Unlimited Fit-Jumps

by Dimiter Zlatanov

This article describes new meanings for the jump responses to a major-suit opening. To clarify the motivation behind the method, first I briefly review some popular uses of responder's jumps.

Fit- vs. Non-Fit Jump-Shifts

After a two-over-one response, there is a known problem with responder's same-suit rebid. If it is used for invitational one-suited hands, as in BWS, responder has difficulties showing a strong one-suiter, and vice versa. An attempted solution is to use a jump-shift response to show one of these hand types. However, the jump preempts opener and is therefore only a partial substitute for a rebid sequence. Thus, strong jump-shift users must impose severe restrictions on the included one-suited hands (as in BWS), and the responder rebid problem in the two-over-one structure remains. Similarly, if the jump-shift is invitational and nonforcing, it must be very narrowly defined or else opener comes under pressure to decide whether to bid on (from what may be the last making contract) without knowing if responder has either tolerance for his major or fit for a third suit.

Because the domain of jump-shifts without fit is too small, these bids cannot magically eliminate such two-over-one problems, which need to be resolved by optimization of the non-jump response structure. On the other hand, if jumps promise fit, the danger of self-preemption is significantly reduced, allowing for a more frequent use of these bids.

I recommend making an exception for one heart — two spades and using it as weak (say up to 9 HCP, with heart shortness if maximum). In this case, the lower level allows for a significantly wider range than for other nonforcing jump-shifts. This meaning makes it possible to reach two spades (a more desirable spot than three of a minor) both with a direct response and an invitational responder rebid, an ability more valuable than an extra fit-jump. (The weak jump-shift allows another attractive option that standard bidders would appreciate: have one heart — one spade — two diamonds — two spades as forcing.) Moreover, there is little need for a fit-jump of hearts to show side spades, as responder can bid one spade with a fit and spade interest; the danger of opposing preemption is low when the opening side has both majors. (Anyone concerned about special problems of one heart-one spade can consider solutions in the September 2002 issue.)

Shape- vs. Strength-Showing Fit-Jumps

Most popular systems of support jumps are similar to Bergen Raises allowing responder to describe, with a bid below three of the major, his support strength and degree of fit (three or four cards). Then, it is often difficult to exchange additional information below the four level. However, for the purposes of either a game or slam try, exploration of the side distribution may need to start on the three level (or lower). If responder is unbalanced, it is important for opener to know whether partner has a good side suit; if responder is balanced, he should leave opener space to describe length and shortness.

In practice, even a game-forcing and relatively cheap raise like Jacoby Two Notrump may preempt the exchange of vital information. A not uncommon problem, even for expert partnerships, is the failure to locate a secondary four-four fit, which, when responder is balanced, often produces an extra trick as trump (sometimes even compared to playing in a five-four fit), and a potential slam swing. In the case of a two-notrump response, many pairs overcome this weakness by rejecting the questionable standard follow-up agreements (where one shows shortness rather than length on the three level) and using a superior relay structure (or even a simple natural approach). Such methods may be effective, but in a well designed system they become redundant and therefore inefficient. Since a similar information exchange is needed when responder has any balanced hand, the partnership should instead agree on economical non-jump sequences that allow responder to assume captaincy and investigate opener's shape and establish the combined strength. (This cannot be achieved with a jump response. Using a two-notrump response as a minimum-game-forcing balanced hand makes it impossible for opener to show important shapes below three notrump.)

Bergen raises were inspired by the Law of Total Tricks. However, it may be argued that though they comply with the letter of the Law by immediately establishing the degree of fit, they go against its spirit by giving priority to combined-strength over total-tricks data. If the bidding becomes competitive, opener's ``to bid or not to bid'' decision will be generally better helped by knowledge about partner's hand pattern than his strength. Apart from the number of cards in opener's suit, it is important for responder to indicate whether his support is based on high cards or shape, and, if the latter, to show or deny a good side suit. With a less-than-game-forcing balanced hand with good defence, it is often better to raise to two (if system allows, see my Expanded Single Raise proposal in the March 2009 issue), even with four (or five) trumps. While the total-trumps number allows to (blindly) obey the Law, additional hand-pattern information helps to recognize when it is profitable to violate it. Since the ``Law'' is in fact only a statistical guideline, this may be at least as important.

Requirements For a Fit-Jump

Fit-jumps should be used mainly to show unbalanced hands with at least four-card support and either a good side suit or shortness. These are the only basic cases where responder (1) can assume with virtual certainty that he knows the final strain and (2) be highly confident that it is he and not opener who must describe shape.

With a "ruffing-support hand" (four-plus-card support, shortness, no strong side suit) responder uses a Universal Splinter (one spade-three diamonds or one heart-three clubs); see June 2010 issue. Other jump-responses are fit-jumps that promise a specific strong side suit. Aggregating all "three-suited raises" in one bid conceals the location of the short suit and provides more fit-jumps to show a side suit. While the identification or denial of concentrated length and strength is more likely to help partner than the opponents, showing shortness can often do more harm than good.

We define a strong suit to be with at least two honors, including the ace or king (in other words there is both a control in the suit and some wasted value facing shortness). We impose no additional strength limit on the hands with four-card support and a strong suit. They have a natural minimum, something like:

x x x x    x x    K Q J x x    x x,

which we will evaluate as just below game-invitational strength. Note that holdings as weak as this cannot contain an ace or king in the shorter suits. We impose no upper strength limit.

It will be possible to include some hands with three-card support in the cheaper fit-jumps. Similar side-suit requirements apply, but the strength must be at least invitational and responder will not be interested in playing three notrump. (This means that virtually all balanced, and some 6-3-2-2 hands with moderate strength, will be better served by other responses.)

We will consider invitational three- and four-card support as equivalent for accepting or rejecting game in opener's suit, but as distinct for the purposes of a slam try. Moreover, in case of three-card support, fits in all suits must be investigated to allow bidding a slam in a minor or a game in the other major. When responder shows at least five-four, there can only be a change of trumps to his long suit at the slam level. All fit-jumps are forcing to at least three of the opened major.

Note that any fit-jump hand with less than game-forcing values can have at most 2.0 key cards (the trump queen is 0.5 keys), and therefore a slam try by opener requires at least 2.5 keys.

The Details

1 ?

two notrump: diamonds and spades; unlimited with four spades; at least invitational with three
three clubs: clubs and spades; unlimited with four spades; at least game-invitational and at most a mild slam-try with three spades; no heart interest
three diamonds: Universal Splinter four-plus spades; no good suit; shortness
Higher jumps show hearts and spades, at least five-four:
three hearts: hearts and spades; either weak or game-forcing without shortness
three spades: game-invitational
three notrump: minimum game-force with shortness [Now four clubs asks, responder showing, in three steps, diamond shortness|club singleton|club void]
four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: hearts and spades; strong slam-try; club shortness|diamond singleton|diamond void

1 Pass2 NTPass

three clubs: accepts a game-invitation but rejects slam unless responder started with a game-force; or, a stronger hand with heart length
three diamonds: rejects all game-invitations; in particular, denies interest in a heart fit
three hearts: game-force; slam possible facing a game-try; at least 2.5 keys; no heart interest
three spades: minimum; at least four hearts [Now three notrump is a relay agreeing spades as trumps (opener showing in steps no shortness|diamond shortness|club singleton|club void), four clubs|diamonds agrees hearts with a singleton|void in clubs, four of a major is to play.]

1 Pass2 NTPass
3 Pass?

three diamonds: weak; or no shortness; or a one-suiter with short clubs [Opener assumes a weak responder and bids three hearts|three spades to accept|reject game, or higher with a very strong spade-heart two-suiter with slam possibilities. Over three spades, responder's three notrump|four clubs|diamonds|hearts shows 4=2=5=2|3=2=6=2|singleton|void. Over three hearts, which has a wider range, responder uses three bids to splinter in clubs: four clubs is a strong slam-try, four diamonds|hearts is a moderate slam-try with singleton|void.]
three hearts: four-plus hearts [Now three spades|three notrump establishes hearts|spades as trumps, and responder shows in steps: a strong slam-try|moderate hand with a singleton|void.]
three spades: three spades; heart shortness [Over three notrump, which suggests club interest, responder bids: four clubs with a black two-suiter, four diamonds with a strong one-suiter, four hearts|spades with a minimum one-suiter and singleton|void in hearts.]
three notrump: four spades; shortness; mild slam-try [Now four clubs asks; in reply, four diamonds|hearts|spades shows club shortness|heart singleton|heart void.]
four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: four-plus spades; strong slam-try; club shortness|heart singleton|heart void

1 Pass2 NTPass
3 Pass?

three hearts: puppet to three spades, to play there or to describe a slam-try with (three spades and) a one-suited hand in four steps: 3=2=6=2|club shortness|heart singleton|heart void.
three spades: puppet to three notrump, used next to describe a slam-try with three spades and a two-suited hand: club shortness|heart singleton|heart void
three notrump|four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: slam-try with four-plus spades; no shortness|short clubs|heart singleton|heart void

1 Pass2 NTPass
3 Pass?

three spades: puppet to three notrump, used to describe a one-suiter by next bidding four clubs|diamonds|hearts to show no shortness|short clubs|short hearts
three notrump: puppet to four clubs, used to show a two-suiter with three spades by next bidding four diamonds|hearts to show shortness in clubs|hearts
four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: four-plus spades; no shortness|short clubs|hearts
Note that after one spade — two notrump — three hearts, the void|singleton ambiguity can be resolved while key-card-asking, because opener is known to hold at least 2.5 key cards, so Short Splinterwood (i.e., Shortwood combined with Splinterwood) can be used: Teller's first step shows a void and asks, higher steps are parity replies. See the July 2009 and December 2009 issues of The Bridge World.

1 Pass3 Pass

three diamonds: accepts a game-invitation but rejects slam unless responder started with a game-force
three hearts: game-force; slam possible facing a game-try; at least 2.5 keys [Continuations as over one spade — two notrump — three hearts, with bids to spare.]
three spades: rejects all game-invitations [Now responder signs off, or invites slam with a good five-four, showing, in steps, no shortness|heart shortness|singleton diamond|diamond void.]

1 Pass3 Pass
3 Pass?

three hearts: weak; or a slam-try with 4=2=2=5 or diamond length [Over three notrump, with the latter hands responder rebids four diamonds|hearts showing heart singleton|void.]
three spades: six-three; no diamond length; mild slam-try [Now three notrump asks, replies in four steps: no shortness|diamond shortness|heart singleton|heart void.]
three notrump: four-plus spades; shortness; mild slam-try
four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: four-plus spades; strong slam-try; heart shortness|diamond singleton|diamond void
four spades: signoff

1 Pass3 Pass

three hearts: accepts a game-invitation but rejects slam unless responder started with a game-force [Now opener bids three spades with a mild slam-try, or three notrump|four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts with short hearts|short clubs|singleton diamond| void diamond and a strong slam-try, or four spades to play.]
three spades: rejects a game-invitation [Now three notrump|four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts is a strong slam-try, describing shortness, as above.]
three notrump: slam-try even opposite a game-invitational-strength responder; at least 2.5 key cards [Now responder bids his short suit, with four spades indicating heart shortness with a minimum.]
four clubs|four diamonds|four hearts: void; good hand
four spades: heart void; minimum game-acceptance

1 Pass3 Pass

three notrump: relay; either a slam-try facing weakness or controls in both minors [Responder's four clubs shows a good hand (now four spades is a mild slam-try with both minors controlled), four diamonds|hearts shows shortness in diamonds|clubs, four spades announces a weak hand with no shortness and hence no minor-suit control.]
four clubs: no slam facing weakness, lacking control in a minor
four diamonds|four hearts|four spades: void in diamonds|hearts|clubs

Over one heart, the structure is analogous, two notrump shows clubs, three diamonds and higher are fit-jumps with diamonds.

After void-ambiguous shortness is shown, Splinterwood and, if a hand has limited its key-card count (for example, when opener has promised at least 2.5 keys with a three-heart rebid), Shortwood apply. (See the July 2009 and December 2009 issues.)


It is not claimed that the above, fairly-complex development represents a unique solution. Partnerships adopting the proposed general fit-jump philosophy may wish to modify things. The proposed meanings should provide a benchmark for the level of precision achievable in game- and slam-tries, as well as indications of how such goals can be reached. The general methodology underlying the usage of the four level to show shortness, of which the given details provide many examples, is the subject of an article in the April 2010 issue of The Bridge World.

More-basic changes are also possible. Some players may want to switch the long suits in the fit-jumps, adjusting the system to better counter weaknesses in the nonjump response structures. For example, it may be tempting to try to include more spade raises with long hearts. It should be noted, however, that a three-card raise with long hearts must allow game to be played in hearts, which makes it less suitable for a jump response. (For a way to solve the difficulties after the standard one spade — two hearts, consider my May 2007 article on the use of a forcing one-notrump response with strong hands with hearts.)

Aggressive partnerships may prefer to use the direct double raise as preemptive and to find substitute sequences for the (more infrequent) suit-specific five-four fit-jump with exactly invitational strength. (A simple "substitute" is to treat the hand as game-forcing, while possibly pretending it has only three-card support.) Another solution is to use a forcing one-notrump response with these hands.


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