Trial bids

After a major suit fit has been agreed at the two-level, a bid of a new suit is a “trial bid”, inviting game and showing some length in that suit.

How does this help partner? Consider the following pairs of hands:

WEST          EAST
S AKJ32       S 865
H J2          H QT5
D AJ642       D 873
C 4           C KQ53

Playing in a spade contract, declarer has one likely loser in spades, two in hearts, two in diamonds and one in clubs. About seven or eight tricks is the likely limit.  

WEST          EAST
S AKJ32       S QT5
H J2          H 865
D AJ642       D KQ53
C 4           C 873

The West cards remain unchanged, while East’s suits have been swapped around. This time there are five top tricks in spades and another five in diamonds, for ten in total. It would be dismal to miss out on game – but how to bid it this time and stay out of it with the other pair of hands, when the total points are the same?

It is necessary to appreciate the location of honours, not just how many points you have. After the three bids shown, how should East proceed?

1S     2S
3D     ?

The trial bid of 3D invites game so having shown 6-10 total points, East with only 7 total points is at the minimum end of the range and will be tempted to sign off, returning to the major fit in 3S. This would be the right decision with the first East hand but the second is much better than its points suggest. With all the values in partner’s two suits, East should upgrade and bid 4S.

Dealer West, NS vul.

          S QT65
          H J42
          D A3
          C T654
WEST                EAST
S J43               S 2
H Q97               H K863
D 865               D KQJ9
C KQ97              C J832
          S AK987
          H AT5
          D T742
          C A

Pass  Pass   Pass  1S
Pass  2S     Dble  3D
Pass  4S  All pass

Having denied opening values, East had a typical hand for a takeout double. Over interference (in this case the double), a re-raise (to 3S) would be purely competitive, so to invite game, South had no choice but to make a trial bid.

In any case, the 3D bid focuses partner’s attention on that suit; North, with the DA and shortage in diamonds, is happy to bid 4S.

The CK is led, won by declarer. There are three potential losers in diamonds but two of these can be ruffed “in the short hand” (dummy), so declarer should lead diamonds before drawing trumps.

The other suit of interest is hearts, which is “frozen”, meaning that whichever side first leads the suit concedes a trick there. If the defenders refuse to broach the heart suit, and defend correctly when declarer leads it (East covering the HJ if it is led from dummy, for example), then declarer is restricted to one trick in that suit but the contract is still made, ten tricks.