Shutout-Suit Responses to a Major

Neither side vulnerable
The bidding has gone:

1 Pass

The Eastern Scientific approach in general, and 1984 Bridge World Standard in particular, produce difficulties for responder with a long suit lower in rank than the opening bid. If partner's opening is a major, you cannot bid your suit directly without forcing to game unless you plan to rebid it. Sometimes, you can hope to back into your suit by responding one notrump, forcing, hoping opener will name it (possibly with a three-card holding). Often, however, you cannot show both your long suit and game-invitational strength after responding one notrump.

As South, what call do you make with each of the following:

(a) Q 8 6 3   5   K 10 4   Q 10 8 7 2

(b) Q 8 6 3   5   10 4   A Q 8 7 4 2

(c) Q 8 6 3   5   K 10   A Q 8 7 4 2

(d) K 10   5   Q 8 6 3   A Q 8 7 4 2

(e) Q 8 6 3   5   A Q   A Q 8 7 4 2

(f) Q 8 6 5 3   5   A Q   A Q 8 7 4


Q 8 6 3   5   K 10 4   Q 10 8 7 2

(a) One spade. Use of five-card majors does not substantially affect the response with this hand type. You are far too weak to name your long minor, but need to investigate a possible four-four major-suit fit. If BWS used Flannery (it doesn't), so that you had no need to look for a spade fit, one notrump would be appropriate.

Q 8 6 3   5   10 4   A Q 8 7 4 2

(b) One spade. You are too weak for two clubs, even if you intend to follow with three clubs showing invitational strength. So, the choice is between one spade (making it very hard ever to get to clubs) and one notrump (making it hard to get to spades). Most experts choose one spade here, intending to pass two diamonds.

Q 8 6 3   5   K 10   A Q 8 7 4 2

(c) One spade. Here you are strong enough to bid two clubs, then three clubs, but that will lose a four-four spade fit. You are far too weak (and misfitting) to bid two clubs, then two spades, which sets up a game force. As in (b), the choices are one spade, downgrading club chances, and two clubs--three clubs, downgrading spade chances.

Majority opinion seems to be in favor of investigating the major; most would respond one spade, planning to rebid two notrump over a red-suit rebid. We are not entirely sympathetic to this approach to hands (b) and (c), but this is a tough area for the system--there is no ideal solution.

K 10   5   Q 8 6 3   A Q 8 7 4 2

(d) Two clubs. There are possible problems, but here we think the best shot is to bid two clubs, planning to rebid three clubs. This aims at the most likely contracts, three clubs and three notrump. Although there is no major to worry about, things could get out of hand. For example, if opener rebids two diamonds our raise is forcing; yes, our hand has improved, but the combined values might not stretch for three notrump or five diamonds.

Q 8 6 3   5   A Q   A Q 8 7 4 2

(e) Two clubs. This hand, considering the misfit and the lack of strong secondary clubs, is really fractionally below the values need to force to game. However, that is only a fraction of a problem. By treating the hand as a game force, two clubs then two spades, we can bid the hand naturally. This is much more likely to get us to the right spot than an unnatural sequence based on slightly more accurate evaluation.

Q 8 6 5 3   5   A Q   A Q 8 7 4

(f) One spade. This is a controversial matter among theorists, but again popular opinion comes down on the side of the major. Those who favor two clubs, intending to bid spades twice, point out the difficulty of showing the long, strong clubs after one spade (fourth-suit-forcing may interfere). Those who favor one spade note the awkwardness of bidding clubs, spades and spades, holding only five clubs and with two diamond stoppers.

(Adapted from "Rate Your Own Game" in The Bridge World.)


Our learning center web pages are dedicated to teaching the game of bridge. There are lessons for first-time players, as well as for those at the elementary and intermediate levels. You can find the appropriate section, and proceed through the lessons.

BEGINNER: Learn how to play bridge if you have never played before. The beginner lessons here are designed for those who know little or nothing about the game.

ELEMENTARY: If you understand the basics of the game, and are ready to proceed further.

INTERMEDIATE: Here is a collection of intermediate-level problems in bidding, declarer play, and defense for you to practice and improve your game.