Responses to opening bids

June 14, 1959

It is difficult to overestimate the role of the responder in the selection of the final contract. In many cases he is able to make an immediate diagnosis, and at such times he should act with conviction. At other times the future of the hand may not be clear-cut, and it will be necessary to make a series of temporizing bids until he finds out more about his partner's hand.

The responder has certain mile-posts upon which he may fasten his eye. Regardless of the number of conventions that from time to time find favor with the general run of players, one principle has remained constant: an opening bid facing an opening bid will produce game.

Since the normal minimum opening bid contains about 13 points, this is another way of saying that a combined partnership holding of 26 points will usually offer a good play for game.

The responder's first duty is to decide whether to give the opener another chance to speak.

RESPONDING WITH WEAK HANDS

Even with relatively weak hands it is usually good strategy to give the opening bidder one more chance, for the opening may have been made on a hand of considerable strength, sometimes as much as 21 points.

It is necessary therefore to respond with relatively weak holdings.

We do not mean to imply that responder should bid with nothing at all, for if he has less than six points a pass is usually the correct procedure. But if he has a weak hand which does include six points he should take some action, and that action comes in one of three forms.

1) A response of one no trump, which is based on six high-card points and may run as high as nine or 10.

2) Raising partner from one to two in a suit. This is done with hands worth seven to 10 dummy points.

3) By bidding some suit at the level of one. This is no guarantee of strength. In fact, we occasionally shade a one-over-one response to five points instead of the standard six.

When you are contemplating a raise in partner's suit you must provide normal trump support, that is, at least four small trumps or Q x x. You must also be sure that you have at least seven dummy points to contribute to partner. Dummy points are made up of high cards and short suits. High cards are treated at face value, except that the king or queen of trumps may be promoted one step if your honor count in trumps does not already total four. The dummy's short suits are valued as follows:

Add one point for each doubleton.

Add three points for each singleton.

Add five points for a void.

These weak raises are offered when the second hand has passed. Where, however, the second hand has taken action, partner of the opener should have a rather good raise, not less than nine points.

While a one-over-one response is frequently made on cream-puff values, a take-out at the level of two must be accorded greater respect.

Responder must be constantly aware of the level at which he chooses to act. Sometimes enemy action will render him hors de combat.

RESPONDING WITH STRONG HANDS

The most usual way for responder to announce strength is a raise from one to three in partner's major suit. This call should be based on 13 to 16 dummy points, and also at least four trumps. Except when made by a player who passed initially it is forcing to game.

The raise from one to four in a major suit is a specialized bid which shows a great many trumps but not much in the way of high cards.

When responder has an overpowering hand, one on which he may anticipate a slam, he makes what is known as a jump shift. A jump in a new suit announces that the responder has a hand worth at least 19 points and that he is interested in a slam.

A QUIZ ON RESPONSES

1

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

Your partner opens with one club. What is your response?

2

None [Spade]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

Your partner opens with one diamond. What is your response?

3

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]

Your partner opens with one heart. What is your response?

4

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

Your partner opens with one spade. What is your response?

5

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

Your partner opens with one heart. What is your response?

6

A
[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
x [Club]
x [Club]

B
[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 [Heart]

EAST
2 [Diamond]

SOUTH
?

What is your response?

GOREN'S ANSWERS

1
Three no trump. This announces the strength of an opening one no-trump bid (16 to 18 high-card points) in a hand distributed 4-3-3-3. If the opener goes on, he does so knowing responder's precise strength and distribution. A diamond response, while not incorrect, could lead to needless complications.

2
One heart. This hand lacks the high-card values for a jump to three diamonds and, furthermore, that bid would leave you in a quandary if partner went on to three no trump.

3
Two hearts. A response of one spade while not technically wrong is tactically inferior. Should you bid one spade and partner rebid two hearts, you will have reached an impasse. If you take no further action there is the danger of missing a game. If you raise to three hearts this would be advertising a stronger hand. This hand of only moderate strength (8 points) is worth only one constructive bid. Where responder's choice lies between bidding his own suit and raising partner's major, choose the raise on hands of moderate strength.

4
Three spades. Your hand is the equal of an opening bid and has ample trump support, so you should insist on a game contract. Nothing is to be gained by showing the hearts inasmuch as the singleton diamond should direct you toward a suit contract rather than no trump.

5
Two hearts. Despite the impressive array of trumps, your hand is worth only nine dummy points, eight in high cards and one for distribution. You should not be unduly excited by the fifth trump.

6A
Pass. This hand will tempt many players, but observe that a free bid of two spades would force partner to the level of three, with the future not clearly outlined. A free response in a higher-ranking suit at the level of two must be based on values approaching an opening bid.

6B
Two hearts. Definite action must be tempered with caution. We cannot approve a bid of two spades, so recommend a free raise which designates a fairly good hand.

PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)