Not vulnerable versus vulnerable at matchpoints, I opened with a pass, LHO bid one spade, and partner bid two spades (Michaels), showing 5-5 in hearts and a minor.

I bid three diamonds with the following hand (because my hearts were not long or strong enough to bid): ♠ 854 ♡Q8 ♢A6542 ♣ T94.

I "lucked out" because partner had JT987 of diamonds and a singleton club. We would have suffered if her minor suits had been reversed.

One of the opponents pointed out that my diamond holding wasn't strong enough to make a unilateral decision (I should have bid 2NT to let partner indicate the suit).

If I had it to do again, I would bid 2NT with my actual diamond holding, but I would bid 3 diamonds with AKxxx. Is this suit strong enough to bid diamonds unilaterally when I have three clubs? Suppose my minor suit holdings were ♢AK654 and ♣4? (In this case, I would have had only one club, if her suit were clubs, and my five diamonds would be decidedly stronger than her "average expectations" of KJxxx.)

  • 1
    Your analysis is entirely upside down Tom. The "stronger" your suit is, especially headed by AK, the better it is to have as a side suit (and in this case a quick discard) than as trumps. The key feature for deciding the trump suit is always length first and foremost. An eight card fit will almost always play much better than a seven card fit; and the stronger the seven card suit is, the better the eight card fit plays. Exceptions do exist - when both hands are very strong, so the tricks are being taken on sheer power and only limiting losers is a concern. Feb 3 at 12:06
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: What happens if my partner has a weak five card holding like JT987 opposite three little ones. of mine The opponents can take the three top trumps leaving only JT with partner. Or is that a rare enough occurrence not to matter.? As it turned out, my partner had strong hearts opposite my Q8 and that would have been our "side suit." I wouldn't bid hearts, but might believe that partner would use it as a side suit.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 4 at 22:35
  • 1
    Perfect - Let's follow up on that a bit. You have ♠ 854 ♡Q8 ♢A6542 ♣ T94 opposite something like ♠6 ♡KJ952 ♢73 ♣ J8632. You quietly raise to a non-invitational 3 Hearts and let the opponents stew. They're cold for 6 Spades; and while the auction is already at 3 Hearts they don't even know for sure yet that it's their hand. Just collect your top board and quit complaining. Feb 6 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


Your partner has advertised that they are two suited. The only reason to bid your own suit is that you can play your suit across from a void and that your best fit in one of their suits would be a disaster.

An example: xxx xx AQJT9x xx is probably a 3D call - if partner's clubs are KQxxx or worse (a good bet) then 3C will probably be a disaster.

When you have three clubs or three hearts, you want to play in partner's suit regardless of how good your diamonds are. Your good diamonds will take tricks when clubs are trumps but partner's hand may not be good enough to provide tricks when diamonds are trumps, eg because they lack entries other than spade ruffs. When you have found an 8-card fit and you don't have the values for game, don't make a nonforcing bid in a new suit, hoping that it might also be an 8-card fit.

  • If partner's clubs are KQxxx or worse [is] a good bet." I once estimated that "average expectations" for a random five card suit was something like KJ852.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 4 at 22:38

Partner has one or two in the other minor suit most of the time. Looking at your hand, you have to decide: are you better off in whichever of the minors partner has length in, or in your minor regardless, or in hearts?

If you know the answer then you bid it. If you don’t then you bid 2NT and find out more information.

  • Sorry; can't upvote this. You have missed that Tom's analysis is entirely upside down. A strong suit can readily take tricks as a side suit, while a weak suit might only be taking tricks as trump. Thus length is the key feature of a trump suit, while strength is the fey feature of a side suit. Just how to read and use this - that really should be the crux of a good answer. Feb 3 at 12:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .