Use Your Opponents Bid to Help You


Pat Harrington

The guidelines for bidding allow opener’s partner, the responder, to bid any new four-card suit on the one level with 6 or more high-card points. When the auction requires responder to show a new suit on the two level, responder must have at least 10 high-card points. When responder bids a major, five cards are required. In a competitive auction, it is sometimes difficult to find a good bid. Negative doubles allow responder to show a four-card major without raising the level.

Last month we saw that responder’s double in the following auction shows four hearts:

East’s double shows at least four cards in the unbid major, hearts. Hearts is the suit most likely to get lost by players who do not use negative doubles, but this convention can also be useful when spades is the unbid major.

1) Suppose you hold:
♠A J 6 4   A 6 2   9 5 3   ♣K Q 3.

What is your bid if:

In a) Partner opens 1 and your right-hand opponent passes? b) Partner opens 1 and RHO overcalls 1? c) Partner opens 1 and RHO overcalls 2?

In (a) you bid 1♠. You promise only four spades. You will bid game at your next turn. By showing four spades now, you can reach 4♠ when partner has a fit, and 3NT when partner doesn’t have a fit. Your 1♠ bid is forcing, so you are sure to have another bid.

In (b) you could still respond 1♠, a forcing bid. Players who use negative doubles to show four cards in the unbid major would double. We’ll soon see how this can give you an
advantage.

In (c) the bidding is at the two level. 2♠ would show five spades. Players who use negative doubles must decide how high the convention is in effect. Two common agreements are through a 2♠ overcall and through a 4 overcall. You can use a negative double on the one level with only 6 HCP. The higher the bidding,
the more strength you need. If your partnership has agreed to use negative doubles, you can double with this hand. Otherwise, bid 3NT or make up some forcing bid that doesn’t lie about your major-suit length.

2) Now suppose you hold:

♠A J 6 4 3   6   Q J 9   ♣K Q 3 2.

What is your bid if:

a) Partner opens 1 and your right-hand opponent passes? b) Partner opens 1 and RHO overcalls 1? c) Partner opens 1 and RHO overcalls 2?

You have another game-going hand. In (a), it is going to be difficult to show your five-card major. Your response of 1♠ promises only four spades. You will not be able to make
another forcing bid in spades, so you will have to bid the clubs next.

If you use negative doubles, your opponent’s overcall in (b) actually helps you. When you respond 1♠, you promise five spades because you would have made a negative double with only four.

In (c) simply bid 2♠, a forcing bid that shows five cards with or without negative doubles.

These articles on Negative Doubles are designed to give you just a taste of a very useful convention. Before adding a convention, you should thoroughly know how to use it, including what to do after the convention is used. After responder’s negative double, opener will rebid based on responder’s having four cards in the unbid major. Let’s take a look at opener’s rebids after this auction:

First, West should bid spades with four of them. Opener’s spade bids are like raises of responder’s suit so opener must show the proper strength. Holding:

♠K Q 6 2   A 2   K 3   ♣J 6 5 3 2,

West will bid 2♠, showing a minimum opener (13–15 points).

Holding:

♠K Q 6 2   A 2   K 3   ♣A 6 5 3 2,

West will bid 3♠, showing a medium opener (16–18). With:

♠K Q 6 2   7 2   A 3   ♣A K Q 9 2,

West can bid 4♠, showing a maximum 19-21 point hand.

Without four spades, opener must find a descriptive rebid, just as he would over a 1♠ response. However, opener is permitted to pass in the above auction because South’s 2 gave responder another turn to bid.

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