The Reverse by Opener

Based upon Karen Walker's excellent article found at
Copyright © 1998 -- Karen Walker
Minor changes and additions made for presentation of today's lesson -- see the original article for the full text.

Basic bridge bidding is based on a practice called "up-the-line", which means that after you open, partner's one-level responses and your rebids are always made in the cheapest of your 4-card suits. For example, if you open 1C and partner has two 4-card majors, he'll always bid 1H to keep the bidding low and give you room to show a possible 4-card spade suit. This assures that you'll find any major-suit fit, and that you'll keep the bidding low until you've exchanged complete information about your suit lengths. 

If partner bypasses a suit he could have shown at the one-level, you should always assume (at least temporarily) that he does not have 4-card length in that suit. For example:
     You open 1D with  94  KQ103  AJ764  K10  and partner responds 1S. With your minimum opening, it's pointless to bid 2H (a suit partner has denied), which could force the bidding to the 3-level. You should rebid 1NT with this hand to show your minimum point-count and keep the auction low. It's possible that partner has 5 spades and 4 hearts, but in that case, he'll bid 2H over your 1NT rebid.

When you have a stronger hand, though -- such as  4  KQ103  AKJ76  A102 -- you can afford to take the bidding higher. To show extra strength, you can make a reverse, which is a bid of a suit partner has bypassed (in the above example, your rebid of 2H would be a reverse). Put another way, it's a bid that will force partner to bid at the 3-level if he prefers your first suit.  Some typical reverse auctions are:

    Opener      Responder                      Opener      Responder                        Opener      Responder
       1C              1H                                   1H                1NT                                  1S              2D
       2D                                                      2S                                                          3C

A two-level reverse  (where you must go to the 2-level to show your second suit) shows a distributional hand with extra strength, and it forces partner to bid again. Specifically, it promises:

1 - At least 16-17+ high-card pts (at least a king better than a minimum range opening bid);
2 - At least 5-4 distribution in your two suits;
3 - Your first suit must be longer than your second suit;
4 - Your second suit must be higher in rank than your first suit; and
5 - Partner must have bypassed your second suit with his response.

Opener's one-level rebid (1C-1H-1S) is not a reverse. Your rebid is a reverse only if you must go to a higher level to show the suit (1C-1NT-2S).

A three-level reverse is made when partner's response forces you to the 3-level to show your second suit. Like a two-level reverse, this is forcing and shows extra values. The only differences are that your second suit will usually be lower in rank than your first suit, and you may have equal length in your two suits.

Here are some typical hands:

J107  3  AQJ7  AKQ102 -- You open 1C and partner responds 1S. You can now reverse with a rebid of 2D. This forces partner to bid again and give you more information. If he rebids a long spade suit, you'll raise to 4S. If he bids anything else, you can further describe your hand by bidding spades next. Note that since you didn't raise spades right away, you denied holding 4-card support. Your belated raise shows 3-card spade support and , by inference, tells partner you have a singleton heart (since you've shown 9 cards in clubs and diamonds and 3 cards in spades).

AQJ106  J  KQ1076  A5 -- You open 1S and partner bids 2H, showing 10+ pts. and at least 5 hearts. Since you must go to the next highest level to show your diamond suit, a 3D bid here is a 3-level reverse (often called a high-level reverse). With a weaker hand (12-14 pts.), you would rebid 2S to show a minimum and keep the bidding low.

AK1054  KQ9862  A4  Void --  You can also use a reverse bid when your suits are longer than 5-4.  Here, you open 1H, partner responds 1NT, and you make a reverse bid of 2S to force. Over whatever partner bids, you'll bid your spades again to show extra length. Partner will know that you must hold 5 spades (because you bid them twice) and 6 hearts (because your hearts must be longer than your spades). Partner can now decide what the trump suit should be.

K9  AQ72  AQ  KJ754 -- You open  1C and partner bids 1S. This hand qualifies as a reverse to 2H, but a 2NT rebid is a better description of your strength and distribution. Your hand is fairly balanced, your suits are not robust, and you have almost half your points in your doubletons. If you instead bid 2H here, you promise only about 17+ pts., and you tend to show a hand that's more suitable for a trump contract than for 3NT.

87  AQ102  AK1075  K7 -- You open  1D and partner bids 1S. On the surface this hand qualifies as a 1NT opener, but a reverse to 2H  is a better description of your strength, distribution and your strong orientation towards suit play with a major share of your honors in aces and kings. In contrast to the decision to rebid 2NT with the above hand, this hand has only one honor in the two short suits.

Responding to a reverse

Opener's reverse  is forcing for one round -- you must bid again, even if you have a very weak response. In general, you should base your rebid on your picture of partner's hand (he's shown at least 5-4 in his suits) and try to support one of his suits if possible. Here are some simple meanings for your second bid, in the general order of preference you should consider them:

Lebensohl (Ingberman) over Reverses

Based upon Karen Walker's excellent article found at
Copyright © 1998 -- Karen Walker
Minor changes and additions made for presentation of today's lesson -- see the original article for the full text.

Some of the most difficult and awkward of all bridge auctions are those after a reverse. A reverse is opener's 2-level rebid in a higher-ranking suit than his opened suit (1C-1S-2D or 2H). A reverse always shows extra values and at least 5-4 distribution in the two suits.

A reverse is forcing for one round, but it may be made with as few as 16-17 pts., so it does not promise forcing-to-game values. Stopping below game, though, can sometimes be a problem. Because the reverse uses up so much bidding space, it can often propel the auction into an unmakeable game when both responder and opener have minimums.

To solve this problem, many partnerships have adopted a convention called Lebensohl over Reverses. After opener's reverse, responder uses a 2NT rebid to show a weak hand (5-7 pts.) that wants to stop in a 3-level partscore if opener has minimum reverse values. Here's how it works:

Responder's use of 2NT Lebensohl

Lebehsohl 2NT is used at your second bid after opener makes a reverse to the 2-level (1C-1S-2H). In this situation, 2NT by you usually shows weakness (5-7 pts.) and is a relay bid, asking partner to rebid 3C if he has a minimum (16-18 pts.).

After the auction:   Partner        You
                               1D              1S
                               2H             2NT  (Lebensohl)
                               3C               ?
you have two ways to show weakness:

Note that if opener refuses your relay and bids past 3C, he's showing significant extra strength. You must keep bidding to game level, no matter how weak you are.

Opener's rebid after 2NT

If responder bids 2NT over your reverse, it's the Lebensohl convention, which asks you to bid 3C. You should accept the relay and bid 3C if you have minimum values (16-18 pts.). However, with stronger hands -- those where you want to be in game, even if partner has a bare 5-7 pts. -- you can refuse the relay and bid past 3C.

After the auction:   You            Partner
                               1D              1S
                               2H             2NT  (Lebensohl)
here are the ways you can show a forcing-to-game hand (19+ playing pts.):

Other actions by responder after a reverse

Having the Lebensohl 2NT available will change the meanings of some of your other rebids. After the reverse, if responder makes any bid past 2NT, it shows forcing-to-game values.

After the auction:   You            Partner
                               1D              1S
                               2H               ?
here are the meanings of your other actions: