Misfits and Rescuing

In certain religions there is a belief that a god saves people, but there is no religion where people do. Saving partner is not your job unless you can do it safely.

Your partner opens a Spade, and you don’t have any. You open a diamond, partner says a spade, and your shape is 1=4=5=3. Partner opens 2 Diamonds, and you’re looking at a void. What to do?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • “How many points do we have for sure?”
    The answer will determine if you should try for game or not. If there is no prospect of a game, your goal is to find a place to stop.
  • What do my various bid choices mean? Which ones are forcing?

Partner Bids Your Void

Partner opens a spade, and you don’t have any. How many points do we have?

  • If you have less than six, Pass. That’s the right bid. Don’t worry that partner is going to be stuck there. Either he has a big hand and / or the opponents will bid.

    If you make any normal bid, it is forcing.

    If you have agreed on weak jump shifts, and have 4 or 5 points in a good six card major, you might be able to bid over a minor opener, but not over 1♠. A cheap drop-dead bid at the two level is the most you could venture.

  • If you have six or more points, you must bid. But unless you have ten points or more your only choice is 1N. That has the virtue of not being forcing. Remember, a response of 1N does not promise a balanced or semi-balanced hand. (A rebid of 1N by the opener does!). The 1N bid is there precisely to say, 6 to a bad 10 HCP, no fit for your suit, no higher suit at the one level.


The auction begins with your bid of one diamond, partner says one spade. You have a 1=4=5=3 shape with 13 HCP:

♠4 ♥KQ32 ♦AK965 ♣J72

Game is possible. But we can’t bid 2♥ because that would show 16 HCP+ (it is a reverse). We cannot rebid 1N because that promises a balanced hand.

Should we lie about that? It is dangerous. If your partner has six Spades, for example, and 12 points, you may well hear a 4♠ bid. Partner thinks we have an 8-card Spade fit so is entitled to revalue his hand. It might take a miracle to make it.

So, since we cannot lie to partner about our points or shape, we can choose between 2♣ or 2♦. Partner should be aware that your Club bid could be only 3 cards and with a weakish hand bid 2♦ his diamonds are better than his clubs. That’s called “correcting” and you will Pass. The 2♣ bid confirms four diamonds at least. (You could be 1=4=4=4).

Void Opposite A Preempt

Partner opens 2♦. You have a minimal opening hand but no diamonds.

Do not try to rescue him! He’s got six of them; he’ll live. Any bid you make except 3♦ is forcing. If you force him, and partner has nothing else to say, he will answer 3♦; you will be sad.

If I have one or two cards in partner’s suit, I use the rule of 17: add how many HCP you have and how many of partner’s suit together, and if it is 17 or more you might have a 3N game.

You’ll need the other 3 suits well stopped, of course. But the main problem is that with zero or one in partner’s suit, you may not be able to get to his winners. That is one reason the “feature-asking” 2N reply is popular. You can find out if the preempting hand has an outside entry.

They Double Us

Usually, their double is for takeout. Should the partner of the doubler pass, however, we know the reason: there is a bad trump split. Should we rescue now?

If the double was from the fourth seat after you passed your partner’s opener, and two passes takes the auction back to you, something has changed: your bids are no longer forcing or telling partner a lie about your points. So if you had a good suit you could consider bidding it. But you have no assurance that partner has any more of your suit than you do of his.

If the double was from the direct seat, the opener can redouble to ask you for a rescue. The old meaning of redouble was to redouble the stakes in a money game. In duplicate, if you can make the doubled game you are already going to get a good score, so the vast majority of the time, a “redouble is for rescue”.

When asked for a rescue, if you don’t have a good suit, bid your cheapest four-card suit. Your partner may crawl up if that is bad for him. Both of you are anxious to pass. Maybe it is only a 4-2 fit, but that’s likely better than a 6-0 fit with 5-2 against you.

Notrump Is Not The Answer

If you find yourself in a misfit, it is not a reason to bid notrump. Notrump bids need more HCP than suit bids, and misfits guarantee communication problems compared to suit bids. A bad fit is not the end of the world.

Avoid Trump Avoidance

When you do have to play in a bad fit, be sure to beware of what my teacher calls, “Trump Avoidance”. Trump Avoidance is not playing the trump suit because yours if awful. If you can get in a ruff in the short hand, great, otherwise it is important to draw trump because you’ll be pulling two of theirs for every one of yours. If they get a cross-ruff going with all those trump they have, that’s when you go down four or five.

One way to make do is to discover that you did have a side suit after all. If you can play winners in that suit after drawing some trump, you may be able to force them to ruff a time or two until you do have more trump left than they do and are back in control.