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Finding the Trump Suit

There are 13 cards in each suit. The more cards you and partner hold in one suit, the better the trump suit (or “fit”) it becomes. For example, a ten-card fit is fabulous, leaving the opponents with only three cards. It’s rare, though.

In practice, experience shows that a fit of eight or more cards constitutes a decent-enough trump suit. That leaves the opponents with only five cards; five missing cards will normally split 3-2, so three rounds and their trumps will have gone.

The first goal of the bidding is to find a fit. When partner opens or responds in a suit, they guarantee at least four cards. If you have four cards, you have immediately found your fit. Therefore, with four-card support, do not introduce a new suit1.

I was asked this question the other day (relating to a column I wrote in The Times), “Andrew, you suggest, with KJ982, J852, J2, 32, to respond 2 to partner’s 1 opener. I would respond 1 – is this wrong?” And the answer (which I expressed as politely as possible) is, “Yes, it is wrong to bid 1. You have found your eight-card major fit – hearts. You should support.” Fail to support hearts straight away and partner will never believe you have four-card support. For example, if you bid 1, then go back to hearts next time, your partner will think you’re making a (probably) reluctant preference bid, holding three or even only two hearts.

I co-wrote a weighty tome for tournament players over a quarter of a century ago which in truth could have been condensed down to three words, “Support with support"

Exercise: Partner opened 1. What would you respond with these?


Hand a) Hand b) Hand c)
♠ A J
5 4 3 2
K Q 8 5 2
 K 2
♠ 8 6
♥ J 7 4 3 2
A 9 4 2
 3 2
♠ J 8 4 2
A K 2
♦ 8 6 5
Q 5 2
  • (a). Bid 4. You have an eight-card heart fit and the values for game (25+ partnership points).
  • (b). Bid 2. Your 2 bid classically shows 6-9 points. Your great support easily compensates for the lack of a sixth high-card point.
  • (c). Bid 1. You may not have a heart fit, so introduce spades. It’s entirely possible partner has four hearts and four spades and that spades is your trump suit.

1Unless partner has bid a minor, in which case it makes sense to introduce a major, because game in a major requires fewer tricks.

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