Monday, April-20-09


Hand Evaluation – Systemic ( Bidding Stoppers )




        I have written many articles on the dangers of confusion caused by bidding stoppers rather than suits. These auctions also include 4th suit forcing sequences which can also complicate bidding sequences. These two concepts are not without merit though. The key is to identify "triggers" from the bidding which would allow showing stoppers or in some cases logical 4th suit forcing auctions.


        When one partner has described her hand so that a fit would be nearly impossible , a delicate 4th suit forcing auction could follow.




3-P                           Partner has shown 10 cards in the minors so finding a major suit fit has been reduced to almost zero. Responder can now get away with a NT grope due that bidding trigger. The partnership better be tuned into that wavelength though . It is quite a leap for some players to fathom that her own bidding has now changed the meaning of partner’s bidding. Captaincy changes back & forth when one partner has described her hand that well. In this case, responder is captain so a delicate bid can be made with a meaning “describe your hand further “.


       The holy grail with minor suit auctions is reaching 3NT . Using minor suit rebids as a trigger , showing stoppers initially can be done as long as the bid cannot be misinterpreted as natural.



2♣-P-2♠-P            There is no harm in responders ♠ bid being a NT grope in this auction. Why , because opener has bypassed spades herself to rebid 2♣. Responder expects opener to bid NT with diamonds stopped. This is due in part due to the 2♣ rebid transferring captaincy to responder. Opener has described most of her hand with her rebid.


        The Kokish 1-P-2♣ structure keeps bidding stoppers out of the equation systemically. Responders’ bids must be suits & the opening bidder must bid NT rather than stoppers by design. If you do not play that formal a structure ,  when the auction is minor orientated with 3NT a goal  bidding stoppers could be tolerated . Inverted minors is another area where 3NT is the goal . However ,bidding stoppers is a tradeoff  to announcing your hand pattern or strength. Bidding stoppers may also help the opponents who were about to lead blind in a "weak NT" sort of auction. Statistics show that the majority of 3NT contracts can be defeated with the correct opening lead. Why help the opponents when the HCP's & flat distribution indicate a 3NT contract ? I feel that bidding stoppers as a style has too many downsides for that particular bidding luxury.



2NT-P-3NT                  Your lead , sir.


        2/1 auctions in general open up opportunities to bid stoppers when it is obvious no fit has been found.



2-P-2♥            is an auction that needs partnership agreement. Partner announcing 9 cards in two suits makes her hand an "open book" so 2 should not be a suit or even a stopper. Captaincy again has been transferred to responder. This is a NT grope asking for a heart stopper for 3NT. Do not make useless bids in Bridge. Bidding 2 as natural will "wrong side" the 3NT contract , so has no use. If responder had hearts , she would have bid the NT.


    The reason why 4th suit forcing & bidding stoppers is dangerous is that the partnership must recognize  bidding "triggers" that allow such bids. Eric Kokish says that bidding stoppers in general is "silly" & avoids that style when possible. On the other hand , Mike Lawrence recommends bidding stoppers as a rule with 2/1 auctions. My style is to make it tough on opponents to lead against 3NT & not bid stoppers as a philosophy. However , if there is a bidding trigger available that partner can read , I will bid stoppers or 4th suit forcing . The ultimate test is partner being able to read the situation via captaincy. I call it the "rules are made to be broken " style.