Quick summary

The suit first bid will always be the longest.

The 'barrier' is the same suit as the opening bid, but one level higher.

The opener can re-bid above barrier with

but below barrier if

Barrier thoughts: opener's jump-shift should be kept in mind

Forcing? Yes. If, without a jump-bid, opener re-bids in a new suit & breaks the 'barrier'

Responder's reverse is at 12 points, not 16.

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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
+West
+North
East
spade 9 6 4
heart J 8 6
diamond 8 6
club A Q 10 8 4
+South
Example Deal
Dealer: North
Vuln: NS


Opening 1 of a suit with limit responses in NT
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Hand Evaluation: Reversing, or crossing your barrier

Fundamental - Plan your rebid, before you open your big mouth on the opening bid

The barrier plays a big part in exchanging information with your partner about your hand's shape and strength, and it's also involved in forcing eachother to rebid.

It's something that beginners don't usually learn for a while, and it's something that even quite good players often forget to consider, at their peril!

Your first suit bid is imprecise regarding the strength of your hand. The range is wide: if you're the opener it's from 12-19 HCP, even 20 sometimes; for responder it can be 6-15, sometimes more.

On your rebid (when you bid the second time) you can show more precisely how many points you have, as well as giving strong clues regarding the length of your various suits and explaining any second suit preference.

This allows your partner to assess your chances of getting to game, or even going higher. It's imperative to master this technique ! It's not hard, in fact perhaps the hardest thing is simply to remember to do it. So, you must consider your second bid before making your first.

Opener's rebid - 'reversing', or 'going through the barrier'

Definition of the barrier If his re-bid exceeds the 'barrier', opener has a stronger hand.The 'barrier' is in the same suit as the opening bid, but one higher.

E.g. an opening bid of 1diamond would set a barrier of 2diamond. The precise definition of 'weaker' hand and 'stronger' hand varies a little, depending on the bidding level so far of responder, but most commonly 'weaker' means 12-15 HCP, and 'stronger' means 16-19 HCP.

spade heart diamond club

Definition of the reverse A bidding sequence in which a player, on consecutive bids, bids two different suits, and bids the two suits in the reverse order to that expected by the bidding system, see below "SHAPE".

The reverse is designed to show additional strength without the need to make a jump bid.

SHAPE

The technique of going through your barrier is also known as "reversing". Why such a funny name? It's because with two equal length 5-card suits (e.g. heart and club ) you would normally open the bidding first with the higher-ranking suit (heart in this example) before re-bidding the lower-ranking suit (club), so that if your partner prefers your first suit she can go back to it without raising the level.

You can open the bidding this 'normal' way round EITHER with 2 suits of equal length, OR when the higher-ranking suit is longer.

But if you bid the other way around, starting with the lower-ranking suit (club in this example), it's known, guess what, as a 'reverse'. And you would ONLY do this when the higher-ranking suit is shorter and thus has to be bid second.

STANDARD, OR HIGH-LEVEL ? FORCING ?

Three situations:

  1. A 'standard reverse' is when opener's second bid is in a new higher-ranking suit at the two level (it's gone through the barrier), and is forcing, though only for one round. Eg. 1H-2D-2S
  2. A 'low level reverse' is when opener's second bid is in a higher-ranking suit at the the one level: a) it's NOT gone through the barrier, and b) it's not forcing at all.
  3. A so-called 'high level reverse', relates to three-level non-jumped re-bids of a new suit. The suits are actually bid in the 'normal' order, not 'reversed', and not 'jumped' - so not a 'jump-shift', but the response from partner has obliged the opener to re-bid in his new suit at the 3 level and to break his barrier. It's forcing to game.

    • (A related and forcing bid is an opener's 'jump-shift' 'jump-shift' , where there is a jump, and used to show a particular extra strength).

STRENGTH

The 'reverse' is designed to show extra strength without the need to make a jump bid. The section on strong re-bids gives some useful examples. Here, let's look at 4 different cases, using the example of a 1diamond opening, and a resulting barrier of 2diamond:

Case 1. After your partner replies 1heart (guaranteeing only 6 HCP), then a rebid from you of 1spade (reversing, but at the one level and so within the barrier) informs your partner of your shape of 5diamond and one fewer spade, AND that you can only be relied upon to have 12 HCP. Note that, in spite of the guarantee of only 12, you might have as many as 18 HCP points after the 'only 1-level' reply from your partner, but not 19 as in case 2.

Case 2. If, after your partner again replies 1heart, you choose to go HIGHER than the available 1spade rebid and decide to rebid 2spade (reversing, and OUTSIDE the barrier AND a 'jump-shift'), this tells your partner that you have 19 points, informs her of your 5-4 shape, AND forces her to bid again.

Case 3. But unlike cases 1 and 2, your partner replies differently with 2club (now promising 10 HCP for a 2-level response), then a rebid from you of 1spade is no longer possible. It's illegal! But a rebid of 2spade (reversing, and BREAKING THROUGH THE BARRIER - although not a 'jump-shift') would tell your partner you have 16-17 HCP points, AND forces her to bid again. So you MUST BE SURE to have a hand of this strength if you plan to tell your partner about a 5-4 or 6-4 hand where the longer suit is lower-ranking.

But, Case 4, if after your partner replies 2club (and 10 HCP for a 2-level bid), you choose an even higher reverse rebid of 3spade (again through the barrier, PLUS a jump shift) this tells your partner you have even more strength, 18-19 HCP points, and forces to game.


What about 'non-reversing'? Let's suppose you have the same 2 suits of spade&diamond in a 5-4 shape, but this time spades is the longer suit.

So this time you open the bidding with 1spade first, setting a barrier of 2spade. The point to note is that you are bidding the suits in the conventional 'normal' order of descending ranking - no longer 'reversing', so your partner will interpret you as having EITHER a 5-4 shape OR a 5-5 shape (and possibly of course longer shapes such as 6-4). Note also, given your 1spade opening, that your partner has to be stronger to reply in a suit since it will have to be at the 2-level to be legal, although of course she still has the 1NT dustbin reply for any hand with only 6-9 HCP.

Your rebid options to show your 5-4 / 6-4 / 5-5 hand are 2diamond (showing weaker HCP, non-forcing) and 3diamond (needs stronger HCP and forcing to game).

So you open 1spade (setting your barrier at 2spade):

Case 5. Your partner replies 2club (promising 10 points for a 2-level response, and forcing a rebid from you by virtue of the suit change). A rebid from you of 2diamond is possible, with any number of points, and is not forcing on your partner. But, key point: being a non-reversing bid, it allows her to choose one of your suits WITHOUT raising the level. She can either choose diamond (by passing) or select spades by bidding 2spade, so she's able to choose her preferred suit while keeping the level the same if she needs to. Of course she could also raise to 3spade indicating more strength than the 10 HCP that her original 2 level response suggested.

spade Case 6. Your partner replies 2heart (again promising 10 points for a 2-level response, and again forcing a rebid from you by virtue of the suit change). This time, a re-bid from you of 2diamond is NOT possible. To re-bid your diamonds will require a 3-level response in the new suit, which your partner will take as game forcing (note that your bid has gone through your barrier of 2spade), so you will need the necessary strength - typically 16+, having allowed for your partner's minimum of 9 points. If you don't have enough strength, then instead of bidding diamonds you'll have to re-bid your first suit spades, since you can't pass after your partner's forcing response - remember she changed suit. Your partner will interpret a repeat of the suit as promising 6 spade, which you might have, but she'll forgive you if it's only 5 (but nice ones).

FORCES, AND PROMISES OF SHAPE

In case 1-4, you have promised your partner 5 diamonds and 4 spades. In case 5-6 you have promised the opposite, 5 spades and 4 diamonds.

In all cases other than cases 1 and 5, the re-bid is forcing.

In case 6, where the new lower ranking suit has had to be bid at the 3 level, it's forcing to game.

Case 4 is also game-forcing, since the new suit was introduced at the 3-level, even though the option existed to introduce it as the 2 level.

Examples of reverse bidding sequences:

  • 1club (by opener) 1spade (by responder) 2diamond(by opener - this bid is the "reverse")
  • 1diamond 1spade 2heart
  • 1diamond - 1NT - 2heart
  • 1heart - 2diamond - 3club (known as a "High level reverse", since it's bid at the three level. Acol definition only)
  • 1spade - 2heart - 3diamond ("High level reverse")

Don't jump-shift by mistake!

Let's say you open with 1diamond, therefore setting your barrier at 2diamond. If, after your partner replies 1heart, you then rebid 2spade in order to go through your barrier - then you will have also jumped, since a lower 1spade was an available bid. An opener who jumps as well as shifts suit is actually promising 19 points if it's after a 1-level response!

Forcing

A standard reverse (sometimes called a "low level reverse"), when opener's second bid is in a new higher ranked suit at the two level, is forcing for one round only, if it follows a one level bid by responder.

A "high level reverse", when opener's second bid is in a new and lower-ranked suit at the three level, is forcing to game. (A related bid is an opener's jump-shift, also often made at the three level and used to show a particular strength).

Responder's reverse

Responder can break his barrier too - but it shows a different level of strength

 

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