Partnership Understandings: Level 4

7 A 2 : A pass directly after a natural, non-forcing one-level suit opening bid must not show, or usually have, any values.

You may be in that seat holding a hand with values but no suitable suit to overcall, not the right shape for a take-out double and not the strength to overcall 1NT according to your system.

Agreed that pass must not SHOW any values by partnership agreement, but according to the regulation it must also not HAVE any values.

What do you do?


  • The words are 'usually have' - so it does allow exceptions. Sometimes you do have high card values but have no sensible bid in your system e.g. a 3-3-3-4 12 count. (You can convey this to partner by pausing before passing of course - TIC). Equally you may have fewer high card points but have values (which I would interpret as 'trick-taking capabilities') in length in one or more suits, when you can overcall.

    The aim of the rule is to ensure that 'pass' cannot be used constructively.

    if you did not include the word 'usually' then you would have to bid/ double on any hand stronger than 432,432,432,5432.

  • The regulation is to stop you playing that pass shows (e.g.) 11+ HCP while all bids show less
    The 'usually' is to stop you playing pass shows 11+ HCP OR a 3343 0-count with 4 cards in opener's suit

  • In another thread we concluded that a system can define which hands are strong enough for a 1-of-a-suit opening more or less as it likes (as long as it conforms to the minimums specified in the Blue Book), but all hands that are considered to be a 1-of-a-suit opening have to be stronger than all hands that are considered to be opened with a pass if they have a broadly similar shape. So for example, if 12 HCP in a 5=3=3=2 hand is good enough for a 1!s opening, you wouldn't expect 15 HCP in a 5=3=3=2 hand to be a pass.

    I think a similar principle applies to overcalls. It's very common to play that a pass shows either a bad hand or the opponent's suit, and that's legal as long as you have a contiguous range of strengths for the passes; maybe you'll pass up to 18HCP if your only suit is the opponent's, and that's fine (even though it could be argued to be "having values"), so long as you wouldn't bid on a weaker hand that has the same shape. (And this is true even if, say, you'd bid on 0 HCP with an 8-card suit that isn't the opener's! That's a different hand shape, so it isn't comparable.)

  • I don't really see a problem. Most of the time when you pass it is because you don't have the values to do anything else. Some of the time you have values but no appropriate action other than pass, because of some flaw in your hand that makes some positive action unattractive. Most of the situations where you will do this are easily recognisable, and they do not happen frequently enough to come within "usually".

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