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Which suit to respond to a 1 ♠ opener (with six or more points but fewer than four spades)

You cannot bid a suit at the One-level (it’s illegal!). The first decision is, can you bid your longest suit at the Two-level?

Use the Rule of 14 check. Add up the number of cards in the suit you wish to bid at the Two-level to your total high-card points. Do you reach 14?

If you fail the Rule of 14, you have to bid either the “dustbin 1NT” or raise to 2 ♠. I recommend raising to 2 whenever you have three cards, unless you have a very flat hand and three small spades. With either a small doubleton or a singleton in another suit and/or a picture in spades, support partner.

If you satisfy the Rule of 14, go ahead and bid at the Two-level, following the normal responding guidelines ie (a) longest suit, (b) cheaper of fours, (c) higher of fives.

Repsond to 1 with these

Hand a) Hand b) Hand c)
♠ Q 8 4
A 4
J 9 8 4 3 2
6 2
♠ 8 7 2
A K 3 2
A 5 3 2
7 2
♠ - -
8 5 4 3 2
Q 8 7 4 3 2
A 2

  • With (a), respond 2 . Failing the Rule of 14, responding 2 would be an overbid. Prefer 2 to 1NT – more helpful to partner (partner may have only four spades, but, if so, she’ll have 15 or more points – she didn’t open 1NT).
  • With (b), respond 2 cheaper of fours. Don’t worry – you won’t miss a heart fit as you have given partner an easy opportunity to rebid 2 if she has four of them. [Indeed a corollary of always responding the cheaper of fours is that a response of 2 to 1 shows five+ cards. Responses of 2 and 2 show four+ cards.]
  • With (c), respond 1NT. Don’t worry about being unbalanced. The 1NT response doesn’t say anything about wanting to play in notrumps; the bid is made because it’s the only legal One-level bid over 1 . It says nothing about being balanced.
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