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Posted 26 Sep 2018
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by Steve Ault
A reverse is not a highfalutin add-on convention or bidding system. It is basic to the game, just as basic as a strong jump shift rebid by opener. It can be said that a reverse is actually more fundamental to bidding than the Blackwood and Stayman conventions we all play and take for granted.
A reverse is a rebid on the 2-level by opener after partner’s 1 level response (including 1 NT) of a suit of a rank higher than that of the suit of the opening bid. There are 10 possible reverse sequences (We assume here that our friendly opponents are not being obnoxious by fouling up the works with bids of their own.):
1♣ -1♥ -2♦ , 1♣ -1♠ -2♦ , 1♣ -1♠ -2♥ , 1♣ -1NT-2♦ , 1♣ -1NT-2♥ , 1♣ -1NT-2♠
1♦ -1♠ -2♥ , 1♦ -1NT-2♥ , 1♦ -1NT-2♠
1♥ -1NT-2♠ .
The additional point count requirement for a reverse is the default for standard bidding, but there are some who say, “I don’t play reverses.” If not, partner needs to alert opponents that the bid may not have the additional values customarily required for a reverse. And, these partnerships should not at all be surprised by frequently finding themselves in trouble at the three level.
The reason for the higher point count requirement for a reverse is quite simple: responder must bid on the 3 level to show a preference for opener’s first bid and longer suit. Let’s illustrate this point by taking the first example, 1♣ -1♥ -2♦ . The responder may have bid 1♥ with only 6 points and perhaps 4 hearts and 3 cards in the other suits. A club contract is desirable given the obvious 8 card fit or better, but to support clubs the bid has to be made on the 3 level. If the opening bidder has 12 or 13 points, well, good luck—you most assuredly will need it.
For contrast, let’s change the auction a bit. Instead of 1♣ -1♥ -2♦ , we have 1♦ -1♥ -2♣ , and let’s assume partner has the very same weak hand with 4 hearts. It looks like opener has at least 5-4 distribution in the minors with longer diamonds. But this time the weak hand can support opener’s first bid, 5 card suit at the 2 level by bidding 2 diamonds. The reason: opener’s second bid suit is of a rank lower than that of the first. Here, there is no reverse.
When reversing, opener’s first suit is always longer than the suit of the rebid. The typical distribution is 5-4, but more extreme distributions such as 6-5 or 6-4, etc., are possible. *With the more extreme distributions, the minimum point count requirement is lowered if all the points are in the long suits. A 6/5 hand can reverse with 14 HCPs or even 13 with good spot cards (10s and 9s).
After a two over one response, e.g., 1♦ -2♣ , the additional point count requirement for a reverse is lifted. Reason: responder must have at least 10 points and thus reaching the 3 level should not prove to be disastrous. Opener can bid 2♥ or 2♠ with minimum values.
Standard bidding practice is for opener to jump shift with a least 18 or 19 HCPs. The upper range is about 21 HCPs with distribution not suitable for a 2NT bid. A jump shift is virtually forcing to game. Some play that it is 100% forcing to game. A reverse has a lower minimum requirement (16 HCPs), but the same maximum. A reverse is forcing 1 round but not necessarily to game. A bid that’s both a reverse and a jump shift, e.g., 1♣ -1♠ -3♥ , has an entirely different meaning: instead of length, the bid shows shortness, either a singleton or void, plus a good hand with strong support in partner’s suit. This bid is known as a splinter, which will be the subject of a future presentation.
It’s time to reevaluate the hand. With 9 points or more, game or higher should be reached. With less, game should be attempted only if the reversing hand has values above the minimum.
With less than 9 points the following options are available: bid partner’s first suit with 3 (or 2 if you must); raise partner’s second suit with 4 (or 3 if you must); bid 2NT; rebid your suit on the 2 level with 5 or more. (More is better as partner can be short) Passing is not an option. The reversing hand will probably pass with a minimum. With a stronger hand partner will bid game, jump, or bid the forth suit.
With 9 or more points one can bid 3NT or game in one of partner’s suits, jump to the 4 level with support in a minor where 3NT is not a good option, jump in your original suit with at least 6 cards, or bid the fourth suit. The forcing bid of the fourth suit can serve as a check back for 3 card support for your 5 card major, or it can be asking for a stopper for bidding 3NT, or it can be none of the above. Sometimes a forcing bid is needed to get partner to reveal more information about the hand.
A 5 card minor can be rebid if it is half decent, partner’s 1NT bid can be passed, you can bid 1NT, and obviously, partner’s bid should be raised with 4 card support or even 3 card support when it appears to be the best option. As a rule, partner’s bid should not be supported when holding only 3 cards, but sometimes one has to make the best possible bid when there are no good alternatives available. Landing in a 4-3 fit is sometimes the best option, especially if the hand with 3 trumps has a singleton or void.
With minimal opening values, holding a 5 card minor and 4 hearts and doubletons in the other two suits, opener bids the 5 card minor. Partner, with a weak hand holding 5 spades and 4 hearts, responds 1 spade. Opener is too weak to make the reverse bid of 2 hearts, so either a rebid of the minor suit or 1NT are the remaining options. Partner, with a weak holding, cannot introduce a new suit at the 2 level, which is a forcing bid, and therefore must pass. Thus, the desired contract of 2 hearts is missed.
Things can get really dicey when opener is holding a 6/5 hand that wants to reverse but is too weak. The solution here is to treat the hand as if it were 5/5 and open the higher ranking 5 card suit, especially if is a major. With the rare 7/5 hand, you’re really in a quandary.