Better Basic Bridge: Learning rules of bridge, when to break them

Nancy Evins • Updated Jul 23, 2017 at 2:00 PM

One must learn all the rules about bridge and then one must learn when to break them, which isn’t often.

One rule is that when a player makes a pre-emptive bid, he is no longer in charge and cannot bid again unless partner makes bidding questions.

Recently, I had a hand with eight points, six spades to the ace, five clubs to the ace, a void in diamonds and a doubleton heart. I opened two spades, which is a six-card suit, no side major and five to 10 points.

My partner makes a bidding question of two no trump which means he has at least 15 points and some spade support. My answer is three diamonds (the old mini, midi, maxi response of 5/6, 7/8 or 9/10). He signs off at three spades, so what do I know?

I know that now I can add points for my void since he has spade support, and my hand grows up to 11 points. So 15 plus 11 should be a game-going hand. I bid four spades, and he mutters, “You’ve chewed me out for doing that in the past.”

I make the bid plus an overtrick and give him my reasoning, and he accepts it along with good grace along with the good results.

That doesn’t happen often.

Once I did fuss at him for raising my balancing bid. The opponent to my left had opened one club, and my partner passed. The other opponent bid a new suit, a heart, supported by first opponent, and it was passed around to me.

I was sitting there with only nine points and debating whether these opponents were savvy. Not, meaning they didn’t know how to bid and would perhaps go to game if I balanced. I have played in many ladies’ clubs where when I balanced, someone would take another bid and I would have made a good board letting them make a part score, rather than the full game.

I decide to balance with my few points and as you know, balancing is bidding your partner’s hand as obviously he must have some if they have only enough to get to the two level. It is usually done only up to two hearts if that is the bid about to be passed. It also means that your partner should never raise the balancing bidder’s bid. The point is to get to a part score yourself, even going down one will usually produce a good board and/or it makes them take another bid, in which case you may be able to set them. 

If they stop at the two level it means they would have about 20 points between them, so with my nine, that means partner must hold about 11. I bid my best suit and then to my amazement, partner goes to three no-trump and makes it.

He could not bid the first time because the opponent to his right had bid his suit. He had a singleton in the suit that I bid and had about 14 points, meaning he couldn’t bid one no-trump which requires a 15 to 18 points over an overcall (15 to 17 at all other times).

As an aside, I once had an opponent who bid one diamond after my one club opening. Her husband got the bid, and she laid down three diamonds to the jack. She had an opening bid of clubs had I not bid them in front of her. Someone, I won’t say who, commented that she needed five of a suit at least to make an overcall. She said, “But I had an opening hand.” True, but you must pass and hubby or whoever should figure out that by the way his opponents are bidding.

Well, my partner made the three no-trump bid and his explanation was something like mine.

So breaking rules can sometimes be very effective, but don’t try this at home (games).

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email him at na_evins@att.

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