There are a few times when you can make a bid and that bid says it all about your hand in one go – but very few. This is because there are 52 trillion possible hands and 35 bids. The most simple descriptive bids are 1N, 2N, weak 2’s and weak 3’s, where your hand is quite defined as to points and shape. You have any hand outside these parameters –and there's quite a few trillion of them – then you’re going to have to find other ways to describe all those hands. You do this by means of …
Because you just can’t have one bid to describe all the hands you might have, you have to make use of a sequence of bids that tell a simple story rather like pre-historic pictograms. People ask “what does that bid mean?” Too often the answer is “it doesn't mean anything. Yet.” Just as a Pharaonic name is a cartouche comprised of different pictograms, so a bid in isolation can be meaningless until it is accompanied with a further, more explanatory bid.
When partner opens 1S (playing a natural Acol based system) all we know is that they have at least 4 Spades and somewhere between about 10 - 20 HCP. This is by and large fairly useless information. We cannot assess the joint values of our two hands until we know more exactly about the HCP and the shape opposite and so make a judgement of how our two hands fit together. Depending on our bid in response, partner may rebid 2C,2D, 2H, 2S, 2N, 3C, 3D, 3H, 3S, 3N etc etc etc. But the point is that each of these separate rebids re-defines the hand opposite more narrowly in terms of its HCP as well as its shape. The cartouche has been given extra meaning.
When partner opens (a) 1S, then rebids 2S, this is different from (b) 1S followed by a 3S rebid.
(a) Shows about 10 - 15 HCP and a 5+ card suit (the weaker the hand the longer the suit – theoretically). (b) Shows about 15 - 18 HCP and a 6+ card suit
Neither of these bids in unconditionally forcing, but the cartouche is now clearer than after the first pictogram (bid).
Similarly, 1S followed by (a) 2H or (b) 3H paint different pictures (a) shows 10 -15 with at least 5 Spades and 4 Hearts while (b) shows 16 - 20 HCP again 5 - 4 at least. Could be 5 -5, 6 - 5, 6 - 6. Hopefully this information will gleaned from the third Pictogram (bid). Note that (b) here is unconditionally forcing.
The same is true of the NT rebids after an opening bid of one of a suit:
1NT = 15 - 16
2NT = 17 - 18
3NT = 19 - 20
It follows that when you start to chisel your pictograms in the cartouche on the sandstone block you need to be aware of just what message you intend to convey before you lift the hammer. You are the dealer. What are you going to bid and rebid with the following hand? Decide before you mark the stone…
The first bid is clearly 1D. But haste ye not so fast yet to bid! What is the rebid? What is the hand value? Where are you going? Remember this is a partnership game. OK, you can carve all the cartouches you like but the true meaning of the ancient inscription can only be fully deciphered when your partner’s pictogram has also been included in the cartouche.
Consider: 2N (Game forcing) and 3D (10 - 12, 4 card support) are outside bets from partner but not impossible: with either you make sure of game and maybe sniff slam. (Ditto with 2H or 2S) However partner may most likely bid 1H, 1S, 1NT, 2C or 2D and each of these alters the value of your hand and therefore what your rebid is:
- 1D - 1H - ? Bid 3H. VG support 15 HCP + 2/3 for the singleton
- 1D - 1S - ? Bid 1NT. 15 - 16 HCP (Not classic, I know...)
- 1D - 1NT - ? PASS. 2D not impossible, nor, oddly, even 2C (partner must have at least 4)
- 1D - 2C - ? Bid 2H. After a 2 level response (10+ HCP) you just about have enough for the game forcing reverse, especially with the Qxx of clubs.
- 1D - 2D - ? Bid 2H. 2H here shows the stopper in the suit and is a gentle nudge towards 3N or 5D if partner is max.
OK. Now you can bid. Now you have the picture in your head. Now you are prepared. Although you might like also to think about what happens if the bidding goes:
1D - (2S!) - PASS - (PASS)
(Answer: you’ll double and pray partner can pass for penalties!!!)
See you soon, now.