Jeff Lehman

Anticipating Problems of Partner

Karen Walker has presented a long-running series in Bridge Bulletin entitled “Habits of Good Bidders”.  One theme she has presented is that good bidders make the bid their partner wants to hear.  Stated otherwise, good bidders make bids that anticipate the problems of their partners.

Here are a couple of examples from recent play.


First example.  At none vulnerable, your RHO opens 1 in second seat.  You hold AKJ42, K9854, J82, —.  Assume that your partner has convinced you to play a version of Michaels called weak/strong Michaels (not my favorite agreement, but that is neither here nor there).  Holding the neither-weak-nor-strong version, you are forced to overcall 1.  Your LHO passes and your partner raises to 2.  Now opening bidder bids 3.

Do you follow through with your original intention to show your heart suit?

No.  Assuming you agree you do not have enough for a game try, 3 is not the bid that your partner wants to hear.  To your partner, 3 must show a game try.  After all, what other bid is there between 3 and a competitive 3 in order to show a game try?  (Double, I assume, would be for penalty; elsewise, 3 is nearly riskless.)


Second example.  Dealer before you opens 1.  You overcall 1 on KT9632, 9843, A3, 5.  LHO passes and partner cue bids.  Assume your partner, who has convinced you to play new suit advances as nonforcing constructive (again not my favorite agreement; why do all of these matters keep coming up?), cue bids 2.   RHO passes. 

Considering you might have overcalled on a 5-3-3-2 hand, you have some extras.  Do you show them by bidding above 2?

No.  Because partner has not promised spade support, bidding above 2 on a 7 point hand is not the bid your partner wants to hear.  Partner might have a strong hand with no club stopper, meaning that under your partnership’s agreements, cue bidding was partner’s only option.  Bidding 2 seems to keep all options open and thus should keep partner happy.  (If partner has a limit raise in spades, he will next offer 2 and you can then, after hearing about the fit, choose to upgrade your seven loser hand if you feel that is appropriate.)


I highly recommend Karen’s articles.  In fact, I so much support the theme of telling partner what he wants to hear that it colors my choices of conventions and treatments to play and conventions and treatments to avoid.  I tend to disfavor methods that I perceive as short-sighted in favor of methods that anticipate problems of partner.  Maybe someday I will be motivated to write more about this.


Dave Memphis MOJOJuly 17th, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Love this article, Jeff, — such an important concept and well presented.

PhasmidAugust 6th, 2015 at 4:12 am

I agree with you on Michaels (weak/strong) but I don’t agree regarding NFC advances. But, as you say, that is neither here nor there.

I will be interested to hear more on this. I certainly like bids that make life easier for partner.

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