20 English Bridge February 2018 www.ebu.co.uk
Assessing game potential
Ask Frances by Frances Hinden
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
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