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When To Overbid A Partner's No-trump

When the Dealer bids one No-trump and the Third Hand holds five or more
of any suit, one of the most disputed questions of Auction presents

The conservative player believes that with five Hearts or Spades,
inasmuch as but one more trick is required to secure game, it is safer
to bid two Hearts or Royals, except, of course, when the Third Hand, in
addition to a five-card suit, has the three remaining suits stopped.
The theory is that if the combined hands are very strong, the winning
of the game is absolutely assured with the suit in question the Trump,
but may possibly be lost in the No-trump by the adversaries running a
long suit. The chance of a hostile suit being established is
unquestionably worthy of the consideration of the Third Hand whenever,
with great strength in Hearts or Spades, he allows his partner's
No-trump to stand. Five adverse tricks prevent a game. In the majority
of cases, the leader opens a five-card suit. When it is not stopped,
the game is saved by the adversaries before the powerful No-trump hand
can get in; if it be stopped but once, the game is still in grave
danger unless the Declarer take nine tricks before losing the lead.

With a Heart or Royal declaration the adversaries are not apt to take
more than two tricks in their long suit, which, at No-trumps, may
produce four or five (in rare cases six), and yet the Trump bid
requires only one more trick for game.

It is unquestionably true that, with great strength, the game will be
won nine times out of ten with the No-trump declaration, but in every
such case it is absolutely "cinched" by the Heart or Royal call.

It is further argued that, when the combined hands are not quite so
strong, a game is more frequently won with the Trump declaration, as
the small Trumps are sure to take tricks, but the long suit may not be
established in the No-trumper.

The believers in taking a chance, however, view the situation from the
opposite standpoint. Their argument is that the game requires one more
trick, when a Trump is declared, but does not count as much, that the
original declarer may be weak in the suit named, yet strong in all the
others, and therefore, with a good hand, it is wiser to leave the
No-trump alone.

It is possible that the question is one rather of the temperament of
the player than of card judgment. It is susceptible of almost
mathematical deduction that five or more cards of a long suit are of
greater trick-taking value when that suit is the Trump than when
No-trump is being played, and it does not require any argument to
substantiate the proposition that the slight difference in the score,
between the total in the trick and honor columns netted from a game
made without a Trump and a game made with Royals or Hearts, is so
infinitesimal as not to be worthy of consideration. Nevertheless,
players possessed of a certain temperament will, for example, refuse to
overbid a partner's No-trump with Ace, King, Ten, and two small Spades,
King of Hearts, and Ace of Diamonds, on the ground that the hand is too
strong, although the No-trump bid may have been thoroughly justified by
such a holding as Ace, Queen, Knave, of Hearts; King, Queen, Knave, of
Diamonds; and Queen, Knave, of Spades. In that event it is practically
sure the adversaries will open the Club suit and save the game before
the Declarer has a chance to win a trick. This and similar situations
occur with sufficient frequency to make them well worthy of
consideration, and when such a hand fails to make game, it certainly
seems to be a perfect example of what might be termed "useless

In spite of all this, however, probably as long as the game lasts, in
the large proportion of hands in which the taking-out does not make any
difference, the Declarer will say, "With such strength you should have
let my No-trump alone"; or the Dummy will learnedly explain, "I was too
strong to take you out."

It would be in the interest of scientific play, if, except when all
suits are stopped, the theory, "Too strong to take the partner out of
the No-trump," had never been conceived, and would never again be

The same comment applies with equal force to the remark so often heard,
"Partner, I was too weak to take you out."

This generally emanates from a Third Hand who has a five- or six-card
suit in a trickless hand. He does not stop to realize that his hand
will not aid his partner's No-trump to the extent of a single trick,
but that in a Trump declaration, it will almost certainly take two
tricks. The Trump bid only increases the commitment by one, so it is
obviously a saving and advantageous play. Furthermore, it prevents the
adversaries from running a long suit. It, also, in Clubs and Diamonds,
is a real danger signal, and, in the probable event of a bid by the
Fourth Hand, warns the partner away from two No-trumps.

The advocates of the weakness take-out realize that in exceptional
instances the play may result most unfortunately. When the Dealer has
called a border-line No-trump, without any strength in the suit named
by the Third Hand, and one of the adversaries has great length and
strength in that suit, a heavy loss is bound to ensue, which may be
increased 100 by the advance of the bid from one to two. This case is,
indeed, rare, and when it does turn up the chances are that the
Declarer will escape a double, as the holder of the big Trumps will
fear the Dealer may be able to come to the rescue if he point out the
danger by doubling the suit call.

The fact, however, that a play at times works badly is not a sufficient
argument against its use, if in the majority of cases it prove
advantageous, and that is unquestionably true of the weakness take-out.

The strength take-out, above advocated, applies only to Spades and
Hearts. With Diamonds and Clubs, at a love score, the distance to go
for game is in most cases too great to make it advisable, but the
weakness take-out should be used equally with any one of the four
suits, as it is a defensive, not an offensive, declaration. With a
score, Clubs and Diamonds possess the same value that Hearts and Spades
have at love, and should be treated similarly.

Next: When To Overbid With Strong Clubs

Previous: When Two Hearts Or Two Royals Has Been Declared

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