Strong jump shifts by responder have been left for dead. They are now road-kill. The reason? With enhanced bidding techniques for strong hands (2/1, Bergen, Jacoby, etc.) they have outlived their usefulness. A corollary to owning an ACBL card is that you never leave a bid unused for more than a week. Weak jump shifts are an excellent example where that principle makes sense.
Let me get by some definitional issues. The only weak jump shifts that I am talking about are the 6 jump shifts by responder that do not go beyond the 2 level. I am not an advocate of Criss Cross Inverted Minors, but if you use that convention, the 1c/2d sequence is already taken to show a limit raise for clubs, so that would reduce the number to 5
Partner opens 1 club and as responder you hold K10xxxx, xx, J82, xx. Assuming you don’t bid 2 spades with this hand, what action do you take? Well, first you can pass with 2 card club support, a 6 card major and no defense. Don’t like that? Neither do I. Well fine, then bid 1 spade! Now partner bids 2 hearts (a reverse)! Now do you find any action you like? Bidding 2 spades at this point would clearly misrepresent your hand. Now you have worked yourself into a definite case of the “creeping shorts.” What you would like to do is back this auction up, mark WJS on your convention card and respond 2 spades immediately. As I just demonstrated, the WJS allows you to make a bid on a hand like the one described above and not risk a “runaway” auction that progressively slumps you farther and farther down in your seat.
There are some other benefits to using the WJS. First, for simplicity my example did not show competitive bidding, but in a real life setting if the bidding goes 1c/p/p, or 1c/p/1s, there is no way your are going to get LHO to be silent. Alternatively, if you had responded 2 spades you probably would not have heard any chirping on your left. We hate chirping! Second, you have achieved the ultimate in bridge bidding, a “twofer.” You will have told partner not only about the distribution of your hand, but also about your lack of hcps in a single bid.
The biggest mistake by those using WJS is that they don’t use the bid on very weak hands. With Q9xxxx, xx, 82, xx (bid 2 spades without blinking an eye). The opposite is also an equal problem, they use the WJS on hands that are too strong such as KQ9xxx, xx, Q82, xx (bid 1 spade, not two). Max Hardy in his world renowned book, Advanced Bidding for the 21st Century (2000) states that the proper range for the WJS jump shift is 2 to a bad 5 hcps.
You might ask what do I achieve by limiting the bid to such rotten hands. Why not 4-8 or some other more flexible range? The reason is that we have another bidding treatment for the 6 card suit in the good 5 to 9 hcp range. With hands like KQ9xxx, xx, Q82, xx we are going to respond 1 spade and at the next opportunity we will bid 2 spades. By rebidding our suit we will show the 6 card spade suit, but with a hand that may have as much as 9 high card points. Notice that by adopting this discipline, we have very precisely sliced and diced the range of 2-9 hcps, differentiating the WJS from the “suit rebid” response, and thus giving partner a very precise picture of your hand strength and card distribution.
Weak jump shifts are commonly used in competition and over a t/o double. Should they also be used when there is no competition from your RHO opponent? Of course they should. And for all the same reasons. Just because your RHO has not bid doesn’t mean that all is quiet on the Western Front. If you pass that nice 3 point hand, or bid 1 spade, it is a guaranteed that the Terrorist on your left is about to try to steal this auction from your side. Challenge your LHO to bid at the 3 level; it’s like throwing a grenade. Are you safe? Off course you are, you have described your hand to partner in detail. Unless he makes a forcing call, your obligation is over. Remember to check the box on the convention card that says that WJS are used when not in competition. Note that it is marked in “red” and must be alerted.
To wrap up this section let’s talk about what action responder takes when he has a 6+ card suit and 10-11 hcps. Assume you have KQ9xxx, xx, Kxx, Q8. Your partner opens 1 club, there is a pass on your right and you respond 1 spade. Partner now bids 2 diamonds. You must not bid 2 spades. That bid says I have 6-9 hcps and in the above example you have a nice 10 hcps. Jump your second response to 3 spades to show your 6 card suit and invitational values. Partner with a single spade and minimum hand can pass, but more times than not you will happily be in 4 spades. With the above hand if I had another spade or another point or if partner had rebid 1NT, I would bid 4 spades rather than 3 spades.
In the next post to our blog, we will continue this discussion and look at opener’s rebid options when he holds some significant extras and wants to ignore your warnings.