Does Responder's Major Show 4 or 5 (or more)?

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 03/12/2016
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Your partner has opened the biding. When does your response in a major guarantee at least a 5-card suit? The answer is in this article--where there will often be interference (an overcall or double).

Without an opposing overcall, it is fairly easy. Here are the rules:

A response on the 1-level in a major guarantees only 4 (of course, it could be longer).


*If using Flannery, normally this would show 5+spades

A response of a major on the 2-level (other than jumps) can occur only in this one auction:


That should guarantee at least 5 hearts.

Any other direct major-suit responses are jumps, so clearly not 4-card suits.

If there is a takeout double after each opening bid above, the responses have exactly the same meaning with regard to major-suit length.

What if there is an overcall? It is necessary to have an understanding of the rules for negative doubles. That is the basis for some of the answers in the chart below:

Opening Overcall Response # of cards promised
1♠ 1♠ 1 MAJ 4+ (double = 4+♠ & 4+♠)
1♠ 1♠ 1♠ 5+ (double = exactly 4♠)
1♠ 1♠ 2♠ 5+
1♠ 1♠ 1♠ 5+  (double = exactly 4♠)
1♠ 1♠ 2♠ 5+
1♠ 2 minor 2♠ 5+
1♠ 2 minor 2♠ 5+
1NT Overcall Bid of a Major 5+









Summary of this table:

After a 1♠ overcall, a major-suit response can be made with only 4. But, after a 1♠ overcall, a 1♠ response guarantees at least 5. Two-level responses guarantee at least 5.

Summary of the summary: If they overcall anything other than 1♠, then responder's bid of a major guarantees 5 or more. If they overcall 1♠, then responder is allowed to bid 1♠ or 1♠ with only 4.

Warning: This needs to be studied, studied again and memorized. It isn't complicated, but causes complication if it isn't digested properly.

Additional situations: 

A situation that parallels responder's bid is the bidding of the advancer. The advancer is the partner of an OVERCALLER.

The advancer is often in a difficult position. 

You have: 

♠ KQ109  
♥ K2  
♦ 9876  
♣ A43

The auction goes 1♠--1♠ (partner) --Pass to you. Does advancer have to have a 5-card suit to bid? Not always, but bidding a new suit should promise at least 4 good cards and a decent hand as in this example. 

Updated: Jan 2022