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I have decided to suspend the Tuesday lessons until further notice in slight anticipation of me being gated.

11: Support Bids

Seminar Eleven Support Bids

You May Not Like What Opener Bid

Often, partner is annoying enough to open with a suit for which you care little. Then you:

  • pass to show too little to say anything—any subsequent new suit bid shows at least a 5- probably 6-card suit and at most a doubleton for partner;
  • bid at the one level (unlimited) to show 5+ points and a 4+ card suit and, if partner had bid a hearts, to deny primary support for that suit;
  • bid 1NT to show no direct support, some values but fewer than 10 HCP and not necessarily a balanced hand, no 4 card major;
  • name a suit of your own at the 2-level to show 9+ points in a 5-card suit (10+ with a 4 card suit, rule of 14) and, if partner had bid a major, deny primary support;
  • jump-shift to show a sound opening bid with a self-supporting suit.

But what to do with hands where you do like partner’s suit?

Simple Raise

Suppose partner opens 1S. There is no hand on which he can do this with a minimum and just 4 cards. For if he had 12-14 and a balanced hand the 1NT opening stands out. While with as few points and two suits, even 4-4-4-1, S will never be bid. No, he must have at least a 5-card suit or be too strong to open 1NT—at least 15 HCP—maybe both. Statistically, the 5-card suit is more likely than the added strength; for now, assume the better suit. Further, if partner does not have more than 15 HCP the suit will be 6-card or robust (AQTXX or better) or the hand has ruffing values or he would have opened 1NT.

You can’t make quite the same inference if he opens 1H. In particular he may have 4 Spades and responder must take responsibility for finding such a fit. So if you have 4S and only 3H you name your major but with 3-card support for H and a ruffing value support with a limited hand bid as if he had 5.

All of these mean that with a poor-to fair hand—5-9 HCP—and reasonable support (three, with a ruffing value certainly with 3 to an honour or four) make an immediate single raise. It is good tactics to single raise like this as long a partner is not going to over-react. There is some pre-emptive value but some coat-trailing too; the book says opponents rarely allow this sequence to pass so on the auction 







where opener and his partner are both now limited, a not-strong hand may have to compete at the three level. 

Following a simple raise, opener can: 

  • pass with a minimum hand; 
  • make an invitational raise (please bid game with extras beyond the modest support and values I already know); 
  • bid a new suit showing values in the suit and inviting to game in the suit or maybe NT; 
  • bid NT at the appropriate level to show a balanced hand too strong to open 1NT. 
  • bash on to game; 

After a new suit by opener, a return to the agreed suit shows a minimum and nothing affordable to show in return. For example after 1S 2S with silent opposition

2NT 15-17 balanced, just 4S

Pass—minimum with scattered values;

3S—minimum more concentrated; 

any other—non-minimum & feature showing

3C/D/H (trial, feature)

3S—minimum, trial bid doesn’t help;

new suit (only below 3S)—non-minimum return feature;

3NT—maximum in HCP but little ruffing potential trial doesn’t help;

4S—maximum, trial does help.

Double Raise

eg 1S 3S, shows 4-card support and 10+ HCP. Opener can pass with a minimum. Any bid of the agreed suit by either partner denies more than promised for the auction so far. Subsequent bids of another suit by either partner show defensive values in that suit but no more values than a raise in the agreed suit.

Triple Raise

Preemptive based on a fit and far less than the HCP for an opening bid; agreeing the suit, obviously, but not interested in slam. You can use the Losing Trick Count to value the response as this hand will be distributional: the bid shows 7 losers. Using LTC: bid {24 - partner’s losers (assumed 7 for a 1-opener) - my losers}.

Example hand:

S: K Q 7 6 4

H: 9 3

D: Q 9 7 6 3

C: 8

You can argue whether the D holding is two or three losers but, in either view, 4S is a reasonable bid for with so little in defence, you must stop the opposition finding their possible H fit: if 4S can’t be made, 4H probably can–by them.

Three NT

Is a pudding raise showing:

  • 4-card support for partner’s major;
  • balanced, no singleton or void;
  • 13-15 HCP.

Note this means you cannot jump to 3NT without support for partner. It does not merely show a balanced hand, always agreement. Hands without support would be bid more slowly; there is always a 4+ card suit to mention before perhaps jumping to 3NT; new suit then 3NT is not a pudding raise.

Because the HCP is limited, responder is suggesting no interest in a slam, though opener is unlimited and any new suit from him is a mild slam try. The 3NT bid is not forcing though it will surely be right to correct to 4M if opener has a ruffing value.

Two NT

is a Jacoby 2NT showing a very powerful hand in support of partner with at least 16 HCP and:

  • 4-card support for partner’s major;
  • no singleton or void;
  • a more slam-minded hand than 3NT (stronger, and maybe shapelier or both).

Jacoby’s suggested opener rebids (according to the book) accord with our usual principle of going slowly with stronger hands. 3 easily-memorable bids show range only without a remarkable feature and two show features without clarifying strength:

  • 4 of the suit shows a minimum;
  • 3NT shows 14-15 HCP;
  • 3 of own suit shows 16+;
  • simple 3-level bid of a new suit shows a singleton or void in the named suit and reasonable quality trumps (see splinter below);
  • jump in another suit shows a 5+ card side suit with 2 of the top three honours obviously extremely rare (apparently some play this jump as something entirely different but I know no-one locally who does).

Jump Shift

To show primary support for partner with a side suit headed by two of the top three honours. Note that until the second bid, opener will not be able to tell this from the self-supporting-suit jump shift. This makes it likely opener will try to keep the bidding low, perhaps by showing a feature in a 3-card minor though NT is an improbable contract, except at slam level.

Splinter Bid

All the above good raises deny a singleton or void. A double-jump shift (eg 1H 4C) shows a fit, enough HCP to force to game and a singleton or void in the named suit. Jolly embarrassing when partner forgets; maybe the opposition will double to rescue you. It should be impossible to forget, partner will not preempt in these circumstances: he could bid one of his suit, forcing, then jump to game in his own suit to show a single-suited hand with no slam interest. 

There is some argument about the exact holding to justify a splinter: is it OK to have a void or a singleton ace? This was the subject of ‘the debate’ in the EBU magazine in June 2012, Robson saying to splinter anyway, Dhondy otherwise. Robson offers:

Q x x x x, 

A x x x, 

K x x, 

as a suitable hand for a splinter response to 1S on the grounds that LTC says it is enough to raise to . He has a point—the K could be a small singleton and this 7-loser hand would be enough to raise 1S to 4. Dhondy offers the counter-example of:

Q x x x

A Q x


x x x x x

as risking missing a slam if partner has eg KQx of diamonds and fears duplication.

It is clear that both see a splinter as a possible alternative to a game-level jump but with a singleton: 7 losing tricks and not necessarily many HCP. A stronger responder will splinter and make a forward move after partner signs off. If this move is RKCB, opener replies in the usual way the RKCB bidder can use an ace even opposite a void.

A splinter applies in other contexts too. Consider “1NT” “2H*” “2S”. The 2H transfer hand is unlimited; a new suit is forcing showing 4 cards as well as the 5 spades so a jump is unnecessary and eg 4C is a splinter.

Delayed Game Raise

With a DGR, responder, has a fit, but bids a new suit (possibly a 3-card minor) then jumps to game at the next chance. That’s OK if partner can’t hold a good hand but is misleading in the short term and wastes bidding space in the long term making slams harder to find. With the Jacoby 2NT, pudding raise and splinters we don’t often need DGRs so bid this way rarely. But it is here for completeness as not everyone follows the recommended pattern of responses.

Note: only the partnership can decide and agree whether or not to use and employ Pudding Raises also for the two Minor suits, and whether they apply if an opponent opens the auction first and one partner overcalls. The partnership must also decide whether Pudding Raises find application if the opening is a Minor suit, the responder bids a Major suit, and partner raises immediately to game. These particular situations should be discussed. We didn’t and may return to the topic.

This Week’s Hands

J 6 3


J 9 7 3

A 8 4 2

A Q T 5

Q 4

A K 2

J 6 5 3

 The contract is 3NT played from one side or the other. If N or W dealt, it goes 1NT 2C 2D 3NT. If E or S, 1S 2C (no tenaces so not specially keen to declare NT) 2NT 3NT.

Obviously, W will lead JH and declarer sees 2H, 2D and 1C. Diamonds will yield one more if the Q drops doubleton but that’s a low probability, plan B. 

Rob played this impeccably. Plan A is the simple finesse in Spades; which card to lead? Will you win if you lead the J and it is covered? Only if spades break 3-3. leading low gains an extra chance of the K falling doubleton when all your S honours win tricks.

29 HCP and 3NT only makes with careful play. Yet still some persist in retaining responses to split the hairs of showing 11 or 12 points.

A 9 6 2


A K 8 7 5 2


Q J 4

Q J T 9 6

4 3

A 6 4

1D 1H 2S (reverse, showing 5-4 and so identifying 9 cards) 3NT. 30 HCP this time and the 3NT don’t get any easier on the JC lead. 1S+5H+2D+1C: 9 tricks looks OK but how to reach the closed hand a second time—the H are blocked? The chess problem in the Times often requires a queen sacrifice and this is similar. Hold off the first club and, when the K wins, hold off the second and discard one of the blocking hearts! Here Rob did the best he could by switching to a heart, but nothing works. Win on table and lead a S, forcing an entry to the closed hand on this trick or the next. On any other suit, the remaining high H in dummy goes on the AC and the 9 tricks are easy!