Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 14

This hand from the Tuesday 16 June game illustrates a bidding principle that a lot of beginners and intermediate players find uncomfortable. Everybody vulnerable, your partner deals and gives you these cards:

S T 8 7 5
H 9 2
D 8 7 2
C A Q J 5

Partner opens 1H. You respond 1S, of course, and partner rebids 2D. What now?

Your instinctive reaction is probably either to pass -- "I have three diamonds but only two hearts" -- or to bid 2NT -- "I have clubs stopped and don't really like either of partner's suits." But the textbook bid is a rebid of 2H.

Why? Part of the reason is flexibility. This keeps the bidding open as cheaply as possible. Partner knows you have only two hearts; if you had 3-card support and 6-9 points, you would have raised to 2H immediately. Maybe your partner has an 18-pointer or is 6-5 in the red suits, and wants to continue on to game. Maybe he opened on 7-6-5-4-3 in hearts and is afraid to stay in hearts and will bid again. (If he is 3-5-4-1 he might rebid 2S, after which you can bid 2NT. If he has a bare minimum opening, he's probably better to leave well enough alone.) You take away two of these options if you respond 2NT, and take away all of them if you pass and commit the partnership to declaring 2D.

The other part of the reason is matchpoint scoring. A heart contract is worth 30 points per trick, a diamond contract only 20. Even if you can take more tricks in diamonds than in hearts, it won't score better: eight tricks in hearts ties nine tricks in diamonds at 110, while nine tricks in hearts beats ten tricks in diamonds, 140 to 130. The only time passing 2D leads to a good score is when 2D makes but 2H goes set.

Dealer West
Both vul
S K 9 4
H K 7 4
D Q 4 3
C K T 9 3
S 6 3
H A Q J 6 5
D A K J 9
C 7 6
[table marker] S T 8 7 5
H 9 2
D 8 7 2
C A Q J 5
S A Q J 2
H T 8 3
D T 6 5
C 8 4 2


The full hand bears out that analysis. There is no 8-card fit available in any suit. At the table, 2D scored 130 while heart contracts scored at least 140. Anyone who tried 2NT could not have done better than 120.

Several Easts chose to pass 1H despite holding 7HCP and four spades - a serious mistake. It cost nothing this time since 1H making 3 and 2H making 3 score the same, but if West's hand hand been any stronger, the passers would have missed an easy game. They also missed out on the chance of finding a 4-4 fit in a black suit had one existed.

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This page last updated 20.07.09
©2009 Gordon Bower