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Both vulnerable at matchpoints, I dealt and opened one diamond with the following: ♠ A86 ♡ K86 ♢QT75 ♣ KT5.

Partner bid one heart. I was taught to raise a "one over one" bid to two on my second bid as opener with Qxx or better and a minimum opening hand.

After partner bid and made four hearts, she said, "Yes, I had five hearts but I might have had four. I wish you had bid 1NT with only three card support."

I replied that my solid three card support was the most salient feature of the hand, and I needed to convey that information because I might not get another chance to bid.

An opponent weighed in with the following: "In your shoes, I would have bid 1NT because of the the 3-3-4-3 distribution, but I would have raised to two hearts with a ruffing value" [doubleton].

Who was more nearly correct? Partner, the opponent or myself?

1 Answer 1

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Modern practice (which assumes that at least Check-Back Stayman (CBS) or New Minor Forcing (NMF), if not XYZ, is being played) requires that all balanced minimums be rebid at the one level (whether with 1NT or one of a 4 card major suit) when available. The sole exception is when holding 4-card support for Partner's major suit.

The reasons for this are myriad, but boil down to the combination of better bidding systems allowing more precise distinction of hands when one's system works this way - and that's, very simply, just much better bridge.

If your system doesn't incorporate this approach, including whichever of CBS, NMF, or XYZ your partnership has chosen, then adopt and adapt. You are handicapping yourself measurably, as these hands are quite frequent. All of these sequences now clearly signal that Responder, if with the unlimited hand, is captain on the auction; and the immediate single raise of Responder's major suit shows four card support, with options later to show just three card support.

Finally - this is not new. This practice was filtering down from the experts into high intermediate level more than forty years ago. It has always been a core pillar of Five Card Majors as promulgated by Max Hardy since at least the 1974 edition of his eponymous book.

Some history:

  • Although they played a Weak rather than Strong opening 1 No Trump, Kaplan-Sheinwold in their 1962 book How to Play Winning Bridge, outlining their early East Coast experiment with a Five Card Major system, employ the same structure:

The opener would raise hearts if he had four-card support for that suit. He would show a new suit at the level of one if he could.

  • At the same time, Goren's 1964 edition of New Bridge Complete states (playing four-card majors of course):

Rebid by opener after take-out to 1 of a suit

If your opening bid was approximately minimum strength, this the time to make that announcement. The message is conveyed to partner either by a rebid of 1 No Trump or a rebid of 2 of your suit, which ever best describes your hand. ...

*The naming of a second suit at the level of 1 requires no additional strength. ...

The naming of a biddable four-card major suit at the level of 1 takes precedence over rebidding even a good six-card minor.

Raising partner's one-over-one response to 2

... Wherever your hand contains four of partner's trumps, or where it contains a singleton and normal support [Footnote: At least three trumps, usually with a high honor] for partner, you may raise once even with a minimum hand.

  • To find even the barest support for your chosen call, I had to go back to Culbertson's 1936 New Gold Book of Bridge. Culbertson's system precedes the development of various modern arrangements, so is less hasty in responding 1 No Trump. However, his requirement for a single raise in Responder's suit is:

... and the opener has adequate trump support for the responder's suit, he may count his winners exactly as though he were the responder's hand ... and the opener should raise once if he has five supporting winners.

I fail to see how your actual hand can claim "five supporting winners" in support of Hearts. My count is a bold stretch to even get to 3 1/2. Yes, Culbertson played a more aggressive game than he preached in his books - that's still not eliciting a 2 Heart call on this rat-bag.

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  • If "The naming of a biddable four-card major suit at the level of 1 takes precedence over rebidding even a good six-card minor." you might want to take a look at this question and the two answers. The minor suit advocate was upvoted, and the major suit advocate was downvoted. (I didn't contribute to ither vote total because I didn't feel that I knew enough to vote.) Note, however, that I was the responder (not opener) and bidding for the first time with a four card major and six card minor.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 23, 2023 at 23:15
  • US expert standard has mostly moved on to XYZ, which uses both 2C and 2D as artificial bids to look for a 5-3 fit. Apr 24, 2023 at 3:09
  • @TomAu: I deleted my earlier response. Yes, Opener rebids a four card major below the level of 1NT, if available, in preference to bidding 1 NT; otherwise the suit can get lost. Did you intend to include a link in your comment? It seems incomplete without one. Apr 24, 2023 at 7:46
  • @AlexanderWoo: Thank you. That's a great approach; and helped clarify my thinking even on auctions where it's not agreed. However it seems to me that it works even better with a weak NT opening. Is that the case? Or am I imagining things? Apr 24, 2023 at 7:49
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    @ForgetIwaseverhere: The relevant question is whether you want to be able to play in 2C if opener opened 1C. I think the answer is 'no' if opener has 15-17 balanced and 'yes' if opener has a minimum unbalanced opener. (I prefer to play that 1m-1H-1S promises an unbalanced hand, especially playing weak NT.) Apr 24, 2023 at 14:41

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