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Suppose I bid one of a (short) minor. Partner responds one of a major (one-over-one), showing at least four cards in the suit.

What do I need to raise his major to two? Some books say I need four cards, others say three cards to the queen is sufficient.

Maybe a better way of asking the question is, which systems allow me to raise with Qxx, and which require four cards for my raise? Does it matter if partner's response is in spades or hearts? Using the "four card" raise method, what should I do if partner responds one spade and I have four hearts but only three spades?

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I think the title of this question is misleading -- you seem to be asking more about quality of support rather than strength of hand. –  ruds Aug 28 '13 at 21:57
    
@ruds: OK, changed "strength" to "support." –  Tom Au Aug 28 '13 at 22:02
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3 Answers

This is a matter of partnership understanding and taste more than systemic; most natural bidding systems may be played either way.

First, you would never make strong raises of partner's major (splinter, jump to 3M or 4M, etc) with only 3-card support. This is exclusively for the auction 1m-1M-2M. 4-3 fits are much less fun to play at the 4-level than the 2-level.

Second, the reason that you're bidding this way is that you expect that 2M will play better than 1NT. Many partnerships will only raise on three with shortness in an unbid suit. Very few partnerships will raise with a 4333 hand. Remember, ruffing values in the short hand are good; if you're forced to ruff in the long hand in a 4-3 fit, you may find yourself losing trump control. On this note, I don't like Qxx as a minimum; if you have shortness, 3 small trumps are probably fine because some of them will be winners.

Third, remember that partner may have enough to invite or bid a game after your limiting bid. If partner doesn't expect you to raise on 3, they may bid inaccurately. Make sure that their second bid differentiates between a 4-card suit and a 5-card suit. A common agreement is that 1m-1M-2M-3M is invitational with 5+ in the major, while 1m-1M-2M-2NT is invitational with 4; similarly 3NT by responder asks opener to make a choice of games. There are conventional treatments that are probably better: this article on bridgewinners describes the spiral raises convention.

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You have the question backwards. It is not what system allows you to raise with Qxx instead of xxxx, but rather what system you end-up playing as a consequence of making this decision.

This question and its answer will fundamentally shape the way you bid; as such it becomes a fundamental system question. The notion that you can have a compatible partnership with someone who bids this differently then becomes nonsensical.

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4 card support is sufficient in any cases. but what if you have 3?

If you are going to adopt a natural approach to the game, this is a matter of judgement.

the goal of constructive bidding is to find the best contract for your side, keep that in mind and make your choice.

when you only have 3 card in the major, a rule of thumb in your case is to raise partner when:

  1. you can produce extra tricks by ruffing, or
  2. you have concentrated value in the suits bid, which usually means little value in unbid suits and feel uncomfortable to bid notrumps.

Beside, Do not raise partner when you have 4333 shape, bid NT

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