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The Intermediate Series

Lesson 4 – Opener’s 3rd Bid


This seems an odd topic, but one in which many players don’t have a clue!


As a review:


Opener’s 2nd bid shows his hand type:

Balanced minimum

Balanced maximum

Unbalanced minimum

Unbalanced game forcing


Balanced Minimum


I. This one is pretty easy. Partner will either:


Place the contract


You                 Partner         

1♣                   1♥

1NT                 2♥





1♣                   1♥

1NT                 3NT


II. Show invitational (plus) values by bidding new minor forcing (NMF) or bidding 2NT. If you don’t play NMF you should. It shows invitational values and asks opener to continue to describe their hand:


1♣                   1♥

1NT                 2♦


Meaning of responses:


2♥       Three hearts

2♠       Four spades, denies three hearts

2NT     Minimum denying three hearts and four spades.

3NT     Maximum, denying three hearts and four spades.


III. Show invitational values by bidding 2NT.


IV. Show invitational values by jumping in a suit.


Accepting or Not


I. Pass with a minimum and bid as over NMF with a game accepting hand.


II. Accept invitation using the below indicators as a basis for your decision:


a) Intermediates in partner’s or agreed suit

b) Aces and Kings

c) Maximum




You                 Partner         

1♣                   1♥

1NT                 3♥



Pass with ♠AKx ♥xx ♦Qxx ♣QJxxx, but bid 4♥ with ♠Kxx ♥Q10 ♦KJxx ♣Axxx. Generally speaking, 3NT is usually not a viable choice on this type of auction.



Balanced Maximum


Partner          You

1♣                   1♥

2NT                 ?


A worthwhile convention on this auction is Woolf.  If you don’t play Woolf, a new suit is natural and forcing to game. It is looking for the best contract and may or may not be slammish.


Unbalanced Minimum


This is the one that is the hardest to master. Why? The actual minimum is 11-18 HCPs – a huge range. So opener must have a way to show a 15-18 point range hand. As an example you pick up ♠KQxx ♥x ♦QJx ♣AKJxx. The bidding starts:


You                 Partner         

1♣                   1♥

1♠                   1NT



Partner could have as much as a bad 10 point hand, so I would bid 2♦. Bidding the third suit shows 15-18 and at least three cards in the third suit, thus showing shortness in the fourth. However change the auction slightly:


You                 Partner         

1♣                   1♥

1♠                   2♥



Now if you bid the 4th suit it is at the three level. If your best fit is in clubs, now you have to contract for 10 tricks. You don’t have a good enough hand. 2NT is a slight overbid on this auction, while pass is the odds on choice.

If instead you held ♠KQxx ♥- ♦QJx ♣AKJ10xx, 3♦is clearly the best choice.



Unbalanced Maximum


This one isn’t too bad. Partner is trying to describe his hand while waiting for you to finished describing yours. Let’s say the bidding starts:


You                 Partner         

1♥                   1NT


You are in a game forcing auction so any non-game bid is forcing, and any unnecessary jump to game is discouraging. So you might jump to 5♣ with♠Kxx ♥x ♦Qxxx ♣Jxxxx. If partner bids 3NT he could be very weak, so pass with any quasi-balanced hand.


What if you are more unbalanced? It depends. With a minimum it is best to pass unless you are at least 6-5, or 5-5 with a void. With the latter hand bid your three card suit, not your second suit. The reason is partner will ‘know’ you are most likely 5-5-3-0 shape otherwise you would have passed 3NT with some 5-4-3-1 distribution.


With most 5-5-2-1 hands I would pass 3NT (and pray!) unless all my cards were in my two suits such as ♠x ♥AKQxx ♦xx ♣AKJ10x, where I would rebid 4♣.* If you are 6-5 or 6-6, rebid your second suit. This says to partner, ‘One of my suits are trump, pick one.’ Partner will pick a suit at the game or slam level, or cue-bid an ace, agreeing the 2nd suit.



*The thinking player might ask: ’Why force to game when you only have 17 HCPs. Because this hand is much better than its points. Another way to look at it, which hand do you like better the above one or♠KJ ♥KQxxx ♦KQ ♣KQxx?





Bidding over the opponents’ 1NT opener.


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