What Does That New Suit Mean? (Answers)

Sometimes our partners throw new suit bids at us and we have to figure out what they mean.  Are they natural?  Are they forcing?  In this lesson I’ll give you some guidelines to help you figure out what these new suits mean.

The context of the auction is important in interpreting these bids.  Have we agreed on which denomination we’re going to play the hand in?  Are we in a game-forcing auction?  Sometimes one of the partners knows the answers to these questions but the other doesn’t.  If you can answer these questions you can probably have an idea what your partner’s new suit bid means.

General Principles

  • If we bid and raise a major suit then we are going to play in that major suit.  New suits aren’t offers to play in a different suit.
  • If we bid and raise a minor suit then often are looking to play in NT.  New suits show stoppers.
  • “Game before slam”.  When in doubt, interpret a new suit as looking for game instead of looking for slam.

Non-Competitive Auctions

We Know Where To Play The Hand

If we know where we are going to play the hand then a new suit bid is either asking for more information or it’s telling more about our hand.

  • If we are not in a game forcing auction new suit bids are “asking” game tries:
    • Example:  1S – 2S.  We know we are going to play in Spades.  Opener’s new suit bids below 3S are game tries.  If you are playing Help Suit Game Tries then that’s what they are.
    • Example:  1C – 1S – 2S.  Here responder’s new suit bids below 3S are game tries.
  • If we are in a game forcing auction new suit bids are “telling” slam tries:
    • Example:  1S – 3S (limit raise).  We know we are going to play in Spades.  If opener bids again we are committed to game.  Opener’s new suit bids show first round control.
    • Example:  1S – 2D (game forcing) – 2H – 2S.  We know we are going to play in Spades and we are forced to game.  New suit bids are control bids, exploring slam.
    • Example:  1S – 2NT (Jacoby 2NT).  Again, we know we are going to play at least game and we are playing in Spades.  Opener’s first new suit bid shows a singleton or void at the 3 level or a 5 card suit at the 4 level.  Subsequent new suit bids are control bids.

We Don’t Yet Know Where To Play The Hand

If we haven’t bid and raised a suit then new suit bids are natural, proposing alternative places to play.

  • 1S – 1NT – 2C.  Opener’s 2C is natural and non-forcing.
  • 1C – 1H – 1S.  Opener’s 1S is natural and non-forcing, but rarely passed.
  • 1C – 1S – 2H.  Opener’s 2H is natural and a one-round force because it’s a reverse.
  • 1H – 1S – 3C.  Opener’s 3C is natural and game-forcing (it’s a jump shift).
  • 1C – 1S – 2C – 2H.  Responder’s 2H is natural and forcing.

If we’ve bid and raised a minor suit then new suit bids show stoppers and are an attempt to find a NT contract.

Fourth Suit Forcing

Sometimes the only forcing bid available to the responder is the fourth suit.  For example, after 1H – 1S – 2C the only forcing bid responder can make is 2D.  This bid should be alerted and explained as “Artificial, game forcing.”  After your partner bids the 4th suit opener’s responsibilities, in order, are:

  1. Show 3 card support for responder’s major.
  2. Bid NT with a stopper in the 4th suit.
  3. Raise the 4th suit if you have 4 cards in it….responder might actually have that suit.
  4. Show extra distribution in one of opener’s suits.
  5. If none of the above, then rebid your own first suit, even if it’s only 5 cards long.

 Competitive Auctions

  • In competitive auctions new suits are natural, usually non-forcing and constructive.
  • If you overcall, next hand bids, and your partner bids a new suit they usually have at least 2 cards in your suit.
    • Example:  (1H) – 1S – (2H).  If you bid 3C or 3D you should have some tolerance for Spades, at least a doubleton.  Otherwise you may have no safety net.