Quick summary

With 17/18 & Major fit, partner with 6-9 will bid major game if he

Your side suit has one top honour & 2+ other losing cards.

Explanation After the 1spade-2spade you bid a second suit, e.g. 1spade-2spade-3diamond. You have extra values > 16 points guaranteed with a 3spade bid, & need help in diamond.

"Help" = control the suit after one loser, or max 2 losers if on max. 9 HCP. A void, singleton or doubleton plus a four card trump suit is good, or an A or Kx or Qxx are also a great help.

Counter try
With no help, "counter try" in another suit, at the 3-level only.

Minor agreement, new suit=stopper
If suit agreement is in a minor not a Major, then a new suit asserts a stopper, and is asking partner to bid 3NT if can fill the outstanding gap.



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Example Deal

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Game try (or "Trial bid ")

Can't quite get to game in a Major ?

Do partner's values match my losers ?

You've got Major suit agreement somehow, at the two level. E.g.You bid 1spade, promising 12-19 HCP, and partner replies 2spade promising 6-9 points. (It could be in heart too).

If in fact you have 19 points (case 1) then it's easy, because you can put it straight into game, 4spade. Same thing (case 2) if you have 16 and they have 9: you'll tell them about the 16+ (bid spade3) and they'll put it into game, 4spade. In this situation you have 14 combined losers, and game is on.

But what if you are a little short of 19 in the first case, and what if your partner is a little short of 9 in the second case ? Or, to put it another way, what if you can see only 15 combined losers ?

Well in that case, you won't be able to bid to game.

And yet, for all you know, you could for example have 18 and 6 points plus a nice matching side suit. And that would actually get you the extra trick you need to make game.

Enter "the Trial Bid"

The idea is first to recognise that you fall just short of being able to bid to Game in a major, and then set out to find out if partner can help a bit in a side suit. If you can find this out, you can bid to game, since the extra cards in this minor suit should allow you to make the extra trick you need.

"Help" in the trial bid suit is generally to control the suit after one loser, or no more than two losers if on maximum HCP. A void, singleton or doubleton plus a four card trump suit is good, or an A or Kx or Qxx are also a great help.  

After the 1spade-2spade bidding sequence, you bid a second suit, below the three level in your Major, e.g. 1spade-2spade-3diamond. You are telling your partner you have extra values beyond the 16 points guaranteed with a 3spade bid, and you are asking for a little help in the diamond suit. The usual meaning for the stronger hand is:

  • I'm long in this suit, with 2 or 3 losers. I've got at most one top honour. Raise to game if you've got something in this suit. Specifically 0-1 losers (e.g. a A or Kx or x, + an extra trump). With 2 losers only raise on maximum HCP;

Counter try

In addition to these meanings and responses, the responder has another route to take if he can't respond to the invitation. Issue his own invitation:

  • Counter try at the 3 level in a different side suit. Sorry, can't help, but can you help in this suit ?

It's important not to go above the 3 level in the "counter try" suit, so if the first try was in diamond you won't be able to make a counter suggestion in club.

Alternative interpretation
There are two other ways people use this signal, but we don't like these (nor does Ron Klinger in his great book "Guide to Better Acol Bridge"). You need to agree beforehand if you plan to use these meanings:

  1. I'm short in this suit, (implying extra values in the unbid suits);
  2. I'm holding 3 cards in the side suit, anything from small up to KJx. Bid game if you have 0/1 losers in the side suit, close the bidding at 3spade with 3 losers, but with 2 losers use point count.

Minor match ? Show stopper !

Suit agreement with 25 points in a minor ?

This is different. Getting to 5 is so hard, so it's probably not worth trying to look for side suit support. Better to look for a 3NT hand. So in this case, after minor suit agreement with around 14 combined losers, a change of suit shows interest in NT game, asserts a stopper in the newly bid suit, and implies a hole in the unbid suits. Partner will raise to 3NT if he can plug it. This is similar in concept to 4th suit forcing (you could think of it as 3rd suit forcing).

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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