Steve previously covered what to do after an auction starts 1m-1M; now he's recruited Adam (to the delight of the Bridge Winners editorial staff, who no longer have to translate Steve's gibberish into English) to examine how to continue after an Inverted Minor Raise.
Most of the bridge world now plays 1m-2m as a game-invitational+ raise denying a four-card major. But what should happen next? What do opener's bids of 2M, 2NT, 3m, 3om (3 of the other minor), 3M, and 3NT mean?
There are several important goals in Inverted Minor auctions. These include:
Stopping in 3m when opener has a minimum and responder only a game-invitation.
Getting to 3NT from the right side.
Avoiding bad 3NT contracts (where the opponents are running five fast tricks).
Getting to good slams (usually involves identifying working shortness).
Most of the time we end up playing these hands in either 3NT or 3m, but 5m and 6m are also live possibilities. 4m and 4M in a 4-3 fit are also options when 3NT looks bad and 5m doesn’t look promising.
So we want to build our structure around getting to 3NT from the correct side, while giving ourselves tools to avoid bad 3NT contracts; in the process this can help us identify some good slams or 4-3 major-suit fits. There are several variations out there that can accomplish this. The scheme that Steve plays with Bobby Levin is mostly natural and works well, so it should be something many partnerships could add to their system pretty easily.
1m - 2m
An Inverted Minor Raise is invitational or better, denying a four-card major, usually with 5+ card support (though occasionally you have to do it with only four). An Inverted Minor Raise creates a force through 3m — you cannot stop in 2NT. 2NT is never a particularly desirable contract, even at matchpoints, so we don't go out of our way to play there. In fact, Steve dislikes playing 2NT so much that he and Bobby don’t have a response to a 1m opening bid that shows an invitational balanced hand. An Inverted Minor Raise could include an invitational 5332 with a five-card fit, since no one really likes bidding 1NT with five-card support, and the likely nine-card fit isn't worried about playing at the three-level. But with other balanced invitational hands without a four-card major you can just bid 1NT. When you upgrade most of your good 14s to 1NT openings, you don't really have to worry about missing a game when responder has an 11 count and opener has a weak NT. This allows you to use 1m-2NT as game-forcing.
Here are a few hands that would make an Inverted Minor Raise of a 1♦ opening:
♠ Kxx ♥ Axx ♦ AQxxx ♣ xx
♠ x ♥ KQx ♦ KJxxxx ♣ Kxxx
♠ Qx ♥ Kxx ♦ KQxxx ♣ Jxx
♠ AKx ♥ xx ♦ AKxx ♣ AQxx
And here are a few that shouldn't:
♠ Kxxx ♥ Kx ♦ Qxxxx ♣ Ax An Inverted Minor Raise denies a four-card major; bid 1♠
♠ x ♥ AQx ♦ KQxxx ♣ AJxx This hand is strong enough to make a splinter raise of 3♠. An immediate splinter over a 1m opening should show 15+ HCP.
♠ Kxx ♥ Qxx ♦ AJxx ♣ xxx With such balanced shape and only four-card support, just bid 1NT.
♠ QJx ♥ xx ♦ KJxxx ♣ Qxx This hand isn't strong enough for 2♦ and too strong for a preemptive 3♦. If you have a Mixed Raise available (see Steve's article on Mixed Raises), this would be perfect; if not, you have to bid 1NT.
Opener's rebid after the raise to 2m
There are two ranges of balanced hands opener can have: too weak for 1NT or too strong for 1NT. Steve and Bobby play 1NT as 14+-17, so these ranges are 12-14- and 18-19. There's no need to worry too much about distinguishing these ranges immediately: 2NT shows a balanced hand that has stoppers in the unbid suits (at most one partial stop), with at least a decent minimum or 18-19. If responder has an invitational hand, he bids 3m; opener passes with a minimum weak notrump or bids 3NT with a maximum weak notrump or the 18-19 hand. If responder raises 2NT to game, showing an excellent invite or a full opening hand, opener can safely reraise to 4NT with the 18-19 hand. With a more suit-oriented hand — including hands with good trumps — he can bid 4m instead; we have found it useful to define the reraise to 4NT as showing bad trumps, which can help responder’s decision of whether to accept the slam invitation.
There is a 3NT rebid available to show some balanced hand. Since it takes up so much space, this bid should be both descriptive and unlikely to excite partner. Our suggestion is to play it as a balanced 18-count with three cards in the minor — the worst possible hand in the “good hand” category.
The weakest thing opener can do is to rebid 3m. This could be a minimum balanced hand (with as few as three trumps) or a minimum unbalanced hand (with at most 4 trumps). It does not deny major-suit stoppers; it just expresses minimum values. Responder continues on with an opening hand; his new suit bid shows values in that suit, aiming toward 3NT.
With a decent minimum or better that does not have the stoppers to bid 2NT, opener can bid a new suit at the two-level. This does not promise any particular length, just values in the suit. It implies either an unbalanced hand or a hand that does not want to declare a notrump contract. We generally bid these up the line, but if we’re unbalanced and strong enough to force to the four-level opposite an invite, we bid our longer suit first, planning to bid out our shape. If responder bids 2NT and opener continues with a third suit at his next call it is natural, showing a decent unbalanced minimum with shortness in the unbid fourth suit. (For example, 1♦-2♦; 2♥-2NT; 3♠ would show club shortness, probably 3=4=5=1 or 4=4=4=1.) If opener rebids his second suit after a 2NT rebid, it shows 5=6. (Such as 1♣-2♣; 2♥-2NT; 3♥); in other auctions opener can get stuck for a bid and need to rebid his second suit without 5. We play that 3♣ is natural after 1♦-2♦ but does not force to game; opener can still pass a 3♦ rebid by responder.
Here are a few example hands. What should opener do after his 1♣ opening is raised to 2♣?
1) ♠ QJx ♥ Axxx ♦ KJx ♣ Jxx
2) ♠ AQ ♥ KJx ♦ Qxx ♣ Jxxxx
3) ♠ xx ♥ QJxx ♦ AJx ♣ KQxx
4) ♠ KQxx ♥ Kxx ♦ x ♣ AJxxx
5) ♠ KQx ♥ AJxx ♦ Qx ♣ AQxx
6) ♠ KQJx ♥ Kxx ♦ AJx ♣ Axx
1) 3♣. This shows a dead minimum. Not 2NT, even though you have every suit stopped. Don't worry about your poor club suit; partner knew three clubs was a possibility when he raised you. The most important information you can convey is that you are a dead minimum.
2) 2NT. You have a non-minimum balanced hand with lots of tenaces to protect.
3) 2♦. Although your hand is non-minimum, you don't want to rush to bid notrump with xx in spades. Bid your stoppers up the line.
4) 2♠. With an unbalanced hand that's strong enough to force past 3m, bid your longer suit first. If partner cooperates and bids 2NT, you'll bid 3♥, pinpointing your diamond shortness.
5) 2NT. WIth 18-19 balanced and tenaces in every suit, start with 2NT. You're in a force, so showing extra strength comes later.
6) 3NT. Shows a balanced hand with 18 HCP and three clubs, exactly what you have.
Identifying shortness is essential in Inverted Minor auctions. Sometimes it will get you to good slams when partner has little or no wastage. Sometimes it will put the brakes on your slam exploration and let you stop in 3NT when partner has too much opposite your shortness. Sometimes it will keep you out of a bad 3NT when partner has your short suit inadequately stopped and let you find a good 4M or 5m alternative.
Opener can splinter with a jump at the three-level after 1m-2m (or to 4♣ after 1♦-2♦). This shows extras (it forces to game opposite responder's presumed invite, so around 15+). With a weaker hand with shortness, opener starts by bidding naturally at the two-level; if responder shows a GF, opener will usually be able to bid a fragment naturally, implying shortness in the fourth suit (as above).
Responder can splinter via a jump after opener's two-level new-suit rebid. (Ex: 1♦-2♦; 2♥-4♣ or 1♣-2♣; 2♥-4♥). If opener rebids 2NT, responder's non-jump rebid of 3M shows shortness (Ex: 1♣-2♣; 2NT-3♠). Steve and Bobby play 3om in this sequence as either shortness or an artificial slam try (with a relay structure to sort this out).
1m-3M directly is also a splinter, but promises extra values (15+). So when responder makes an Inverted Minor Raise and then shows shortness, it is usually less than 15 HCP.
Here are some hands for opener after 1♦-2♦:
♠ x ♥AJxx ♦ KQxxx ♣ AQx Textbook 3♠ bid.
♠ Qxxx ♥ x ♦ AQxx ♣ KQJx Not strong enough for 3♥. Bid 2♠, and if responder bids 2NT you can bid 3♣, revealing heart shortness but <15 HCP.
♠ Ax ♥ KQJx ♦ AKxxxx ♣ x Bid 4♣. Because this bypasses 3NT, it shows pretty serious slam interest.
Here are a few hands for responder after 1♣-2♣; 2NT:
♠ KJx ♥ x ♦ AJx ♣ Kxxxxx Textbook 3♥ bid.
♠ x ♥ QJx ♦ KQxx ♣ Qxxxx Not strong enough for 3♠; bid 3♣ to show your invitational hand.
♠ x ♥ Axx ♦ AQxx ♣ KQJxx Trick question! You should have splintered immediately with 3♠.
Finding 4-3 Major Fits
Responder's 2m raise denies a four-card major, but 4M is still a possible contract, especially when we determine that 3NT looks flawed. Responder can suggest a 4-3 fit by raising opener's major after 1m-2m; 2M. One rule we suggest is that after 1m-2m; 2M, we can play in 4M if either partner suggests a 4-3 fit, so 4M cannot be used as an artificial bid (such as a keycard ask or control bid) if it is a potential contract.
A couple of example auctions (mouse over the alerts to see explanations):
4♥ is an offer to play.
4♠ is still an offer to play even though the raise came one round later.
4♥ is an offer to play.
Steve and Bobby's general agreement is to play Kickback in the minors (4m+1 is the keycard ask). Any form of Kickback requires a lot of discussion, so we don’t recommend it for a casual partnership. Using 4m as the keycard ask gives you a little more room, but in too many auctions you need 4m as a natural slam try. However, jumps to 4m in Inverted Minor auctions make sense as Keycard: we’ve already set trumps, and because we’re jumping we surely had another way to make a slam try. So our agreement is that after an Inverted Minor raise, a jump to 4m is keycard — including in competition. Once the auction gets past 3m and we cannot jump to 4m, we revert to our Kickback agreements, with the proviso noted above that after 1m-2m-2M, we can always play in 4M, so 4♥ cannot be RKCB after 1♦-2♦; 2♥-3♥; 4♠ is RKCB.
If a jump to 4m would be Keycard, a jump to 4M is Exclusion. This includes direct jumps by opener after the Inverted Minor Raise (eg 1♣-2♣; 4♥) or jumps by responder after a 2NT rebid (eg 1♦-2♦; 2NT-4♠). Another way to think of this is that if 3M would show shortness and 4m would be Keycard, then 4M is Exclusion.
A couple of example auctions:
Both of these final bids are RKCB because they are jumps to 4 of the agreed minor.
Over 3♠, 4♦ is not a jump, so it's simply a general slam try without a club control (else bid 4♣). 4♥ by either player would be keycard.
3♠ would be shortness, so 4♠ would be Exclusion Keycard Blackwood.
First things first, you need to know when your Inverted Minor raises are on, and when you revert to Standard raises (where 2m is less than invitational). Steve and Bobby's agreement is pretty normal: Inverted Minors are ON by a passed hand (obviously exactly invitational, rather than invitational+), and OFF in competition (meaning if second hand overcalls or doubles). So the only competitive agreements we need are when fourth hand enters the auction after 1m-P-2m.
It’s good to have a few general agreements. Steve and Bobby use Fast Arrival as the default principle in competitive situations. It’s not necessarily best, but it’s simple and can be applied universally, which leads to fewer misunderstandings. Applying it to Inverted Minor auctions, 3m is always the weakest action, and pass shows some life with nothing particular to say. 2NT is forcing just like it would be in an uncontested auction, but because pass is a possibility, you have to have a reason for bidding 2NT. A new suit shows values there and a reasonable hand, as before.
Doubles and redoubles don’t lend themselves as well to general rules. Here are some specific agreements that we have found useful.
If they bid 3♦ or 3♥: Double by opener is shortness. Double by responder is 3+ in their suit (exactly 3 if 3♥), willing to defend.
If they bid 3♠: Double is Thrump (i.e., bid 3NT with a stopper, otherwise answer as if partner had made a takeout double) by either partner.
If they make a takeout double: Redouble shows extras and suggests doubling for penalty.
If they bid at the two-level: When responder is not a passed hand, we are in a force through 3m, so passes are forcing and doubles by either partner are penalty. When responder is a passed hand, we are not in a force (opener could have passed 2m), so double is takeout by responder and shows general extras by opener. When we are in a force, bidding a new suit is natural, but shows an offensive hand, since we could make a forcing pass with extras but less direction.
Here's a few example hands for opener after 1♣-2♣:
♠ Kx ♥ KQxx ♦ Jxx ♣ QJxx
This is a dead minimum, so if RHO doubles or bids at the two-level, you should bid 3♣, your weakest action. If RHO bids above 3♣, pass.
♠ KQxx ♥ x ♦ Axx ♣ KQxxx
Over 2♦ or 2♥, bid 2♠. Double a 2♠ overcall for penalty. Double a 3♥ bid to show shortness.
♠ Qxx ♥ AQxx ♦ KQx ♣ KQx
If RHO doubles 2♣, redouble to show extras. After a two-level overcall, double for penalty. After any three-level overcall, bid 3NT to play.
That's the Inverted Minor system that Steve plays with Bobby. There's not a lot of artificiality or complicated agreements. The really important aspects are knowing the strength expected for every bid and the level of force it creates. Below is a summary of the key points and a complete system outline.
1m - 2m = 5+-card support (sometimes 4), no 4-card major, game-invitational+, forcing to 3m by UPH, to 2m by PH
In competition after the raise (system is OFF if 2nd hand interferes):
1m - 2m (Dbl)
1m - 2m (3♠)
1m - 2m (other calls below 3m)
Other general agreements:
Plus... it's free!