♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Responses to Opening Bids ♠ ♥ ♦ ♣
After partner opens the bidding, responses have both suit-length and point requirements. You count your points, and choose your bids according to these priorities.
- don't bid without sufficient values
- raise partner's major suit
- show your own major suit
- bid no trump
- raise partner's minor suit
- show your own minor suit
We take these priorities in order. First, if you don't have enough values to make a bid, your correct call will be either a pass or a lower bid. You will sometimes have enough values to bid once or twice, but as the bidding gets higher, you will not have enough values to bid again.
Raising Partner's Major
When partner opens 1♥ or 1♠, he promises at least five cards in the suit. 8 trumps in the two hands combined is considered a fit, so you need at least 3 card support for a minimum fit. Having found a major suit fit, you don't look for fits in a different suit. You make a bid that tells partner both the good news about your fit and how many points you have.
- with 0-5 points, pass (don't bid without values)
- with 6-9 points, make a single raise. (ex. raise 1♥ to 2♥ )
- with 10-11 points, jump raise. (ex. raise 1♠ to 3♠ )
- with 12+ points, jump to game or explore for slam (explained later)
Before looking at these hands you may want to review how to count points.
♠Q9 ♥KQJ63 ♦987 ♣652 Can you raise spades?
No, you can't raise spades. You need 3+ trumps to show a fit (8+ cards combined). Partner promises 5 and you only have 2.
Yes, you can raise hearts. You have 8 hcp plus 2 points for two extra trumps.
You have enough to jump raise. Bid 3♥ (10-11 points).
Yes, you can raise spades. You have 4 hcp, plus 2 for the singleton and one more for the extra trump. 7 points.
Raise to 2♠ (6-9 points).
If partner had opened 1♥, you could raise that too.
No, you can't raise spades. You have only 4 hcp. Nothing extra.
Don't bid without values.
When partner opens in a minor suit and rebids 1♥ or 1♠, he promises only four cards in his major. You then need at least 4 card support for a minimum fit.
No, you can't raise spades. Partner has only promised four of them. You have good spades, but you don't have an 8 card fit.
Yes, raise spades. You have found an 8 card major suit fit. Even though your hearts are stellar, there is no reason to look for a second major suit fit. The one you've found is enough.
You have 10 hcp plus 2 for the singleton. Your hand is too good to bid only two spades (showing 6-9) or three spades (showing 10-11). Jump to 4♠.
Yes, raise spades. You didn't have the minimum 6 points to respond to partner's opening bid. But after finding a spade fit, you can count 4 hcp plus 2 for the singleton. Raise to 2♠ (showing 6-9 points).
Bidding Your Own Major
Partner's opening bid may not immediately reveal a major suit fit. When he opens in a minor suit he denies a five card major, but you may have a major suit fit anyway if you can bid hearts or spades yourself. You can make this major suit response with only a four card suit. If partner also has four of your major, you will have found a major suit fit.
♠QT54 ♥K2 ♦K862 ♣953 Partner opens 1♦, and you have enough to bid (don't bid without sufficient values). You could raise partner's diamonds, but bidding minor suits is low on our list of priorities. Major suits come first. You have 4 spades and partner might also have 4. Respond 1♠ and partner will tell you, with a bid, if a spade fit exists.
♠KQ94 ♥7632 ♦JT42 ♣2 Partner again opens 1♦. You have a diamond fit and enough values to bid. You also have TWO four card majors, so raising diamonds is not timely. Which major do you bid first?
The rule to cover this situation is, "bid four-card suits up-the-line." That means the lowest ranking suit first. Respond 1♥, even though your spades are stronger.
Partner will also bid four-card suits up-the-line, so if there's no heart fit you will still find your spade fit when he rebids 1♠. Bidding the lowest ranking four card suit enables the partnership to find every possible major suit fit.
♠KQ94 ♥7632 ♦JT42 ♣2 Actually, the rule about bidding four card suits up-the-line applies to minor suits as well as major suits. If partner opens 1♣ on this hand, your response should be 1♦. That leaves room for partner to bid either major, and you will find any fit that exists.
Bid five card suits ahead of four card suits.
If you later bid diamonds, partner will figure out that you have 5 spades because you would have bid 1♦ as your first response if they were both four card suits. Remember, "bid four card suits up-the-line."
NT Point Ranges
NT bidding is lower in priority than major suits, but higher than minor suits. The point ranges for responses in NT are...
- 1NT = 6-9 points
- 2NT = 10-11 points
- 3NT = 12+ points
I hope you noticed that these point ranges are the same as when raising partner's major suit.
♠KJ9 ♥Q6 ♦T9872 ♣JT8 Partner opens 1♦. You have enough values to bid, and you know there is no major suit fit. NT has a higher priority than minor suits, so you respond 1NT, not 2♦.
♠KJ9 ♥6 ♦T9872 ♣QJT8 I've changed the hand just a little. Now you don't have notrumpy distribution, so you should raise diamonds instead of responding 1N. This only works because you know there is a diamond fit. If you didn't know about a fit, you might have to bid 1NT even with an unbalanced hand. Like this…
♠9 ♥KT64 ♦9763 ♣KJT2 Partner opens 1♠. You respond 1NT, showing 6-9 points. You don't have a balanced hand, but you don't have the additional points needed for a two level bid (explained in the next section).
♠Q9 ♥J63 ♦AT87 ♣QJ52 Partner opens 1♠.
You have 10 points and a balanced hand.
This time you have 11 points (12-1) in your balanced hand.
You did remember to subtract a point for 4333 distribution, didn't you?
You have 11 points (12-1), plenty enough to bid. And your hand is notrumpy in character, but...
Major suits come before notrump.
You have 7 points (8-1) and a balanced hand.
Don't worry about having no honors in the unbid suits. Your 1NT response correctly describes your strength. Partner will decide how to handle future bidding.
You have to go to the two level to bid a suit lower in rank than partner's opening. For example, you might bid 2 of a minor after partner bids 1 of a major. We call this a 2 over 1 response.
When you haven't found a fit yet, it takes more points to increase the level of the bidding. A 2 over 1 response promises 10+ points.
♠86 ♥QT76 ♦3 ♣AQT852 Partner opens 1♠.
You don't have enough points to bid a 2/1.
The bidding isn't over. You may get the chance to better describe your hand later. But for now remember our first priority, "don't bid without sufficient values." You don't have the values for a 2/1 response.
You have 11 points and a balanced hand.
Bidding no-trump has a higher priority than minor suits.
You have 16 points and a great club suit.
Your first bid should be 2♣.
Future bidding will depend on what partner bids next. This is often the case, that you know what to bid but you don't yet know what your follow up bids will be. If partner has extra length in hearts, you will have a major suit fit. If partner bids diamonds, you will play in NT. Otherwise (our last priority) you will play in some number of clubs.
This is a tricky one.
You have enough points to bid 3NT. But the search for a major suit fit is not over. Partner may well have 4 hearts. If you jump to 3NT, you would miss your major suit fit. So...
Bid 2♦, and give partner the bidding room to show a four card heart suit if he has it. If not, your next bid can be 3NT.
Did you notice that the last hand had you bidding a four card diamond suit, while not bidding a stronger four card heart suit? This is similar to the suit lengths required for opening bids. A 2/1 bid promises 5 cards for hearts, but 4 card minors are OK.
1 level responses, and raises of partner's suit, promise 6+ points
Jump raise partner's suit with 10-11 points and a fit.
2 over 1 responses promise 10+ points.
Bid 5 card suits ahead of 4 card suits.
Bid 4 card suits up-the-line.
2♥ over 1♠ promises 5+ cards.
You can raise partner's 1NT(15-17) to 2NT with 8-9 points, and raise to 3NT with 10+ points. However, finding a major suit fit has a higher priority than bidding NT, so you may need to make other bids before raising NT.
When might we have a major suit fit after partner's 1NT opening? If we have a 5 card major, partner might have 3 or 4. We'll have to ask him (with our bidding). And if we have a 4 card major, partner might also have 4. We'll have to ask him that too.
How can we ask a question with our bidding?
We make agreements with partner that some bids have special meanings. These are called "bidding conventions," where we bid something to show something else. There are two conventions we will use after partner's 1NT opening bid. The first one we'll look at is called "stayman," and the second is "transfers."
After an opening bid of 1NT, the stayman convention is a bid of 2♣, saying nothing whatsoever about the club suit. What it means is, "Partner, do you have a 4 card major?" If he does, he'll bid it. If he doesn't, he bids 2♦ to deny a 4 card major.
You might have a hand like:
♠62 ♥QJT3 ♦AQ4 ♣Q876 After partner opens 1NT(15-17), you bid 2♣ (stayman) to see if partner has four hearts. If so, you'll play in hearts. If not, you'll play in NT.
♠A864 ♥K92 ♦43 ♣QJ54 This is another hand where a 2♣ stayman response is correct. You want to know if opener has 4 spades, and 2♣ asks him.
How do you know when partner's 2♣ response is stayman?
After a 1NT opening bid, 2♣ is always stayman. After other opening bids, 2♣ shows clubs and is not stayman.
♠AKJ4 ♥J865 ♦K3 ♣A54 You open 1NT and partner responds 2♣, asking if you have a four card major. Which one do you bid? Bid four card majors up-the-line. 2♥ is your call. If partner bids something else, you will know he was interested in spades and not hearts because he won't bid stayman without a 4 card major. Your next bid will then be in spades.
Partner opens 1NT(15-17). And you hold...
♠A4 ♥Q93 ♦82 ♣AQJ954 Do you bid 2♣?
2♣ is stayman and asks if partner has a four card major. You don't care if he does because there is no possibility of a 4-4 fit.
In addition, 2♣ promises a 4 card major yourself, which you don't have.
Yes, bid stayman.
You want to find out if partner has four spades. If he does, you will play in spades.
Remember, if he answers 2♦, that does't mean he has diamonds. He's just saying he doesn't have a major. In that case, you'll choose NT.
Yes, bid 2♣ stayman.
Just like the previous hand, you want to find out if there is a spade fit before you decide to play in NT.
Major suit fits are a higher priority than NT.
2♣, stayman, is the correct bid.
Your hearts may be weak, but you do have four of them.
Check for the major suit fit by bidding stayman.
How many points are required for a stayman bid?
Stayman requires 8+ points.
Little Bear asks, "Why do we need 8 points for stayman? Don't we want to find our major suit fits even when we have a weak hand?"
Yes, Little Bear, that would be good. But when you use stayman, the bidding increases from the one level to the two level. And if partner doesn't have the "right" 4 card major, the bidding may get even higher while you search for a fit. You simply cannot embark on this search unless you have enough points to justify how high the bidding will get when partner has the "wrong" suits.
Requiring 8+ points for stayman is an example of our first priority – "don't bid without sufficient valves."
When we are the first to bid a suit, we will be declarer if that suit becomes trump. But sometimes we'd prefer to have partner be declarer.
I can almost hear Little Bear's confusion, "Huh? Why does it matter?"
Well, Little Bear, do you remember the advantage of playing last? When partner opens with 1NT, he has lots of honor cards and a balanced hand. This is exactly the time when he may gain a trick by playing last to the opening lead. In other words, he should be declarer, not you. We want to "transfer" being declarer from you to him. That means HE must be the first to bid the trump suit.
How can we do that? We use a convention called a "transfer" bid. It's similar to stayman in that we bid something when we actually hold something else. This only applies to your first bid after partner opens 1NT.
Bid 2♦ when you hold 5+ hearts.
Partner then "completes the transfer" by bidding 2♥.
Bid 2♥ when you hold 5+ spades.
Partner then "completes the transfer" by bidding 2♠.
With a 5 card major, make a transfer bid. Bid 2♦.
Partner will complete the transfer by bidding 2♥, and the big balanced hand will be declarer if hearts become trump.
With six spades you know there is a spade fit. Partner cannot be short spades when he opens 1NT.
Transfer to spades so partner will be declarer.
Partner will complete the transfer by bidding 2♠.
Yes, your spades are wonderful, but you don't have enough of them for a transfer.
Bid 2♣ stayman. You want to find out if there is a spade fit before you decide to play in NT.
Bid 2♦ to transfer to your 5 card heart suit.
Yes, I know your hearts are rotten, but you do have five of them.
You would like to find out if you have a major suit fit, but you don't have enough points to bid stayman.
Review of NT responses: After a 1NT opening, we play stayman and transfers.
- 2♣ (stayman) asks for a 4 card major. Stayman promises 8+ points.
- 2♦ transfers to hearts. Opener must bid 2♥.
- 2♥ transfers to spades. Opener must bid 2♠.
Little Bear asks, What about the other bids? What does a 2♠ response mean? How do I bid when I have a good minor suit? And what should I bid next after I make my stayman or transfer response?
Slow down, Little Bear. (Can I distract you with a spoonful of honey?) You are correct. There is a lot I have left out. Be patient... let's make sure you remember this much first.
♠ K 8
♥ J T 3
♦ K J T 9 7 2
♣ 7 6
Yikes! ...not even close!
You don't have enough points for a 2/1 call.
And besides, you've found a major suit fit, so don't mess around with minor suits.
8 points and a major suit fit is a raise.
♠ K J T 8 4
♥ J 3
♦ K T 9 7
♣ 7 6
Sorry, no honey this time.
Bid five card suits at the one level before 4 card suits.
Yes, well done!
Bid five card suits at the one level before 4 card suits.
♠ Q 9 6 5
♥ 8 2
♦ Q J 9 3
♣ A Q 3
You have more than 8 points and you want to ask partner if he has four spades.
Bid 2♣, stayman.
No, not 2♠.
When partner opens 1NT, you won't bid the suits you have. You'll respond with stayman and transfers to search for a major suit fit.
Bid 2♣, stayman.
♠ K 6 5
♥ Q T 8 7 6
♣ K J 5 3
No, not 2♣. You don't have a four card major.
You want to transfer to your five card heart suit. Bid 2♦.
It may seem odd to bid your singleton, but your bid has nothing to do with diamonds. You're transferring to your five card heart suit.
♠ 7 2
♥ K J 8 2
♦ A J 4
♣ Q T 8 2
Yes, yes, yes.
You have the right number of points and the right distribution for a 2NT bid, but the search for a major suit fit is not over.
Bid 2♣, and give partner the bidding space to show a 4 card heart suit if he has it. You can't bid 2♥ because you need a five card suit for that.
Oops... you skipped over one of our highest priorities, finding a major suit fit.
Bid 2♣, and give partner the bidding space to show a 4 card heart suit if he has it.
You can always bid NT later, after the search for a major suit fit is over.
♠ K J 8 4
♥ J 3
♦ Q J 9 7
♣ A 7 6
Well, let's see... 3♠ shows 10-11 points.
How many points do you have?
12 hcp, plus one for the extra trump.
No, your hand is too strong to bid only 3♠. You have to bid 4♠.
3♠ shows 10-11 points, but you have 12 + 1 = 13.
♠ Q 9 6 5
♥ 8 2
♦ Q J 9 3
♣ K J 3
Yes, 2♠ is enough.
You have 9 hcp and no extra trumps.
This one stung you. 3♠ promises 10-11 points.
When partner rebids 1♠, he's only promising a four card suit. You have no extra trumps so you have only 9 points. 2♠ is enough.
We bid only a partial when we have up to 23-24 points, but we go to game with 24-25.
Go to the next topic: Opener's Rebids
Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Welton. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be copied, displayed on another website,
or distributed in any way without the express permission of the author.