Main Page - Lesson Deals - Play Technique Previous - Lessons - Next Bidding Conventions LESSON 25aThe Principle of Delayed Support

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BR 25a.1 - The 3-5 trump fit

The 5-card majors system was designed to quickly reveal a 4-4 trump fit or a 5-3 trump fit, where the 5-card suit is held by the Opener.

But when its the Responder who holds the 5-card suit the situation is not always immediately clear.
(Opener's bids are underlined)

1. After Opener's 1♠ a 2♥ reply by Responder clearly shows a 5-card Hearts suit

2. Likewise in the sequence 1♣ - 1♠ - 1NT - 2♦   Responder shows 5 Spades, because he did not bid his Spades suit "up the line", but skipped the Diamonds suit with his first bid.

3. And after an Overcall by an Opponent of [1♥] a 1♠ bid by Responder also reveals a 5-card major suit, as with only a 4-card suit he would have doubled instead.

4. With a weak hand of 6-10 points Responder has only few options and often his only choice is to rebid his 5-card suit.
(With 11+ pts hands Responder should not rebid his 5-card suit, but jump rebid his 6-card suit.)
But what about the following sequence :   1♦ - 1♠ - 1NT - 2♣

It looks very similar to case "b" above, but it is not. Here Responder did bid his two suits "up the line", for he could not have bid his Clubs at the 1 level.   It is therefore not clear whether Responder holds 5 (or more) Spades or only 4.
To solve this riddle you must understand and follow the principle of delayed support.

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BR 25a.2 - The Principle of Delayed Support

Say you hold the following hand :

♠ - A 10 6     ♥ - K 9 2     ♦ - A Q J 6 3     ♣ - 7 3

You opened the bidding which went like this :   1♦ - 1♥ - 1NT - 2♣ -   what now ?

The answer is simple : by bidding 1NT after Responder's 1♥ bid, you denied having 4-card support in his Hearts suit. Therefore when you support him on the second time around he will know that you hold not 4 but only 3 cards in his suit.   This is the fundamental principle of delayed support.

Therefore with above hand you bid :   1♦ - 1♥ - 1NT - 2♣ - 3♥ ! !

Of course you still don't really know whether Partner actually holds 5 Hearts of 4.
But that does not matter, because your Partner will now know the exact card holding of the Hearts suit in the combined hands.

1. If that total is 8 he will raise the Hearts suit to the 3 or 4 level (depending on his strength).

2. If on the other hand the combined card holding is only 7 Hearts, he will bid something else, most likely 2NT or 3NT.
In either case (with your 15pts hand, and when Partner has not already done so) you raise to Game : in case "a" to 4♥, in case "b" to 3NT.

Here follow two typical cases :

 Case A Opener (W) ♠ - K 8 4 ♥ - A Q 10 8 5 ♦ - A 8 ♣ - J 7 4 Responder (E) ♠ - A Q 9 7 2 ♥ - 9 4 ♦ - K 6 3 ♣ - Q 9 8 5 Comment After East's raise to 2NT, West must give delayed support in Spades. East holding indeed a 5-card Spade suite raises to 4 Spades. Bidding : (W) 1♥ - 1♠ - 1NT - 2NT - 3♠ - 4♠

 Case B Opener (W) ♠ - K 8 4 ♥ - A Q 10 8 5 ♦ - A 8 ♣ - J 7 4 Responder (E) ♠ - A Q 9 7 ♥ - 9 4 ♦ - K J 6 3 ♣ - Q 9 8 5 Comment After East's raise to 2NT, West must give delayed support in Spades. East holding in this case only 4 spades bids 3NT. Bidding : (W) 1♥ - 1♠ - 1NT - 2NT - 3♠ - 3NT

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BR 25a.3 - Responder's perspective

When Responder holds a weak response hand of 6-10 points his rebid choices are limited. With no other options he will rebid his 5-card suit, solving Opener's dilemma.

With all 11+ points hands Responders should at all cost avoid rebidding his 5 -card suit. It is not necessary, as it is Opener's responsibility to give delayed support when he holds 3-card support. But Responder may jump rebid his 6-card suit.

In all other cases where Responder holds a 5-card major, he should find a second bid in another suit or bid 2NT, to give Opener the opportunity to show delayed support.

 Example 1 Responder ♠ - 9 ♥ - A Q 8 5 3 ♦ - 10 9 4 ♣ - K Q 9 6 Bidding : (N) 1♦ - 1♥ - 1NT - 2♣ - ? Comment : If Opener shows delayed support for your Hearts, raise to 4♥. If Opener rebids 2NT, bid 3♦! This will alert him to the fact you are weak in Spades, likely with a singleton. Depending on Opener's Spade stoppers he may bid Hearts (instead of NT), preferring a trump contract with a 2-5 trump holding over a dicey 3NT.

 Example 2 Responder ♠ - K Q 10 9 4 ♥ - 8 3 ♦ - J 10 4 ♣ - K Q 9 Bidding : (N) 1♦ - 1♠ - 1NT - 2♣ - ? Comment : Opener is unlikely to raise your Clubs, so bidding it as a "false suit" (containing only 3 cards) and showing your stoppers is a good option. It provides Opener with an opportunity to show delayed support. Raise Opener's 2♠ to 3, or his 2NT to 3NT.

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BR 25a.4 - Bidding a "false" suit

Bidding a false suit is the bid of a new suit with only 3 cards in that suit. You make such a bid

1. to show a stopper for a possible NO Trump contract

2. to give your Partner another bidding opportunity to show delayed support (for your 5-card suit)

3. or you hold 11-12 points and can not immediately raise Partner's suit (for which you do have trump support) as a first bid.

Always select a false suit which Partner is unlikely to raise, such as a new minor suit (as in Example 2 of the previous chapter).
You can also select a suit of which Partner previously has denied having 4 cards in. Such as in Example 3 below.

 Example 3 Responder ♠ - K Q 9 ♥ - A K 10 9 4 ♦ - 7 4 ♣ - 9 8 4 Bidding : (N) 1♦ - 1♥ - 1NT - 2♠ - ? Comment : Opener can not raise your Spades bid. For by responding with 1NT after your Heart bid he has denied holding 4 spades. You can therefore safely bid your "false" Spade suit, showing you hold a stopper there.   Raise Opener's 3♥ to 4, or his 2NT to 3NT.

Note : You did not show a 5-card Hearts suit in above example, because you could have been bidding your 4-card suits naturally "up the line" !
Also your Spade bid alerts Partner to the fact that you don't hold a Club stopper (if you had both Clubs and Spades stopped you would have rebid 2NT instead of 2♠), in case he is looking for 3NT.

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BR 25a.5 - The Law of Total Tricks

The Law of Total Tricks, as defined by the French Bridge theorist Jean-Rene Vernes says :

 "When playing in a trump contract, the total tricks that can be made by the two sides, each in its best suit, is equal to the total of trumps held in these two suits." The following useful guideline is derived from above Law : When both sides have found a trump fit and the points are not too unequally divided, you should bid for as many tricks as your side has trumps.

For example if your side has (5 + 3 =) 8 Spades and the Opponents possess (5 + 4 =) 9 Diamonds, the total number of tricks that can be made with contracts in these two suits is 8 + 9 = 17 tricks.

The actual tricks makable need not be divided 8-9 (they may be 7-10 or 9-8 for example), as they depend on the favourable or unfavourable location of critical key cards like an Ace or a King. For example if a King sits over the Ace it will likely make a trick, but if it sits under the Ace it will probably be captured by it.

Nevertheless, it is a good rule of thumb (when competing for a Part score) to bid up to the 2 level with 8 trumps and up to the 3 level with 9 trumps. Or, whenNot Vulnerable you might bid up to the 3 level with just 8 trumps, happy to go down one trick.

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BR 25a.6 - Opener's "Support Double"   (and Support Redouble)

The Law of Total Tricks is most useful when competing for a Part score (= a contract below a Game contract) against the Opposition. So the vital question arises : "How many trumps do we have in the combined hands?"

This is where the so-called Support Double comes into the picture.

 After an Overcall by an Opponent over Responder's bid of 1♥ or 1♠, a Double by Opener shows 3-card trump support exactly! All suit raises show 4-card support. After a Take-out Double by an Opponent over Responder's bid of 1♥ or 1♠, a Redouble by Opener also shows 3-card trump support exactly!   A Pass denies 3-card support. The Support Double only applies when the Doubler (or Redoubler) can make a 2- level single raise instead.

The Opener can make a Support Double after Responder's major suit has been overcalled :

N E S W N Meaning
a. 1♦ - 1♠ (2♣) DBL = exactly 3-card support, any Opening strength!
b. 1♦ (1♥) 1♠ (2♣) DBL = exactly 3-card support, any Opening strength!
c. 1♦ - 1♠ (DBL) RDBL = exactly 3-card support, any Opening strength!
d. 1♦ - 1♠ (DBL) Pass = no 3-card support, any Opening strength!
e. 1♦ - 1♠ (2♣) 2♠ = 4-card support, 13-15 points
f. 1♦ - 1♠ (2♣) 3♠ = 4-card support, 16-18 points
g. 1♥ - 1♠ (2♣) 2♦ = no support, 13+ points
h. 1♦ 1♥ (1♠) 1NT = no support, stopper, 13-15 points

The Support Double in above scenario in fact replaces the Delayed support bid, the Opener otherwise would have made one bid later. So the Opponent's Overcall provides the opportunity for the Opener to show his 3-card support straight away.

The Responder may of course have bid only a 4-card suit anyway, but in that case Responder will either Pass Opponent's next bid, or bid another suit or NT (with an Enemy suit stopper).

The original Support Double was devised by triple Bridge World Champion Eric Rodwell.

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BR 25a.7 - Deal 105 - 108

Deals 105 - 108 are examples of bidding as outlined in this lesson.

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