How to Respond to Partner's Opening Bridge Bid (Lesson 4)

By Joe Andrews
His Royal Majesty

The hand has been dealt and your partner has opened (on the one level) with a suit bid. If your partner has bid one Heart (1H) or one Spade (1S), you have an advantage knowing that his bid suit contains at least five cards. If your partner has opened with a minor suit (Clubs or Diamonds), he is denying a five-card major and wants to probe the strength of your hand. When your right hand opponent passes after your partner's opening bid, you now have some options: a. Pass with less than six high card points. b. Support your partner's suit (7 or more HCP for major suits). c. Change the suit to the best suit in your hand. d. Bid No trump if you have a balanced hand and no suit of your own. Remember, distribution will also influence your ability to respond. This fourth installment in my series on Bridge will explore how to respond to your partner's opening bid.

RAISING YOUR PARTNER'S OPENING MAJOR SUIT BID

If partner has opended with 1H (one Heart) or 1S (one Spade), you must have 7 to 10 HCP to raise his suit to the two level. The other requirment is to have at least three cards (preferably with an honor card) of his trump suit. Thus, you have established an eight-card "fit" in a major suit.

RAISING YOUR PARTNER'S OPENING MINOR SUIT BID

If partner has opened 1D (one Diamond) or 1C (one Club), he does NOT necessarily promise five (or more) cards in his minor suit opening bid; he may have only three cards in that suit. He is probing for a response of a four-card major suit in your hand or a bid of 1 No trump (a weak hand with no major suit). If you happen to have five of his minor suit, you may raise to the two level if you also have at least 10 HCP. Major suit reponses (if possible) are preferable. Pass any hand with less than 6 HCP, barring extreme distributional features.

DOUBLE RAISES (STRONG HANDS)

Any time you hold an opening hand of your own (13+ HCP) opposite your partner's opening bid, you have excellent prospects for "Game." You must bid to the three level of a suit in the following manner:

a. If partner has opened with a major suit, and you have three-card trump support with J x x or better, jump to three of his major. b. If partner has opened with a major suit and you do not have support for his suit, you should jump to 2 NT (which denies support). c. If partner has opended with 1D or 1C and you hold a five-card major, you should jump to 2H or 2S (to show which major suit you hold).

MINOR SUITS: (STRONG RESPONSE TO PARTNER'S BID)

If you have an opening hand with a five-card minor suit opposite your partner's opening bid of a major suit, you must jump to the three level showing your suit and 13+ HCP hand. This will tell your partner that you cannot support his major suit and the strength/suit of your hand. (If you have a weak 3 trump holding in your hand and 13+ HCP, it is better here to support your partner's major suit, even if your trumps are three spot cards.) Minor suit games are very undesirable and partner may choose to explore an NT game.

TRIPLE RAISES (BIDS TO THE FOUR LEVEL)

These are reserved for exceptional situations. If your partner opens with one of a major suit, and you hold five or more cards in his suit and a singleton/void of a side suit, and less than 10 HCP, you should leap to the four level of his major suit. This informs your partner of the type of hand you hold. It also disrupts the opponents' bidding.

INTERCEDING BID BY THE OPPONENTS

If your partner has opened the bidding and the right hand opponent overcalls (makes a bid of his own), you must have at least 9 HCP in order to respond. If the opponent overcalls with a minor suit on the two level, your hand must be close to opening strength to respond here. (The rest of the aforementioned requirements still apply, especially in regard to supporting partner's major suit openings.) NOTE: Responses to opening bids of 1 NT by partner will be discussed in another article.