Here is an example of what I mean:

With no one vulnerable at matchpoints, partner opened two clubs (strong) after three passes. I made the waiting bid of two diamonds, and partner bid three clubs with ♠ A9 ♡ AK8 ♢AKJ ♣ AK764. That is to say, he had what I call a "weak preference" for clubs.

I raised three clubs to four clubs with ♠ 865 ♡T765 ♢Q952 ♣ QT, which forced us into five clubs. With partner's hand, I would have not bid three of a minor after the two club opening with only five in the suit, because it takes 11 tricks to make game. So I presumed partner had six clubs, and a strong preference, meaning that my QT was more than adequate support. I also inferred from the three club bid potential weakness in one of the majors. (This was a relatively new partner, and we had not discussed these issues beforehand.)

Partner wanted me to bid three hearts to show my four hearts (even though he didn't have four hearts). His second choice was for me to bid three no trump instead of four clubs. We were outscored by other pairs who made overtricks at 3NT and shared a bottom.

Was it a good idea for partner to explore alternative contracts with his hand? Or should he have gone straight to 3NT instead of sending us on a wild goose chase?

Edit: I now realize why I was confused. I had always thought that the opener's rebid (after a two diamond response) was "to play." That is, he wanted to play in clubs, presumably with a six card suit (for which my QT was adequate support) and shortness elsewhere in the hand. Apparently his three club bid was "for show," only five clubs not necessarily weakness elsewhere. I expected him to rebid 3NT "to play" with his holding.

Which is the more reasonable assumption/posture, rebid to "play" or rebid "for show."

  • I think a majority of serious expert partnerships play a 3D bid by responder in this situation as artificial, showing either a very weak hand OR an unknown four card major. In the simplest structures, opener bids a four card major if they have one (hearts with both), and usually 3N or 4C otherwise (but they can jump with a very very strong hand). The bids of 3N and 4C are passable if responder has the very weak hand. Jul 28, 2023 at 23:06
  • But I agree your partner should treat their hand as a NT hand. But you should have a way to get to 4H if partner has x AKQx AKx AKJxx and stopping at 3N (yes I think you should take that chance at matchpoints) when partner has AKQx x AKx AKJxx. I don't know how without making 3D artificial. Jul 28, 2023 at 23:11
  • @AlexanderWoo: I felt that it was pointless for partner to "fish" for a 3 Heart bid when he didn't have four hearts in his hand.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 29, 2023 at 4:46
  • Partner wasn't fishing for a 3 heart bid. They were attempting to describe their hand in a way that might find a slam when you lack good bidding agreements. The auction 2C-2D-3NT is kind of a disaster. Opener's hand may be this one, where the right two queens with the right shape might make slam a good contract. On the other hand, opener may have AKQ KJxx AKQ KJx, where the wrong 11 points will still make slam dicey. Here opener chose to show a club one-suiter, hoping that you had a decent suit or a good fit and a card in the right place.
    – ruds
    Jul 31, 2023 at 4:04

4 Answers 4


I differ with @ruds; I believe you and partner are both at fault.

Partner has a semi-balanced 26 (the fifth club is counterbalanced by heart jack not being in a longer suit) with all suits stopped; and that is exactly what a rebid of 3 NT shows. When one's hand can be described by a limited-range call in notrump, that should be preferred over all other calls except an equally descriptive raise of partner's suit. The 3 club call should be showing something more like x AKQx AKQ AKJ9x when holding 26 high with just 5 clubs.

On your side of the table, a rebid of 3nT is definitely called for. That bid shows a balanced minimum better than a double negative call. That's exactly what you have, so bid it. Just as for partner, only decline to show a limited-range balanced hand with a call in notrump when a raise of partner's suit is equally, or more, descriptive; here, to have bypassed 3 NT for a minor suit, that requires both 3 card support and positive interest in slam. You don't have the values to express enthusiasm for slam at this stage.

As for partner's expectation that your hand bid 3 hearts over 3 clubs: that's got to be some sort of support showing cue bid. There's simply no reason to be showing your 4 card suit on the auction - as it can only assist the defense.

Finally, there is a strong negative inference that both you and partner seem oblivious to: two suited hands don't open 2 clubs at any strength. A hand that opens 2 clubs either is a strong one suited hand that will only play in that suit; or is a hand suitable for play in notrump but of a range too strong for a 2 notrump opening. Those ranges, with their rebids, are:

  • 2NT showing 22-24 HCP;
  • 3NT showing 25-27 HCP; and
  • 4NT showing 28-29 HCP; and
  • 5NT showing 30-31 HCP.

Partner can then either place the contract or, over 2NT or 3NT, invite an appropriate slam; possibly invoking either Stayman, Gerber, or other agreed conventions on the way. Don't go looking for slam in some suit other than that bid by the 2 club opener as a rebid.

  • I generally agree with the idea of balanced hands making range-showing bids. However, I think the 5th club makes this too strong for the 3NT rebid. If I played Kokish I'd probably bid that and bid on after partner's signoff in game.
    – ruds
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:07
  • I also generally agree that two-suited hands don't open 2C, unless they have game in hand and can't afford a pass out of an opening bid, as this one does.
    – ruds
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:08
  • @ruds: Going by Sheinwold's old guideline for a strong two minor opening, namely at least 4 1/2 quick tricks and at least 9 1/2 playing tricks in the minor, partner's hand here is a full playing trick short. It qualifies for a strong 2 club opening only by virtue of being a notrump hand too strong for a 2 notrump opening. Yes the fifth club is an asset, largely compensated by the pathologically misplaced heart jack; the hand's not even a full maximum for a 25-27 notrump range, never mind being above that. Jul 28, 2023 at 16:17
  • @TomAu: All of those reasons are exactly why you should bid 3NT - showing a balanced minimum better than a 2nd Negative. Your club Queen is golden in 3NT. Jul 29, 2023 at 9:55
  • I took 3 clubs to be an "SOS" call for your example hand with a singleton spade. If I had bid 3NT with my "balanced" hand, we would have gone down against spade leads. I bid four clubs to show that my honors were indeed in clubs, and he was able to make 5 clubs with only seven trump.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 7, 2023 at 3:58

You should be pretty cautious about bidding beyond 3NT when it may be the best contract, particularly at matchpoints. That doesn't mean that you can never show a minor. If your hand were xxx xx Qxxx Qxxx, 6C and 6NT are both excellent. If your hand were better, you wouldn't even need cards so specifically placed. There are a number of hands you could hold that make slam easily that would never take a call over 2C-2D-3NT.

In this case, partner's 3C was reasonable; you should bid 3H and pass partner's 3NT.


It seems straightforward to me. Partner is balanced and should bid 3NT. It is the most accurate description of the hand. Any other bid denies a balanced hand. Responder can then suggest going further with the required shape and points, or, as in this case, simply pass.


In partner's shoes, I would have refrained from bidding three clubs to coax out a three heart bid with only three hearts in my hand. It's a case of "don't ask a question if the answer won't please you." I would have gone directly to 3NT with that hand.

But given that he bid three clubs, showing a "weak" preference for that suit, I would bid three NT in your shoes. You had a 3-4-4-2 hand with the "two" in your partner's strong suit.

You have a balanced hand with an ideal shape for bidding NT. If he had an unbalanced hand with a strong club preference, he should have gone to 4 clubs, which you would have raised to five. Partner has a lot of points, and while he can reasonably count on you for a "few," he should not expect you to have points in any given suit. He probably has all suits covered, and if he can't stand 3NT, he knows where to run to.

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