District 6
Shawn Stringer, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Apr/MayArticle by Steve RobinsonAug/Sep
ArticlesGame Tries (Jun/Jul 2010)
You open one-of-a-major and partner raises to two-of-your-major. What are your thoughts about game tries?What is the prototype 3 game try after 1 - 2? What about 1 - 2? An easy way to avoid going minus is to play semi-constructive major-suit raises. If you wouldn’t accept any game try, bid 1NT and then support partner’s major. Opener will be less aggressive if he doesn’t have a known eight-card major suit fit. If you held 432A32Q432432 and raise opener’s-major and he makes any game try, you would not accept. You could easily end up at the three-level going down. You avoid ending up in three-of-opener’s major if you respond 1NT and then support partner. Play a major-suit single raise as 7+ to 10- dummy points. You can use these methods even if you’re playing 1NT as non-forcing. There are many types of game tries. One of them is a simple help-suit game try. What you bid is what you have. If you have a choice about which suit to game-try, bid the lowest. This gives partner a chance to re-invite. There is a problem with help-suit game tries. Suppose you are 5-2-4-2 and want to make a game try. Your only long suit is diamonds. You could have: (1) AKQxxKxxxxxKx (2) AJxxxAKJxxxQx (3) AQxxxKxKJxxKx or (4) AQxxxKxAxxxQx. If you bid 3, partner might ignore club values and might not know what diamond holding he needs to accept. Qxx is very good opposite (3) but not opposite (1).

Billy Pollack---Over the years, it amazes me how little difference this makes. I've played some fancy methods that didn't really help. The tradeoff is that showing shortness, for example, gives up so much info to the defense that it doesn't result in much of a net gain. So now I play simple "help suit" tries with 2NT natural and non-forcing, and three-of-the-major asks about trumps and aces. We also narrow the one-of-a-major – two-of-the-major range a bit with exactly three trumps or a soft 4-3-3-3. Best methods, if you want to get real fancy, is for the first step to ask partner to bid the first suit where he would reject a short-suit game try and skip over suits where he would accept. This method doesn't give away as much info.

Eddie Wold---AQxxxAKxxQxxx would be my prototype 3 game try.

Frank Stewart---I have most often used long-suit tries. After 1 - 2, I might have bid 3 with AK76576A3A843. I did not use "help suit" tries with a worthless holding in the suit. I seldom used preemptive re-raises: I thought it was more useful to treat a re-raise as a general try for game, asking partner to give special weight to the quality of his trump support. I think short-suit tries are playable. In The Bridge World about 30 years ago, if my memory serves, George Rosenkranz published a method that allowed combining long-suit and short-suit tries. My style in vulnerable game bidding was to stretch to try but not to accept. With a sound invitation, just bid game. I thought it was necessary to try aggressively; otherwise good games would be missed. But I can understand the other approach -- to accept aggressively -- which avoids going minus after an unsound try.

Kerry Sanborn---There is a lot of merit to two-way game tries; that is, short and long suit tries. Lacking that understanding, though, I like to try in the cheapest suit I need help with. For example, 1 - 2; 2 is the cheapest game try. If I should pass over spades, then any cards partner holds there are likely to be useless. I could have a hand like: xAKxxxAJxxAxx.  In general, partner should bid game with any maximum, except in the example above. Holding KJxKxxQxxxxxx, I would not accept a try, when opener skipped over spades. But in the same auction, I would like this hand: xxxxxxKQxKxxx. Granted, this is a maximum anyway, but even without the K, I would accept a 3 game try. In short, when partner makes a game try, look at your holding in the suit and at your overall values. Either of these could determine whether or not to accept the try.

When partner makes a game try, discount kings and queens in suits that he skipped over. Aces and trumps are always good.

Dan Gerstman---I prefer help-suit game tries and I won’t preempt partner. So if I bid one-of-a-major and he bids two-of-the-same-major and I go to 3, I’m really not interested in his spade values, if our suit was hearts, or club values, in either case. On the other hand, if it goes 1 - 2 and I try with 2, then if he kicks it back with 3 or 3, I may be interested. Or if I tried with 3 and he bid 3 I may be interested. The key points here: a queen where I bid is good, some other queen isn’t; kings I've gone by are not good; you may assume aces are; the more trumps always the better; and lastly, partner's game try might really be a slam try; so, a mere accept is sometimes an underbid. If he makes a game try in a suit and he’s hit your KQxx(x), you have to raise that suit for example. If you have a king in a higher suit and were kicking it back so to speak and he signs off, you quit. On the other hand if you were going regardless but making a below game cue bid, then you just bid game, after he signs off, and he'll get it. What about 1 - 2 - 3 or 1 - 2- 3? There should certainly be a difference between spades and hearts. I personally feel that once they've had that many opportunities to bid, and haven’t, it's your hand, and 1-2-3 should be progressive.

If it goes 1 - Pass - 2 - Pass, the opponents might balance but they don’t figure to bid game but then they might not even balance. Why bid 3 when you might buy it for 2. Therefore, 3 should be a game try. However, if they bid anything, 3 is a signoff and demands that partner pass.

Richard Schwartz---Very natural, ideally four cards in length, not help suit ---the best holding to have would be Kx as that is good opposite any suit. A jump is now a void, as slams are possible with 7-3-3-0,or 6-4-3-0, or 7-4-2-0. If the opponents are not bidding, then 1-2-3 is invitational

Eric Greco---I believe the best way to look at game tries is for partner to look at xxx in the suit you bid as the worst possible holding. Therefore, holding something like KJxx, AJxx or AQxx are the most ideal holdings. Now of course we know you are rarely dealt such a perfect hand, so there is no perfect solution, and partner evaluating their holding in your suit has to be only a small part of the equation when deciding whether to accept the game try. Also note that when you bid the other major this could essentially be on any quality of suit (at least four in the suit), because getting to the 4-4 fit is usually better than the 5-3 fit. Maybe it is better to use short-suit tries!! You could combine the two by playing the next step relays for a short-suit try, and then the next three steps are long-suit tries but you lose your natural 2NT try, which can be important. So 1 - 2 - 2 relays to 2NT for an up-the-line short-suit try. You can even keep 2NT as natural and play that 3, 3, 3 are up-the-line long-suit tries. You just lose the 3-blocking bid, which is practically worthless anyway.

Rose Meltzer---Kyle Larsen and my direct raise to two of our major is semi-constructive, usually with three trumps, and we play help suit game tries. We also play mixed raises with four and, of course, weak jumps to the three-level. With all weak hands (0-5) we bid 1NT forcing first. All of our help suit game tries in any suit have length.

Mark Lair---Long-suit game tries, occasionally lead stopping oriented. 2NT is forcing and natural. We can’t play below three-of-our-major.

Another type of game try is the random game try. After 1 - 2, 2NT is a balanced game try, 3 is a random game try and the red suits are slam tries. After 1 - 2, 2 is a random game try, 2NT is a balanced game try and the minor suits are slam tries.

Lynn Deas---I think the next suit should just be a random-game try and the other bids should be slam tries. It makes a big difference whether you are responding to a slam try or game try because you need different hand types to accept a game try versus a slam try. I like to play 2NT as a natural game try, 2 as a random game try if hearts are trumps and 3 if spades are trumps, therefore the other suit bids are slam tries.

Chris Compton---First step is a random game try, all other bids are for slam. Disclosing your hand for game at IMPs is losing bridge.

Larry Cohen---I don't like to TELL. It makes the defense too easy, especially, short-suit tries -- where the defense will know to lead that suit. I prefer either just bashing to game, or using a system that ASKS. Such as next step shows game interest (artificially) and responder TELLS.

Bobby Wolff---Mine is likely to be a minority view, but at least to me, game tries in the subject category, if specific, will be more helpful to the opponent's opening lead and subsequent defense than it will be to the declarer. Consequently my choice is RGT, translated to random game tries, with no meaning whatsoever.  No proof, only gut feel, since, when long in a suit sometimes a random queen or jack held by partner is useless, but other times it solidifies the holding similar to a jack's worth opposite a king, queen, but lack of worth opposite an ace and usually opposite a king and sometimes a queen (not when the 10 accompanies it, though). Short-suit game tries have certainly more tangible value, but enable the opponents quite often to defend double dummy, including their opening lead, not to mention deception by the third seat defender.

John Carruthers---I am coming around to the idea of: (i.) an anonymous game try (ii.) a non-revealing help suit or short-suit try where partner  (a.) accepts all, (b.) rejects all, or (c.) bids accordingly with one or more acceptances and one or more rejections. However, I suppose the typical try would be three to the ace, king or queen.

Mike Passell---If we start out by defining one-of-a-major – two-of-a-major as a hand that promises to accept a game try somewhere, it makes the concept easier. On all other hands, my initial response to partner’s opening bid in a major suit is 1NT. I prefer to use a new suit as natural, which can even lead to getting to slams in the secondary fit. We can now use 2NT to ask partner to bid the first suit he would accept a help-suit game try in -- returning to the trump suit announces he was accepting only because of good trumps. Bidding 3NT shows a balanced max with scattered values. The idea is to never give away our own hand with help suit or short-suit game tries, which I truly hate.  

David Berkowitz---I like to play two-way game tries. Of course playing a strong club you don't need a power bid. So step one is a relay to make a short-suit game try, and you can respond by bidding the first suit you would reject and the next three steps are classic help suits, maybe Axx. Axxx or Kxx(x), Qxx(x), or Jxxx would all be apt. I am reminded of what Jim Jacoby told me about IMP game tries -- don’t make them vulnerable, just bid game. I guess tries are just hoping, but at matchpoints going minus when you voluntarily bid to the three-level is a major no-no.

Another type of game try is the three-way game try. After 1 - 2, 2NT is artificial and says that you are going to make a short-suit game try. Responder has four options. If he would not accept any short-suit game try, he bids 3. If he would accept all short-suit game tries, he bids something at the four-level with 4 as an artificial slam accept. If he has strength in a red suit he bids it. If he wants to know which is the short-suit game try suit, he bids 3. Opener answers by bidding 3, 3, 3 to show short-suit game tries in clubs, diamonds or hearts, and bids the next three steps to show slam tries. After 1- 2, 3, 3, 3 are natural long-suit game tries. A direct raise to 3 asks about trumps. After 1- 2, the logic is the same but everything is one step lower.

Larry Mori---Part of the game tries depends on the definition of the single raise. If it is a wide range bid, the partnership is in jeopardy at the three-level. I tend to play three-card semi constructive raises so it is 7+ to 10 dummy points. Now, I can incorporate short-suit game tries which is usually a singleton with the first step, help to long-suit game tries with steps two, three and four and a power game try with the fifth (1 - 2 -3). Natural suits speak for themselves although it should have a high honor. If it is a three-card suit, it should also have a high honor; otherwise, partner does not know how to evaluate his queen in the suit. For those who make a help suit game try equally with xxx or Axx in the suit, they are lost and are on their own.

Marinesa Letizia---I prefer three-way game tries. Next step: asks partner what suit they would accept a game-try in, including short-suit game tries (step bidding), and a suit raise, which is a trump suit game try. A prototype 3 game try after 1 - 2 is Qxx or Jxxx.

Zeke Jabbour---If this is a question about which treatment I prefer, I kind of like Kokish (or Ewen or Kleinman) two -(or three)-way game tries, but I play whatever falls into my partner's comfort zone. The two-or-three ways incorporate both short-suit and long-suit game tries, as well as a trump-quality try without immediately disclosing the strong hand's area of concern. The next level up asks for the first suit in which partner would accept a game try. Anything else shows shortness in the named suit (except there are variations after 1-2-2). At IMPs, vulnerability obviously affects whether I make a game try, pass, or bid a game forthwith. Vulnerable, one can bid more aggressively, since the break even point is at a mere 37.5 vulnerable, i.e. you need only a 37.5 probability of  making game when vulnerable, and only a 45% chance not vulnerable--less if you're Canadian, and still less if, in addition, you have an American on lead. Ergo, you should quickly calculate the percentages on each hand before you bid a game. How? I'll tell you, I don't know. But you can usually gauge whether or not a hand has possibilities. Bridge is a game of possibilities and a continuing quest to realize them. Once we have established a fit we consider the questions of power and promoting the factor of distribution. I always tell my audiences that a hand improves most rapidly when a fit is established. A double fit is even better. Then, we look at controls. Aces are especially good for suit play. I might make a game inquiry with as little as AKQxxxxxxA109x and hope to catch partner with some thing like J10xxxxxxKQxxx or J10xAxxxxxQJxx. With a hand like Q10xxxxxAKQJxx, I would ask about the quality of partner's trump holding. The prototype for a 3 call by opener would, once again, depend on system. Playing the above systems it would be a short-suit game try (or the reverse -- a long-suit game try, if I were playing Ewen's two-way.) The prototypical 3 call, playing "standard" or help suit game tries, traditionally asks for help in the club suit. Both hands one and two have help.

Mel Colchamiro---I prefer two-way game tries where the next step after a single raise forces the next step to then show shortness--all other bids show length. I try never to make a long-suit try with xxx. Typical holdings for a long-suit try include Kxx, Kxxx, Kxxxx, etc., Axx, Axxx, Axxxx, same with Q----- and J-------.

Jon Wittes---Ross and I play two-way game tries, therefore, bidding a suit other than 2 over 2 shows a suit you need help in, most typically xxx, but other holdings are possible. As responder, I would not accept with xxx or Jxx under almost any circumstances, unless I have two aces. Shortness or the Ace is almost a guaranteed acceptance. Now, we play 2NT shows a short-suit game try. Partner bids 3 and we show our short suit. Over 1 -2 - 2NT- 3, 3 shows short diamonds, 3 shows short hearts, and 3 shows short clubs. Over 1 - 2, 2 says I am making a game try in spades. Partner bids 2NT. 3 says it was a short-suit game try in spades, 3 says it was a help suit game try in spades, and 3 says it is a hand with four spades and six hearts, undoubtedly less in high cards, since with that distribution and significant extras, you would be more inclined to just bid a game. Over 1 - 2, 2NT says I am making a short suit game try in a minor. Partner bids 3 to ask. 3 says it was a short-suit game try in diamonds. 3 says it was a short-suit game try in clubs.

Joe Kivel---I treat partner's game try bid as holding three or four cards to a queen or king, and bid accordingly. I also use 2NT as a game try, asking partner to bid the lowest suit in which he'd accept a game try. Holding a maximum raise but without help in the game try suit, I'd bid that suit. If I held KxxxxxxxxAQxx, over 3, I'd bid 4, over 3, I'd bid 3, over 3, I'd bid 4. Note - a new suit denies help in the help suit game try suit, but a maximum.

Marty Bergen---One of the "in" conventions these days is Help Suit Game Tries. After 1 - 2 or 1 - 2, opener bids the suit where he needs help. A weak three-card suit such as Jxx or xxx is ideal. Responder will then judge whether he has help. An ideal holding for him would be Ax or KQ10 x. If he has no help, such as xxx, he'll sign off even if he has a maximum.

However, this is NOT a good convention. Why?
1.  The very last thing declarer should do is tell the enemy which suit he is weak in. If this convention was "in" when I was playing, I would have found the killing opening lead a lot more often than I did!
2.  On many hands, opener has no "need help" suit. KJ95282KQ98AQ As a result, opener often makes his game-try in a suit where he really doesn't need help. This results in chaos about what opener is supposed to have, what responder needs, etc. Recently, I even saw a player make a help suit game-try with AQJ!

I suggest Bergen Game Tries. After a raise to two, 2NT by opener is an asking bid. With a shapely maximum, responder jumps to game. If he has a short suit (0 -2 cards), he bids the suit. With a 4-3-3-3 hand, he bids three of the trump suit with a minimum hand, and 3NT with a maximum. Once opener knows details about partner's shape, he will usually know what to do. Note that opener is NOT revealing anything about his hand. All that is disclosed is information about dummy's hand. If opener has a short suit (0 or 1), instead of bidding 2NT, he'll make a short-suit game try. Responder will evaluate his hand as if opener had splintered. I also use the above after Two-Way Reverse Drury.

Ronnie Rubin---I play a new suit is a short-suit game try. 2NT is a general game try without disclosing info.

Eddie Kantar---I like to play that 2NT denies shortness and asks partner to show a concentration of strength. Partner can raise to 3NT, sign off, or jump to game in the agreed major. A bid at the three-level tends to be a four-card suit, usually headed by a high honor needing shortness or honor fillers for partner to accept by bypassing the three-level of the agreed major. In theory it shows some 5-4-3-1 hand. If partner can show three-level concentration without a fit for the game-try suit, he should do so, as that may match the side three-card suit. Jumps to the four-level are two-suited slam tries. A jump to 3NT shows a void and 4 asks. This works best when spades is the agreed suit. 

Kit Woolsey---I play two-way game tries. Two-of-the-major +1 is an unspecified short-suit game try, partner bids next step to ask which, and the short suit is shown via up-the-line responses. The next bids are long/help suit game tries, again coded up the line. A long/help suit game try should be in a suit where partner's minor honors and shortness are of value -- xxx is the worst holding. Partner knows his aces and trump honors are good. It is his minor suit side honors that he doesn't know are working or not. Of course, my favorite game try is to just bid game and try to make it.

There is no standard way of responding to short suit game tries.You can play up-the-line steps, where the first step shows clubs, or you can play natural where you bid as natural as possible. Discuss this if you decide to play short-suit game tries.

Ralph Katz---Natural to semi-natural. I do not like short-suit game tries. The prototype 3 game try after 1 - 2 is AQxxxAQxxKJxx.

Jeff Rubens---Varies with partner's range, which can change substantially from method to method. Generally, I follow the principle to try if a perfect minimum makes game excellent.

Henry Bethe---Since I open all mid-range balanced hands with 1NT, I believe most game tries will be unbalanced hands. Therefore I play normally "short-suit game tries." I use 2NT as a general strength try, and re-raise as a mild game try with a sixth trump. When I do not play short-suit game tries, the prototype for 3 would be AQxxxKxxxAJxx, where responder holding xxx is bad, Qxx or xx useful. I play wide-range raises to two-of-the-major: can be as light as, say, QxxKxxxxxxxxx and as good as KxxAQxxxxxxxx. I play the raise to three-of-the-major as an "eight-loser" hand with four trumps, but responder can easily have four working values with only three trumps and 4-3-3-3 distribution.

Barry Rigal---Reverse Romex game tries. Long-suit tries are Honorxx(x) with step one initiating short-suit tries.

Drew Casen---Since we are big believers in Bergen raises, our simple raises are always three-trump constructive raises. We might have four trumps only if we are 4-3-3-3. In addition to that style, we stretch to open 1NT with five-card majors, and will do so with any 5-4-2-2 as long as the five-card suit is lower ranking than the four-card suit. So with 4-5-2-2 we open 1NT and respond to 3 Puppet Stayman as if we have 4-4 in the majors. After a raise, we need a pretty good hand to make a game try. I would say it starts with 16 HCP with any 5-4-2-2. Help suit game tries are for the birds, so all of our long-suit tries are us bidding what we have, not what we need. 1 - 2 - 2: relays to 2NT for a short-suit game try. Then opener bids low-middle-high shortness. 2NT shows long spades or is a power try (17-18 balanced). Responder responds in steps: accept suit, accept power, accept neither, and anything higher accepts both. 3 and 3 are natural long-suit tries and usually show four or more cards. 3 asks for trump quality. After we open 1, we play the same structure with 2NT being the relay for the short suit and 3 being either long in clubs or the power try. The power try is often used to determine if want to play 3NT or four-of-the-major. Direct 3NT is more of a command and slow 3NT is more of a choice. This entire structure is off in competition.  

Jill Meyers---The more distribution I have with my points in my suits, the more I would make a try, and if I had a short-suit game try available I would do that. Balanced 5-3-3-2 hands I discount, even with 15 or 16 HCP that I chose not to open 1NT.

Adam Wildavsky---Years ago I played two, three, and four-way game tries. I gave them up in favor of short-suit game tries, which Kaplan recommended. 2NT and three-of-our-major are game tries with no small singleton.

Any long-suit game try becomes a random game try.You have two better choices.One choice is to play two-way game tries where the next step is the start of a short-suit game try. The other choice is to play random game tries. Therefore, after 1 - 2, play 2NT is a balanced game try and 3 is a random unbalanced game try. If asked, just say that 3 says nothing about clubs and asks me to make use of my great judgment about how high we belong. After 1 - 2, 2 is the random unbalanced game try, and 2NT is a balanced game try. Other bids are slam tries.
Don Berman, Web Master.