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Bidding suits we don’t have

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Bidding suits we don’t have
While we’ve been diligently bidding out our hands and showing the suits we
have to our partner, we’ve been missing out on a whole world of pleasure –
bidding suits we don’t have. This is analogous to using Stayman over 1NT or
other conventional bids (ie it isn’t what it looks like) so you need to alert it and
explain if the opposition ask.
Overcalling when the opponents have opened
Once the opponents have opened a suit ahead of you, you have lots of
options. You can pass, double, bid a new suit of your own or overcall in no
trumps. But one thing we haven’t discussed is bidding their suit. It seems a
shame to waste a bid which is perfectly legal to make, so we assign it a
special meaning:
Overcalling 1x with 2x shows 5-5 in the two highest unbid suits.
This is a great opportunity to get your shape across to partner immediately.
We tend to agree that to do this you should be either weak (trying to pre-empt
and be a pain) or strong (to get your hand pattern across immediately and
then look for a game or slam). If you just have a 5-5 with normal kind of
opening strength, then content yourself with an overcall for now. So:
Q9864
K8732
J3
3
AKJ64
KQJT6
A4
3
T9864
T9864
AQ
3
These could all legitimately overcall 1 with 2 or 1 with 2 . Note that the
third hand requires a certain amount of balls to pull a stunt like this.
It also works over major openings (though over a spade you should be careful,
since you’ll force partner to the 3-level):
AQ964
2
K7643
73
AKQ64
-AK654
Q83
These hands could bid 2
after a 1
opening.
An immediate corollary is that we’d like to have a bid to show the two lowest
unbid suits when we have an applicable hand type. Our reasoning is that the
last time you held a balanced 18+ hand and opponents opened one of a suit
was probably, err, never. So we scrap the natural 2NT overcall and instead
use it to show precisely this hand – 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits, and again
either weak or strong. It’s called the “unusual no trump”.
Overcalling a suit opening with 2NT shows 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits.
Example hands are easy to imagine:
64
2
J7643
AQ973
54
9
KQ654
QT863
2NT over either major.
It’s more unusual to bid unusual when you’re strong, mostly because you
won’t often be trying to play in a minor and may choose to do something else.
However, it does happen.
Using the opponents’ overcall against them
When partner has opened a major, and the opponents have overcalled, we
will no longer bid their suit to show the highest two unbid suit (that would be
mad – obviously 2NT is still 10+ will four card support as well). But we can still
bid their suit, and not just for a laugh.
Basically, we want to support the major any way we can if we’ve found a fit
with partner. We already know:



we can make a simple raise with a weak hand and four card support
(or three if you’re brave)
we can make a double raise with better (five card) support
we can show a strong four card raise with 2NT
What’s clearly missing from this system is a way to show a good hand with
three card support – most of the time partner is odds-on to have five cards in
his major, and if he doesn’t, then having a cunning distinction between three
and four card support will let him quietly pilot the contract to 3NT when it’s
right.
If the opponents have overcalled, then in Durham we like to bid their suit to
show a decent hand (10+) with three card support. Remember this is only if
partner has opened a major; who cares about supporting his minor anyway?
When partner opens a major and the opponents overcall a suit, cueing that
suit shows three card support and 10+ points.
Example time:
K4
QJ8
KT62
AT97
Partner opens 1 and the opponents overcall 1 . It wouldn’t
be mad to start with a 2 bid, but if your LHO then jumps in
spades, it’s going to put partner to a guess. You know you want
to play in game, so a 2 bid will tell partner you have a hand like
this, and hopefully allow him to judge the best contract.
KJ4
8
KQT62
AT97
Partner opens 1 this time, and the opponents try 2 . It seems
likely they have a big heart fit, so it’s important to describe your
hand quickly. Cueing 3 should keep your side in control.
If partner has opened a minor and the opponents overcall, then unless we
have a major suit of our own to introduce, we’re on the hunt for 3NT. We can
still bid their suit though! In this context, bidding their suit asks partner for a
stop in it in an effort to reach 3NT. This gets you out of making up something
rubbish in situations like this:
KT4
Q6
KJ52
AT83
If partner opens 1 and the opponents overcall 1 , your best
game looks like to be 3NT. But bidding it yourself is daft; what
if they cash five hearts and you just go off, when 5 was
easily making? So you can use 2 here to ask partner if he has
a stop in their suit; if he doesn’t bid NT then you can make a
further effort in clubs - but be prepared to subside below game if
the signs aren’t good.
This leads us, conveniently, onto the fourth suit force.
The fourth suit force
It’s a grand name, to be sure. But what does it mean? Well, it may (or may
not) have occurred to you that it’s a bit of a waste of time having an auction
like 1 - 2 - 2 - 3 - err?
Partner has already shown her two suits, so the chances of you mysteriously
having a diamond fit are essentially nil. If you were to do this then presumably
you’ve got a hand without support for either major, that doesn’t want to bid
3NT – something like:
K4
K86
9652
AQ83
As things stand, you know partner has five spades and four hearts, 11-15 (she
didn’t jump, remember) and it doesn’t look like you have a fit with either of her
majors. But it would be foolish to bid 3NT and lose five diamond tricks –
partner might have a fifth heart, a sixth spade or a stop that will only work if
she declares. Take the hands below:
AQ9862
AQ73
J3
3
AJT52
AQJT6
A4
9
AQJ74
AT97
K2
T6
On the first hand, 4 is a great contract; on the second, 4 should make
easily; and on the third 3NT will be best if partner plays it. If you play it, you’ll
go off a lot of the time, and not just because you’re a worse declarer than your
partner is. The obvious diamond lead through the K2 will, more often than not,
shaft you.
The solution is to use a bid of the fourth suit, diamonds in our example, to ask
for information. Partner can show a sixth card in her first suit, a fifth in her
second, a stop in the fourth suit, or even support for your suit (typically 3-card
support if you’ve responded a major since a failure to raise implies denial of
four card support). This will get you out of all sorts of holes.
It’s called fourth suit forcing because partner can’t pass it. Most people play
that it’s forcing to game. Don’t pass out in three diamonds, is my top tip; I did it
once and Robin was *angry*.
Some example hands and sequences I’d like to have on them:
K54
AK985
4
QT86
AQT62
72
J7
AJ93
1
2
2
1
2
4
While East could support clubs at his second go, that just looks like a good
way to get a poor score when any of 3NT, 4 or 4 could be available. A
fourth suit force sorts the problem out nicely.
Q
AQT65
AQ4
J852
AK875
94
75
AQ63
1
2
2NT
1
2
3NT
The same auction as before up until West has to respond to the force. This
time he has a nice diamond stop to show, and 3NT is a good contract from his
hand. It might work from East’s hand too, but it’s much less safe.
J9
AT5
A64
KJ852
AQT865
KQ94
5
Q63
2
3
4
1
2
3
Perhaps a more controversial auction, this. East deals and opens a spade,
and chooses to rebid hearts over West’s club response. West now has a bit of
a ponder. If partner has a sixth spade or a fifth heart then those contracts are
likely to be safer than 3NT, but if she has KJ5 of diamonds or something then
3NT will play beautifully.
There’s nothing wrong with just bidding 3NT on the West cards. But many
people would probably choose to fourth suit force just to try to find a better
contract. In the layout I’ve depicted, 3NT has good chances even on a
diamond lead since you can take the spade finesse and if it works you have
ten tricks. But that’s only a 50-50 shot. 4 is an excellent contract; when 3NT
is making 10 it will make 12 (losing only the A) and if the spade finesse is
wrong then 11 tricks are still there since you can set the clubs up without fear
of losing control.
Priorities
It’s great that you can show all this stuff over a fourth suit force, but what’s
most important? Well, this is a thorny kind of issue. I’m going to say that these
are my priorities in the situation; if you disagree wildly then you can always
agree something else with other partners:
1) Show three card support for partner’s major
2) Show a stop in the fourth suit
3) Show extra length in one of your suits
If the auction has developed something like 1 - 2 - 2 - 3 then the fourth
suit forcer is unlikely to be interested in club support! In particular, opener
should be wary of going beyond 3NT – though if he has nothing else to show
he may have to.
Some summary principles:
Bidding the opponents’ suit is never natural!
- If you overcall their opening with it, you show 5-5 in the two highest
unbid suits
- If you cue their overcall after partner has opened a major, you show
10+ with three card support
- If you cue their overcall after partner has opened a minor, you’re
asking partner for a stop in their suit
Bidding the fourth suit is never natural
- Use it to ask for more information
o Support for your response (mostly majors)
o A stop in the fourth suit
o Extra length beyond that already shown
Don’t forget the 2NT overcall – showing 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits.
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