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In an earlier question, the consensus was that I should answer a takeout double of one heart with one spade (the cheaper bid) rather than two clubs. (I agree with that consensus.) The exact situation was: "Left hand opponent opened 1 heart. Partner doubled for takeout. Right hand opponent passed." I had something like (S) xxx (H) xx (D) Jxxx (C) Jxxx.

Suppose my major suits were reversed, so I had (S) xx (H) xxx (D) Jxxx (C) Jxxx? Would you still bid "one spade" with only two spades, or is "2 clubs" now the lesser evil?

Suppose one of my minors had five cards instead of four: e.g. (S) xxx (H) xx (D) Jxx (C) Jxxxx (three spades), or (S) xx (H) xx (D) Jxxx (C) Jxxxx (only two spades).

In the original question and answer, "one spade" was the preferred bid versus two clubs when I had one fewer spade than clubs. But the above variations hypothesize that I have at least two fewer spades than clubs. Put another way, where is the "tipping point" of spade-club distributions, where you would bid two clubs rather than one spade?

  • Not really relevant here, but another consideration possibly worth keeping in mind is the projected effect our bid has on partner's future evaluation. In this precise situation partner is aware that we may have a bust with only 3. If it goes (1C)-double-pass and I'm to bid with 3334 hand with two jacks or less, I will bid 1D. The reasons are A) it keeps bidding low (see Forget's answer for the reason why we want that to happen), and B) it is less like to excite partner unduly should they have a strong hand. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jan 12 at 17:30
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With xxx xx Jxxx Jxxx, the decision between 1S and 2C is very close. Any move that makes spades less attractive (eg holding only a doubleton) or clubs more attractive (eg a 5-card suit) breaks the "tie" in favor of 2C. Any of those three hands would be a clear 2C call for me.

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    or even xxx xx Jxxx QJxx. We don't bid 1S with the original garbage hand because it's a good bid, we bid it because it keeps us on the 1 level, letting partner show their suit if they are double-and-bidding, giving us a runout if we need it, but mostly hoping the opponents will let us off the hook. It's really hard to double at the 1 level (more so now that the double of 1S is likely to be considered takeout); much easier to double a misfit at the 2 level - so they likely are going to rescue us. – Mycroft Jan 10 at 19:08
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I would not be inclined to bid 1S with any of the hands mentioned, nor in most circumstances with a 2-card spade suit. With a minimum hand responding 1S on a three card suit might be better than 2C on four to the jack -- the decision is marginal. But bidding 1S with only 2 spades could easily find you in a 6- or even a 5-card fit, in a very bad place. I would absolutely bid a 5-card club suit over a 2-card spade suit, even 5 small cards. Four to the jack is not as good, particularly in a minor, but is still likely to work better than bidding a 2-card spade suit.

About the only time I would bid a 2-card suit in response to a takeout double would be if the opponents had bid 2 suits and I was 4-4 in those suits, but not strong enough to pass for penalties

Say !D - P - 1H - Dbl P

holding

Jx xxxx xxxx kxx

Passing 1H doubled could be a disaster, and 1S might be better than 2C on a 3-card suit I am certainly hoping that the opponents bid on and come to grief in a red suit at a higher level.

But holding (S) xx (H) xxx (D) Jxxx (C) Jxxx? I would bid 2C and hope that opps bid on or partner happens to have a club suit. I don't expect to do well, but anything else is likely to be worse. Sure you can find hands on which 1S is the killing bid. But not many with that bidding and that hand.

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Two points not raised by the other answers are:

  1. What's happening on the hand?

  2. Where are we headed?

When partner Doubles 1H with our bust and 3-small Spade holding, expectation is that Partner is either:

  • Holding 4 Spade cards and short Hearts, investigating our ability to compete, and will either pass or raise 1S depending on strength;

  • A bit stronger intending a minimum NT bid to show a balanced 18-19 HCP with a Heart stopper; or

  • A 1-suited hand of his own too strong for a simple overcall.

Our goal is in all cases to exit the auction as soon as possible, without ever giving opponents an opportunity to consider a penalty double that might be worth more than their own contract. To this end, it's imperative to both stay low, and avoid bidding a suit the opponents might hold 7 (or more) of. This is why the 1S response is acceptable on 3-small and a bust: Partner is either bidding on, which we can pass, or has a 4-card Spade himself. If Partner's intent is to show a 18-19 NT hand it is valuable to allow that to happen as 1 NT instead of as 2NT.

However when holding just 2-small the dynamics change. This could be going down 3 or even 4 against a mere part score by Opponents, especially with partner's hand on the table. Bidding a suit they hold discourages them from bidding, when we wish to make their continuation as easy as possible.

Hence I lean very much into bidding 1S on the xxx-xx-Jxxx-Jxxx hand but will never continue with a 1S call holding a 5-card minor of any quality, even 5 small. There is good reason to expect 2 long Club tricks in my hand after a 2C response, even with xxxxx, compared to zero tricks total in any other denomination.


Note that while Partner might have doubled on a three-suiter (short hearts) and only 3 Spade cards, such a call must guarantee better than minimum doubling values. A minimum holding and lacking Spades is better to wait, retaining the option of reopening later.

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