Mike's Advice


Last week I discussed strong jump shifts and showed briefly how they help with strong hands when your partner opens the bidding. In this issue, I will discuss weak jump shifts and at the end, will offer my opinion of them. Note that I have written about weak jump shifts in competition. If you saw that article, you will recognize some similarities between weak jumps in competition and weak jumps that are not in competition.

First, a suggestion. You might prefer to play weak jump shifts to two of a major only. The auction 1♣ – P – 2 has a bunch of possible meanings. Among them are:

  • A strong jump shift
  • A weak jump shift
  • A club raise
  • Five spades and four hearts and invitational values
  • A transfer bid
  • Preemptive with both minors
  • A forcing 2NT response

Some of these are serious treatments, some of them are ideas in progress.

Whether you choose to play all jumps to the two level as weak or just jumps to two of a major, you still have to answer these questions:

  • What is the maximum hand you can have if not vul?
  • What is the minimum hand you can have if not vul?
  • What is the maximum hand you can have if vul?
  • What is the minimum hand you can have if vul?
  • If your partner makes a weak jump shift, what do your rebids mean? For instance:
West North East South
1 Pass 2♠ Pass

What do these bids mean?

  • 2NT. Is this natural or something else?
  • 3♣, bidding a new suit lower than your original suit.
  • 3, rebidding your suit.
  • 3, bidding a new suit higher than your original suit.
  • 3♠, raising partner? Is it preemptive or invitational?
  • 4♣, jumping in a new suit?

Here are a few suggestions. Whether you agree on them, you and your partner should definitely use these thoughts in deciding on what you prefer.

After 1♣ from partner, you might jump to 2♠ on these hands:

♠ Q 10 9 7 6 5
5 4
4 2
♣ J 9 4

A minimum jump shift when not vulnerable.

♠ K J 8 7 5 4
J 4
8 7 4 3
♣ 9

A maximum jump shift when not vulnerable.

♠ Q J 10 7 5
5 4
9 4
♣ J 8 5 4

An acceptable jump shift when not vulnerable IF AND ONLY IF your partnership agrees that making this bid with a five-card suit is allowable. Do not assume this is agreeable to your partner until you have discussed it.

If vulnerable, I suggest making a weak jump shift on four to seven points. The four-point requirement is made in deference to the vulnerability and the seven-point requirement is acceptable when vulnerable when you have a really rotten hand with a six card suit. Here are some examples.

After 1 from your partner, you have choices with these hands:

♠ 4
K 10 8 7 6 3
Q 6 3
♣ 8 7 3

2 is fine. You are in the range and you get this hand out of your system in one bid. One of the benefits of weak jump responses is that when you respond at the one level and then rebid your suit (1 – 1/1♠ – 2♥;) your partner will expect you to have a fair hand on the theory that you would have made a weak jump shift with a bad hand.

♠ A J 9 8 7 3
4 3
Q 9 8
♣ 4 3

This is too good for 2♠. Bid 1♠. As per the previous paragraph, your partner will play you for having something better than a weak jump shift.

♠ J 10 8 7 6 3
5 4 3
K 8 4
♣ 4

I vote for 2♠. Vulnerable, this is a minimum hand.

One important thing that you need to discuss is the ensuing auction. Here are some suggestions.

West North East South
1 Pass 2♠ Pass

*Forcing. Responder bids artificially. This is one of the most important moments for your partnership to sort out the hand. Here are the suggested responses.

  • 3♣ — Minimum hand and a minimum suit.
  • 3 — Minimum hand and a maximum suit.
  • 3 — Minimum hand and a maximum suit.
  • 3♠ — Maximum hand and a maximum suit.

Be careful that you use good judgment. Considering that you may have as few as three points, the words “minimum and maximum” become relative.

For instance. If you responded with 2&pades; and partner asked about your hand, this hand would be a 3 bid showing a minimum hand and a good suit.

♠ Q J 9 7 5 4
4 3
8 7 3
♣ 4 3

Be careful to choose the right bid to describe your hand.

Continuing with opener’s rebids.

West North East South
1 Pass 2♠ Pass
  • 3♣ — A new suit is forcing showing a strong hand. If opener has a minimum hand he should pass.
  • 3 — When opener rebids his suit, it is a clear signoff. This is the one bid opener can make with a weakish hand. Opener is now at the three level facing a weak hand so he should have a very good suit to do this.
  • 3♠ — Raising partner’s major is preemptive. Responder is not invited to bid again.
  • Double — If your partner makes a weak jump shift and they overcall, a double by opener is penalty. It is as close to a command as there is.

A final thought

West North East South
1♣ Pass 2 2♠

If opener is able to bid 2NT, it is still forcing, asking for description. Almost always, a 2NT bid shows a fit and is wondering whether to bid game or not.

West North East South
1♣ Pass 2♠ 3

Opener does not have an asking bid. There is no room for 2NT. Opener can double for penalty, not that infrequent an action. If he wishes to raise spades, he has to decide how high to go. He can bid 3♠ which will always end the auction as far as partner is concerned and he can guess to bid 4♠.

So now we need an opinion about weak jump shifts. For years I have leaned in favor of strong jump shifts. But now I am not so sure. Because the world is bidding better than they did years ago, I find the weak jump shift has value in obstructing the opponents’ bidding. Further, since there are better agreements available to use when your partner makes a weak jump shift (the Ogust 2NT response, for example) I think that players using weak jump shifts will get better mileage from the convention today than 30 years ago.

My suggestion is simple. Choose strong or weak jump shifts and be comfortable that you are doing something good. If your partner is adamant, play his choice of weak or strong. Both work well.

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