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How to consult partner

Say the auction begins: (all non-vulnerable).
South West North East
1♠ Dbl 2♠ Dbl1

(1) Responsive ie take-out. Normally without four hearts, or
East would simply bid the suit.

Let us consider some of Souths options:

  • a) Pass. This will almost certainly mean that neither North (who has made his one supporting bid) nor South (who would have said something if he was interested in further action) will contribute further.
  • b) 3♣// . This is a natural(ish) second suit bid that announces interest in competing. South is involving partner, so partner can judge whether to out-compete E-W (with fitting length and honours in the two suits South has bid). South may be interested in game, but could easily have minimal high-card strength and be looking for a one-down sacrifice in 4♠ (doubled). The 3♣// is a classic helping-partner-bid, the hallmark of a good competitive bidder. 
  • c) 3♠. This is non-invitational. By bidding to what he deems is his side’s limit (or beyond) straight away, he forces E-W to take the ‘last guess’. South probably has a minimumish opener with six spades (or perhaps a 5431 shape); but he could be bluffing with extras, hoping to lure E-W into bidding on (which he will double). Note that South’s 3♠ does not involve partner; North is never supposed to bid 4♠. 
  • d) 4♠. Another bid that does not involve partner. That doesn’t make it a bad bid. In fact 4♠ is a very effective bid here, for only South knows whether he’s bidding to make, or as an advance save.

So you as South have two basic ways to go. You can involve partner (3♣// ); or you can go it alone 3♠/4♠, making life as difficult as possible for the opponents. Your hand, your mood, the quality of your opponents (and your partner!): all these factors must be borne in mind. The better player your partner (relative to the opponents), the more you should involve him/her.. 

South Deals
None Vul
 8 4 2
Q 7 6 2
6 3
A J 7 3
A K J 10 7
A K 9 5
8 6 5
W   E
Q 9 5 3
J 5
Q 10 7 4 2
10 2
A K 9 8 4 3
J 8
K Q 9 4
West North East South
 1   2   3 1 4 2
 4 3  54  Pass Pass
Dbl5 Pass Pass Pass
  1. Preemptively bidding to the (nine-card) level of the fit.
  2. The key bid. By bidding his second suit, South invites North to bid 5 (over E-W’s 4♠) if has has good club length/strength.
  3. Might bid 4 to involve partner, but West does not want East to bid 5♠ over 5 (as he would have), for West has good defence to 5 .
  4. Double fit – loves his clubs for bidding.
  5. Hoping three of his top cards cash.

West cashed AK and ♠A – down one; but E-W would have made 4♠.

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