We were non-vulnerable versus vulnerable at matchpoint duplicate. Dealer passed to my right, so I opened one heart in second position with the following: ♠ AK86 ♡ T98654 ♢none ♣ K96. Only ten high card points but a sixth heart and something for the void. After an opponent's pass, partner bid two diamonds. (This is Standard American and therefore forcing for only one round.)

I re-bid two hearts, partner bid three hearts, and I passed with my minimum, and the looming diamond misfit. We made five hearts because partner had 16 high card points including AKQ of hearts and a balanced hand, but we got a bottom because we didn't bid game, and everyone else with our cards did so.

Partner feels that I underbid. If anything, I believe that I overbid. I had put partner on 10-12 high card points, and felt that partner could have bid the way he did even if your replaced the KQ of hearts in his hand with two little ones (giving him 11 points).

Who is more nearly correct?

6 Answers 6


I will dissent and say that your partner underbid, unless you knew you had an agreement that 3H is forcing (or perhaps even a convention on top of it).

Partner, with 16HCP added to your opener, knows quite well that your side has at least enough material for a game contract. Partner has seen you bid and re-bid hearts, and holds AKQ of the suit, so it is clear that the partnership holds at least AKQxxxxxx which is plenty for a major suit game. In hearts, the diamond misfit is an asset rather than a weakness, as it potentially provides ruffs. Finally, partner should have no reason to prefer 3NT (no information about the black suits yet, so possibly missing stoppers) or 5D (intrinsically harder and you have already clearly expressed disinterest).

Meanwhile, the 3H rebid is entirely reasonable with a much weaker hand for partner, since you haven't (necessarily, again depending on other agreements) fully characterized the strength of your hand yet. So a lot of people would play it as invitational here, and you certainly do have a minimum that should pass invitational bids. (IMO: You shouldn't have to do more advanced hand evaluation to find a game, just to be in a spot where you should bid the game no matter what - that defeats the purpose of having invitational bids.)

With partner's strength and the lack of other viable trump options, the only reason not to sign off at 4H immediately is to look for slam. That will probably fail to find the slam and require signing off at 5H - which, fortunately, can evidently still be made here.

  • 2
    This gives a convincing analysis that OP’s partner underbid — but it doesn’t at all contradict ruds’ analysis that OP underbid too. It seems to me that both OP and their partner slightly underbid — neither of them blatantly or drastically, but both of them slightly, and that together is how they ended up missing out on game.
    – PLL
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 15:51
  • @PLL: OP indirectly contradicted Ruds, analysis with the following quote: "So a lot of people would play it as invitational here, and you certainly do have a minimum that should pass invitational bids. )"
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 17:47

It is arguable whether you underbid, but your partner definitely did.

when you open 1H, your partner knows that you have at least 26 HCP and eight hearts between you. This is enough that they should drive to game and not give you the option to pass at all, they should make forcing bids until you reach game. If anything, they should consider the possibility of a slam in case you have more than a minimum.

It doesn't matter how long the auction goes on for, until you reach game your partner should not make a bid that you can pass.

The 3H call from your partner is, in basic standard American, an invitational call, which indicates that partner needs something extra from you to make game. You do have a little bit extra in the form of the sixth heart, but you are dead minimum in HCP and while you have a void, it is in partner's suit. This will help you establish that suit by ruffing, but you may find yourself lacking entries to partner's hand once you do. It is arguable whether you should raise 3H to four, and the vulnerability and form of scoring might affect your decision.

To see why it is reasonable for you to pass 3H, consider that your partner might have

♠ T ♡ KJ ♢KQT842 ♣ Q853


♠ JT2 ♡ Q73 ♢AQT842 ♣ Q8

or many similar hands, and you will not be able to make 4 hearts between you. (With the first example hand, 4 hearts could quite easily go down three.)

vulnerability and scoring

You should bid close games more aggressively if you are vulnerable and if you are playing IMPs rather than matchpoints.

vulnerable at IMPs, the score for making 4H is +620 and 4H-1 is -100. If you compare against the score for 3H= or 3H+1 then you gain 10 IMPs if the game makes, lose 7 if it goes one off and lose 3 if it goes two or more off (undoubled). So, roughly, any game with a 7/17 chance or more should be bid unless you think two off doubled is a real possibility.

Conversely, at matchpoints, you are just trying to get a better score than the field. Game should be at least 50% for you to bid it. (As always in bridge there are other considerations but they are far less important than "playing the percentages".)

what could partner have done instead?

The 2D call was fine because it is forcing, so partner knows you will not pass.

The 3H call was an error; you were allowed to pass it. Instead:

  • a new suit bid (such as 2S or 3C) would have been forcing. Then, whatever you bid, partner could bid 4H themselves at their next turn.
  • partner could simply have raised to 4H showing something like 14-17 HCP and three card heart support (they shouldn't have more than 17 or so, otherwise they should investigate a slam).
  • 1
    "You should bid close games more aggressively if you are vulnerable (not a typo, I didn't mean to write "non vulnerable"!)" - I think this answer would be better if you elaborated on the reasoning here. Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 22:36
  • @KarlKnechtel: This is well known, and has been since at least Culbertson. If you are unclear on why, or think the question important enough to be answered, you should be asking as a stand-alone new question so the answer doesn't get buried here in another topic. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 13:14
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere who or what is "Culbertson"? Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 13:25
  • @KarlKnechtel: Ely and Josephine, renowned bridge players of the early 20th century and developers/authors of the "Approach Forcing" bidding style underlying most, if not all, natural and natural-ish (ie Precision et al) bidding systems in use around the World for at least the past 6 decades or so. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 14:27
  • I added in a section anyway, since it is relevant to the answer of whether OP underbid.
    – JDL
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 15:55

As Alexander Woo mentions in his answer, there is no true Standard American anymore. In situations such as these I typically refer to the ACBL's SAYC booklet, which is as good a guide as any, I suppose. It indicates that responder's bid was invitational, not forcing.

Nevertheless, I think that you underbid. Partner's rebid of 3H promises 3-card support, so you have a good trump fit. You have only 6 losers (using the Losing-Trick Count), and that probably undervalues your hand in this case because you have no heart wastage. As against that, your partner may have diamond wastage. I think that these indicators probably cancel out, so you should do what a 6-loser hand is supposed to do when invited, which is bid game.

  • The duplication in diamonds could be a misfeature. Shortness in partner's suit is not usually helpful.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:34
  • 1
    I agree; that's why I listed it as a negative, as opposed to the positive feature of no wastage in hearts.
    – ruds
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 14:58
  • Sorry, didn't read completely.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 15:24
  • This answer isn't wrong, but it misses the point --- it is debatable whether OP underbid, but their partner very clearly did. Partner should have been considering a slam, not merely inviting game.
    – JDL
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 18:02
  • It is implicit in my answer that partner underbid: "responder's bid was invitational, not forcing." Presumably partner was considering slam, and that's why they took a call that they must have considered forcing. That is, I assume they were wrong in their bidding understanding, not their evaluation.
    – ruds
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 5:09

Almost no experts play Standard American (rather than 2/1) anymore, so there is no longer a standard Standard American, only various homegrown variants.

The question for you and your partner is: is 3H forcing in this auction? This may depend on whether you think 2H is forcing in this auction, and on whether 1H-3H is forcing or invitational, and maybe even on whether 1H-2D-2H promised a sixth heart.

I can't answer this for you. Only you and your partner can.

Generally, because of all these now undefined auctions, I refuse to play Standard American except when mentoring beginners for whom knowing whether 1H-2D-2H-3H is forcing or not isn't nearly the biggest gap in their bidding.

  • 1
    I think this is key. if your bidding system makes it possible to minorly mess up and not bid a game with 26 points, 9 card fit and other goodies, your system needs to be thrown out. Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 4:51

I think your bidding is fine and accurate. With 16HCP & Heart support, it is partners duty to drive to game. I would favor a Jacoby 2NT bid opposite your 1H opener. Although not entirely accurate, the top three honor cards justify the bid and nail the contract at 4H minimum.

  • I don't need "four" for a Jacoby two bid, unless they are 5432. A "good" three is enough for me (say Q9x or better), and AKQ is certainly a good three.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 2:05

You didn't need to bid, although you could have.

Yes, you had six hearts but no face cards. I wouldn't count much for the diamond void until you and partner agreed a suit (his length was in diamonds). It would have been a good opener in third position but not so much in second. The main thing that allows a bid is the Rule of 20; your ten high card points, six hearts and four spades add up to 20.

The best sequence would have been to pass it around to partner, who would open 1NT with his balanced 16. You would respond 2 diamonds (transfer) he'd rebid 2 hearts, and you would raise to four. End of story. A much simpler and less error-prone bidding sequence than the one you used.

  • The way this answer is framed makes it sound objectionable; but you aren't wrong that opening this hand is not exactly mandatory. It does also sound like partner would have had an easy 1NT opening if it were passed around. On the other hand, we wouldn't have known that at the first decision point, and duplicate bidding is usually a bit more competitive. As a side note: while it's normal and good on Stack Exchange sites to answer your own question, it seems a bit strange to write the answer as if you were a different person. Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 22:44
  • @KarlKnechtel: Changed the first line in line with your suggestion. I have been informed (on more than one site) that when answering your own question, it is best to pretend that you are not the OP, but rather a "third party.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:47

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