Friday, January 17, 2014

Prepared Bids (part 2)

I don't really like the name "prepared bid" because it doesn't have much intrinsic meaning. But it is a well-known term for what amounts to a "temporizing bid." I wrote some thoughts on this topic (and the nomenclature) in Prepared bids (part 1).

The essence of a prepared bid is that you know that it is going to temporarily confuse partner, but you mean to clarify the description of your hand at your next turn. Perhaps the most common instance is when you pick up a hand of 4=3=3=3 (or similar) shape and it doesn't fit your range for 1NT.  You open 1, preparing for a rebid of 1NT. The only thing that's going to change your mind is if partner responds 1 - you will raise to 2. I realize that some of you are going to rebid 1 after partner responds 1 but if you do that, your partners will never know if you have real clubs or not.

But here's another, less typical, prepared bid situation: ♠KT9 AKQ865 KQ5 ♣3. You decide to open 1, partner responds 1, and you rebid 3. Of course, you do not really intend to play in diamonds at all, you are simply using that bid as a game force. You expect to play either in hearts, spades or notrump, depending on what partner does next. If partner doesn't raise hearts, or bid notrump, you plan to clarify your hand by making a delayed (three-card) raise to spades. You might even do so if partner does bid notrump. What you don't really want to hear is 4, because if partner has a good hand with four-four in the pointed suits, you might end up in a diamond slam on a Moyseian fit.

Still, as with all prepared bids, you know that there's a risk of partner getting the wrong idea -- it's just that you believe that said risk is less than the inherent risks of any other action. In our case, you might also rebid 3♥ but that could easily get passed out when game is possible in spades or notrump. Similarly, you could jump to 3 but partner is likely to be extremely disappointed in your trump holding.

So, it's essential when making a prepared bid, not only to have a plan for all likely responses but also to ensure that your sequence will describe your hand as accurately as possible. So, what will you do if partner raises diamonds? You have a great hand with unannounced support for partner's suit and a fantastic suit of your own. The decision is going to be further complicated if you're using 4 as kickback (keycard ask) for diamonds.

It's a tough one, but I think that the bid you should be planning after a diamond raise is 4. Partner will know that you have only three spades and some sort of red two-suiter (and therefore at most one club). How likely is it that partner has only four spades? What if he's got two hearts and that would be the best strain.

First, we need to consider what his strength is. Could he have a bare minimum? I don't think so. We created a game force and a minimum hand would bid either 3♥ (with two hearts), 3♠ (with five spades and fewer than two hearts), 3NT (with a balanced hand with two hearts and a club card), or 5. Furthermore, a minimum hand has fewer than three hearts (else partner would have raised hearts to begin with). So, in this context, 4 implies that slam is possible, unequivocally denies three hearts, six spades and probably denies much in the club suit. So, we know partner has at least four spades, four diamonds and at most two hearts.

What are the relative lengths of the pointed suits in partner's hand? Is it possible that he has more diamonds than spades. Yes, it's possible. He certainly doesn't have a game-forcing hand with more diamonds than spades. Nevertheless, I think the evidence is for partner having five spades, at most two hearts, at least four diamonds and some number of clubs. It's not guaranteed that he has five spades, but I think the odds favor that. At least if you do end up with only seven trumps, partner will be able to ruff clubs in the short hand, and your holding is rather good for ruffing.

I'm told that the auction, between two good flight A players, went a little off the rails after the prepared bid of 3. But it wasn't entirely obvious to me at first where to assign the blame (if any). The player with the hand shown thought that denied 4 five spades; responder didn't. Undoubtedly a difficult hand and one that I think requires quite a bit of care and thought to get just right (if there is such a thing as right in this context). Incidentally, if you're wondering what the other hand looked like, take a look at this bidding poll on Bridge Winners.


  1. When the opening bid was 1H, I don't think that later 4H should be kickback. After 1H-1S; 3D-4D, Under my favored rules for kickback, no suit bid naturally as a first bid can be the denomination for a later kickback call. Both 4H and 4S would be natural, leaving the keycard call as 4NT.

  2. Well, perhaps it was a superfluous comment, because the players involved weren't using kickback. But I'm pretty sure that if Kim and I had been playing this hand, 4!H would be kickback for diamonds here.