Common Bidding Mistakes

Here are four of the most common bidding mistakes.

Not Getting To Game When You Should

Partner opens one of a major and you have 13 or more points. You need to make sure the auction ends in game. To that end, you must never make a bid partner can pass until you get there. It’s that simple. Whenever you bid a new suit as an unpassed responder, it is forcing. No-trump isn’t.

What do we mean by “game”? Your goal is 3N or 4 of a major. Your goal is not five of a minor, although sometimes fate will dictate stopping at four or five of the minor.

A reason to go past 3N when you have a minor suit fit is either that you are POSITIVE (not merely fearful) that they have a suit we can’t stop, or that you have strong interest in a minor suit slam. If you go past a making 3N out of fear and end up stopping in five of a minor, you’ll get a bad score at matchpoints.

So, for example, suppose you have a game forcing hand and your partner opens 1♥, you bid 2♣ and he rebids 2♦. If you can’t support hearts or diamonds, the issue is, do you have a spade stopper? If you do, you cannot bid 2N — partner could pass. You must jump to 3N. If you do not, you can’t say, “These are really good clubs” by bidding 3♣. That’s just an invitational bid and partner could pass.

Fourth suit forcing (2S! here) forces to game, but implies you do NOT have the spade stopper. If you did, you’d just bid 3N, in most cases. An exception might be an extremely distributional hand.

If you are not playing that convention you are in a bit of a fix with no stopper. Opener might have four spades (4=5=3=1 or 4=5=4=0 say). So if you bid 2♠ with less than four spades, you may find yourself in four spades. However, at least as a new suit by an unpassed responder, it is forcing.

Getting to Game The Wrong Way

Partner opens one of a major and you have 13 or more points AND you have 3 of partner’s suit. You must not immediately bid four of his major. You think that’s where we are going but maybe he has a big hand, or a void or something juicy, and there is now slam potential, but we’re too high to talk about it. Solution: bid a new suit, a 3-card minor if you have to, and then show support on the next bid. You won’t miss so many slams that way.

Bidding The Same Values Twice

You open a Heart, and this is the auction:

1♥ - (1♠) - 2♥ - (2♠)

It’s your turn. Do you bid 3♥?

Answer: only if you have something significant to tell your partner about YOUR hand that you haven’t already told her. You’ve promised five hearts and 12-13 points or more. Do you have more?

How much extra above the 12-13 HCP you already promised would you need to conclude that you had not told your story? The three level takes about 23 points between you, so subtracting the six you’ve been promised, you’ll need about 17 to be sure. Extra trump or shortness counts — you might enjoy reading about hand evaluation in my Bidding Notes.

It is partner’s job to bid 3♥ if they have significantly more than the 3 trump and 8-10 points she has promised so far (counting distribution). A fourth trump alone is enough to make it relatively safe. At matchpoints, letting them play two of a major they agree on is usually a bad idea. Still, as opener you have done your job by passing – your partner makes the decision with pretty accurate information, knowing you don’t have extras.

Saving Misfits

They deal and open 1♣, and your partner makes a weak jump overcall, say 2♥. She has a weak hand and six hearts. You look at your hand and of course you see that you have only one heart and ten points. You have six Spades. They aren’t fabulous, but you do have six of them. Should you bid 2 Spades and hope to “save” partner?

No: Your side has less than twenty total points and you’re in over your heads. Don’t make it worse by groping in the dark for a better suit and ending higher.

Something often forgotten is that a new suit by responder is forcing. If partner opens 2♥ then if you bid 2♠ immediately it is forcing. Prepare to hear 3♥!

If you pass, and they double, then you can consider bidding your six spades if it passes around to you.