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With only us vulnerable at matchpoints, I oponed one heart after dealer passed. The second opponent passed and partner had the following for a response: ♠ AQJ74 ♡ 742 ♢K754 ♣ 7.

I would have expected a one spade bid (one over one) from him but he felt that it was more important to show his heart support.

More to the point, he raised to three hearts (invitational).I raised to game and we went down one, because I believed that he had more strength than he actually had. Specifically, I would have expected either a fourth trump with ten high card points, or at least twelve high card points with only three trumps. And his "three" was pretty nominal. (So, in all fairness, was my five, with A8653; we each had minimum trump strength.)

Was partner right to bid hearts instead of spades? And if hearts, was two hearts or three hearts the better bid?

3 Answers 3

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The stronger your hand is, the slower you want to go in most cases, with the exception of specific highly descriptive bids. Each higher bid you make eats up space to find the exact right contract - and a partnership with 23+ points needs that time to find out whether they are in a low-point-game, a high-point-not-game, a normal game but in a different suit... all the other possibilities than the standard 'okay we have a heart fit and borderline game points'.

As such, 1h-3h is definitely not what this hand asks for. 10 points is plenty to have a conversation at the lower levels first. 1H-3H is realistically only used to describe invitational hands with clear heart fits - as you say, usually 4 hearts. (Many use Bergen raises anyway for this, but if you're not using them, that's what it should mean.) 10-12 points, 4 hearts, nothing else interesting to talk about.

Whenever you do have something else, you want to show it as soon as possible. If partner also has 3-4 spades, for example, you don't want to miss that - you might still end up in 4H, say, but the double fit is useful to know as it implies additional tricks (but also requires full control of trump to make use of).

Think about what you're going to bid here:

S N
1H 1S
2C ?

Do you rebid spades? Do you bid 2H? Do you bid 3H? (2D would be fourth suit forcing, probably not in the cards here.)

You need to know what 2H vs 3H raise means here, in particular. 2H might be minimum, 4S/3H fit. 3H might be invitational here and just wanted to mention spades first. I'd make sure you agree on what count of trump 3H bid would show here (I think 4 is still often a good idea here).

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  • I agree with everything until your last paragraph. How is AQxxx xx xxx xxx or AQxxx xx xxxx xx supposed to bid after 1H-1S; 2C except to bid 2H? 2H has to be available as a preference bid, so 3H can't really promise 4 trumps.
    – ruds
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 19:30
  • Yeah, rereading that I think you're right that 1s->2h has to have that space... removing that last line. The point of the paragraph is to figure out what exactly you do in those hands though - 10p 3h needs to have a space it's slotted into.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 21:15
  • As responder, I would bid one spade, and re-bid only two hearts, since my "three" hearts are so weak.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 3:55
  • meh, 2h here is pretty weak as your second bid, you have values that suggest game is at least possible; you should explore a little. 2h is okay only if you really have no other option. 1h-1s-1nt-2h shows a much worse hand (it could be as little as KQxx-xx-Qxx-xxxx). You've got something like 2.5 more tricks than that hand does! That said, though, if you would open 1nt with 15 points and 3-5-3-2, then the 2h might be okay (since partner is capped at 14). 3h jump is perhaps permissible there - 1h-1s-1nt-3h - showing the heart fit and near game values.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 6:51
  • 2d is another possibility, but honestly the 3h jump might be best if you agree it is invitational showing 5-3 or a good 4-3. Partner then passes with their 12 count and 5 mediocre hearts, and you're in the exactly right contract.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 6:53
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Despite partner holding only 10 points, I feel that his hand is closer to a game force than to a 2H call. The hand has a good 5-card side suit, ruffing values, and good controls.

The 3H call is not completely wrong when playing Standard American. The SAYC booklet says that a 1S response tends to deny a heart fit, and that 3H shows 10-11 dummy points with three or more hearts. As you have noted, three vs four trumps can make an important difference in how well your two hands mesh, which is why many pairs establish agreements that allow responder to differentiate, but no such agreement exists in basic Standard American.

However, I agree with Joe's answer that 1S is a better call than 3H. If you were to rebid 2D, 2H (promising 6), or 2S, I would bid a game (4H over 2D or 2H, 4C over 2S (splinter showing short clubs; a mild slam try in case partner has no club wastage)); over your 1NT or 2C rebid I would invite with 3H.

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You don't say what bidding system you play. If you are playing Acol, then partner's bid definitely shows four card support and 10-12 high card points. In SAYC, at least according to Ned Downey, a jump to three of partner's major is invitational, with 10-12 points and at least three card support. Your partner has only seven losers (i.e. an opening hand), a strong side suit and a club singleton. In my book definitely worth an invitation.

You don't give your hand, nor why you raised to game. If you had the king of spades, then you are looking at 8½ tricks on the cards we know about and were unfortunate with your remaining high cards. Possibly you were missing the aces of clubs and diamonds, to go with your two heart losers; possibly you had wasted values in clubs; in the worst case the diamond ace and queen were sitting over your partner's king and you lose two or three tricks on the opening lead.

If you didn't have the spade king, you certainly had 10-11 points outside the majors; if you don't have first-round control of clubs you certainly have the ace of diamonds. That would make it a 50% game (spade finesse), and you should bid 50% games. Counting losers, you have at most seven for an opening bid, partner has seven, so contracting for 10 tricks would the par recommendation (24 minus your seven losers minus partner's seven gives 10 tricks).

If you don't want partner to raise to three of a major with seven losers and three card support, discuss the hand with them - would you prefer to show the spade suit, do you want to widen the range for the 2H, and how do you cope with the resultant ambiguities in those auctions? It's a partnership, both of you should have input into your bidding system.

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