Beginners essentials

Where you have 6 HCP or more, you MUST bid if at all possible to describe your hand:

  1. Fit: you have 4-cards in your partner's suit - support it
  2. No Fit: your hand is unbalanced - bid your own 4+ card suit
  3. No Fit: balanced hand - bid NT unless too weak
  4. You are both long and strong in another suit - so bid it, & jump


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal

«  0631  »

Responder 1st bids. After a suit bid

1. Fit ? Get on with it !

Tell your partner you’ve got 4 of his suit, and exactly how many points. If you have a fit in a Major suit (heart or spade), that's best of all.

631. Reply to 1-suit, with fit
Points 6-9 10-12 13+ 16+
Cards 4 (3, if heartspade + shortage) 4 4 4
Bid Raise to 2. A weak bid Raise to 3. "Inviting" opener to bid game - if he has 14 points Raise to 4 Explore Slam
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When you raise your partner's opening bid in the same suit, your bid is not "forcing". Your partner is not obliged to continue to bid, but he will do if he can see that "game" could be possible and in that case you might need to bid again too, but only if your partner chooses to carry on bidding.

For example, let's say your partner bids 1heart, and you reply 2heart because you have 4 of them and 6-9 points. If your partner has 16 points, he will say 3heart, in the hope that you actually have 9 points, not 6. If you don't have 9, you simply pass. But if you do have 9, you can then say 4heart. Great ! A game bid, based on a 25 points 8-card fit.

2. No Fit: Unbalanced

Tell your partner you've got 5 or 4 of a new suit, and something about how many points. Here's how:

631b. Reply to 1 Suit opening. No fit, but alternative suit
Points 6-9 9 10-15 16+ 16+
The bidding lets you reply at the one level
cards 4 4 6
bid 1 of new suit 1 of new suit 2 of new suit
The bidding forces you reply at the two level
cards 4 5m, 5M 4m, 5M 5 6
bid pass 2 of new suit 2 of new suit 2 of new suit 3 of new suit
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Fundamental point number 1: Bid at the lowest level available. But if you have to change suit at the two level, then you are promising 10+HCP.

You can only break this rule if you have extra good length in your suit, which entitles you to some distribution points. For example, you might be tempted to respond 2club with only 8HCP if you had a 6-card suit.

Fundamental point number 2. When you respond to your partner's opening bid with a new suit, this forces your partner to bid at least once more. This allows you to tell your partner about your own good suit first, even though you may have a fit with his suit.

Fundamental point number 3. Have you spotted that changing suit at the 2 level promises 5-cards if you bid a Major ? It means opener can support your new suggestion with only 3 cards.

3. No Fit: Balanced

Tell your partner you're balanced, and something about how many points. Here's how:

631c. Reply to 1 Suit. No fit, no new suit, probably balanced
points 6-9 10 11-12 13+ 16+ 21+
bid 1 NT not NT 2NT 3NT new suit 6NT
note “I can't support your suit, I can't play at the 2 level…. but I've got 6-9 points!" 2NT a bit risky, perhaps, unless it's “good”. Could try a 4-card minor        
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4. Strong and long. Jump shift on 6-16

With 16 points things get interesting. Not only is game certain, but a Slam could be there. So, if and only if you also have lots of cards (6+) tell your partner immediately, by "jump shifting". That means change suit, and at the same time jump raise the bidding (so, bid 3 clubs for example, when you could bid 2).

This is code for “Partner darling, we're in the money. I have 16+ points, 6-card suit. Do your arithmetic, and get back to me ! With your 12-19 points, we could be in slam territory here”. 

If you only have a 5-card suit, generally change suit (bid at the lowest level available) and show your impressive 16+ HCP strength to your partner next time round. You will get a chance, because your change of suit was a forcing bid.

5. None of these - bid 1 NT

With 6-9 points you still should bid if possible, just in case your partner has 19 HCP. It doesn't necessarily mean you are perfectly balanced, however you should avoid bidding if you have 2 doubletons, or a shortage in Hearts when your partner might have a hole in Hearts too.


Your partner has promised you 12-19 HCP with an unbalanced hand, or 15-19 HCP with a balanced hand. That's a very wide range of possibilities, which he will only narrow down after his second bid. So your job, at this early stage, is to describe your hand. It's too early to know where things will end up after only one bid.

To describe your hand, there are 5 situations. The situation where you are weak, is easily dealt with. If you have less than 6HCP, you should pass.

In all other cases, where you have 6 HCP or more, you MUST bid. Your partner might have 19HCP, and game could therefore be on, since in that case you'll have 25 HCP between you:

  1. Fit: you have 4-cards in your partner's suit - so support it, according to your strength.
  2. No Fit: your hand is unbalanced, you can't support your partner's suit, but you do have your own 4-card suit to bid.
  3. No Fit: have a balanced hand and 11+ points - so bid NT according to your strength
  4. You are both long and strong in another suit - so bid it, but jump as well to a higher level
  5. No Fit: your hand is unbalanced, but has insufficient strength to bid your suit at the two level - bid NT if not too weak



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