Identity Crisis

Pat Harrington

Have you ever misbid because you forgot your role in the auction? It happens to my students all the time. As South, the dealer, you hold:

♠ K Q J 9   A 7 6 5   Q J 8   ♣ 7 6

You open 1 and hear partner respond 1♠. What rebid will you choose? As long as you remember that you already opened the bidding with one of a suit, you will use opener’s strength categories: A minimum is about 13–15 high-card points, a medium hand 16–18 and a maximum is 19–21 points. Your spade support is excellent, but your hand is worth only a raise to 2♠.
I’ve seen the player holding this hand get very excited and jump to 4♠. Why? With such good spades, he forgot that he already opened the bidding.

Responder is just as likely to have an identity crisis. Suppose the auction goes as discussed in the previous paragraph and you, as North, hold:

♠ 10 7 6 5   K 4 2   K 10 7   ♣ A K 5

What rebid will you choose after opener raises your 1♠ response to 2♠? With your 13 points and partner’s 13 points, you must bid game. Some players pass because they equate bidding spades first with
having opened the bidding, forgetting about partner’s 1 bid — the real opener. If this seems too basic, perhaps you will relate more readily to the next identity crisis. You are
South holding:

♠ K 9 7 6   A Q 6 5   5 2   ♣ K Q 8

East is dealer and opens 1. Your call? A takeout double suits this hand: Opening count and adequate support for the unbid suits. West passes and partner bids 1. East passes. Now what? You have an opening hand, but you are not the opener. You are the doubler. As such, your point categories are similar to opener’s, and you have a minimum takeout double. Note that your partner simply did as you asked and chose the trump suit without jumping. Partner should not have a good hand. With an invitational hand, partner will jump. You know that you cannot have a game. Pass 1. A heart raise by you would show a stronger takeout double.

North’s 1 bid might be a hand such as:

♠ J 4 2   K 10 4 2   7 6 4   ♣ A 4 2

When your partner doubles 1 for takeout, you are the advancer. Advancer’s job is to choose the trump suit and show his strength, using point ranges that the partnership has agreed on. A simple non-jump bid generally shows about zero to 9 support points (high-card points plus distributional points, if any). That is what you have, so you respond only 1. If partner does continue bidding, you will carry on to game because you are near the top of your range. Suppose North had a slightly stronger hand, such as:

♠ Q J 2   K J 4 2   7 6 4   ♣ A 6 2

When partner doubles 1 for takeout, North must bid 2 to show his strength (10 to a poor 12 points). Your partner needs only about 15
points to bid game. If you don’t jump, South will pass with 15 points. Remember to show your strength on your very first bid!

Two common identity crises occur when overcalling. Suppose East opens the bidding with 1 and you, as South, hold:

♠ K 5   A Q 9 7   9 7 5   ♣ K J 6 5

You were all set to open 1♣. Now the only roles available to you are doubler and overcaller. Your hand is not suited for a takeout double because you lack support for a very important unbid suit — spades. Nor
is your hand suited to an overcall. Overcalls show length — five or more cards in the suit you bid. Pass for now. When you have the chance to open the bidding, your pass denies 13 points. When an opponent opens
first, you might have to pass some pretty good hands. Your pass is not necessarily a sign of weakness.

Overcaller’s partner (also called the advancer) also treats his hand differently than opener’s partner does. Suppose you are North holding:

♠ J 9 5 4   A Q 6   Q 9 4   ♣ 7 6 5

East opens 1♣, and partner (South) overcalls 1. You might be tempted to show the four-card spade suit — your bid if partner had opened 1. But a new suit response to an overcall shows length — at least five cards. Forget 1♠. Just raise partner to 2.

Different situations mean different guidelines. Keep in mind whether you are opener, doubler, overcaller or advancer. That will prevent an embarrassing identity crisis.