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Sorry, Partner, But I Only Have Four Points!

Your partner Opens a Minor...

A Little History
It seems like forever, but it was only a few centuries ago that we opened 4-card majors.  In those days we relied on Ol' Charlie Goren to tell us the correct way to respond and he told us to pass any opening bid if we did not have at least six points.  Good advice....     400 years ago.

One of the advantages of opening 4-card majors back in the dark ages was that unless you had a very good hand you probably didn't have a major, so you opened your best minor.  If your partner had fewer than six points it was safe for him to pass because he knew you were in your best contract.

All of that changed about 60 years ago when the world decided that we had to have a 5-card suit to open 1 or 1, but for some reason the rule that you needed six points to respond has stayed with us.

Bridge in the 21st Century
Today, what would you bid in 1st seat with this hand?

Yeah, I know... bidding a minor is your only choice because if you open a major for sure your partner will yell, "You didn't have five of 'em!"

So you grit your teeth and open 1.  Partner passes and your RHO smiles at you and puts the green card on the table.  As your partner puts down the dummy she says, "Sorry, partner, but I only have four points!

This is what she gives you.... Do you like it?

I didn't think so.  Fortunately for you when you open the traveler you find you have a slightly under average score as many of the other players did the same thing.  But one pair bid and made two hearts.  Just luck, eh?

Suggestion - Bid 1 Over an Opening 1
Play modern bridge.  Charles Goren has been gone since 1991 and he won't care.  Make an agreement that responder might not have six points when she bids 1 and might pass your rebid.

Hmm... that's pretty simple!  Be sure to alert, though, and tell them the 1 response might have fewer than six points.

Don't Like it?
Okay, you don't want to add an artificial bid to your system, but at least consider responding with 1 and then passing at your next turn.  Any contract but clubs has to be better.  There's a decided advantage, though, to bidding 1 -- You can pass the next bid, which probably will be a major, at the 1-level.  If you bid a major you could well find yourself a level or two higher.

Five Card Major
If you have a poor hand as responder but you have a 5-card major, you should consider bidding it.  Many partnerships use weak jump reponses, but most of them require a 6-card suit, although you can agree that it might be only five.

But what if you had three diamonds instead of that awful 3-card club suit and you decided to open 1 instead of 1?  It's the same problem, right?  If I were your partner with that 4-point hand I would consider passing because there's not a partner in the world who would yell at me if I did, but I would give serious consideration to bidding 1 and then passing.  We will probably get a better result.
    It's okay to respond to a minor with fewer than six points if you think there is a better contract

NOTE:  The above only applies when the opening bid is a minor!

There's not much information on the internet about responding with fewer than six points, but Larry Cohen has an opinion...    

Roy Wilson