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Upon meeting a new partner at the bridge club, I wrote on my convention card that 1) I would bid a three card minor if there were no five card major, and that abid of 1 diamond usually meant four and 1 club often meant three, unless I had honors in diamonds and not in clubs, and 2) opposite such an opening bid, I expected a game-forcing 2NT response with 13-15 hcps and a balanced distribution.

Playing match point duplicate, with only opponents vulnerable, I opened 1 diamond with 13 hcps, AQx in diamonds, and xxx in clubs (all x's are 7 or lower). With (s) Qxxx (h) Qxx (d) Jx (c) AKQT, my new partner bid 2 spades. We end up bidding and making four spades. But we ended up with a cold bottom because all the other pairs made 4NT, after bidding 3NT.

Was this just an "unfortunate" result? Or was 2NT the correct response (as per Goren)? And did I do the right thing preferring to open with 1 diamond, where I had real stoppers, as opposed to 1 club, where I didn't, even though both suits were three cards?

4 Answers 4

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To answer the main question first, yes, you were wrong to expect partner to bid 2NT here. Partner's correct response is 1S, even when you have agreed a natural and forcing 2NT response. Major suits are so important that responder should prefer to show a 4-card major with a wide point-range over a narrowly limited balanced response.

As to your second question, whether you open 1C or 1D with such a hand is a matter of partnership agreement. My sense is that most pairs in the US prefer to open 1C with that hand but I can't believe there's much of an edge either way.

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Like everyone else, I don't like 2♠. Even playing strong jump shifts, you don't SJS just to show 13 high - you have to have a reason.

But I also agree with everyone else that 2NT is worse (even if it's forcing, very old-fashioned. That's not disparagement; I actually prefer that style to the "standard" invitational. Just much more common to see 3NT as "13-15 balanced").

1♠ is automatic here, and whatever way you game force next round. Any other call is giving the wrong picture to partner.

In 5cM systems, it is imperative that responder show a 4-card major if they have one. Frequently even if there's a longer minor (if playing 2/1 GF, "unless you have at least a game-forcing hand, and possibly even then"). The system will not work if you don't; you will miss good 4M games into 3NT with 10 of the last 8 tricks, you will miss major slams; all kinds of issues.

1m-2NT, even if it's game forcing, only works as well as it does because opener can rely on there not being a 4-4 major fit; the only hands the system has to deal with is when she's 5=6+, or 6=7.

However, that's not the entire reason for the result. In order to understand why you were in 4♠ and the room was in 3NT we need to see your hand. "13 with AQx xxx in the minors" isn't enough - we need the full shape, and possibly even all cards. If you were 3=4=3=3, and raised partner's spades, I'd be right there with you - if you're playing strong jump shifts, it really shouldn't just be on HCP, it should promise 5 (or at worst 4=1=5=3 or the like where this is the way you show the slam try minor fit). And you were the only ones in the flat moysian, which I'm not surprised played just like notrump. If you were 4=3=3=3, then I'm still not surprised you're in spades, for the same reason as before, but auctions like Joe's, where we can offer 3NT as an option "I'm flat, you're flat, what do you think?" are possible.

I am surprised that everybody was in 3NT if you had a 4=4 spade fit - that would be very uncommon except at the highest levels, or in England (where the room is opening your hand a 12-14 1NT, and 4333 might well just not look for the major fit and just blast 3NT). So it wouldn't surprise me in the least that you raised spades on 3, thinking partner actually had a strong jump shift hand, and got stuck. But we don't know, because we only have a complete look at partner's hand.

What to open with 3=3 in the minors outside of NT range is a perennial question. "Standard" is "4=4 D, 3=3 C, and I don't care if it's AKJ 532" - again, because the system is designed around "this shape bids this" on the first round. Many are moving to "Clubs if balanced, even if 4=4=3=2 or 3=3=5=2" - but they change their systems to handle that (and to take advantage of "1&diamonds; is almost always 5+, unbalanced"). Irrelevant for this hand, of course; it comes up more when the opponents overcall, or if partner is weak with "support". I try to minimize the number of hands where I end up playing a 4=3 diamond fit with two flat hands at the 3 level competing against their 4=4 major fit; I'll compete slightly less aggressively if my "fit" is clubs, because 3 is (much) more likely.

I haven't played Goren seriously - even 40 years ago when I started we had moved to 5cM. But I have played a 4 card major system, and one that strained to open the major for its preemptive value; so I can see that responder's hand might be a game-forcing 2NT call: "you didn't open 1♠, you don't have 4 spades". But in 5-card major systems, bypassing spades is unforgivable, especially with a weak doubleton (even in opener's suit, that's called "ruffing value").

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I open 1C not 1D, but I don’t think it’s a big deal if you care about the quality so much. I prefer 1D to be four except with 4432 (and some will even still bid 1C there).

Better question is why didn’t she bid 1S? Why are you playing the jump as strong? Almost everyone else is going something like 1C-1S-etc, (might want to include your whole hand?) and have a way to investigate if 3N is better than 4S. 1S is unlimited and forcing after all.

1C-1S-2S-3D-3N-ppp is probably what happened at a lot of tables, for example. The 3D asks for stopper. You also could play show stopper, so partner bids 3C there, you bid either 3D (no H) or 3 N (H stopped also). I’m guessing you have hearts stopped, so 3N.

The reason to do this dance and not 1C-2N directly is that, if a suit is NOT stopped, you learn about the spade fit at a nice safe place.

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No - in Standard American, 2N denies a 4 card (or longer) major.

The correct response in Standard American (and just about any other 5 card major system) is 1S, forcing for one round. There is no need to force to game immediately.

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