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© Copyright 1996, Jim Loy
1. Convention Card
General Approach - 5-Card Majors: Opening one of a major shows 13+ pts and 5 cards in that major.
Strong 2-Club Opening: Opening 2C shows 23 HCP or 1 trick short of game. 2D negative response.
Strong 1NT: Opening 1NT shows 15-17 HCP, balanced, with stoppers in 3 suits. A 16-18 HCP range is an option.
2NT and 3NT Openings: 2NT=21-22 HCP, balanced. This range will vary from partnership to partnership. 3NT is either 25-26 HCP (this range varies) balanced, or Gambling 3NT as used in Acol. Other strong NT hands are bid using the strong 2C.
Non-Forcing Stayman: 2C response, to 1NT opening, asks partner to bid a 4-card major or 2D with no 4-card major.
Double Raise Is Forcing to Game: A double raise response (1H-3H) shows 13+ pts, forcing to game. For the more popular Limit Major Raises, see 15. Popular Options, below.
Convenient Minor - 3-Card Minor: You occasionally have to open a 3-card minor, to keep from opening a 4-card major.
Weak 2-Bids (2D-2S): 5-11 HCP, 6-card suit.
Unusual 2NT Overcall: 2NT overcall shows 5 cards in both minor suits. This is an option.
Weak Jump Overcall: Jump overcall is preemptive, 10 pts or less, 6-card suit. The Strong Jump Overcall is also popular.
Direct Cuebid Strong: Direct cuebid, of opponent's suit, shows game values.
Gerber Over NT Bid: 4C immediately after a natural NT bid is Gerber, asking partner for number of aces, and then 5C asks for kings.
Blackwood Over Suit Bid: 4NT immediately after a suit bid is Blackwood, asking partner for number of aces, and then 5NT asks for kings. Roman Key Card Blackwood is a good option. The conditions under which 4C is Gerber and 4NT is Blackwood will vary from partnership to partnership.
DOPI/DEPO: If opponents interfere over Blackwood or Gerber, double is zero aces, pass is 1 ace (Dbl-0-Pass- 1=DOPI). If the interference is at the 6-level, double is even, pass is odd (Dbl-Even-Pass-Odd=DEPO).
Grand slam force: 5NT, when not in the middle of Blackwood, and when not bidding a NT sequence, asks partner to bid a grand slam in the agreed suit if he has two of the top three honors of that suit, a small slam otherwise. There are more useful, not-so-standard, variations. See the topics below, for more detail.
2. Opening Bids
1-suit: 13+ pts. Longest suit. 5-card or longer major or longest minor. Diamonds if two 4-card minors, Clubs if two 3- card minors. Some partnerships will sometimes bid a 4-card major if there is a convenient rebid.
1NT: 15-17 HCP. Balanced. Stoppers in 3 suits. Usually no 5- card majors. May have a worthless doubleton. Very descriptive bid. Preferable to other bids, if the hand fits the description. Some partnerships use a 16-18 HCP 1NT.
2C: Strong 2C. 23+ HCP or within one trick of game.
2-suit (2D-2S): Weak two-bid. 8-11 HCP. 6-card suit. No outside 4-card suit. Don't be so brave with unfavorable vulnerability.
2NT: 21-22 HCP. Balanced. Stoppers in all four suits. The range of HCPs will vary with the partnerships.
3NT: 3NT is either 25-26 HCP (this range varies) balanced, or Gambling 3NT as used in Acol. Other strong NT hands are bid using the strong 2C followed by NT.
3 or 4 of a suit: Preempt. Weak hand. Long suit. Little side strength.
3. Responses To One Of A Suit
1/1: One-over-one. Shows 6+ pts, and a 4-card suit. Forcing for one round. Responder shows 4-card suits up the line. Some partnerships show the higher ranked 4-card suit first.
1NT: 6-10 HCP. Denies any 4-card suit that can be shown at the 1-level. Denies support in partner's suit. Last resort.
2/1: Two-over-one. 11+ pts, and a 4-card suit. Forcing for one round. 1S-2H shows a 5-card heart suit.
raise: 6-10 pts. Support (3-card support for a major, 4-card support for a minor). If this suit is a minor, this bid denies any 4-card major.
jump shift: 17+ pts.
2NT: 13-15 HCP. Balanced. Stoppers in unbid suits. Forcing to game. No 4-card majors at the 1-level.
double raise: 13-16 pts. 4-card support. Forcing to game. For the more popular Limit Major Raises, see 15. Popular Options, below.
3NT: 16-18 HCP. Balanced. Stoppers in unbid suits.
double jump shift: Preemptive. Long strong suit.
4. Rebids After One Of A Suit
An opening of one of a suit can be bid with a wide range of points (13+). In many cases, opener will limit his point range, and further describe his distribution, with his second bid.
After responder's raise, opener passes with a minimum (13-16 pts). He invites game (17-19 pts) by rebidding his suit or bidding 2NT. A new suit is invitational and forcing (17+ pts). Or opener may bid game with 20+ pts.
After responder's 1NT response, opener can pass or rebid his suit with a minimum (13-16 pts). He can bid a new suit with a minimum or more (13-19 pts). He can invite game (17-19 pts) by bidding 2NT or by jumping in his suit. A reverse invites game (17+ pts) and implies that the first-named suit is longer than the second, and a jump shift is forcing to game (20+ pts).
After a 1/1 response, opener normally shows a minimum opening hand (13-16 pts) by rebidding his suit (a 6-card suit is rebiddable), or raising partner's suit, or by bidding NT. He can bid a new suit with a minimum opening hand or better (13-19 pts). Opener invites game (with 17-19 pts) by jumping in one of the suits already bid by the partnership or by reversing. A reverse is invitational and forcing (17+ pts) and implies that the first-named suit is longer than the second. Some people play a reverse as 17-19 pts, invitational to game and non-forcing. With a very strong hand (20+ pts) opener usually jump shifts. With 18-20 HCP, a balanced distribution, and stoppers in the unbid suit, opener may jump to 2NT, forcing to game.
After a 2/1 response, opener invites game with a minimum opening hand (13-14 pts) by rebidding his suit, or raising partner's suit, or by bidding NT. He can bid a new suit with a minimum opening hand or better (13-18 pts). Opener shows a strong hand (15-18 pts) by jumping or bidding game directly or by reversing or by bidding 3 of a suit without jumping. And a jump shift is forcing to game (19+ pts) and shows interest in slam.
After stronger responses, opener either rebids to show his points (as above) or places the contract.
Responder's second bid often clarifies his point count, and further describes his distribution, as well. With a minimum hand (6-10), he will often pass, unless forced to bid. He will jump to force to game. And he shows in-between values with non-jumps. A new suit by responder is forcing, so he can bid that with a wide range of points.
5. 15-17 HCP Strong 1NT
An opening bid of 1NT shows 15-17 HCP, a balanced distribution (4-4-3-2 or 4-3-3-3 or 5-3-3-2 where the 5-card suit is a minor), and stoppers in three of the suits. May have a worthless doubleton. The old way was to never make this bid with a worthless doubleton. Some use 16-18 HCP as the range. The natural reason for using the 15-17 HCP range is to increase the opportunities to use the valuable 1NT opening bid. Some bid 1NT with a weak 5-card major. A few may bid 1NT with two doubletons. This bid is descriptive, and is usually preferable, when the hand fits the description. Responder now becomes the captain, and has the most say in the final contract.
Responses to 1NT:
2C: Stayman, showing 9+ pts and a 4-card major. See below.
2 suit or 3C: 0-8 pts. 5-card suit. Unbalanced. Signoff.
2NT: 9-10 HCP. Invitational to 3NT. Balanced or long minor. Opener bids 3NT with a maximum (16-17 HCP).
3 suit: 11+ pts. Good 5-card suit. Forcing to game. Opener raises with 3-card support.
3NT: 11-15 HCP. Balanced or long minor.
4 major: 11-15 pts. 6-card suit.
The above point ranges have to be adjusted downwards (one point), if you use the 16-18 HCP range for a 1NT opening.
For higher NT bids, see Quantitative NT bids, below. For Gerber, see Slam bidding, below.
6. Non-Forcing Stayman
A 2C response to a 1NT opening is Stayman, the method for finding a 4-4 fit in a major in this situation. It shows 9+ pts, and at least one 4-card major. It is forcing, and asks partner to bid 2H with a 4-card heart suit, but no 4-card spade suit; or 2S with a 4-card spade suit, and maybe a 4-card heart suit; or 2D with no 4-card major. Some partnerships use 2H to show 4 cards in both majors, rather than 2S.
Responder's next bid, after Stayman:
2 major 9-10 pts. 5-card suit. Invitational to game.
2NT 9-10 HCP. Invitational to game.
3 suit 11-15 pts. 5-card suit. Forcing to game.
3NT 11-15 pts.
After 1NT-2C-2 major:
2S 9-10 pts. 5-card suit. Invitational to game.
2NT 9-10 HCP. Invitational to game.
raise 9-10 pts. 4-card support. Invitational to game.
3 suit 11-15 pts. 5-card suit. Forcing to game.
3NT 11-15 HCP. Less than 4-card support.
raise game 11-15 pts. 4-card support.
3C over a 2NT opening bid is also Stayman. In that case, it is forcing to game. A 4C response to 3NT is Gerber. See Slam bidding, below.
Forms of Double-Barrel Stayman are also popular.
7. Quantitative NT bids
During a NT auction (immediately after a natural NT bid), 4NT is not Blackwood, but is rather a "quantitative NT bid" inviting 6NT. Either player makes this bid when he has deduced that the partnership is just short of slam (31-32 HCP, assuming that partner has the minimum of the range that he has claimed). Partner then passes with a minimum or bids 6NT with more. If the partnership has fewer HCPs, the player would have signed off at 3NT. With more, he would have signed off at 6NT.
Other NT bids fit into this scheme. 2NT is an invitation to 3NT. With a minimum, partner passes. With a maximum, he bids 3NT. 5NT is an invitation to 7NT. Partner bids 6NT with a minimum, 7NT with a maximum.
8. Strong 2C
An opening bid of 2C shows 23+ HCP or one trick short of game, and is virtually forcing to game. 2C is an artificial bid, as it bears no relation to opener's club suit. Some people use Strong 2-bids.
Responses to 2C:
2D: Negative response, 0-7 HCP. Double negative (or second negative) is the negative 2D followed by the cheaper minor. This shows 0-4 HCP, without an ace. After the double negative, opener can sign off short of game by immediately rebidding his suit. Failure to use the double negative shows 4-7 HCP, forcing to game.
suit: Positive 8+ HCP. 5-card suit.
2NT: Positive 8+ HCP. Balanced.
Other kinds of responses are possible. There are various kinds of step responses.
Opener's first rebid, regardless of responder's response:
suit: 5-card suit. Forcing.
2NT: 23-24 HCP. Balanced. Not forcing. 3C is Stayman.
3NT: 25-27 HCP. Balanced.
Further bids of new suits show 5-card suits. Rebid of a suit shows 6 cards. Of course the opening 2C and the negative 2D do not show real suits. So 2C-2D-3C only shows 5 cards in clubs. NT denies further 5-card suits.
Once a fit is found, slam bidding may take over. See Slam Bidding, below.
9. NT ranges
Opener, with a balanced distribution, has these ways to get to NT, depending on his HCP count:
Other ranges are popular.
10. Weak Two-Bids
An opening bid of 2D, 2H, or 2S is a weak two-bid. Weak two-bids go along with the Strong 2C. Some partnerships use 2D as Flannery (See Popular Options, below), leaving 2H and 2S as weak two-bids. A weak two-bid shows 8-11 HCP (this varies), with a 6-card suit and no side 4-card suit. The strength is mostly in the bid suit. The HCP range varies from partnership to partnership. 1½-2 quick tricks is also standard. The purpose is to describe the hand to partner, and to interfere with the opponents' bidding. The idea is much like that of the preemptive bids (See below). Like the preempts, whether you bid a weak two-bid depends on the seat you're in, and your vulnerability. With unfavorable vulnerability, you won't be so brave. And you will pass out the hand, in fourth position.
Responder usually either passes or raises the preempt. Standard is that 2NT is the only forcing response, asking opener to rebid his suit with a minimum or jump rebid the suit with a maximum. Responding to a weak two-bid with a new suit shows a long suit, and is not forcing.
Preemptive opening bids do not vary much from system to system. They involve a bid of 3 or higher of a suit. A preempt shows a long suit, and little defensive strength. Such a bid has a chance of success, and interferes with the opponents' bidding. Whether to preempt (or how high to preempt) depends on the vulnerability and on which seat your sitting in. You don't want to open with a preempt in 4th seat. And you can be braver with favorable vulnerability.
A standard rule, of the past, is the "Rule of Two and Three": To preempt, you need to be within two tricks of your bid when vulnerable and within three tricks of your bid when not vulnerable. Some partnerships preempt more readily than that.
12. Defensive and Competitive Bidding
Most of the features of competitive bidding do not vary from system to system. The meanings of various kinds of overcalls, doubles, responses, rebids, and cuebids will either be standard or be part of some convention. Here is a rundown of what may be standard:
suit: At the 1-level, 9-17 pts, good 5-card suit. At the 2-level, 10-17 pts, 6-card suit.
1NT: 16-18 HCP. Stopper in opponent's suit.
2NT: Unusual 2NT Overcall. Less than 13 pts. 5-cards in both minors. Partner chooses minor. Possibly a sacrifice. Some partnerships do not use this bid.
jump: Weak Jump Overcall. 6-10 pts, long suit, preemptive. The alternative is the older Strong Jump Overcall, which shows 15-18 pts, strong suit. The Weak Jump Overcall is standard, except after 1NT, or after a preempt, or when balancing. Then use the Strong Jump Overcall. The Weak Jump Overcalls (including double-jumps, or higher) are similar to the preemptive opening bids, at the same level. Consider vulnerability, as discussed for preempts. cuebid opponent's suit: 22+ pts. Forcing to game.
double jump: Preemptive. Long suit.
When responding to partner's opening, after an opponent's overcall, bid as you would have without the interference, if you can. But pass if you would have had an awkward bid, like when you would have responded with a 6-point 1NT. Bid game or cuebid opponent's suit, if you have game. Jump shift is a normal jump shift. Double is a Negative Double showing 4-cards in the unbid majors, and the overcall may have taken away the bid you were about to make.
When responding to partner's overcall, bid much as you would if your partner had opened. Bid game or cuebid opponent's suit, if you have game. Jump to invite game.
A takeout double is a double of a low-level bid. It shows about opening strength and 4-cards in the unbid majors or too many pts to overcall. It asks partner to choose a suit, preferably a major. The basic takout double is immediately after your opponent has opened one of a suit. Fairly standard is for any double, when the bidding is below game level, and partner has not bid anything except pass, to be for takeout. An exception is that the double of a NT bid is for penalty. It is standard that the double of a preempt is for takeout (unless the preempt is at the game level). But there are conventions for handling that situation differently. A double in a situation in which a double for penalty doesn't make sense is also a takeout double. An example is 2H(weak 2-bid)-pass-2NT(forcing response)-dbl. The contract will never be 2NT, here. So, a penalty double does not make sense.
The double of an artificial suit bid is lead-directing. For example, 2C-dbl means lead a club. Do this in the middle of Stayman or Blackwood.
13. Slam Bidding
Blackwood: 4NT, immediately after a suit bid (see below about when 4NT is Blackwood), is Blackwood, asking partner to show how many aces he has. Partner responds: 5C=0 or 4 aces, 5D=1 ace, 5H=2 aces, 5S=3. Older version of Blackwood showed 4 aces with 5NT. The 4NT bidder can then ask for kings with 5NT. Partner responds: 6C=0 kings, 6D=1, 6H=2, 6S=3, 6NT=4. Some play that the 6C response shows 0 or 4 kings. There is a small chance of confusion there. Use Blackwood when you need to know about the number of aces or kings. It does not help much when you need to know which aces your partner has.
There are several different possible agreements on when 4NT is Blackwood: (1) Immediately after a suit bid, or an artificial NT bid. (2) After a suit opening bid. (3) When NT is not being suggested by the partnership.
In some partnerships, the 4NT bidder can sign off at 5NT by bidding 5 or a non-trump suit. Partner then corrects to 5NT.
Some partnerships show a void, in response to Blackwood, by some response above 5S. You would do that only if it is a useful void (in opponent's suit, perhaps). The method varies. You might respond with the correct Blackwood response, but one level higher, with a useful void.
Other forms of Blackwood can be more informative. Some of these are Roman Key Card Blackwood, Roman Blackwood, and Key Card Blackwood. Romex sometimes uses a 3-level Blackwood: 5C=0 or 3 aces, 5D=1 or 4, 5H=3 aces. Then the next available nontrump bid asks for kings. That way 5NT is always Grand Slam Force.
DOPI/DEPO: If an opponent interferes with Blackwood (or Gerber) by overcalling, then double shows 0 or 4 aces, pass shows 1 ace, next step shows 2 aces, and next step shows 3 aces. This is called DOPI for Dbl=0, Pass=1 (D0P1). If an opponent overcalls at the 6-level, use DEPO: double=even, pass=odd. Different partnerships may change the level at which DEPO kicks in.
Gerber: Gerber is like Blackwood, but at a lower level (4C). It is used during a NT auction. 4C, immediately after a NT bid, is Gerber. Partner is asked to show aces: 4D=0 or 4 aces, 4H=1 ace, 4S=2 aces, 4NT=3 aces. The 4C bidder can then go on to ask for kings, with 5C.
There are different agreements on when 4C is Gerber. Examples are: (1) Immediately after a natural NT bid or (2) After a NT opening bid.
Grand Slam Force: 5NT, when you're not in the middle of Blackwood and when a 4NT bid would have been Blackwood, is Grand Slam Force. It asks partner to bid a grand slam, in the agreed trump suit, if he has two of the three top honors (A, K, Q) in trump. He bids a small slam otherwise. There are partnership agreements that allow the Grand Slam Force responder to show ONE of the top three honors. For example, 6C may show one of the top three honors, unless clubs is trump. And some partnerships have ways of showing which honor is held. If you haven't agreed on trump yet, then the 5NT bidder is claiming the last real suit bid to be trump.
Cuebidding Controls... [more later]
14. Forcing Bids
The chief distinguishing feature of any system is which bids are forcing. In Standard American, an opening 2C bid is the only forcing opening bid. A new suit by responder is forcing, unless opener just bid 1NT. A jump shift is forcing to game. Once a suit has been agreed upon, any other suit is forcing. A reverse is forcing. Many partnerships play that a reverse is not forcing.
15. Popular Options
A few popular conventions, commonly used with Standard American:
Limit Major Raises: This is a double raise (a jump raise) which shows 11-12 points. This is apparently more popular than the game-forcing double raise that I show above. When using this method, a strong raise is often shown using Jacoby 2NT. Other partnerships show a strong forcing raise with a 3NT response.
Unusual 2NT Overcall
Inverted Minor Raises
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