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If partner opens one of a major, say one heart, I was taught that a responder could raise to two hearts with three of the suit and six high card points, or bid a new suit "one over one" (e.g. one spade) with six high card points and four of the suit.

But I often like to raise to two with as little as "four and four" (that is, to two hearts with only four high card points but four hearts instead of three. This is particularly true if I have the queen of hearts, because a queen that's a "filler" in partner's suit is worth more than two points.

I also like to bid "one over one" with "five and five" (only five high card points and a five card suit), say, one spade with KQxxx, or AJxxx and no side honors.

Finally, I like to pass with a "weak" six or even seven. That might be something like (s) Qxx (h)xxx (d) Qxx (c) QJx, that is all "quacks," no aces or kings, and no honors in the opened heart suit. Or (s)xxxx (h)Jx (d) QJx (c) QJx, again all "quacks," no honors in the four card suit, and no real support for hearts.

(All xs are 8 or lower.)

Are any or all of the above reasonable postures? Or should I stick more closely to the six point rule because of what partner might or might not have?

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It's expert standard these days to frequently respond with fewer than 6 points and a reason to do so. Majority expert opinion is that one should respond on something like Kxxxx in spades, a singleton in partner's opened suit (especially if it's a minor) and nothing else. Many experts will respond on even less.

Raises are similarly aggressive; Qxxx in partner's suit and a singleton somewhere is more than enough to raise (to 2, or to 3 if you've agreed that is a weak preemptive raise, or to 4 at favorable vulnerability).

On the other hand, you MUST respond with 6 points. If you have Qxx xxx Qxxx Qxx, and partner has AKx AKQxxx x Kxx, you have just missed a game by passing. If you have Qxx xxx xxxx QJx and partner has AKx AKQxxx - Kxxx you have missed a slam by passing. (Arguably the second hand is a 2C opener, but probably not.)

EDIT: And there is no downside to responding with these hands. If you're going down in 2H but not in 1H, then going down in 2H is still a good score because the opponents are making some contract.

Bridge experts have been bidding more and more as they realize that bidding (rather than passing) has value beyond helping your side find its best contract; frequently bidding is important because it makes it harder for the other side to find its best contract, and sometimes it gets your side out of a bad contract into a less bad one. As usual, if you're playing in a game where your opponents frequently mess up without your help, calculations are different.

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  • Basically, it looks I have the flexibility to bend the rules "downward," but not to pull the requirements "upward." If I have Kxxxx in spades, the fifth spade and the singleton brings me up to "five."
    – Tom Au
    Dec 28, 2022 at 4:28
  • @TomAu: I don't know of an expert who counts distribution points rather than using distribution as a non-numerical factor in hand evaluation. Dec 28, 2022 at 4:33
  • I believe that Goren did, at least under certain circumstances. I'm following his (old) playbook.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 28, 2022 at 4:54
  • @TomAu - It's what Goren taught in his books, but I don't think he actually used it at the table himself. Dec 28, 2022 at 15:58
  • @AlexanderWoo: I believe you're mistaken. My impression (coming from an older generation) is that Goren was actively trying to perfect his system by discovering edge cases, and thus deliberately did use it at the table - as far as it went - in search of ways to enhance it. Goren was frequently kibitzed by novice and intermediate players, and it could have been embarrassing, or even monetarily counter productive, to be found bidding against his own system. Goren also had the luxury and benefit of playing frequently with Helen Sobel. Feb 3 at 1:10

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