The Strong Jump-Shift Response: New Tricks for an Old Bid

Part 1 -- Evaluating Your Hand

Partner opens 1D and you are delighted to be looking at one of the following responding hands. Would you make a strong jump shift, or would you choose to take it slow with a low-level response?

1 - KQ3 AQ AQJ9876
2 - AKQJ865 87 A93
3 - AQJ105 KQ5 87 AQ5
4 - AKJ106 KJ92 A74
5 - KQJ107 J6 AKJ87
6 - AK92 AQJ106 Void AQ85
7 - AK  AJ8654 Q5 KQ3
8 - AKQ84 A98 A8 A54
The strong jump-shift is one of the first special responses new players learn to use and, once discovered, it's usually used far too often. One form of abuse, "standard" in many party bridge games, is to jump-shift with even a balanced 13-count, just to give partner the good news that a game is available.

With experience, most of us learn to abandon this treatment and convert to the old Goren requirement of 19+ points. But according to many of today's experts, that standard may no longer be practical or even correct.

With some 19-point hands, good players wouldn't be caught dead jump-shifting. With some 16-point hands, they would always make one. Which is which? In the examples above, a jump-shift is recommended with Hands #1 through #4; a simple one-bid works best with Hands #5 through #8. Here's why:

When to jump-shift

A jump-shift always shows a long suit and very strong responding hand, but the modern treatment is that it doesn't necessarily guarantee 19 high-card points. In fact, the jump-shift can be most useful for those hands where you want to invite a slam, not insist on one.

A strong jump-shift should be made only when you have a one-suited hand with good honor strength in your suit, slam-try strength or better and a good rebid. An additional guideline is that the jump-shift works best when you want to describe your hand to partner (not vice versa). A jump-shift, then, is valuable in describing these types of hands:

  1. A strong hand (17+ pts.) with ONE long, strong suit (at least two of the top three honors). Hand #1 above is "perfect" for a 3C response.
  2. An intermediate hand (13-16 pts.) with a long, solid suit and good controls. With Hand #2 above, jump to 2S and rebid 4S at your next turn to show the solid suit.
  3. A balanced slam-invitation (17 to a "bad" 19 pts.) with a good 5-card suit. With Hand #3, jump to 2S, then rebid 3NT to show balanced strength.
  4. A slam-try or better hand (16+ pts.) with a good 5+-card suit and length in opener's suit. With Hand #4, jump-shift to 2H, then show your diamond support with your next bid.

And -- most important -- when NOT to jump-shift

Even with very powerful hands, you should make a low-level response any time you need general information from partner about his strength and distribution. Avoid making a jump-shift with the following types of hands:

(1) A two- or three-suited hand.

With Hands like #5 and #6 above, you have plenty of high-card strength, but no clear idea about what the trump suit should be. You may need a lot of bidding room to show your distribution and locate support in partner's hand. Since you want to hear partner's natural, length-showing rebid, you should make a one-level response with each of these hands and follow up with as many forcing bids as you need.

(2) A one-suited hand with a bad suit (missing two or more top honors).

Don't jump-shift into a suit that needs good honor support or length from partner. You'll crowd the auction if you jump to 2H with a hand like #7 above. Even if partner raises hearts, you won't be able to tell if your suit is running. And whether he raises or not, you have no intelligent rebid.

(3) A very strong, balanced hand.

A jump-shift doesn't always promise a distributional hand -- it can also be made with a good 5-card suit and balanced strength. If you have a balanced powerhouse, though, an initial jump-shift can create problems. Because the jump-shift uses up so much bidding space, it often leaves opener only one "safe", below-game rebid to describe his hand. He may be hesitant to go past your 3NT rebid if he has a two-suited minimum, and he's often unsure of your exact strength.

Best is to limit the jump-shifter's 3NT rebid to no more than a good 17 to a "bad" 19 (a hand like #3 above). With stronger hands, you may have trouble finding a good rebid after your jump-shift, so use the low-level auction.

Hand #8 above came up at a sectional. Those players who jump-shifted to 2S heard 3H from partner and were at a loss for what to do next. The hand is too strong for 3NT -- partner could pass. You can't rebid spades or raise diamonds or hearts, and Blackwood won't tell you if partner's suits are running.

An additional problem arises because so few players have discussed the exact meanings of opener's rebids after the jump-shift. In the auction above, could partner's 3H show a minimum like  KJ76 K8754 KQJ, where even 6NT is a gamble? Or might he have 53 KQJ4 KQJ102  86, where 7NT is laydown? You're more likely to find out about partner's distribution if you start with a simple 1S response. 

The Strong Jump-Shift Response: New Tricks for an Old Bid

Part 2 -- Opener's and Responder's Rebids

You open 1D and partner makes a strong jump-shift to 2S. What's your rebid with each of the following hands?

1 - K3  65 AQ876  AK86
2 - 832  65 AKJ765 AJ
3 - 8  Q865 A10643 AK4
4 - 82 KJ64 KQ75 A103
In the absence of any special agreements, many players would rebid 3C with Hand #1, 3S with Hand #2, and 3H (or perhaps 2NT) with Hands #3 and #4. But what do these rebids mean to responder? Do they show suit length, honor locations, overall high-card strength? Do they give partner enough information to make an intelligent decision about where the hand should be played?

Because a jump-shift uses up so much bidding room, your partnership needs to have clear agreements about the meanings of subsequent bids. There are many different approaches -- the only important requirement is that you and your partner discuss the auctions in advance so you're ready when they come up at the table. To start your discussion, you may want to consider the suggestions here, which include some of the most valuable and widely used agreements:

Opener's rebids

In choosing your rebid as opener, the main points to remember are:
  1. The jump-shifter promises at least 5 cards in his suit and good honor strength (at least two of the top three honors).
  2. Partner's jump-shift shows at least a slam invitation, but he doesn't necessarily promise 19 high-card points. He may be basing his evaluation on playing strength and, with some types of hands, can have as few as 13-16 high-card points (see the discussion below on responder's rebids).
  3. Partner will never jump-shift with a two- or three-suited hand (unless his second suit is your suit). For this reason, it's often a waste of bidding room for opener to show new 4-card suits after a jump-shift. Instead, it's more important to tell responder about the location of your hand's honor strength, especially for his suit.
Here's a recommended set of agreements for opener's rebids after responder's jump-shift:

The jump-shifter's rebids

Before you make your jump-shift, it's wise to think about your possible rebids. All of the hands below are good choices for an immediate jump-shift over partner's 1C opener. What's your plan for the rest of the auction?
5 -A7 KQJ AQJ10872 6
6 - AKQJ843 A84 64
7 - AQJ106 KQ9 AQ3  64
8 - AKQ93 K10 A5 Q1074
9 - A8 AKJ94 6  KJ865
Opener's rebid may give you a clear idea of how to continue, especially if he raises your suit. On many hands, though, you'll need to find a rebid that further describes your hand or elicits more information from partner. Here are some recommendations for defining the jump-shifter's second bid: Using these guidelines, here's how you would rebid the various types of hands with which you would make an initial jump-shift:

A strong hand (17+ pts.) with ONE good suit.

A jump-shift is often the best way to find out whether partner can fill in your long, almost-solid suit (a 6+ card suit missing only one of the top three honors). With Hand #5, a grand slam (or even a small) probably depends on partner holding the diamond king. Since it's unlikely partner will be able to raise a 1D response, the best way to find out about his support is to set the suit by jump-shifting to 2D. If partner has at least Kx, he'll raise to 3D. You can then Blackwood and bid the laydown 7NT if partner shows two aces and another king. If partner doesn't raise diamonds, you can still Blackwood to find out about a possible singleton king.

An intermediate hand (13-16 pts.) with a solid suit.

Many players favor using a jump-shift followed by a jump to game in that suit to show solid trumps with good outside controls, but not enough to make a five-level slam try. A good rule to follow is not to have two quick losers in an unbid suit.

With Hand #6, jump to 2H, then rebid 4H. Partner will know not to worry about trumps. He'll bid on with good quick tricks (a hand like A765 K92 AK954), but pass with softer values (KQ7 654 KQ KJ853). Note that 5H may be too high with the second hand.

A balanced slam invitation (17 to a "bad" 19 pts.) with a good 5-card suit.

With Hand #7, jump-shift to 2S, then rebid 3NT. This gives partner a near-perfect description of your point-count, balanced strength and source of tricks. For the best results, this jump-shift sequence should only be used with slam invitational hands. With stronger, insist-on-slam hands, you may have a hard time coming up with a good rebid after your jump-shift, so start with a low-level response instead.

A slam-try or better hand (16+ pts.) with a good suit AND length in partner's suit.

With Hand #8, start with a jump-shift to 2S, then raise partner's club suit. This auction shows your good support and outside source of tricks and helps partner evaluate his hand. He'll be encouraged to cooperate with your slam try when he holds the "right" minimum (54 A753 K8 AJ932).

You can also use any new-suit rebid to show support for partner. Many experts advocate using this bid to identify a singleton. With Hand #9, the auction might go 1C by partner - 2H by you - 2S/2NT/3C - 3D. Your 3D can't be natural (since you wouldn't have jump-shifted with length in two unbid suits). Instead, it shows your singleton diamond and 4+-card club support, which may help you get to a short-point slam.

The Strong Jump-Shift Response: New Tricks for an Old Bid

Part 3 -- Fit-Showing Jump-Shifts by a Passed Hand

This bidding problem in our District 8 newsletter led to an interesting debate about North's 3D bid:

Matchpoints, neither vulnerable
        West     North   East    South    
        Pass     Pass    Pass     1S        
        Pass     3D*     Pass      ?           * (Fit-showing jump shift)
What is your call as South holding: AKQ75 KJ103 1065 ?

The panel, which was split between a 3H slam-try and a direct 4S, had several different ideas about the meaning of a "fit-showing jump-shift". Some panelists admitted that they had this treatment written on their convention cards, but had never discussed the exact requirements with their partners. One panelist thought the best hand North could hold was something like
J1032 KQ1082 A53. Others thought partner should have longer, stronger diamonds for his jump.

So what exactly is a fit-showing jump-shift, and what should it show? Does it promise 3-card or 4-card support, an outside ace, a singleton? How good should the jump-shift suit be? Here's a review of expert opinion and some guidelines on how you can add this valuable bid to your system:

Why use fit-showing jump-shifts?

Old-time Standard American defined a passed-hand jump-shift as "good hand, good suit". If partner opened 1C in third or fourth seat, a jump to 2S showed a hand like KQJ87 A82 J74 92. In practice, though, a simple 1S is better with this type of scattered strength. If partner has opened light and passes, you're probably high enough -- and you certainly aren't missing a game. If partner has a full opener, he'll bid again and you can make a game try.

For these reasons, today's experts recommend that a passed-hand jump-shift be reserved for a special type of hand -- one that has been revalued upwards because of partner's opening bid. Since the jump takes you to a higher level than partner may have planned, it's important to have the safety of a known fit. Some players use the passed-hand jump-shift as a mini-splinter, but a more popular treatment is the natural, "fit-showing" jump-shift used in the problem above.

What does the jump show?

To add this bid to your system, you and your partner need to agree on some basic criteria. In general, a passed-hand jump-shift should meet four requirements:

(1) A good 5+-card suit.

The honor strength you promise in your suit may depend on whether partner's opening bid was a major or a minor. Keep in mind that if partner opens a minor and you jump in a major, you're suggesting a new trump suit -- if your hand meets the other guidelines, your major can be any "decent" 5+-cards (KJxxx, AJxxx, even QJ10xx). But if partner opens a major, your jump confirms his suit as trumps and shows an outside source of tricks. You may want to agree that after a major opening, responder promises two of the top three honors in his jump-shift suit.

(2) 4+-card support for opener's suit.

This is an absolute requirement if partner opened a minor. If he's opened a major, some partnerships agree that you may occasionally have good 3-card support. You can discuss whether or not you want to bid 3D over 1S with a hand like
KJ6 AQ1082 6543. If you play the Drury convention (which shows support and asks partner how good his hand is), a 2C bid with this hand may work better.

(3) Maximum high-card points.

"Maximum" is usually 10-11 HCPs, but can be fewer, especially after a major opening. You may jump-shift with 8-9 HCPs if your honors are "prime" and concentrated in your two suits.

(4) Good distributional values.

Most experts recommend that you promise a singleton, but your partnership might agree that a "perfect" 5-4-2-2 is a possibility. For example, you could bid 3H over 1S with Q983 AKJ103 75 65.

Opener's Rebids

As opener, you should treat partner's jump-shift as virtually forcing. Don't worry about points -- your holding in the two suits partner has shown is more important. This notrump bid can also improve the accuracy of your slam bidding. If partner bids 3C over your 1S opening bid, you can rebid 3NT (asking for his singleton) with  AK10754 765 A3 QJ. If he bids 3H, you'll confidently bid your 22-point slam, knowing partner has a minimum of  J963 842 AK954.

Now . . . back to the problem at the beginning of this article. Want to change your answer? With the system described here, there's no longer any guessing about slam possibilities. The vote should now be unanimous for 3NT -- if partner can show the singleton club we're hoping for, we can Blackwood to check on the heart ace and bid our "easy" slam.

© 1997, Karen Walker