Valuing Major Suit Responses
When opener starts with 1♠ or 1♥, they promise five+ cards in the suit and 13+ total points. Their hand could be any shape really - single-suited, two-suited, balanced - but the one thing responder knows is that the major opening promises at least five cards.
As responder, you're in an important position to decide the outcome of the hand. Both 4♠ & 4♥ are good game contracts, sometimes safer than 3NT and easier than 5♦ or 5♣. Raise opener's major as your first choice (1♥/♠ p 2♥/, because it puts your side in a good position to dominate the bidding. Make sure you add extra for your shortages when there's a fit.
Players increasingly value the size of the trump fit and the general shape of their hand when responding. The response you choose will give partner accurate information about your hand.
If you have only three trumps, and a balanced hand (4333), and partner opens 1♠, there won't be anywhere on a responding hand like the one below to take extra tricks by trumping. Raise to 2♠ but don't bid more later.
♠ K 10 7
♥ Q J 9
♦ 8 5 3
♣ Q 7 5 4
But if you have a singleton or doubleton along with your fit for partner, as in the hand below if partner opens 1♠, you'll take extra tricks by trumping. Be prepared to bid more.
♠ K 10 7 6
♦ K 8 5 3
♣ Q 7 5 4
The more trumps you hold with your shortage, the more tricks you'll take. If opener had something like the hand below opposite your hand, you'd be able to trump all three losing hearts because dummy had four trumps.
♠ A Q 9 4 2 ♠ K 10 7 6
♥ A 8 5 4 ♥ 9
♦ A 10 2 ♦ K 8 5 3
♣ 6 ♣ Q 7 5 4
Your responding hand will grow or shrink as the bidding develops too. If you held this hand:
♠ Q J 10
♦ K J 7 4 2
♣ 9 7 5 4
and partner opened 1♥, you wouldn't be excited about your hand, but if partner opened 1♠ instead, you'd feel more optimistic, because there's a fit and a working singleton. Your hand might also improve or worsen based on the opponents' bidding too. If they overcalled, and you held anything like QJx or Qx in their suit, you'd not be so pleased about your hand, and about those points in particular.
As usual, high card points aren't the only thing to consider when deciding which raise to make.
Features that improve a responding hand:
(1) Extra trumps (more than three)
(2) Shortages in side suits
as well as the other factors already discussed, i.e. A's and K's rather than Q's and J's, high cards and 10's and 9's to fill the long suits.
Most responses are made with the expectation that you'll make your contract, and are called Constructive Raises:
Single Raise: (1♥ p 2♥) (6 -9). Will often have only three trumps, so not much shortage. You're telling opener they'll need a strong hand (16+) to consider going to game. Without that, stay in a partscore. For example:
♠ 10 7 3
♥ Q J 8
♦ K 10 8 6
♣ Q 9 7
Limit (Invitational) Raise: (1♥ p 3♥) (10 -12). Opener needs very little extra for game. You need some shortage and four trumps here. There are better ways to show three trumps.
♠ 10 7
♥ Q J 9 8
♦ A K J 7
♣ 10 9 5
Forcing Raise: (1♥ p 2NT) (13+ points). At least game, and even slam is possible. Jacoby 2NT is a useful convention here. For example:
♠ 10 7
♥ Q J 9 8
♦ A K J 7
♣ K 9 5
The other type of raise is one where you don't care about making the contract, because your goal is to take the opponents' bidding space away, and make it harder for them. These are Preemptive Raises: (1♥ p 4♥):
Weak hands with good trump support (0-6 pts and five trumps). If partner opens 1♥ and you have the hand below then jump to 4♥. You may go minus, but the opponents were probably making 4♠ anyway. You can't lose.
♥ Q J 9 8 3
♦ 10 6 2
♣ J 10 9 7
You're allowed to make a judgement about your hand when responding to partner's major opening, and the size of your trump fit is a good guide to whether to bid one more or not.
HANDS TO PLAY
After you have played the hand, watch the walkthrough video. Click on the little box icon in the menu to change the video to full screen.
Practise the hand from this lesson's main video here.
Bergen Raise: a way for responder to show four card support, and to describe hands from 0 points to opening. 1♥/♠ p 3♥/♠ = four trumps and 0-6 points
1♥/♠ p 3♣ = four trumps and 6-9 points
1♥/♠ p 3♦ = four trumps and 10 - 12 points
The Jacoby 2NT Convention fits here too, showing strong four card raises (opening hand, 13+, four + trumps).
Splinter Raise: a jump to four level of a new suit show a good raise in opener’s suit and a singleton or void in the suit bid. 1♥ p 4♦ = four + hearts and a singleton or void diamond.
Drury Convention: useful to discover whether partner, having opened 1♠/1♥, has a full opening in third or fourth seat, or is light. As responder, after you’ve passed, bid 2♣ or 2♦ to show 10-11 points and three (2♣) or four (2♦) card support. 2♣/♦ is artificial and opener rebids the trump suit with a weak hand, jumps to game, or bids something else with a normal opener. (p p 1♥ p 2♣ p 2♥ would show a weak third position opener.)
Each of these three topics will be covered fully in weekly lessons coming up soon. Stay tuned.
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