Drop Dead, Partner

It is vitally important to learn when bids are forcing. It is also important to learn when a bid virtually forces partner to pass. Such a bid is called a “drop dead” bid.

Even after you make a discouraging reply to your partner’s opening, they may bid again because they have a big hand. Opener may bid a second suit, for example. It is a weakness of the standard system that after two suit bids, the point range of the opener is very wide, up to 21 points, in auctions such as:

1♦ - 1♥ - 2♣

1♠ - 1N - 2♣

1♣ - 1♥ - 1N

What can a responder with a minimum hand do to stop this train before it leaves the realm of reasonable contracts? The answer is to place the contract with a “drop dead” bid.

Having support for the first suit and a minimum hand, you would have given a minimum raise. But suppose you don’t like the second suit but have 2 cards in the first suit. You can rebid 2 of that suit. For example, 1♥ - 1♠ - 2♦ - 2♥. That is called a suit preference and it tells partner to pass. The opener did not have enough to jump to 3♦, so doesn’t have 19 HCP. We just want off this bus.

Having 3 or more of the second suit but a dead minimum, you can pass. That is a very effective drop dead bid! However, be careful about passing if you have a real raise with four cards in a major suit, such as 1♠ - 1N - 2♥ when you have four hearts. Partner cannot revalue his hand until he knows about the fit.

If you bid a five-card or longer suit the first time, in a context that only showed four cards, you can bid it again to suggest a drop dead. The opener did not raise you, so he does not have four of your suit. In a lot of cases partner might even raise you with just three of them if he has an outside singleton.

Yet, playing in your suit may be right. In some ways it is the same scenario as when partner opened 1N and you would transfer to your major and pass with a bad hand. You’re putting the contract in your suit because your hand is worthless unless that is the trump suit.

An example is 1♦ - 1♥- 1N - 2♥, or 1♣ - 1♥ - 1♠ -2♥. When he sees a bid like that, an alarm bell should go off in opener’s brain. He already told his partner he does not like hearts; in the second case might even have something like six clubs and four spades and hence not many hearts at all. Yet partner insists on repeating his suit and he is not jumping and not using a forcing bid. Time to pass.

An opener who is asked to pass can disobey with some unrevealed power but is on notice about the situation.