Listening to The Bidding

The bidding speaks to you. Be sure to listen. Listen to what happened and what did not happen.

Suppose the auction begins with you opening a diamond, and partner bidding a spade:

1♦ – 1♠

What do we know after 1♠?

  • Partner has at least four Spades.
  • If Partner has four or more Hearts, he has more Spades than Hearts. If he had four of each, he would have bid 1♥.
  • Partner has a good five to six or more points.
  • You, the opener, have three (more probably 4 or more) diamonds and 12-21 HCP. (You didn’t open 2♣).

If you (Opener) also have four Spades, we have an eight-card or greater fit. You can revalue your hand and raise Spades immediately by an appropriate amount:

  • Bid 2♠, with an ordinary opener; or
  • Bid 3♠ if 16-18, or
  • Bid 4♠ if 19+.

We raise to 2♠ even with 12 points because partner’s hand could get bigger once a fit is established, so that 6-9 could turn into 12-14. We have to give Partner a chance to revalue, too. DO NOT BE CHEAP. Besides, it keeps them out of the auction.

If you can’t raise Spades it is possible partner has five or more so you should not yet conclude that we don’t have a fit if you have three of them. What do you do in the meantime? Let’s assume you do not have a big hand, just 12-14 points.

  • If you have a singleton or a void, you cannot bid 1N. This is a big point: when responder bids 1N over your opener, it says they don’t have a four-card suit above your opening bid but does not promise a balanced shape. When you REBID 1N, it does promise a balanced shape.

    That matters: for example, if responder had SIX spades, over your 1N rebid he knows he has at least a 6-2 fit. He can revalue.

  • If not balanced, bid your second suit, if you can, or repeat the diamonds. You need about 16 points to bid hearts (a reverse, see Bidding Notes). You can’t jump shift into your second suit without a good 18 HCP. Let’s assume you don’t.

If Partner bids 2♠ next, it shows five or more Spades and a minimum 6-9 point hand. This bid is what we call “drop dead” – the opener would pass. With only four Spades and a minimum, Partner can pass or make a suit preference back to diamonds.

So now assume Partner is invitational or better and we’ve bid 1D – 1S – 1N. If Partner had six Spades and they were pretty good ones, Partner could declare spades trump by bidding 3 Spades (invitational) or 4 Spades (game). But with just five, what to do?

The answer is, bid a new suit. A new suit by an unpassed responder is 100% forcing. Opener must never, never, ever pass it. If Partner bids 2N it shows a balanced invitational hand and that can be passed, which is ok if that is what they have. With four Diamonds it would be ok to raise Diamonds, and if with four Hearts we can show Hearts, and otherwise it would have to be 2 Clubs or 2N and none of those promises five Spades.

So, is there a way for Partner to show five Spades? Sadly, no, not if we stick to natural bids. So most players will early-on want to learn New Minor Forcing. Many conventions are not really worth learning, but New Minor Forcing is essential.

With NMF, 2♣ (alert!) becomes a purely artificial bid telling opener that responder has invitational or better values, and either five Spades or four Hearts or both. It doesn’t promise Clubs although sometimes that’s the case. Things work in a similar way when Responder has bid 1 Heart rather than One Spade, but opener would bid 1S if they had four spades.

We heard a lot when we listened, didn’t we?