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Keep It Simple

Starting today, Bridge Winners will feature a new weekly series by Andrew Gumperz, focusing primarily on topics of interest to improving players.

Complicated auctions are difficult, even for experts. But what can you do about them? With a little planning, you can simplify partner's problems surprisingly often. Here are four tips for simplifying your auctions:

1) Open 1NT whenever it's reasonable:

Playing a 15-17 NT, what do you open holding:

North
AQ
J1092
K2
KQ432

If you opened 1 because you hold two doubletons, you just made this auction more difficult. What will you rebid when partner responds 1?

  • 1 -- 1 -- 1NT? You are a queen heavy.
  • 1 -- 1 -- 2? You are a queen light.
  • 1 -- 1 -- 2? You are a club short.

What's worse, you made the auction more difficult for partner. What will partner rebid below?

South
K9765
A843
876
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
?
He will pass 2. 2 would show more values.

South
1097654
KQ3
Q76
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
?
He will probably pass 2. The hand seems like a misfit--better to get out low.

But if you bend one rule and open 1NT instead of 1, partner's rebids become easy:

South
K9765
A843
876
2
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

Bid Stayman and raise 2 to 3.

South
1097654
KQ3
Q76
2
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

Transfer to 2 and pass. Easy.

So when should you strive to open 1NT? Open 1NT whenever in range, with no singleton, and when holding some values in your short suits. One worthless doubleton is okay if it's the only doubleton, but two worthless doubletons indicates you should probably open 1-of-a-suit.

 

2) Rebid NT with balanced hands

The card gods dealt you a balanced hand so you could bid notrump. If you don't, and you don't have a fit, you are courting problems.

For example:

North
xx
Jxx
AKxx
KQxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

Rebid 1NT.  Even with the weak major holdings, 1NT is a better rebid than 2.  2 expresses more playing potential in a suit than you actually have, so partner may overbid. Furthermore, 2 will frequently get you past your side's best partscore. Lastly, 2 will often give partner an ugly guess.

Say partner holds: AQxxx xxx Qx Jxx. Should he pass and miss risking a cold game if you actually hold 17 points? Should he take preference to 2 and play a silly 4-2 fit? Should he rebid 2 and risk playing a 5-1 fit? A 1NT rebid makes his life simple almost no matter what he holds.

 

North
Kx
AQxx
AQxxx
Kx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

Rebid 2NT. Even though your hand is semi-balanced, 2NT is a better description than 2. Partner can checkback to find a heart fit, if one exists. A 2 rebid might wrong-side a NT contract if partner can not raise or rebid spades.

 

North
AQxx
Kxx
QJx
Jxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

Rebid 1NT. 1NT communicates your range and shape. If you rebid 1 you might hold 12-18 HCP and 3-7 clubs. With such a wide range of possibilities, partner is far more likely to have a difficult decision. True, you might lose a 4-4 spade fit, but if partner's hand is worth another bid, you can use a convention like New Minor Forcing to checkback and find it. Another benefit from an immediate 1NT lies in concealing the spade suit from the opponents when partner does not have 4 spades and you declare NT.

 

North
AKxx
xx
xx
AQxxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

Rebid 1. Our guideline creates an important corollary: when opener rebids in a suit instead of NT, his hand is unbalanced. This hand, with its values in the long suits, is better shown by bidding clubs and spades than by rebidding 1NT. Since you would rebid 1NT with 4-3-3-3 shape, partner can be certain that you hold 4+ clubs to bid this way. This may help him reject NT when he also holds four clubs. Finally, 1 is more likely to right-side the contract, as partner's red-suit holdings are more likely to be vulnerable to attack than your club holding.

 

3) Show a solid suit as early as possible

North
AKx
AKQJ10xx
A
xx
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
P
?

Rebid 3. Holding a solid trump suit, jump to 3 to immediately show your self-sufficient suit. The first rule of slam bidding is the partnership must hold an adequate trump suit. When you hold a solid suit, you know what suit should be trumps, but partner does not. If he holds a small singleton or void, he will be loathe to cooperate in a slam search even if his hand is otherwise good. By bidding 3, you set trumps, and tell partner to cuebid on a hand like: xxxx -- xxxxx AKxx making it trivial to find the laydown 6 contract.

 

North
Ax
KQJ10xxxx
Ax
x
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
?

Rebid 3. Your hand is very suitable for a slam opposite a 2/1 game-force. The 3 rebid announces your slam interest and your excellent suit.

 

South
Qxx
AKQJxxx
A
xx
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

If you play a strong jump-shift, respond 2. This time it is responder who holds a solid trump suit. Responding 2 followed by 3 shows a self-sufficient suit and gets the slam machinery going.

 

4) Holding big support, show big support

South
Axxx
Kxxxx
KJx
x
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
?

Bid 4 (splinter raise). 4 communicates:

  • 4+ trumps
  • a singleton club
  • values in the unbid suits
  • slam interest

Overcaller actually held: KTx Axxxx AQ Jxx. At one table, responder started with a 2 cuebid to show a limit raise or better. The auction continued:

W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Making 6.  At the other table this was the auction:

W
N
E
S
1
1
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Look how much easier the second auction is. When you know that partner has a big fit with the right singleton and slam-going values, it is easy to be aggressive.

 

Conclusion

Communicate what you hold as clearly and early as possible. At the end of the session, if your partner is beaming from not having made a single obvious bidding error, take pride that your descriptive auctions enabled him to succeed.

 

Andrew Gumperz Andrew Gumperz is a part-time bridge professional based in the Bay Area. He has numerous regional victories to his credit, but his proudest bridge accomplishment comes from upsetting the CAYNE team in the 2009 DC Spingold. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys musical theater, especially when his daughter is performing.

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