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Text-Book or Practical?

We referred last week to the use of bidding a suit we do not hold when our side has bid three suits, in other words “Fourth Suit Forcing”. An example of the use of this came up very recently.

There are actually two ways of bidding the following hands, one of which will necessitate the use of “Fourth Suit Forcing”. The other is a slightly cheeky but practical way, permissible when the white lie we are telling about is a minor suit.

The Text-Book Approach

text book approach.jpg

Let’s look at the bidding from the point of view of North who held:

Spade-small A87

Heart-small T92

Diamond-small J8

Club-small AQT93

With the opposition silent throughout, South opened 1Diamond-small. We have11 high card points enough to change the suit at the 2 level and so bid 2Club-small. Our partner bid 2Spade-small. What now?

            North            South


              2Club-small               2Spade-small


What do we know about our partner’s hand apart from showing 5+ diamonds and 4+ spades? As they have bid above 2Diamond-small, they have made a reverse bid and here that means they should have enough high card points (hcp) to force to game. Therefore, since we have shown 10+, partner must have at least 15 (a minimum 25 for game). We have no fit for either of partner’s suits, should not bid 3Club-small which after the “reverse” tends to show 6 + clubs and is looking for slam, and cannot bid no trumps as we have no heart hold.

The most obvious game on our minimum (for 2Club-small) values is 3NT and the way we can find out if partner has a heart hold is to bid 3Heart-small, the fourth suit. If 3Heart-small showed hearts, we would be stuck for a bid. It was just as well we had agreed to play “Fourth Suit Forcing” as this was the sequence and our two hands:

South Deals
None Vul
A 8 7
10 9 2
J 8
A Q 10 9 3
W   E
K Q 3 2
K 7 3
A Q 7 4 2
West North East South
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 If North ended as declarer, it is possible that we might never make a heart trick. It is much safer to have the hand with the heart hold as declarer.

The Practical Approach

Practical Approach.jpg

There is another way to reach the same contract by courtesy of a little white lie. Let’s rewind the bidding:

North            South


2Club-small                 ?

North is entitled to bid 2Spade-small showing a reverse. However, their hand is very minimum for this action. An alternative for North is to bid 2NT showing a balanced 15-17 hcp. The hand is not balanced but unless North is really strong, this will not matter. South has not denied 4 spades by doing so as North should bid 3Spade-small at their next turn if they too have a 4 -card spade suit. South has shown a balanced hand and were North to press on to a club slam, we hope our Club-smallJ will compensate for a minimum two small clubs we have shown.

North            South


2Club-small                 2NT

3NT                Pass


2NT does not show such a strong hand as 2Spade-small might. It works out fine here as North will simply raise to 3NT. We are entitled to bid this way where our club singleton is an honour and the bid describes the hand better than the reverse bid.

So to the Play

Either way, South becomes declarer in 3NT with West choosing to lead the Spade-smallJ. You know the story. Plan the play to enable you to score at least 9 tricks. East follows with a discouraging looking Spade-small6. See you on Sunday.

Richard Solomon



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