Choice of Suit for Response

Neither side vulnerable
The bidding has gone:

1 Pass

Choice of suit for a one-level response is governed by "up-the-line with exceptions'' in Bridge World Standard 1984. (The older version of the system did not allow exceptions.) With four-card suits, a major is preferred to diamonds when the hand is relatively weak, to prepare for possible competition. However, the major does not get absolute priority even in the minimum-response zone, because longer diamond suits are not suppressed.

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

(a) K 8 7 5   9 6 4 2   Q 7 4 3   6

(b) K 8 7 5   9 6 4 2   Q 7 6 4 3  

(c) K J 8 7   9 6 4 2   A Q 7 4   6

(d) K J 8 7   A Q 7 4   9 6 4 2   6

(e) 10 8 7 5   9 6 4 2   A J 6   6 4

(f) 10 4   9 6 4 2   A J 6   A Q 8 6


K 8 7 5    9 6 4 2    Q 7 4 3    6

(a) One heart. At one time it was usual to pass partner's opening bid with a bad hand, but no longer. When partner opens in a major, most experts keep the bidding open with as much as a decent prayer for game. When partner opens in a minor, many find even the prayer unnecessary, as partner may not have true length in the suit opened, so moving along may improve the strain of the contract. Nowadays, virtually everyone would respond with a hand of this strength, despite the misfit; many would respond with this pattern and less strength. Since this is a minimum-range response, a major gets preference over diamonds; the majors themselves are bid up the line, ignoring quality.

K 8 7 5    9 6 4 2    Q 7 6 4 3    --

(b) One diamond. The same considerations as in (a) make it normal to respond. Some would give priority to the major, even such a weak one, and even with a five-card diamond suit, but our system calls for the five-card suit to be bid first. This may lead to a slightly awkward position if opener rebids in a major, because responder would be torn between passing and raising, but any decision there will be off by only a fraction.

K J 8 7    9 6 4 2    A Q 7 4    6

(c) One diamond. This hand can be considered as above the range of a minimum response. Therefore, you are allowed to use your judgment in the choice of suit. It makes sense to respond one diamond, bidding your high-card location without preempting either major, should partner want to bid one.

K J 8 7    A Q 7 4    9 6 4 2    6

(d) One heart. Because the hand is strong enough, it is systemically permissible to respond one diamond. However, that does not make it sensible to do so. Even though this is above a minimum response, you can reasonably pass if partner rebids two clubs (because of the misfit), so you need not be concerned about rebid problems.

10 8 7 5    9 6 4 2    A J 6    6 4

(e) One heart. At one time, it was standard--well, almost standard--expert practice to respond one diamond with this hand-type, planning a comfortable pass if partner rebid in a major. Nowadays, though, the trend has shifted towards showing the major, rather than waiting for partner to bid it. This has advantages and disadvantages compared to the old style. It does avoid getting opener too excited when he has a big diamond fit. If he gets excited about hearts and bids game there, you might make it.

10 4    9 6 4 2    A J 6    A Q 8 6

(f) One heart. Bidding the major gets the nod in most cases in BWS. Here, one diamond is not chosen (to avoid bidding such a weak major) because of the trend discussed in (e). Two clubs, inverted, though right on strength, is wrong because that denies a four-card or longer major suit.

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


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