Don't be afraid to respond

Mark Horton ( England )

MARK HORTON  is  Editor of BRIDGE Magazine and no international tournament is complete, without his presence as Bulletin Editor. As a player he has won most English tournaments and represented England in several Camrose matches; now he dashes all over the world, playing in and reporting on international tournaments.


All the textbooks tell you that you need six points to respond to your partner's opening bid. However, my advice is to bid as often as you can.

Why is this a good idea? Firstly, let's take a look at this deal from the 1993 Spingold Final




                        A 4 3 2

                      J 4 2

                      J 10 8

                      ♣ A Q J

♠ 7                                     ♠ Q J 10 9 5

A K 9 8 3   N_S Game   10 7

Q 7 6           Dealer W    5 4 3

♣ K 8 7 5                          ♣ 10 6 2

                      ♠ K 8 6

                      Q 6 5

                      A K 9 2

                      ♣ 9 4 3


In the Open Room the bidding followed a predictable course:



Deutsch    Nickell           Lall           Freeman

     1            Pass           Pass

1 NT        Pass          3NT        All Pass


Nickell made a good start with his opening lead of the ace of hearts but then continued with a low heart. Deutsch won with the queen and took a club finesse. He returned to hand with the king of spades and repeated the club finesse.

Now he cashed the ace of clubs and overtook the jack of diamonds with the ace. When a spade to the ace saw West discarding a heart, he exited with a heart to endplay West into leading away from the queen of diamonds, and so scored +600.

Had Nickell continued with king and another heart after cashing the ace, declarer would not have been able to throw him in and would have had to go down.

When the board was replayed West was not called upon to find the killing defence.



Meckstroth      Martel        Rodwell      Stansby

       1                  Pass      1 ♠

Pass           2♣            All Pass


East's decision to respond One Spade left one of the world's best pairs with no obvious way into the auction. A misdefence allowed Martel to score seven tricks but with undertricks costing only 50 points a time he was on to a winner in any event.

So you can see that by responding on a sub-minimum hand you may make it very difficult for your opponents to enter the bidding Ė and even if they do they may not reach their best contract.


THERE is another compelling reason why you should strain to respond when your partner opens the bidding; it may enable to you to reach your own best contract. Here is a simple example:


            ♠ J 9 7 4 2


            10 6

            ♣ Q 10 9 7 3


            E-W Game

              Dealer S


            ♠ 5

            A K 7 4

            A Q J 8 3

            ♣ A K 8


Here, 3NT and Five Clubs are playable contracts and Five Diamonds has its chances. On a good day you might even make Six Clubs! However, this all becomes mere speculation if North fails to respond to South's opening bid of One Diamond.


ON many hands a sub-standard response will allow you to reach a better partscore. Here's a typical example from a Wales v England match:


            ♠ 7

            9 8 7 5

            7 5 4

            ♣ A 10 7 6 3


             Game All

             Dealer S


            ♠ A J 8 5 3

            A K 6 2

            A J

            ♣ 8 4


North-South can reach a heart contract only if North responds to South's One Spade opening.


Still not convinced? Here is an example from an international tournament in Holland :


            ♠ K 5

            A K Q 10 9

            A Q J 7 6 5

            ♣ ---


♠ A J 8 6                       ♠ 10 9 2

J 8 3    E-W Game      6 4 2

8 4        Dealer S        10 3 2

♣ K J 8 3                     ♣ A Q 8 2


            ♠ Q 7 4 3

            7 5

            K 9

            ♣ 10 7 6 5 4


After two passes, both Norths opened One Diamond. At one table South was happy to  pass but less cheerful when twelve tricks were made.

His opposite number responded One Spade and North rebid Three Hearts, in their methods showing a very strong hand with at  least four hearts. South gave preference with Four Diamonds and North continued with Four Hearts. When South bid Five Diamonds, North reflected that his partner hadnít bid  3NT over Three Hearts and had failed to make a  cue-bid in clubs. Having decided there were no  wasted values in clubs, he went on to Six Diamonds.


So, there you are, as a steady and sometimes spectacular, points earner, my BOL  bridge tip is: Donít be afraid to respond to an opening bid