Brush up your basic bidding – Responder's Six Pack

What do you do as responder when your partner opens the bidding, you can't support his suit (or don't want to support it if it's a minor), you have a six-card suit of your own, and no other 4-card suit?

Obviously, a lot depends on how many high card points you have, but one thing you should NOT do is jump shift just because you have a long suit!

With 0-5 HCP, PASS. Do not attempt to "rescue" partner even if you have a singleton or void in his suit. If you respond at all, and he has a strong hand, he may well jump straight to 3NT and go down heavily.

With 6-9 HCP (weak responder), bid your suit at the one level if you can; otherwise bid 1NT.

With 10-15 HCP (strong responder) bid your suit at the lowest possible level.

With 16+ HCP (very strong responder), think very hard! Yes, your hand meets the criteria for a jump shift (16+ points and a 6+ card suit), but is it worthwhile doing it? The trouble with jump shifts on the first round of bidding is that they take up a huge amount of bidding space. Even when you are a very strong responder, it is usually best to give a change of suit response at the lowest possible level, as opener's rebid will then tell you much more about the shape and strength of his hand, so you have a better idea which slam, if any, to look for.

A change of suit response on the first round of bidding is forcing.

Responder's Rebids with a Six-Card Suit

Opener's rebid should have given a good description of his hand, for example:

1 – 1; 2 says opener has 12-15 HCP and at least 5 hearts and 4 clubs

1 – 1; 2 says opener has 16-19 HCP with at least 5 diamonds and 4 hearts

1 – 2; 3 says opener has 16-19 HCP and at least 6 hearts

1 – 2; 2 says opener has 12-15 HCP with at least 5 spades and 4 hearts

When three different suits have been bid, you have five choices:

  1. support opener's major
  2. support opener's minor
  3. repeat your own suit
  4. bid No Trumps
  5. bid the fourth suit (Fourth Suit Forcing) to ask opener for further information

There's a big difference in the approach you should take depending on whether your six card suit is a major or a minor. If it's a major you want to push it as hard as you can, but if it's a minor you want to see if you can play in no-trumps or in partner's major. If opener has bid two suits he's unlikely to have more than two cards in your suit.

When Opener is Weak:

Suppose the bidding has gone 1 – 1; 2

Opener has limited his hand to 12-15 HCP so there is no realistic prospect of game unless you have at least 10 HCP.

What do you rebid with the following hands?

  1. KJ10652 1087 K7 54 – bid 2. You have a 5-3 fit.
  2. KJ10652 8 K72 954 – bid 2 to show a weak (6-9) hand with at least six spades and no fit in hearts or diamonds.
  3. KJ10652 A K72 954 – jump to 3 to show a strong (10+) hand with at least six spades and no fit in hearts.
  4. AQJ1062 A8 K72 54 – bid 3 Fourth Suit Forcing to ask opener for more information.

In (d) you have points for game, so need to make a forcing bid. Opener could pass 3. His reply to FSF should tell you if tell you if he has a club stop for NT, any support at all for spades (e.g. Qx), or longer hearts or diamonds than previously shown.

When Opener is Strong:

Suppose the bidding has gone 1 – 2; 2.

Opener has rebid above his 2 barrier, showing 16-19 points, with at least five diamonds but almost certainly only four hearts. If he had equal numbers of hearts and diamonds he would have opened 1, not 1.

This time your suit is a minor, and so is opener's long suit. There is no prospect of a major suit fit, but there's a chance that game could be on even if you have only 6 HCP, as opener could have 19. You hope you might have 3NT on, but need to be careful in case 2NT is where you should be. With 10 -15 HCP you know you should have enough for 3NT if you have a spade stop between you, and with 16+ you're thinking slam!

  1. A4 1087 87 AK8652 – bid 3NT. You have points for game and a spade stop.
  2. 872 87 104 AK8652 – you can't bid NT yourself with those spades, so bid 2 Fourth Suit Forcing to see if opener has a spade stop.

On (f) if he has a spade stop, he will bid 2NT if minimum (16-17) or 3NT if maximum (18-19). This enables you to stop in 2NT if necessary, whereas if you simply rebid 3 to show 6 clubs in the hope that partner can bid NT you will be at the 3-level already.

Brush up your…

By Celia Jeal

Celia has been a very active and committed bridge teacher in Suffolk for many years. She is a registered EBU Partner-Teacher and has developed a strong following in her West Suffolk base. Currently she runs classes and tutored play at Abbeygate Club. These articles were written for and first published in Table Talk.

If you are interested in learning or improving your game, contact (01284 728350).