With only them vulnerable, partner open 1 club (possibly a "convenient" minor) in second seat. My right hand opponent overcalled four hearts (showing eight). I passed with the following.

♠ AT8652 ♡2 ♢93 ♣ AQJ7.

They made it, giving us an average minus score. Others did better to bid four spades, and after I worked this out at home, I felt that I probably had enough information to do the same. My premises include the following:

  1. I had 11 high card points; partner had at least 12-13 to open, so we had at least 23-24.
  2. The opponents had the bulk of high card points in hearts. Giving them 10 (they actually had 9 because partner had the singleton jack) meant that they would have something like one ace and one king at most in the remaining suits.
  3. The opponents would probably have 10 hearts between them (they actually had 11), leaving us three, meaning we would have 23 cards in the three remaining suits.
  4. Given 3, above, our worst possible distribution in the three non-heart suits would be 8-8-7, giving us at least one eight card fit between spades and clubs. If our short suit were diamonds (likely, since I was short), there would be a good chance of a double fit. This, in fact, was the case.
  5. Given my singleton, we had one loser in hearts, and two more losers from the side ace and king attributed to the opponents under 2, above, meaning we probably had at least ten tricks. Put another way, we should have at least nine tricks with an eight card spade fit and 23 or so high card points. Given a double fit in the black suits (and resulting shortness in the red), the chances for a tenth trick seem excellent.

Is the above analysis sound, or was it reasonable to pass because of hidden flaws in my reasoning?

  • You don't really know how many points opponent has. A 4H bid there could reveal blank on any other suit but hearts. It's a destructive bid from the old days actually intending to go down rather than permit opponent to get game by normal bidding. (I learned on an 80 year old book.) It could also turn out to be slam material by opponents.
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 28 at 19:54

4 Answers 4


Yes, you are reasoning along the right lines. But there is a shortcut you can use here: you have an opening hand and partner opened the bidding. You cannot allow the auction to end without making some call other than pass. Partner has no idea that this is your side's hand, not the opponents'. So now the question is, which call?

Double is the most flexible action. It's needed for hands that don't have a strong opinion about strain, or even whether to defend or declare. This isn't that type of hand. You have a very offensive hand. You are short in their suit and all your honors are in your long suits. You should bid your 6-card suit. It won't always work out (eg if partner is 6-4 in the minors with a stiff spade, you'd rather be in 5C), but that's why opponents preempted. It'll work out better than pass almost every time.


Although you only have 11 high-card points, they are all in your long suits. Additionally you have a fit in clubs with partner and very likely a fit in spades also.

As ruds points out, this hand belongs to your side. Bid 4S. Even if partner hadn't opened, you are odds-on to be no more than two down, a great sacrifice against an opposing game. As partner has bid, you would have to be very unlucky not to make it.

Why did partner open 1C? If you are playing some form of Standard American, then partner either has an unbalanced hand with long clubs, or a balanced hand with 12-14 high-card points. If the former, then you have a spade fit. And if the latter, then he can retreat to 5C in safety, due to your support.

Finally, given the eight card heart suit, partner knows you are short in hearts. A double from you would have to show a double based on values, not trump length. Bidding spades informs partner that you have a suit good enough to compete at the four level, not just scattered values.


You need to bid 4S. Keep in mind that there are TWO ways 4S can be a good bid. One is that it makes. The second is that it is a good sacrifice against 4H. Don't neglect the second possibility. Try to come up with reasonable holdings around the table where neither 4S nor 4H will make; it's not impossible but you'll find it pretty hard.

Imagine your partner with Kxxx xxx A Kxxxx (which they probably wouldn't even open) and both 6S and 4H are making!


It was Marty Bergen who said something like, "bid if the cards that you need to make the contract can be contained within the minimum of partner's previous bidding." Here you have three probable losers in the red suits. But you can make ten tricks in the black suits if partner has the right cards, specifically the KQ of spades, and K of clubs,

A four spade bid would be right even if partner was in third seat and opened "light" with 9-10 points, because the above needed cards can be contained within this (hypothetical) minimum. Here, partner's second seat opening shows at least 12-13, more than enough.

Even if partner didn't have all of the right cards, you'd be an underdog only if she had the most useless possible cards for her bid, something like the singleton king of hearts (dropped) QJ of diamonds ("stranded"), the Q of spades, and one, but not both of the black suit kings. You would even be a favorite to make your contract with a slightly more heavy (but more useful) red suit holding for partner: e.g. Jxxx K KQx Kxxxx. Your one diamond trick would offset the loss of a black suit trick.

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