Bridge Matters: Invitational or competitive bids?

| September 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Your foursome is ready for bidding, and here’s the auction. You are West. What do you bid?


Here are two hands:


In Hand 1, you have a simple overcall. You don’t want to sell out to 3C with six spades, even though you are missing 3 of the top 4 honors.

In Hand 2, you have a full opening hand and are interested in game. So what do you call?

Most people would probably call 3S on both hands. But in Hand 1 you want your partner to pass, regardless of whether or not your Left Hand Opponent (LHO) raises to 4C, since she has just given you a simple raise, promising 3 trump and 6-9 High Card Points (HCP). In Hand 2, you are interested in game. How do you differentiate between the two?

There is a simple way to do this. It is called a “game try bid,” and it says nothing about the suit called. If you play this, in Hand 1 you may freely raise to 3S without worrying about partner going forward with minimum support. This is what is called a “competitive raise.” It says, “partner, I don’t think we have game, but we have at least an 8-card trump fit” (your partner doesn’t know you have 6 spades) “and I don’t want to sell out to 3 clubs. If they compete to 4C, let them have it, but if they don’t compete, don’t raise me to 4 spades.”

In Hand 2, however, because you are interested in a possible game bid, you make a “game try” by asking her about her hand. You do this by bidding a new, unbid suit. In this instance, you would bid 3D. This says to partner, “Partner, I know we have a spade fit. How is the rest of your hand? If you are at the top of your bid, bid game, 4 spades. If not, just close out in 3 spades, or, if my LHO has bid 4 clubs, pass.”

Please note that this bid says nothing about diamonds (some higher level players play something called a “help suit game try,” but that’s beyond the scope of what I’m writing here). In this case, the hand actually does have a good 4-card diamond suit. But all my hands in my columns are based on actual hands I’ve played, so this is the hand I used. But you would still make this bid with absolutely nothing in diamonds because its only purpose is to show that you have a game-going hand if partner is at the top of her bid.

If you have this understanding, then you may freely overcall 3C with 3S in Hand 1 without worrying about partner bidding 4S, regardless of what your LHO does.

In fact, the actual hand held by partner was:


So in response to the 3D invitational bid for Hand 2, she would probably try for game with 9 good points, 1 1/2 quick tricks and four trump. But with a 3S competitive bid in Hand 1, she would pass, regardless of what her Right Hand Opponent (RHO) did. In fact, in the actual hand, Hand 1 made 3 spades, losing 2 spades, a heart and a diamond. I think that Hand 2 has an excellent chance to make 4 spades.

Here’s the four-hand layout:



Grand Slam is the nom de plume for an author of a bestselling book on bridge, an ACBL accredited director and a Silver Life Master.

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