Over an Unusual Notrump

Neither side vulnerable
The bidding has gone:

1 2 NT*

* minors

Bridge World Standard provides for a specialized counterattack when the opponents use a defensive unusual-notrump overcall, showing minors, following a major-suit opening. If responder bids three clubs, that shows hearts; if responder bids three diamonds, that shows spades. In each case, at least game-invitational values are indicated, so responder can feel free to make a nonforcing natural major-suit bid at the three level, even in the unbid major. These minor-suit cue-bids may also be made on game-going hands. A double is penalty-oriented, suggesting high-card values and inviting a penalty double by opener.

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

(a) Q 10 8 6 4 2   J 4   K 6 4   8 2

(b) Q 10 8 6 4 2   K 5   A 6 4   8 2

(c) K J 9 7 5 3   K 5   A 6 4   8 2

(d) Q 10 8 6   J 8 2   A 6 4   8 4 2

(e) Q 10 8 6   K 8 2   A 6 4   8 4 2

(f) J 10 8 6 3 2   K 8 4 2   A 6   3


Q 10 8 6 4 2   J 4   K 6 4   8 2

(a) Pass. You can bid three spades nonforcing, but the chances are against its leading to a plus score. With so many losers and such a tattered suit, you have no reason to believe you can take nine tricks opposite a minimum-range opening bid, even one with a decent fit for spades. And if partner has anything more than that, so that you can make three spades, he will bid four spades (or, anyway, more of something than your side can make) because he cannot take into account that you have bid at the three level on a hand this weak.

Q 10 8 6 4 2   K 5   A 6 4   8 2

(b) Three spades. This is a more reasonable three-spade bid. You have some hope of making it opposite a minimum, and when East has a lot of minor-suit cards you can sensibly hope that North has a couple of spades. It is true that the hand might not belong in spades, but you will have an opportunity to discover this if the bidding continues. There is no practical way to take other strains into account at the three level.

K J 9 7 5 3   K 5   A 6 4   8 2

(c) Three diamonds. Here you are strong enough to want partner to bid game with a sound hand and a spade fit, or even to go for game outside of spades with substantial extra values but no spade fit. This is the time to trot out your gadget, which tells partner you are too strong for a merely competitive three spades. Since you are in the minimum range for this action, you will take no further level-raising actions of your own later on.

Q 10 8 6   J 8 2   A 6 4   8 4 2

(d) Pass. The considerations are similar to those in (a), except that here what you are not bidding is three hearts. It is true that sensible competitive bidding requires occasional actions at levels not fully justified by the cards held. However, those are small adjustments. You sometimes bid three hearts here with a maximum two-heart raise, because of the pressure of the competition. This hand, though, is a minimum two-heart raise.

Q 10 8 6   K 8 2   A 6 4   8 4 2

(e) Three hearts. You would have bid only two hearts with this in the absence of the blocking overcall; however, you have a sound hand, and can reasonably push up to three hearts. You'd prefer a fourth heart for this action (since then three hearts, down, might well be a good sacrifice against a part-score), but, in compensation, your honors are all good offensive cards.

J 10 8 6 3 2   K 8 4 2   A 6   3

(f) Four hearts. The first step is evaluation. Offensively, you are strong enough to drive to four hearts since, if your RHO has the advertised minor two-suiter, your values seem well placed for a heart contract. (If you thought all you were worth was a game invitation, you would bid three clubs and leave the decision to partner.) If you are driving to game, there are three possible routes: a direct four hearts, a four-club splinter, or three clubs. Most partners would expect a better all-around hand for the splinter (it often shows roughly the high cards for an opening plus the short-suit value), and more in the way of defense for three clubs. Since you have only moderate values and defense, a direct four hearts seems most descriptive. Accurate description within your evaluation zone may be important to partner if the opponents keep bidding.

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


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