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New To The Table

Going to game: but which game?

We, the bridge teachers, tell our new players to bid to game when we know we are strong enough to do so. Sometimes, we may be strong enough but we do not know which game we should bid.

As a for instance, we open 1Heart-small and partner bids 1Spade-small. We may hold the following hand:

Spade-small KJ3

Heart-small AQT64

Diamond-small 4

Club-small AKQ5

As we have 19 hcp, we know we are now going to game (our partner will have at least 6 hcp) though we are not sure which game. Any of 3NT, 4Spade-small,4Heart-small or even 5Club-small may be the right game. We have to engage our partner’s help by describing our hand rather than jumping to any game. We jump to 3Club-small (certainly not 2Club-small..way too strong) saying our partnership is heading for game (maybe even to slam) and await our partner’s next bid.

Similarly, with 19 hcp and a balanced hand, we know we are going to game once our partner responds. With no 4-card support for our partner, our next bid could be 3NT. This rather limits our partner’s ability to explore for the right game as their hand might not be so balanced. Take the following:

            North                          South

            Spade-small AQ98                        Spade-small K73

            Heart-small Q75                           Heart-smallAJT64

            Diamond-small A975                         Diamond-small 4

            Club-small AK                             Club-small 8652

How would South feel if the bidding proceeded

            North                          South

                  1Diamond-small                           1Heart-small


North showing a balanced hand with 19 hcp?  South might be a little worried about their holding in both minor suits. Just because their partner opened 1Diamond-small, there is no guarantee why their diamond holding should be particularly strong. 4Heart-small may be a better, safer contract though after partner’s 3NT bid, there is no room to explore.

You may suggest that North should jump to 2Spade-small and subsequently if able show some heart support. That is possible though we generally advise that such a jump shows a more unbalanced hand than the one North has. It is generally better to show the strength and the balanced nature of the hand first.

Nowadays, we can get over the problem of opener jumping to 3NT as above. After opener bids and partner responds at the 1 level, the following structure applies as opener’s second bid:

1NT      15-17

2NT      18-19

We should never have to rebid 3NT with a balanced hand while with less than 15hcp, we would have opened 1NT. After North bids 2NT, South can bid 3Club-small at their second turn enabling North to bid 3Heart-small and in this case, the better and certainly safer 4Heart-small game contract is reached.

            North                          South

            1Diamond-small                                1Heart-small

            2NT                              3Club-small

            3Heart-small                                4Heart-small


Note that since 2NT shows 18-19 hcp, the subsequent sequence is forcing to game. 3Heart-small cannot be passed.

At a more advanced stage, we can learn what are called “Checkback” bids after a 1NT or 2NT second bid, “checking back” for any possible major fits. For now, the bidding above is entirely natural.

On Sunday, we will see how the play should go in both our 3NT and 4Heart-small contracts. In 3NT (by North), the lead is Diamond-smallQ and in 4Heart-small (by South) Club-smallQ. Plan the play to them both.

North Deals
E-W Vul
A Q 9 8
Q 7 5
A 9 7 5
W   E
K 7 3
A J 10 6 4
8 6 5 2

Remember, even though you may be going to game, you may need to enlist partner’s help in deciding which should be the best game to bid. In such cases, always make a bid which your partner cannot pass.

Richard Solomon


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