When you have nothing: When to bid, when to pass

Having nothing doesn’t always mean that you’re off the hook and you can just sit back during the auction and pass all the time. There are occasions when you have to bid — and then there are occasions when you’d better pass, even when your partner wants you to bid.

It is admittedly different to tell the difference between those two occasions in bridge. At the Tuesday luncheon meeting of our office Bridge Club, two hands were played that provide a vivid illustration of this quandary. We’ll call them the co-featured hands of the day.

Hand No. 1: When you should NOT pass with nothing

Pieter “Cy the Cynic” VanBennekom was playing with partner Joan “Not Miss Timid Anymore” Rightnour against John “Unlucky Louie” Walston and partner Phil “Mr. MasterPoint” Ahr. “Cy” opened strong with 2 Clubs, but “Louie” interfered with a 2 Hearts bid — he had a good 15-point hand with a five-card Heart suit. As Cy’s partner, Joan had just four high-card points (although she did have five of Louie’s Hearts). But since her normal response bid (2 Diamonds for a 0-4 point range) had been bypassed by Louie’s interference bid, she was permitted to pass — also because “Cy” would have another bid anyway.

Louie’s partner Phil passed, and “Cy” then bid 3 Clubs, indicating that the Clubs were real in his big hand. “Louie” passed, and then Joan passed again, leaving “Cy” to play 3 Clubs. Cy made two overtricks even though seemingly everything went against him — he lost both finesses on missing Kings and he had to battle a bad 4-1 trump split.

Joan’s first pass with a nothing hand was correct, but the second time around, she should have told her partner “Cy” that she actually had Club support with a three-card suit to the Queen-Jack. She should have raised his 3 Clubs bid to 4 Clubs, inviting her partner to go to game in 5 — an invitation he would certainly have accepted.

The moral of the story is this: A pass with a nothing hand the first time around is okay, but if partner insists and wants to know anything about your hand, you can say something the second time around. Your partner already knows you have a very weak hand — now he just wants to know iof you have any particular feature, like 3 in his trump suit with an honor, which is worth mentioning.

Hand No. 2: When you SHOULD pass with nothing, even though your partner wants you to bid

Joan let it be known she had a big hand and she bid Clubs twice. Her partner “Cy” first bid his five-card Heart suit and then his four-card Diamond suit in a desperate attempt to dissuade his partner from Clubs, a suit in which he had a singleton. Joan then jumped to 4 No-Trump to ask for Aces even though she already knew the answer — her partner couldn’t have any because she had all four.

“Cy” faithfully responded that he had zero Aces with a 5 Clubs response, and Joan then proceeded to ask for Kings with a 5 No-Trump Blackwood convention bid, which supposedly a partner cannot pass. Yet, that’s exactly what “Cy” did — pass Joan’s 5 NT bid. He had decided that he had zero Kings anyway in his 6-point hand (four Jacks and a Queen) and he didn’t want Joan to be able to go to 6 of anything.

It turned out to be the right thing to do because Joan made 5 NT on the nose. No Slam would have made. 6 NT wasn’t there and 6 Clubs wasn’t, either. Even though it was Joan’s longest suit, she had a bad split against her with Phil having all the missing Clubs sitting behind her big hand.

So the moral of the story here is that no bid is automatic. Even though normally you have to respond to an asking-for-KIngs bid, you have to use your own judgment and if you think Slam is a terrible idea, you can always pass.

Missing that Game on Featured hand No. 1 meant that it took Joan and “Cy” a little longer to finish the Rubber, but in the end they did just that — finish off a 2-Games-to-none Rubber, for a total score of 1,260 to 50. The only points “Louie” and Phil got were on the very first deal, when Joan, who pleaded bridge “rust” after a long layoff, just missed making a 3 NT Game.

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