ABC bridge plus
A few simple enhancements to your basic bidding system.
Reverse Bids in Bridge
A reverse shows a strong hand with the first bid suit always being longer than the second. A reverse means that partner has to bid to the 3 level in order to return to opener's first suit.
2♥ is a reverse because if South wants to go back to North's first suit it will need to be at the 3 level with a bid of 3♦.
2♣ is not a reverse. South could bid 2♦, returning to opener's suit at the 2 level.
- 16+ points
- unbalanced hand
- forcing for 1 round
Why can't a reverse be made with two 4 card suits? In most auctions if a player shows two suits, the hand should be unbalanced. If you're balanced you're either going to open 1NT or bid NT on the second round. If you haven't bid notrumps by the second round you won't be balanced. The first suit will, therefore, always contain at least 5 cards.
Responding to a Reverse
Reverses are forcing to game so you have to keep bidding.
On the following hand North has reversed showing 5 clubs, 4 diamonds and a strong hand.
You have a club fit.
This time you are stronger and it's up to you to indicate your extra strength.
You have spades covered, bid 3NT.
A negative double is the name given to a double made by the responder. It promises support for the unbid suits and shows a hand where you don't have a natural bid to make. It means that you can take part in the auction safely even with quite a weak hand.
- 1-level = 6-9 HCP
- 2-level = 8-11 HCP
On the following hand you can't bid 1NT without a spade stopper. You need 10 HCP or more to change suit at the 2-level and you can't support partner.
The solution is to make a negative double. The message to partner is that you have some points, some length in the unbid suits, but not enough strength to bid at the 2-level.
Negative Double then Bid
Partner has opened and your right hand opponent has made an overcall.
Bidding a new suit at the 2 level as responder is forcing. How can you show your long suit without partner blasting off too high? You can make a negative double and then bid your suit to show length but no real interest in game.
Fourth suit forcing
If three suits have been bid and responder then bids the only remaining unbid suit then that's the fourth suit, of course, and it's forcing to game. It doesn't promise cards in that suit, 'fourth suit forcing' is just a convenient way to show a good hand.
Let's take a simple bidding sequence where the opposition are silent.
You have enough high card points to bid game, but which game?If partner had three card spade support, you would like to be in 4♠. If partner had a hold in diamonds, you would probably like to be in 3NT.
If partner had neither of the above, you might want to be in 4♥ or maybe even 5♣. Your dilemma is that you are too strong and have the wrong shape to bid either 3♥ (only 2 hearts) or 3♠ (shows 6+ spades). Without fourth suit forcing, you have to bid 3NT and cross your fingers. Even if partner has a diamond hold, like K5, it is much better they are declarer to prevent the opening leader playing ♦Q squashing the king under the third player's ace.
No problem, South bids 2♦, the fourth suit and partner must bid again.
South bids 2♦, North shows a diamond stop and South raises to 3NT.
Responding to 4th Suit Forcing.
What happens when your partner makes a 4th suit forcing bid? What do you bid? The answer is you make the most useful bid you can.
- support partner
- bid no trumps
- show extra length in your second suit
- rebid your first suit with none of the above or with extra length in that suit.
Let's look at four South hands after our second sequence and see the choices. Remember our North hand, the same each time.
Bid 2♠, showing three card support for your partner's suit. You cannot bid no trumps with a singleton in the unbid suit. Again, you have already told partner you have 5 hearts and 4 clubs. Hopefully, you and your partner will have at least an 8 card spade fit between you.
Bid 3NT. You have a good diamond hold and have already told your partner you have 5 hearts and 4 clubs. Note you showed 5 hearts when you bid 2♣. Had you only 4 hearts and 4 or 5 clubs, you would have opened 1♣.
You cannot bid no-trumps or support spades. Your partner knows you have 5+ hearts but the one thing they do not know is that you have a fifth club. Therefore, bid 3♣ showing your second suit clubs is a 5 card suit.
You cannot bid no trumps and have no spade support for partner. Your partner knows you have at least 5 hearts and 4 clubs. Help! What do you do? Partner knows everything! Don't pass, ever! The answer is that you rebid your opening suit, 2♥. This may either show a 6th heart (Partner only expects 5) but could also say, as here: "I have nothing else to say, partner. You know my hand shape, roughly, and I can neither support you nor bid no trumps."
After 2♥, North is too strong to bid 3♦ as that bid shows a long diamond suit, little else and around 10 hcp. So, North checks out for the best game by bidding 3♣, 4th suit. South shows their 5th heart with 3♥ and North raises to game as they have found a fit. 4♥ is the only making game, losing just the ♠A and two club tricks.
Here's a hand for you to practice the Fourth Suit Forcing convention.
A jump to game by responder on the first round of bidding shows a weak hand commonly referred to as the weak freak.
- 6-9 points
- 5 trumps
You might be surprised how many times game makes after a weak freak response. Even if game doesn't make you'll shut your opponents out of the bidding and it will often be a good sacrifice.
North opens 1♥ and with just 6 points South raises to game!
Delayed Game Raise
A jump to game on the first round of bidding is normally a weak hand with great shape. On the second round of bidding it's strong!
Now try playing the hand yourself.
Because an immediate jump to game shows a weak hand, responder needs another way to raise to game to indicate strength. One useful technique is the delayed game raise.
South's 2♣ response is a change of suit so that's forcing - North can't pass. North's second bid of 2♦ shows five hearts and four diamonds. Even if you're playing 4 card majors North's bidding shows a five card heart suit because with a balanced hand he would have either opened 1NT or rebid notrumps.
South can now be sure of a heart fit and raises to game. That's not a sign off! South has shown a heart fit and enough strength for game and, with that in mind, North should bid on with a suitable hand. North will often pass, of course, but South has passed control to North and it's up to North to make the final decision. Only a jump to game on the first round of bidding shows a weak hand.
Supporting with 3 trumps
You don't always need 4 trumps to support responder's suit. 3 card support and a bit of shape is plenty!
Here's the hand in the video for you to play yourself.
Rule of 80
What is the rule of 80% in bridge? If you're 80% sure you know what your final contract should be, just go ahead and bid it!
Why wouldn't we want to take our time to make sure we end up in the right contract? Every bid we place, we're giving information to partner, but we are also giving it to our opponents.
Watch the video for an example where the opponents rush to 3NT. When we have to choose a lead, we don't have much information about their hands so we have to guess which lead might be best. If they take their time getting to 3NT, bidding a couple other suits, we get a much clearer picture of their hands and a better chance to choose an effective lead.
Now, let's try sitting in the declarer's seat to give them a taste of their own medicine. You will have to choose - will you jump to 3NT even if you're not 100% sure it is the best contract?
After you play once, try redealing the hand and show a second suit. Do the opponents select a different lead?
On the following hand you open 1♥, partner raises to 2♥ and you have to decide whether or not to try for game.
You know partner has between 6-9 points. What more would you really like to know about partner's hand? Would you like to know whether partner was minimum or maximum for the 2♥ bid? 6 points or 9 points? That would be some help, I guess. What if you could find out whether partner had the ♦A or ♦K! Now that would be useful! If partner has a fitting honour for your diamonds it will really help establishing that suit.
In the two specific sequences 1♥ - 2♥ and 1♠ - 2♠ you can bid a new suit to invite partner to game if he has an honour in that new suit. Bidding a new suit like this is called a 'trial bid'.
Partner says yes. Game makes.
Partner says no. 3♥ is high enough
Let's look it from responder's point of view. I'm going to rotate the cards so you're still South.
Partner has invited to game. Accept or decline?
It's close. 2♥ showed 6-9 points and you have 7. The ♥A looks good because that's partner's suit. How good is the ♦K? You have no idea!
That 3♥ bid from partner gave you no clue as to how to evaluate your side suit honours.
Aha! I know my ♦K is worth something.
Not so keen.
Michaels Cue Bids
Michaels Cue Bids are used as a way of showing 2 suits at the same time when overcalling in bridge. Whilst an ordinary overcall shows a single long suit of 5 or more cards, a Michaels Cue Bid shows two long suits of 5 cards or more - in one bid.
- 1♣ - 2♣ = 5 hearts and 5 spades
- 1♦ - 2♦ = 5 hearts and 5 spades
- 1♥ - 2♥ = 5 spades and 5 of a minor
- 1♠ - 2♠ = 5 hearts and 5 of a minor
Your suits should be good to make a Michaels Cue Bid. A useful rule of thumb is that each suit should contain two of the top four honors. You don't have to have an opening hand - just good suits, so the strength may vary. The reason that you need to have good suits is that the auction may easily be forced to the 3-level.
This is a perfect Michaels Cue Bid. Partner now has an accurate picture of your hand and can support either of your suit, secure in the knowledge that your suits are of good quality.
2♥ shows the other major plus at least 5 of a minor.
Responding to a Michaels Cue Bid
In general you should respond as you would to a normal overcall, except that you are spoilt for choice! Support partner with a fit in one or both of the suits. Bid game if you are strong and have a fit. Even if you do not have many high card points, the more trumps you have the higher you should bid.
Partner has shown hearts and spades. You have support for both suits and a good hand. Bid 4♠. You are now not bidding just on your trump fit but on your strength. Your club weakness is not a worry as partner is likely to have two at the most.
Partner has shown 5 hearts and 5 of a minor. You don't want to play in hearts but rather in partner's minor. You are not interested in game so bid 3♣. Partner will pass with clubs or else convert to 3♦.