The question is “Do I have to bid when partner opens 1♣?” The answer is no. However, there are exceptions to the general guideline that Responder needs six points to respond.  Let’s take a look at Hand #9 from a BAND club game. What are Souths’s options?

Here South’s hand:

♠ 7 3 2
 5 3
 K T 8 6 3
♣ 9 8 2

North East South West
1♣        Pass  ?

In the beginning, we are taught Responder needs six high card points to respond to partner’s opening bid.  Then we are introduced to length points and the requirement changes to six total points to respond to one of a suit. 

After a few more years of classes, we learn that when holding an ace, we should respond. The theory is that an ace is (usually) an entry and bidding is all about guestimating how many tricks our hand will contribute to the play.  If we think about it, as far as entries are concerned, an ace is certainly more likely to be an entry than three queens and we would always respond with three queens! So where does this leave us with South’s hand above?  We don’t have six high card points.  We don’t have six total points (including length points).  We don’t have an ace.

Let’s look at our club holding.  If partner is opening a 2+ club, then we may have only five clubs between us and 1♣ is not going to play so good.  If partner is opening a 3+ club, then six trumps is better than five, but still not a happy place to play.  So do we leave partner in one club or quietly bid 1♦ and hope we survive partner’s rebid? 

Let’s play out a few scenarios:  1) if we pass and partner plays 1♣ with five or six trumps between the two hands, each down trick is 50 points each.  2) If we bid 1 and partner jump rebids 2NT, each down trick is 50 points each.  3) If we bid 1 and partner rebids one of a major (more likely than 2NT) and we rebid 1NT, we will either quietly go down 50 points a trick or the opponents won’t be able to stand defending 1NT and they will compete and “rescue” us from our misery.  Obviously, there are other scenarios but these are likely auctions assuming partner has a balanced hand which is odds when partner opens 1♣.

Bottom line: Respond 1 holding a fifth diamond, only three clubs, and being non vulnerable. This is a perfect example of where playing experience helps to determine which action to take with South’s hand.  It doesn’t fit the rules, yet there are determining factors as to whether to bid or not.  On this hand, North/South were destined to go down in any contract in which they played.  East/West can make 1♣ and any other low level contract!  One of my favorite sayings about bridge is “We spend the first few years learning the rules of the game and the rest of our lives experiencing the exceptions to those rules. Tuck this exception away and enjoy your next adventure at the bridge table!

Let me hear your questions!

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