possible that your partner was stuck for a bid and had to bid 1NT. However, since you know the partnership doesn't have enough points for game, you can stop bidding when you think you've found a safe contract. Since you have stoppers in every suit NoTrump is reasonable. You don't have another suit to suggest to your partner. You should not rebid 2♥ because this tells your partner that you have an extra heart (six or more of them since your opening bid said you have five: there is one exception to this however). Even if she has a long minor suit (clubs or diamonds, remember?), you have an honor which might help her suit take tricks at NoTrump. The point is: you know the partnership doesn't have enough for game, you don't have another suit to suggest, and you have cards which might make 1NT a good, safe place for the partnership.
you have a difficult decision. PASS is probably best even though you don't have any stoppers in diamonds and you have a "short" diamond suit (short = few cards). You don't have another suit to suggest to your partner. You have a minimum opening hand and know the partnership doesn't have enough for game. You hope that the opponents can't take a lot of tricks in diamonds (or your partner has a stopper in diamonds). It's not as safe as the last hand, but any other bid tells partner a lie.
you should bid 2♥. In this case you have one more heart that your partner doesn't know about so bidding hearts again is OK. You don't really want to play this hand in NoTrump since you have short suits in the minors. By bidding 2♥ here, you are (usually) telling your partner that you have six hearts and a minimum opening hand. Unless she has an excellent reason to bid again [very rare], she should PASS. I'll bring this up when I talk about responder's rebid in another lesson.
you have a terrible decision. You can't bid 2♠ since that would be a reverse and would say that you have 17 points or more. [Also, your partner didn't bid 1♠ so you know the partnership doesn't have a fit in spades.] You don't like PASSing 1NT since you have two very weak, short minor suits. You just can't bid 2♣ or 2♦ since you don't hold four cards in those suits. So in this case, you have to lie a bit and bid 2♥. You do not like lying to partner, but not other bid seems to get the partnership to a safe place.
One more hand: you open 1♠ and your partner responds with 1NT. Holding
you should rebid 2♥. As before, this tells your partner that you have four hearts in addition to your five (or more) spades and tells her that you have a minimum opening hand. PASSing 1NT might work here, but you'd prefer that the partnership contract be in a major suit.
Responder bids 1NT and
Opener has a strong opening hand
[NOTE: With a bad 16 points, you might consider treating your hand like a minimum opening hand and seeing what your partner does. If your hand gets better based on her response, you can then treat it like a strong opening hand.]
If you have a strong opening hand, you know that it's still possible for the partnership to have game. You have 16 to 18 points (with six or so losers). With partner's 6 to 9 (and nine or so losers), the partnership has 22 to 27 points with 15 or so losers [9 or so winners]. The partnership is close to game but game is by no means certain. You can invite game but if your partner declines the invitation you'll know that the partnership shouldn't be in game and can stop at a safe contract. The general difficulty with this hand is knowing where to invite game. So in addition to inviting game, you also want to try to find the safest spot for the partnership.
So what bids can you make that tell your partner that you have a strong opening hand? You can reverse if you have the right hand for it. What do you need? You need to have a second good suit (four or more cards) and the major you opened first should (in general) be longer and/or stronger than this second suit. Your partner should not PASS when you reverse even if she has a minimum responding hand. [This kind of bid is a "forcing" bid since you are "forcing" your partner to bid again.] A reverse is above the ceiling of 2 of your opening major suit and occurs at the 2-level. The bidding 1♥ (you) - 1NT (your partner); 2♠ (your rebid) is a reverse showing five or more hearts, four or more spades (but a shorter suit than the hearts) and at least a strong opening hand.
If you don't have a second suit to bid (or the suit quality is not right) and you have stoppers in (most of) the other suits, you should consider bidding 2NT. [You'd like to have stoppers in all of them, but sometimes you just won't quite have them. Judge the hand to the best of your ability. If it doesn't work out (and it won't always work out), your partner should be sympathetic.] With this bid, you're suggesting NoTrump as the place for the partnership to play the hand and you're telling partner that you have a strong opening hand. Because (as I'll explain in a moment) you won't make this bid with a maximum opening hand, your partner can PASS this bid. You have "limited" your hand (saying it's a good 16 to 18 points). If your partner does not have enough points to be interested in game, she can (and should) PASS.
If you have extra length in the major suit that you opened, you can make a jump bid in your own suit. That is, you open 1♥, your partner bids 1NT and you jump to 3♥. This tells your partner that you have at least six hearts (you bid them again) and that you have a strong opening hand. Again, your partner is allowed to PASS this bid if she judges that that will be best for the partnership (either there are not enough points for game in the partnership's hands or the partnership hands do not fit together well at all).
Responder bids 1NT and
Opener has a maximum opening hand
If you have a maximum opening hand, you know that the partnership is very likely to have a game. Your 19 to 21 points with five or fewer losers and her 6 to 9 points with nine or so losers gives the partnership 25 to 30 points with 14 or fewer losers [10 or so winners]. So you want to make a bid that your partner cannot PASS.
As I said above, your partner should not PASS a reverse bid so this is one option if you have the right kind of hand for it. In this case, you'll be striving as hard as possible to find some safe game contract for the partnership. After your partner's response, you can make an informed decision.
You can also jump shift which shows 19-21 points and suits similar to those in the reverse (first suit is longer and the second suit has good high cards). A jump shift after her 1NT response will be at the 3-level. The bidding 1♥ (you) - 1NT (your partner); 3♦ shows a maximum opening hand with five or more hearts and four or more diamonds.
If you have stoppers in all of the suits, you can bid 3NT which clearly states that you think the partnership has enough points for game (since 3NT is game!). Your partner can PASS this bid since game has been reached. [She's unlikely to be interested in slam since you didn't open 2♣ and she has only 6 to 9 points.]
If you're really stuck for a rebid and you hold extra length in your opening major suit, you can either bid 3 of that major suit or 4 of that major suit. The difference between these two bids comes down to the answer to the question "if she has only one card in that suit, is it still likely that I can take a lot of tricks in this trump suit?" You do not want to lose tricks to your opponents trumps if possible and the only way you can stop them is to have the high cards in the trump suit (so you can 'draw trumps'.)
If you have a very strong seven (or more) card suit, then you can bid 4 of the major suit (game). Your partner is going to PASS this bid, even if she has a void in your suit. So you have to have those high cards in order to keep trumps under 'control'.
If you have six cards in the major suit that you opened, you had better have topnotch cards in the major suit if you're going to bid game. A suit like AKQJT9 seems to be about right since you won't lose any high card tricks in trumps.
Most of the time you won't quite have such a powerful suit. If 1) you cannot reverse, 2) you cannot jump shift, 3) you cannot bid 3NT, and 4) you have six trumps in the major but not a very powerful suit, you might consider using a jump bid in your own major suit. Yes, your partner can PASS this bid with a minimum responding hand. She doesn't have to, but she can. If she does, then you're probably in the safest contract for the partnership. Some players will lie and "make up a suit" to jump shift into. This is dangerous and should not be done if there is any way to avoid it. [Which means that there will be some very rare occasions where it's probably the best decision. But they are very rare.]