Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss

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H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Minor Forcing

Your partner opens with one of a suit and you bid a major.  Partner rebids 1NT.  What do you bid with this hand?

ª KJ874
© 87
¨ AJ8
§ Q104

2S is too weak a bid, and it should promise a six card suit.  Opener will pass it most of the time and that might cause you to miss a game.
3S is too strong a bid.  If your partner has a minimum with only two spades you could be too high.

A good solution exists which is called New Minor Forcing (NMF).  It works this way.

If your partner rebids 1NT, and you have a five card major with invitational values, you may bid two of the lower ranking unbid minor suit.  If the bidding started with 1H- P-1S-P-1N-P-?, you use 2C as your asking bid. This says nothing about clubs and is alertable.

Your bid promises at least invitational values (10 High Card Points [HCP]  and a five card major) and it is possible that you have more than that.  Your main intent with the NMF bid is to show that you have at least five cards in the suit, not four cards, which is the minimum that your initial response promised, and to find out if partner has at least a three card fit for your major. Since your initial bid only promised four cards in the suit, your partner should not raise with only three (there are exceptions to this, but not many). NMF is the best way to tell your partner that you have five cards in the suit and that she may now support it if she has only three cards in your suit.

If your partner has three-card support she bids two of your major with a minimum (12-13 HCP) and three of your major with a maximum (14-15 HCP).  If she does not have a fit she shows four of the other major if she has it.  If she cannot bid a major she bids 2NT with a minimum and 3NT with a maximum. Sometimes, however, she might bid 2 of your major with only two cards in your suit. This occurs if she opened with a weak hand, like only 12 HCP and feels that the best contract would be at the two level in a 5-2 fit. The thing to remember is that if she supports your suit, it does not absolutely promise three cards in the suit, although it generally does.

West              North              East                South
1D                   P                     1S                   P        
1NT                 P                     ?

One                Two                 Three              Four
ª QT874        ª AQ874          ª K10874       ª Q9874
© 32               © Q73             © AK              © 109764
¨ QT7            ¨ 73               ¨ K873           ¨ A3
§ KJ8             § K73             § 98               § 9

One:   Pass.  You have a balanced hand with too few points to worry about game.  It is quite acceptable to forget about the spades. If you were to bid NMF here and partner had a singleton spade with a minimum hand, you could easily get too high, when you could make 1N.

Two:    2C, NMF.  You have enough points to invite game.  If partner bids 2S you will know she has a minimum opening most probably with three spades and if she bids 3S you will know she has a maximum opening with three spades.  You will go to game if she shows a maximum.  If she bids 2D, denying a major holding or 2H, showing four hearts but denying three spades, you will bid 2NT.  She can go on to 3NT with a maximum.

Three: 2C, NMF.  You have game points but wish to check to see if 4S is the right game or 3NT.

Four: 2H.  This is a rare situation,  just about the only auction where responder can bid a new suit which does not force opener to bid again.  This auction occurs when partner rebids 1NT and you are able to show spades and then hearts.  You are allowed to bid 1S and then 2H when you have five spades and four or five hearts and less than ten high card points. 

If partner has opened 1C instead of 1D, the new minor forcing bid would be diamonds instead of clubs. That’s why it’s called “new” minor. You bid the unbid minor suit to show your hand. 

Often, players are tempted to use NMF with less than invitational hands (less than 10 HCP). Don’t succumb to this temptation because by making a NMF bid you are promising your partner specific values. If you make it without them, you don’t know what your partner is going to do. She might have a big hand and take you to a game or slam, relying on your bid, when you don’t belong there. Bridge is a game of trusting your partner. If you unilaterally deviate from your agreements, you are just making it more difficult for your partner to trust you.

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