Useful Agreements 1

In this post we concentrate on situations where both of the opponent’s suits are known. Many of you already are familiar with a method known as Unusual against Unusual. The outline below is one of the numerous variations on this defense.

As always, there is nothing to say that you should play the sequences as I describe them there are usually alternative uses for the limited number of bids that are available. What is most important is that you discuss the situation with your regular partner so that you have some agreement. What is vital is that you utilize the available bids to show all the important hand types.

As usual, we start with some bidding problems. On this first batch, you have primary support for partner’s suit.

Hand A
S Q 9 5 2
H J 9 8 3
D A 8 2
C 9 2
Hand B
S K 10 9 2
H Q 10 8 3
D A 8 2
C J 2
Hand C
S K Q 9 2
H K Q 8 3
D A 8 2
C J 2
Hand D
S K Q 9 2
H K Q 8 6 3
D A 8 2
C 2



Partner opens 1S, and RHO overcalls 2NT showing both minors. What would you bid with each of the above hands?

Clearly you are going to raise spades on all of these hands. The opponents have robbed you of a level, though. One way of coping with this situation is to effectively ignore the enemy bid doubling to show a hand that would have raised to 2S and otherwise making the same bid you would have made without the intervention. This approach has a number of disadvantages, though.

For a start, it is important that you have a method that enables you to punish opponents who intervene when the hand does not belong to them. As we shall see in future months, you need to use a double here to consult partner when you think your side should be defending.

The most effective (and popular) approach is to use a raise to 3S here as a semi-defensive bid. It essentially shows a hand that would have raised to the 2-level without the intervention something like Hand A above. Yes, 3S will sometimes be too high for your side, but would you ever think of defending 3C or 3D when you hold this hand? The LAW strongly suggests that if 3Sis too high for you, the odds are huge that the opponents can make a partial (or more).

The advantage of bidding 3S at your first turn is that it may leave LHO poorly placed. For example, suppose he has a hand that wants to invite game.


If you were using double to show Hand A, then LHO can jump to the 4- level to show a game invitational hand.


When you bid 3S on Hand A, LHO must make a decision. Their 4-level bid no longer carries the explicit invitational message that it did before. They now has to bid at the 4-level on any hand with which he wishes to contest the partscore. With enough for an invite, They must decide between underbidding with a competitive 4C/4D or overbidding by committing their side to game.

You also take away LHO’s cuebid.


LHO will often hold a good hand with no clear bid. Perhaps, for example, they are interested in playing 3NT if the ┬ápartner holds some help in spades. Why can’t they hold SAx opposite SKx? If so, 3NT may well be their best spot.


It is now much tougher for LHO to bid 3NT holding just SKx or SAx. They will surely expect that a spade lead will remove their only stopper in the suit, leaving them having to cash eight fast winners.

LHO will very occasionally want to cuebid to show interest beyond game. Of course, they can still do so after you bid 3S, but your defensive raise forces them to do so at the 4-level, thus leaving his side little room for slam investigation.

Okay. Having decided that we should use 3S to show a very moderate hand with primary support, what do we then do with a genuine limit raise such as Hand B?

No doubt you noticed that two cuebids are available to you. My suggestion is that you use the higher of those two cuebids to show primary support for partner’s suit and at least game invitational values.


Thus, you would start with a 3D cuebid holding either Hand B or Hand C.

If partner would have passed a limit raise to 3S, they now signs off. .


If you hold only a limit raise (Hand B), you pass expecting that you have no game.

With Hand C, of course you would carry on to 4S anyway. You have the additional information that partner has a minimum opening and thus slam is not in the picture.

If you were stronger still, you could cuebid over 3S. Having already shown a minimum opening, partner will be happy to co-operate in a slam investigation without fearing that you will expect more from them. In this situation, the enemy intervention has actually assisted your slam investigation.

If partner would have accepted a game invitation, they must bid more than 3S at his second turn.


With just enough to accept an invite, they bids 4S. With a better hand they should cuebid. If you also hold extras, you are well placed to investigate the deal’s slam potential at a comfortable level.

I did not mention Hand D when discussing the 3D cuebid. You should still use a jump to the 4-level (4C in this case) as a splinter bid, just as you would without RHO’s two-suited overcall. In uncontested auctions, many of you will play splinter bids as limited (starting with your game-forcing raise and showing your shortage later on hands with significant extra strength).

It is a matter for partnership agreement whether you adopt the same policy in the type of auction we are discussing here, or whether you splinter on all game-going hands with a shortage in one of the enemy suits.

There is just one other auction to mention while we are discussing spade raises.

Hand E
S K 9 7 6 2
H J 8 7 2
D 9 8 2
C 3

How many spades you should bid when partner opens your long suit and RHO passes is moot. After RHO has made a two-suited overcall, it is vital that you bid the maximum 4S. Your spade length significantly reduces the defensive potential of partner’s opening bid.

It is entirely possible that the opponents can make game, or even slam. You must take away as much of their space as you dare, and you can do so with relative safety as partner will know to expect little from you apart from substantial spade length. Remember, you have a 3D cuebid for all decent hands, so jumps in partner’s suit can be used for purely preemptive purposes.

That about covers hands on which you want to raise partner’s suit. We will be returning to this and similar auctions next month to see how to advance when you hold the other major and how to set about penalizing the opponents. Thus far, we have established:



DoubleDefensive – to be discussed further
2NTAs yet undefined
3C(lower cuebid) – As yet undefined
3D(higher cuebid) – primary spade support and at least invitational values
3HAs yet undefined
3SDefensive raise – a hand that would normally raise to 2S
4C/4DSplinter raise – spade support, game values and a shortage

We will fill in some more of the gaps next month.

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