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In the opening game of a rubber, I dealt and opened two diamonds (weak) with the following:

(s) J3 (h) 54 (d) KJ7532 (c) A42. Partner responded two hearts. I passed with my two weak hearts, fearing a "misfit" and we made five because partner had the following:

(s) 65 (h) AKQ32 (d) A84 (c) KQ5.

Basically, we lost the two spades and took the rest (the opposing hearts divided 3-3).

Even allowing for the favorable heart break, we felt that we could have bid higher. Partner said that if she had it to do over, she would have raised diamonds.

Was there, in fact, a better bidding sequence? What should I have bid if we were playing "Raise only non-forcing" (RONF)?

Given that partner and I hadn't discussed this matter before, I was afraid that partner might have bid 2 hearts with as little as (s) 65 (h) AKQ32 (d) T84 (c) 765 (as some others in our bridge circle might). Is partner supposed to have an opening hand (or better) when she takes me out of 2 diamonds with 2 hearts?

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In general, you should assume partner has bid correctly. There is essentially no world in which bidding 2H is a +EV action with (s) 65 (h) AKQ32 (d) T84 (c) 765; if partner in fact had that hand and you get in trouble because you bid on, this is a good point for discussion after the session. –  ruds Jul 31 at 15:36
    
@ruds: Actually, a hand with AKQ432 (an extra "x") is known as a "weak pull," and is a "second" weak two bid that should be passed. So the key is coming to an agreement with partner. –  Tom Au Jul 31 at 23:09
    
I don't deny that some people play them. I just deny that this is a useful bid. –  ruds Aug 1 at 3:59

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm not at all sure what the prevailing agreement is by rubber players, but the Standard American Yellow Card is marked "RONF" (raise-only non-forcing), which I suggest you and your partner adopt. The SAYC booklet has this to say:

“RONF” on the card means “Raise Only Non-Force.” A new-suit response is 
forcing one round and shows at least a five-card suit. Opener should raise a major 
suit response with a three-card fit, or perhaps with a doubleton honor.

With no fit for responder’s suit, opener rebids:
 With a minimum weak two-bid (5–8 points), rebid the suit at the lowest level.
 With a maximum weak two-bid, name a new suit or bid notrump.

The reason for playing RONF is that it is very rare that you can profitably improve partner's preempt to a new suit when you hold a weak hand and a void in partner's suit (which is one situation in which many beginners try to bid 2H over 2D). On the other hand, it is not so uncommon to have the potential for a game across from partner's preempt with a hand that has its own suit (as your partner had here). What's more, the gain from finding those games is much higher than any loss that may be prevented by improving a partscore with a nonforcing bid.

In fact, your hand is not weakish. Your suit is not so good but you have an outside ace. I would put in 2NT with your hand. Now you should discuss further bids with partner, but I would suggest that responder's next bid should be taken as a concentration trying to determine whether 3NT is the correct contract (unless opener rebids the suit), so I think a reasonable auction is:

2D   2H
2NT  3C
3D   3H
4H   5D (1)

(1) Partner may also consider passing given that you've shown a heart doubleton and denied a spade card; they can see two spade losers are likely but a club loser is not (would you have bid 2NT without a spade stopper and without the club ace?), but that a diamond loser is also possible. If hearts are 3-3 (36%), you'll (usually) take the same number of tricks in hearts and diamonds, meaning you can make 4H when 5D goes down. When hearts are 4-2 (48%), you'll likely make one fewer trick in hearts than diamonds (making 4H when 5D makes). It's only when hearts are 5-1 or worse (16%) that hearts is likely to be a a worse contract than diamonds.

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There are two sequences, one more "standard" than the other.

In Standard American, a bid over a "weak two" is "invitational" to game, and requires 17+ high card points. That's because opener may have as little as 5-6. S/he's worth a game only with a maximum (9+) points. So two hearts was proper with the responder's 18 points, and knowing that, I might have re-bid three clubs to show the ace, and responder could have gotten us to game in either hearts or diamonds.

The other sequence is known as a "weak pull." That is, the responder "pulls" the bid to two hearts with AKQ432 (six hearts and no side values) on the theory that her six hearts are probably stronger than my six diamonds. (Plus, we get 60 instead of 40 if we make two of a major.) Alternatively, the responder could have had AKQ32 of hearts and either the ace of diamonds or king of clubs (basically an opening hand) for the weak pull. In either event, it's a "second" weak two bid that I must pass.

These are two very different bidding systems, and the proper response would be the one that you have agreed with partner prior to the hand.

Edit: Upon double-checking with partner, she prefers to use the "weak pull" (12-13 high card points and five cards is fine). Under the circumstances, I had no right to expect 18 from her and did well to pass.

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