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20 English Bridge February 2018 www.ebu.co.uk

Assessing game potential

Ask Frances by Frances Hinden

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L

aurie Jackson asked, 'Suppose my partner

opens 1™ and I reply 1NT (6-9 points, no 4card

major). Partner's second bid is, say, 2t

(lower ranking ). Is there any way to discover if this

is a game-invitational hand (say 16-17 points, now

five hearts), or a minimum hand, but shapely? If I

have 8-9 points we may miss something if I pass.

is game on opposite a maximum 2t. A hand such

as ´J43 ™A4 tKJ42 ®10874 is typical.

Responder has another option that comes up less

frequently. This is often called the impossible 2´.

Responder denied four spades when he bid 1NT so

it cannot be natural. It commonly shows a huge

hand for diamonds - stronger than raising to 3t,

and says nothing about spades. When 1NT is

limited to 6-9 points, it will typically include 5-card

diamond support - ´A32 ™4 tKQ852 ®10842.

(Responder might not bid 2t initially because of

the singleton heart).

On our sample auction, 1™-1NT-2t, responder's

2NT doesn't really have a meaning in Acol as

responder has shown a hand too weak to invite

opposite a minimum opener (perhaps it should

show a more 'no-trumpy' diamond raise). Change

the auction slightly to 1´-1NT-2®/2t and 2NT can

now be used to show the good diamond raise (2™ is

needed to show a weak hand with long hearts).

Playing an American style, where 2-over-1 is game

forcing, 2NT is needed as a natural invitational bid

but not in Acol when 1NT is strictly limited.

The last option is for responder to give what is

known as false preference back to hearts. With, say,

´432 ™A4 tK842 ®10874 responder doesn't have

enough to raise to 3t opposite what could be a

minimum opening, but passing risks missing game

opposite a maximum. As a compromise, responder

bids 2™. This stays at the two-level but gives opener

a chance to bid again with a maximum. That will get

to game opposite ´A6 ™KQJ765 tAQ75 ®6

(opener bids 3™) without getting to a painful 3t

contract opposite ´Q76 ™KQ652 tAJ76 ®9.

Finally, if you have an understanding partner, it's

worth remembering that the goal of bidding is to

get to the right contract not to follow some set of

bidding rules. You might respond 1NT to 1™ to preempt

the spade suit with something off-centre such

as ´J4 ™3 tJ1097652 ®Q53. If partner jump shifts

into 3® that's technically (game) forcing, but the

odds - especially at pairs - favour passing! r

It's the nature of natural bidding systems such as

Acol that, even after an opening bid and rebid,

opener's hand may not be that well defined. As you say,

1™-1NT-2t can be anything from a 1-5-4-3 11count

to a 17- or 18-count - any hand not quite

strong enough to game force. For this reason,

responder should only pass with both a weak hand

and length in diamonds. Responder has the

following basic options:

DPass has at least two more diamonds than hearts

and a weak hand. One would be happy to stop

with ´J43 ™4 tK75 ®Q107654 which should be

a playable spot.

D2™ is simple preference: opposite 5-4 in the red

suits hearts is likely to play better than diamonds.

This can be virtually any strength (but limited by

the 1NT response) and is typically two or three

hearts - ´543 ™A4 tK74 ®108763. A hand with

three hearts and a shortage should raise 1™ to 2™

the previous round so opener should not get too

enthusiastic about hearts without at least six of

them.

D3® is a rare bid, and shows a hand that wasn't

strong enough to respond 2® last time round but

is certain that clubs are the right trump suit.

´J43 ™4 tK2 ®QJ109652 would be ideal.

Opener will usually pass, but holding a maximum

and a club fit - ´A ™AK652 tA543 ®K43 - can

raise clubs. Here opener didn't hold quite enough

to bid 3t over 1NT - which would also lose any

possibility of playing in clubs - but can now get to

the cold 6® contract.

D3t shows a maximum 1NT bid with diamond

support: bid 3t in preference to passing if there

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