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SHOULD OPENER REBID 1NT WITH A SINGLETON IN RESPONDER'S MAJOR?

The players sitting East on Board 25 of the 12/31/13 afternoon game at South Bend Bridge Club held 2 J109 AQ43 AQ1094. What will your rebid be if responder bids a likely 1? We will revisit this question at the end of this article.

Let's look at the six hands below which also have minimum opening bid values and a singleton in a major:

1. 2 AJ92 A932 A932
2. A A932 Q932 K932
3. 2 AJ2 A932 A9432
4. K Q92 A932 A9432
5. AQ2 2 K832 QJ832
6. KJ2 Q A932 A9432

Your bidding plan is heavily dependent on what is shown by opener's 1NT rebid. A partnership needs to decide which of the two methods below will be used.

1. Traditional method - opener's rebid of 1NT shows a balanced hand and, therefore, contains two or three cards in responder's major.

2. Alternate method - opener's rebid of 1NT may include a small singleton in partner's major.

The traditional method has the advantage of requiring two or three cards in responder's major, therefore the playing strength with responder's suit as trumps is narrowly defined. Responder can rebid two of his major to play with a five-card suit knowing there will be at least a seven card fit. Responder can also bid 3 or 4 of his major with a six-card suit knowing there will be an eight-card or better fit. The disadvantage is needing with the hands above to either (1) open 1 and rebid 2 (implying 5-4 in the minors and doing little to limit your hand), or (2) if holding a five-card club suit, open 1 and rebid 2 (although the auction implies at least a six-card club suit).

The alternate method allowing opener to rebid 1NT if holding a small singleton in responder's major has the advantage of eliminating the possible rebid problems of the traditional method. The disadvantage is the wider range of opener's playing strength, especially if responder's major becomes trump. Opener could hold a small singleton trump with 12 HCP or three excellent trumps with 14 HCP, thus auctions involving responder's major as trump are less precise using the alternate method. Responder has more difficulty in deciding to either pass 1NT, sign off in two of his major with a five-card suit, or jump to three or four of his major with a six-card suit when opener may hold a small singleton in responder's major.

Whichever method you choose to use in your established partnerships, it is important (1) your frequent bridge partners know which method you are using, and (2) you are able, when asked, to inform the opponents which method your partnership is using.

Sometimes any bid you make will not quite describe your hand or will break some bidding "rule" and you must decide which bid is the "least lie". We will see some examples of "least lies" below.

What if you are using the traditional method and your singleton in responder's major suit happens to be a high singleton honor such as hands number 2, 4, and 6 (A A932 Q932 K932, K Q92 A932 A9432, and KJ2 Q A932 A9432) at the beginning of this article? You will often find that treating a high singleton honor as equivalent to two small cards and rebidding 1NT is a better alternative than rebidding a minor, especially if your minor suit(s) are weak. Rebidding 1NT is a better choice (the "least lie") than opening 1 and rebidding 2 with an average quality five-card suit. Potentially worse is opening 1 and rebidding 2 implying at least 5-4 in the minors, and not limiting opener's strength, which could be anything from a bare minimum opening bid to just short of a game forcing jump shift.

So your "least lie" could be (1) rebidding 1NT with a singleton even if you usually would have a balanced hand, (2) when holding 4-5 in the minors, opening 1 and rebidding 2 with only five clubs when it would usually show a six-card suit, or (3) opening 1 and rebidding 2 with 4-4 or possibly 4-5 in the minors when it tends to show 5-4 in the minors. Dependent on the quality of your minor suits and the singleton in responder's bid major, you must use your judgment on how to bid and describe your hand. Often, the decision will be close and there will be no correct answer!

Here is one other "lie" to consider when you hold a hand that looks like AQ2 2 K832 QJ832 where you hold a small singleton heart, weak minors, and a very good three-card spade suit. You might decide your "least lie" is to rebid 1 with only three spades. If responder raises, he should have four spades and if you declare a spade contract in a 4-3 fit, it will often play very well.

Revisiting the rebid choices with 2 J109 AQ43 AQ1094 mentioned at the beginning of this article, your choices are (1) 1-1-2, (2) 1-1-2, and (3) 1-1-1NT. If you play the alternate method, you can easily choose (3). The traditionalists must choose between (1) and (2). Choice (1) limits your hand but overstates the club length and makes it harder to find a diamond fit if it exists. Choice (2) appears you have 5-4 in the minors instead of 4-5 in the minors and does little to limit the hand. Since the club suit is very good quality, choice (1) is likely the best choice if playing the traditional method.

Three quick final comments:

(a) Don't rebid 1NT with a void in responder's major.

(b) If responder surprises you by bidding your three-card major instead of your singleton major, your best choice will often be to raise responder's suit holding only three trumps.

(c) Rebidding 1NT with a singleton only applies if responder bids your singleton suit.

Points To Remember

1. Ensure in your established partnerships whether (1) opener is required to hold a balanced hand (two or three cards in responder's major) to rebid 1NT, or (2) opener is allowed to rebid 1NT with a small singleton in responder's major.

2. If using the traditional requirement for opener to need a balanced hand to rebid 1NT, the "least lie" when holding a singleton in responder's major when the singleton is a high honor is often to rebid 1NT, pretending the high singleton honor is as good as two small cards.

Bud Hinckley
budh9534@gmail.com

     
 
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