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Suppose you hear your partner open one spade. You, the responder (North) have: (s)Kxx (h)xx (d)xxx (c)AKxxx, and respond two clubs. Opener now bids three clubs, showing you a "double fit" in spades and clubs.

You have ten high card points, and presume that opener has at least 13, for a total of at least 23. Normally, that's not quite enough for game, but the double fit has increased the value of your hands. Can you go directly to four spades on the theory that the double fit is worth 2-3 points, thereby bringing you to 25-26 (adjusted)? Or should you stop at three spades and let partner decide based on whether he has a minimum or more?

Suppose you were opener, and heard partner (responder) stop at 3 spades. You have (s) AQJxx (h)Kxx (d)xx (c) QJx. You assume that he has a bare 10, and you have only 13. Can you go to 4S on the basis of the double fit?

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    Why did you raise his 2C bid to three with only QJX support?
    – petqwe
    Sep 7, 2016 at 8:21
  • And since your 2C is not a game-going bid and partner decides to raise you to 3C voluntarily, you should be going to 4 anyways.
    – petqwe
    Sep 7, 2016 at 8:44
  • @petqwe: Not true - the 2C bid was forcing on opener, so with 4+ Clubs and an unbalanced hand partner is compelled to bid 3C as a non-forcing call. The revealed fit is likely good for both hands, but a return to 3S now by Responder says "I can't do any more, but I do have 3 Spades for you." Sep 9, 2016 at 21:08

2 Answers 2

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Let's give partner a fitting minimum for the first auction; one that fits nicely but is otherwise as weak as possible:

S: AJxxx
H: x
D: KJX
C: QTxx

This hand by partner has only 11 HCP, evaluates to exactly 13 total points as opener, and there are excellent chances to make 4S, especially with an attacking diamond lead being up to partner's holding.

Let's also consider a non-fitting maximum hand for partner, with the maximum possible non-working values:

S: Qxxxx
H: AQ
D: AQ
C: xxxx

Again 4S has a good play, with one sure loser in trumps and good chances that the rest of the hand can be managed for only two losers.

These two hands illustrate the principle that if one's own values are strongly fitting, as in the hand given, and especially when one is the weaker hand of the partnership, one can be aggressive. Practice visualizing typical fitting minimum and non-fitting maximum hands for partner in the bidding, and evaluate your own holding against those when deciding whether to bid or invite game/slam. Caveat: Be very careful to not place cards in partner's hand when doing so. It is easy to engage in wishful thinking when doing this exercise, so you must consciously restrain your self until that becomes second nature.

Let's try the flip side; partner's fitting minimum could be something like:

S: xxx
H: x
D: KJTx
C: Axxxx

This is about as bad a hand as partner could come down with, 8HCP and 10 total points, yet 4S is not hopeless despite the mismatch in the red suits. Even small additions like ST or C9 start looking like big cards. Vulnerable at IMPS bidding this game is mandatory, and perhaps also non-vulnerable at IMPS, but at MatchPoints I'd rather play 3S and trust partner to bid game herself when holding a hand like

S: Kxx
H: xx
D: xxx
C: AKxxx

Update:

The three distinctive marks of a weak player are:

  • not counting;

  • still not counting; and

  • thinking that hand evaluation ends with counting points, when in fact it only begins with counting points.

Note that the examples of hand visualization given above all start with counting - of points, distribution, potential losers and winners - of things that cannot yet be seen in partner's hand but must be visualized. One begins to approach expert status only when this process starts to become second nature. In many senses an expert performs this visualization first; decides on the appropriate call based on this visualization; determines what the value of the hand is based on the call and bidding system; and only then decides how that value is apportioned as HCP and distribution and fitting points.

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  • Basically an expert relies on intuition, and uses the point count as a check, while a non-expert uses the point count as a crutch.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 7, 2016 at 10:01
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    @TomAu: NOT intuition - but visualization. Ask an expert and fitting minimum hands will come spilling out. Sep 7, 2016 at 10:05
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The law of total tricks predicts an 'average' double-fit to add only 1/2 trick to either team's offensive potential, but both point-upgrades and downgrades are possible. The double-fit generally means some low cards in the fitting suits don't lose, however low honours in short suits have no offensive value.

Though, in this example I think you should describe, not decide. Partner would likely think you "exceeded your authority" by choosing unilaterally. With Opener's wide range of 11-17, you don't (and won't) know enough. So, showing your double fit and 8 losers, which only you see, is highest in priority. Just keep the bidding going and trust opener's decision (i.e. how team-work works best!).

I'd say 3S described that hand nicely - a double fit with no other merit (a void would score extra) and Opener can easily place this contract. If opener only made their forced rebid for you to reveal extra strength then your answer was 'no, but having 3 spades'. (And, the double-fit hasn't appreciably reduced losers in your flat hand, perhaps a heart ruff, but you need more than partner promised so far and 4 more cover cards.)

With a complete picture, Opener can forecast winners and losers easily - but only now that they have a well defined image to work from. Obviously 16+ points is 4S and 11 a simple pass. Between these margins, Opener should visualise 6 or less losers in their hand with 3 cover cards expected from your double-fit (in high cards or ruffs), rather than exact point-counting.

6 losers would suggest game, although sometimes the point distribution (with points in opponents suits) may lean towards defence, when opponents have over-bid the double-fit which they also possess!

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