From the very beginning of the adopted approach of opening a Major suit with a minimum of five cards the requirement for the responder was that only a 3-card support would be sufficient. This became the foundation of the 5-3 fit, which is deemed so necessary in a bidding sequence employing this approach.
Description of the Concept
This approach was not in opposition of or to the Acol bidding system, but the pioneers of the approaches such as Standard 5-Card Majors and the French majeure cinquieme seemed determined to improve the basic concept of the United Kingdom, or at least offer an alternative approach.
Such is the case also with finding a 4-4 fit in a Major suit. The universal and basic guideline is that if a player, generally the responder, bids a Major suit, then the requirement is that the responder hold a minimum of a 4-card suit in order to show support. The established guideline in basic bridge education required that the partner hold also a 4-card suit before supporting the Major suit of partner. Hence the 4-4 fit was firmly established.
However, such a strict guideline may contain certain bidding flaws when, owing to the shape of the holding, the rebid presents a problem and the bridge player concludes that the best option is to support with only three cards. However, arguments for supporting with only 3-card support has gained acceptance within the bridge community in certain bidding situations. In competitive auctions this particular flaw has been overcome with the development of the support double and/or redouble, which is the preferred approach.
Note: On the bridgeblog of Mr. Bobby Wolff, in a commentary posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012, he advises a stricter guideline for such an action and notes that the right time to raise your partner when you have only three-card support is when you have a small doubleton in a side suit. In addition to this recommendation Mr. Bobby Wolff also explains that the bridge player should consider the make-up of the small doubleton. If the doubleton contains a top honor, Ace-x or King-x, then the bridge player should seriously consider the action of bidding No Trump at the appropriate level to limit the strength of the holding.
The following presents a plausible argumentation for supporting a Major suit bid by partner when holding only three cards, and also provides explanations for a basic method of allowing the partnership to indeed determine whether or not the shown support is either 3-card or 4-card support.
Difficulty in Determining Preferred Rebid
In the following diagrammed two holdings of the partnership the opener, in a non-competitive auction, discovers that a rebid problem is revealed.
North South Meaning
Q95 86 AQ7 AJ1063
AK103 QJ9 1095 K54 1 1 South holds sufficient values to respond. 2 North has the option of rebidding a 5-card Club suit. 2 NT North has the option of rebidding No Trump with no stoppers in Hearts. 2 North has the option of supporting the suit of South with only a 3-card suit.
The difficulty regarding the rebid of North lies in the fact that none of the possible options is optimal, especially if the agreement is that one may only show support with four cards. Rebidding a 5-card Minor suit, which ideally shows at least a 6-card suit, proves not the most desirable with such a weak holding of Ace-Jack-10.
Rebidding No Trump with no stoppers in Hearts seems also risky, although partner may hold such required stoppers for a partscore or game in No Trump.
The third option seems to be the most preferable action since the partnership can have the understanding that any support for a bid Major suit may show only 3 cards as opposed to the general understanding of a 4-card suit support.
The logic behind this reasoning, behind this possible understanding is that the two players can continue to bid in order to discover the nature of the support. Such continuances are shown below.
Major Suit is Spades
North South Meaning
Q95 86 AQ7 AJ1063
AK103 QJ9 1095 K54 1 1 South holds sufficient values to respond, and promises a Major suit with at least 4 cards. 2 Partnership agreement is that support may be only 3 cards. 2 NT Artificial bid (alert). The responder has sufficient values to continue the bidding. (Note: if the responder holds only minimum response values, then pass is also an option.) 3 This rebid promises only 3-card support and minimum opening values. 3 This rebid promises only 3-card support and maximum opening values. 3 This rebid promises 4-card support and minimum opening values. 3 This rebid promises 4-card support and maximum opening values.
With this added information via this response method the responder is able to establish the final contract.
Major Suit is Hearts
In opposition to Spades the responses for the Heart suit must be adjusted somewhat to include the information that the support contains 4 cards and also maximum support.
North South Meaning
75 Q85 AQ7 AJ1063
K109 AK103 1095 K54 1 1 South holds sufficient values to respond, and promises a Major suit with at least 4 cards. 2 Partnership agreement is that support may be only 3 cards. 2 NT Artificial bid (alert). The responder has sufficient values to continue the bidding. (Note: if the responder holds only minimum response values, then pass is also an option.) 3 This rebid promises only 3-card support and minimum opening values. 3 This rebid promises only 3-card support and maximum opening values. 3 This rebid promises 4-card support and minimum opening values. 3 NT This rebid promises 4-card support and maximum opening values.
With the response method for the possible trump suit of Hearts the 3 No Trump continuance bid allows the responder to either bid game in Hearts or allow the game bid of 3 No Trump to stand in the hope of an overtrick, thus out-scoring game in Hearts (430-420).
Responder Holds a 5-Card Major Suit
In the case that the responder indeed holds a 5-card Major suit and the bidding sequence is as presented above, then the responder may decide to employ this continuance method in order to discover whether partner holds minimum (11-12) or maximum (13-14) values. This option is left open for those basing overall evaluation of the holding on the principle of losing tricks.
If the rebid shows minimum values, then the assumption is that the bid shows exactly 7 losing tricks, as opposed to a rebid which shows maximum values for exactly 6 losing tricks. This is, however, not a mandatory requirement since a minimum 5-3 fit is already a known factor.
Showing Support even with a 6-Card Minor Suit
The argument has also been made that it would be preferable to support with only three cards even when holding a 6-card Minor suit. If the quality of the 6-card Minor suit is downgraded to the point that showing support with only three cards for a Major suit bid by partner, then preference is given to showing support in the Major suit. The following holding may illustrate this argument.
North South Meaning
K85 AQ7 54 A108763
A109 KJ103 1095 K54 1 1 South holds sufficient values to respond, and promises a Major suit with at least 4 cards. 2 Partnership agreement is that support may be only 3 cards.
Note: Some bridge purists have declared that if the 6-card Minor suit contains only one of the top two honors and only the lowest honor, the 10, then preference should be shown for partner's Major suit with only 3-card support.
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.
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