Quick summary

With 16+ HCP, your main choices are:

Take into account the level of your partner's 1st bid; 1-level bids need more strength from you.

Respect your barrier, unless you want to mislead your partner. Yes, you need to have thought about your rebid at the time you made your first bid.

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Example Deal


«  0052  »

Openers rebid. Unbalanced, You are strong

You've got 16-20 HCP. Time to make it clear to your partner.

Since partner has responded, promising 6 HCP at the very least, and usually more, then game is looking very likely, and who knows, slam might be on. It is therefore important to make it very clear to partner that your first bid was not in the 12-15 HCP range. You will do this in various ways, including jump bidding to a higher level, breaking your barrier, and otherwise forcing your partner to keep bidding especially as you, and only you, realise that you are quite likely to have the combined strength to go for game.

We're going to look at this in two ways:

  1. Strong. 16-18 HCP. Game possible, but not certain
  2. Very strong. 19-20 HCP. Game should be certain.

(I can hear you saying that with 20 HCP you would have opened with a strong 2, but that is only true of you had 8 playing tricks, which is not always the case).

With 16+ your main choices, in a vague order of preference, are:

  1. bid or jump after partner supported your suit, preferably a Major one
  2. jump support partner's new suit (preferably a Major one) if you have with 4-cards, though sometimes 3 being sufficient
  3. jump bid a new suit, the strongest option (needs 16 HCP, or 19 after a one level reply)
  4. reverse bid in a new suit, going through your barrier
  5. jump rebid your first suit, even though partner suggested something new

In thinking about these re-bid choices, expanded in paragraphs 1-5 below, you will always keep in mind whether your partner bid a new suit at the one level, promising an unlimited quantity of HCP from 6 HCP upwards, or was obliged to bid at the two level, promising an unlimited quantity of HCP from 10fmatch HCP upwards.

You should also bear in mind that your partner has not yet told you everything. Her first bid may simply be the first half of the information she's giving you, wrapped up in a forcing bid to ensure that she gets the opportunity to tell you the rest. For example, even if your partner is very strong, she might not yet have told you the full extent, and in certain special circumstances she quite sensibly might not even have told you yet that she also has 4-card support for your Major!

But first . . .

You must NEVER break your barrier on your re-bid when you hand has fewer than 16 points!

...Yes, again, you need to have thought about your re-bid before you opened your mouth to make your first bid.

1 Partner has supported your suit

Because your partner has supported your suit, she will have given you a precise "limit" bid: the bid level (2,3,4 etc) your partner used to support you will tell you how many points she has, to within a couple of points. So you'll now be able to add your combined strength and evaluate your ability to reach game. Don't forget to add points for shortage, which you must now do, because you have trump suit "agreement" (often this is called an "8-card fit", or a suit "match").

If some doubt remains, you can "invite" to game, by bidding at one level lower than the level needed for game. So in a Major, you'd "invite" to game by bidding 3heart or 3spade. If your partner is at the top of their range, they will "accept" the invitation by raising your bid to game.

And don't forget the game try bid, which helps you to get to game by asking for help in a second suit where you have lots of losers.

In addition, you can use the Losing Trick Count to help you decide how high to bid.

With strong support from your partner for your suit, then not only will you be certain of game, but you'll also have spotted if a Slam could be on. (E.g. 1heart-3heart, or 1heart-4heart, or, for advanced players, 1heart-2NT, or 1heart-4club).

2 Jump support partner's new suit, with your 4 (sometimes 3) cards

If you have an 8-card Major fit, then you can jump support it with 16-18 points. If he bid a Major at the one level, then he's promising 4 cards. With a Major at the two level he really ought to have 5, and more HCPs of course. Remember you want to support Majors more than minors, so if you still have an unbid Major you'll probably want to bid that rather than support partner's minor (at least at this stage).

But if you do have a strong 8+ card minor suit fit, then you can choose to go straight for game in the minor, but 25 points won't be enough. For a minor game you'll need 28 points between you including your shape points. But you will need to bid and make 5, that's 11 tricks . . .

12 tricks is only one extra

If you can see that Slam might be on, then you no longer really care about preferring a Major, since the prize money for Slam in a minor is wonderful. And it's only one more trick than the 5 needed for game in a minor. Often worth a risk, many say....

Oh, and don't forget . . .

. . . to add points for shortage, which you ought to do now, because you have trump suit fit and agreement.

In addition, you can use the Losing Trick Count to help you decide how high to bid.

3 'Jump-shift', a jump in your new unbid 4+ card suit

This is the strongest option, forcing to game. It's so-called because you've both changed suit as well as jumped to a level one higher than the minimum level needed to introduce a new suit. For example the sequence between two parters of 1heart-1spade-3diamond includes a change of suit from hearts to diamonds, but at the 3 level instead of at the 2diamond level which was still available to the opener.

You can bid this second suit provided that it has 4-cards, as usual.

If responding partner had been obliged to respond initially at the two level then she's also quite strong, so as the jump-shifting opener you'll only need 16+ to 'jump-shift'.

If partner had been able to respond initially at the one level, as in the example above, then although she's only promised you 6 HCP she might also be quite strong or even very strong . . .it's just that at this stage you can't tell, so you'll need 19+ to jump-shift.

But beware ! By bidding a second suit, you are also telling your partner that you have five of the first suit that you bid. Your initial bid guaranteed only four of your first suit, so this second bid is refining your first bid in more ways than one, and is designed to help your partner to indicate his preference.

Another kind of jump-shift is worth considering: this time not by the opener as discussed above, but when the responder makes a jump-shift on her first bid.

4 "reverse" bid in a new suit

Going via a barrier-breaking "reverse" is another way for you to show 16+ HCP. At the two level it's forcing for at least one round, unlike the "weak" bid of a second suit. Note that "reversing" is covered in full in the "hand evaluation" sections.

A non-reversing example given elsewhere for weak-hand rebids was Case 1:

1heart - 1spade - 2diamond

But if you need to invert the order of bidding of the two suits, because the diamond suit was longer than the hearts, then the bidding sequence would become Case 2:

1diamond - 1spade - 2 heart

But Beware! Case 2 is in "reverse" order. As soon as you open your mouth with the 2heart bid in the sequence 1diamond - 1spade - 2 heart, then you'll have broken the 2diamond barrier set up by your first bid, and thereby promised 16+HCP. Let's hope your kind charming partner is also forgiving if you only had 12 HCP!

These two examples of bidding sequences promise different guaranteed distributions. The first (Case 1) example promises 5heart and 4diamond, and it can also be a 5-5. In the second example it's the other way round, i.e. 5diamond and 4heart, and with such a 'reverse' bid it cannot be a 5-5 distribution.

The Case 1 hand can be weak, with only 12 HCP, and can be passed by responding partner. However, if the Case 1 hand is NOT weak, but has 16+ HCP, then you'll have to use a jump bid (see section 3 above), or some other forcing bid, otherwise you partner can assume you're weak, and might not bid again. In this case a bid could be, Case 3:

1heart - 1spade - 3diamond

. . . noting that it's another Jump-shift, as described in section 3 above, and noting the tougher requirements on HCP if responder bid at the one level, as in this case.

Case 2 again: Forcing?

If your partner re-responds, as she must, to your barrier-breaking 'reverse' rebid at the 2-level, with a bid from her at the minimum level (either in your suit or in her suit or in a NT rebid), then you are not forced to carry on bidding.

With any other re-bid from your partner you are forced to game. Pretty logical really.

Reacting to a minor fit

If partner had initially supported your opening 5-card minor diamond or club suit, then in spite of this support and the evident fit, you might now want to bid your 4-card Major, to fully describe your hand and to explore a way of getting to game at a lower level than bidding to the 5-level in the minor. E.g. Case 4

1club - 2club - 2heart

would promise 16+ HCP, a 5-card club suit and a 4-card Heart suit. After your barrier-breaking re-bid, your partner is forced to bid at the minimum level (or higher if she chooses), and can now also choose which suit she prefers, in the full knowledge of the minimum number of cards you have in each suit, and knowing also, due to your reverse bid, that your Major suit is definitely at least one shorter than the minor.

5 Jump rebid your first suit

By jumping, you are telling your partner that you've got 16+ HCP. If she had responded at the 2-level, it's forcing to game (because clearly there are 26+ HCP between you).

With 16+ HCP, do not bid a simple rebid, you must jump.

Jump re-bidding a suit guarantees to your partner that you've got a 6-card suit.

So, if you don't have a 6-card suit to re-bid, bid a new suit.

(Simple non-jump re-bidding of your first-bid suit strongly indicates 6 cards, but only guarantees 5 - which also need to be a good 5).).

Very strong, 19-20

We assume here that your opening bid was NOT strong enough to open with a 2-level strong opening bid. In this case, with 19+ your main rebid choices, in order of preference, are:

  1. jump to game after partner supported your Major suit
  2. jump to game in partner's new Major suit, with 4-cards
  3. jump shift to a new suit, the strongest option (needs 19 after a one level reply)
  4. jump to game in your first but unsupported suit, but only with a deadly powerful 6-card suit, or a strong 7-card suit (3+ honours)
  5. jump out of the car if your poor partner had 5 points and passed...

With a balanced hand you'd jump to game in 3NT.

Oh! Of course: if your partner has shown sufficient strength and you have the right shape, you can explore slam.

6-4 distribution

If you have two biddable suits with a 6-4 distribution, you're in luck. "Six and four, bid some more" as the famous song goes.

In general, bid the long suit first, then the 4-card suit, then the 6-card suit again. Alternatively, a 6-5 shape is indicated by bidding the long suit once, followed by the shorter suit twice - noting that such a bidding sequence also indicates 5-5 shape.

Opener's rebid after Strong Two Opening

Unless your partner has responded to your Strong Two with a 2NT to show a weak hand of less than 8 HCP, then Slam could be on.

A single raise from partner in your suit is strong (i.e. 8+ HCP, 3-card Major support, and an Ace), so you should explore Slam straight away.

After a new suit from partner, rebid your first suit if it's a 6-card suit, but not a 5-card suit, since your partner already assumed 5-cards. You can jump rebid if it's a very strong suit.

Failing this, then of course you can bid a new suit or bid 3NT.

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).

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