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SAYC - a standard system of Bridge bidding conventions suggested by the American Contract Bridge League. Players are free to play other conventions, but this system is designed to be a standard unfamiliar partners can agree upon, or a starting point for designing other systems.

In the auction descriptions below, usually opponents' bids are not listed and assumed to be passes. In situations where opponents' bids must be shown, they are enclosed in {braces}.

General Approach

Normally open five-card majors in all seats.
Open the higher of long suits of equal length: 5-5 or 6-6.
Normally open 1D with 4-4 in the minors.
Normally open 1C with 3-3 in the minors.
No-trump openings show a balanced hand and can be made with a five-card major or minor suit.
  • 1NT = 15-17
  • 2NT = 20-21
  • 3NT = 25-27
Strong artificial 2C opening.
Weak two bids in diamonds, hearts and spades.

Responses and Later Bidding After A 15-17 1NT Opening

2C is "non-forcing" Stayman, meaning that the bidding can stop in two of a suit. Opener bids 2H with 4-4 in the majors. If responder rebids three of either minor, he is showing slam interest and at least a five-card suit.

Jacoby transfers showing a five-card suit are used for the majors: 2D is a transfer to hearts, 2H is a transfer to spades. Opener accepts the transfer, though he can jump to the three level with 17 points and four-card support for responder's major, for example (after 1NT-2D):

  • 2H = normal acceptance of the transfer
  • 3H = 17 points and four-card heart support
If, after the transfer is accepted, responder bids a new suit, that is natural and game forcing. Possible calls after the accepted transfer are (after 1NT-2H-2S):
  • Pass = content to play 2S.
  • 2NT, 3S = invitational. Over 2NT opener can pass or return to 3S with a minimum hand; bid 3NT or 4S with a maximum.
  • 3C, 3D, 3H = natural and game forcing.
  • 3NT = asking for a choice between 3NT and 4S.
  • 4S = placing the contract, with a six-card or longer suit.
A 2S response requires the 1NT bidder to rebid 3C, which can be passed with a club bust, or responder can rebid 3D with a diamond bust. Example (after 1NT-2S-3C):
  • Pass = club bust.
  • 3D = diamond bust (notrump opener passes).
Other responses to 1NT:
  • 3C, 3D = invitational to 3NT with a six-card or longer suit.
  • 3H, 3S = At least a six-card suit and slam interest (otherwise responder uses a transfer bid).
  • 4C = Gerber, asking for aces. 4C is Gerber over any 1NT or 2NT bid by partner including a rebid of 1NT or 2NT. Responses show the number of aces, by steps, just as over a Blackwood 4NT. (5C is used to ask for kings.)
        Ace Asking          King Asking
        1NT -- 4C           1NT -- 4C
                            4x  -- 5C
        4D = 0 or 4 aces    5D = 0 or 4 kings
        4H = 1 ace          5H = 1 king
        4S = 2 aces         5S = 2 kings
        4NT = 3 aces        5NT = 3 kings
    If the player using Gerber makes any bid other than 5C, that is to play (including 4NT).

A direct raise of 1NT to 4NT is natural and invites 6NT. 4NT is slam invitational only because 4C is available as Gerber.

Interference after 1NT Opening Bids

If the opponents double, all conventional responses are "on." For example (after 1NT-{double}):
  • 2C = (Stayman).
  • 2D = (transfer to hearts)
If the opponents bid over your 1NT opener, Stayman and transfers are "off." Bids are natural except for a cuebid, which can be used with game force strength as a substitute for Stayman.

If the opponents intervene over a conventional response, bids carry the same meaning as if there were no intervention. A bid says, "I'm bidding voluntarily, so I have a real fit with you." For example, after 1NT-{pass}-2D-{double}, 2H shows a real fit for hearts (pass with only two hearts)

Responses to a 2NT or 3NT Opening

Stayman and Jacoby transfers for the majors are used. After 2NT: After 3NT:

Responses and later bidding after a 1H or 1S Opening

1H and 1S openings show a five-card or longer suit. Responses (after 1H):
  • 1S = at least four spades, 6 or more points. Tends to deny a heart fit.
  • 1NT = 6-10 points, denies four spades or three hearts. NOT forcing.
  • 2C, 2D = 11 points or more, promises at least four of the suit.
  • 2H = three-card or longer heart support; 6-10 dummy points.
  • 2NT = Game-forcing raise ("Jacoby 2NT"), 13+ dummy points. Asks opener to show a short suit to help responder evaluate slam prospects.
  • 2S, 3C, 3D = strong jump shifts. Invite a slam.
  • 3H = limit raise (10-12 dummy points with three or more hearts).
  • 3NT = 15-17 HCP, balanced hand with two-card support for partner.
  • 4H = usually 5+ hearts, a singleton or void, and fewer than 10 HCP.
Opener's rebids are natural and standard.
Rebids with a minimum hand (13-16 points):
  • Rebidding notrump at the cheapest available level
  • Raising responder's suit at the cheapest level (this can be done with good three-card support if desired);
  • Rebidding a new suit (but not reversing);
  • Rebidding opener's suit at the lowest level.
Rebids with a medium hand (17-18) points:
  • Jump raise or jump rebid of opener's suit;
  • Reverse in a new suit
  • Non-reverse bid in a new suit (this has the wide range of 13-18 points).
With a maximum hand (19-21 or 22 points) opener must make a very strong rebid:
  • Jump in notrump;
  • Double jump raise in responder's suit or double jump rebid of opener's suit;
  • Jump shift in a new suit.
If responder jumps to 2NT over a 1H or 1 S opening, that is Jacoby 2NT, asking opener to show a singleton or void. If opener has no short suit, he shows his hand strength (after 1H-2NT):
  • 3C, 3D, 3S = singleton or void in that suit. Other bids deny a short suit.
  • 4H = minimum hand.
  • 3NT = medium hand (15-17).
  • 3H = maximum hand (18+).
Responder follows up by attempting to sign off in game, bidding 4NT Blackwood, or cuebidding if still interested in trying to cooperate with opener in making the slam decision.

Subsequent Bidding by Responder

If responder has bid a suit at the one level, he next determines whether he wishes to sign off in a part score, invite game, sign off in game, or force to game and get more information about opener's hand. Having made his choice, he selects the best available bid.

Bids available for signoff in partscore: Pass, 1NT, 2 of a previously bid suit. For example, after 1H-1S-2C: Pass, 2H, 2S = 6-10 points, signoff in partscore.

Bids available for inviting game: 2NT, 3 of a previously bid suit. For exmaple, after 1H-1S-2D: 2NT, 3D, 3H, 3S = 11-12 points, inviting game.

Second-round forcing bids. A new suit response (other than after a 1NT rebid by opener) is a one-round force. If it is a fourth suit in the auction, it may be artificial.

For example, after 1H-1S-2C, 2D is a one-round force, could be artificial.
But after 1H-1S-1NT, 2C or 2D is non-forcing.

Responder must jump shift to 3C or 3D to force game.

Second round forcing bids following a 1NT rebid by opener: A reverse or jump shift into a new suit is a game force. For example, after 1C-1H-1NT, 2S or 3D is game-forcing.

Bids available for signing off in game: 3NT, 4H, 4S, 5C, 5D.

If responder initially bids a new suit at the two level, the same rules apply except that a subsequent jump raise of opener's first suit to the three level is game forcing (responder should make a limit raise directly over the opening with 10-12 points and at least three-card support). After 1S-2C-2H:

  • 2NT, 3C, 3H = Invitational to game (11-12 points).
  • 2S = Preference, not forcing. Responder has 11-12 points and a doubleton spade.
  • 3D = Game force, could be artificial.
  • 3S = Game force.
NOTE: Responder promises to bid again if he responded with a new suit at the two level unless opener's rebid is at the game level. 1S-2C-2D = forcing one round. Responder can limit his hand by bidding 2S, 2NT, 3C, or 3D at this point. He should not pass, since opener could have 18 points (just short of a jump shift rebid).

Responses to a 1C or 1D Opening

A 1D opener suggests a four-card or longer suit, since 1C is preferred on hands where a three-card minor suit must be opened. The exception is a hand with 4-4-3-2 shape: four spades, four hearts, three diamonds, and two clubs, which should be opened 1D.

Responses and later bidding generally follow the ideas set down in the previous section. Bidding at the one level is up-the-line in principle. Responder needs more trumps to raise (4 to raise 1D; 5 to raise 1 C, though one less trump will do in a pinch in a competitive sequence). Responses of 2NT and 3NT are standard:

  • 2NT = 13-15, game forcing
  • 3NT = 16-17
There is no forcing minor-suit raise.

A 2C Opening, Responses and Later Bidding

A 2C opening shows at least 22+ points or the playing equivalent. Responses:
  • 2D = artificial, could be "waiting" with a good hand not suited to a positive response.
  • 2H, 2S, 3C, 3D = natural and game forcing. At least a five-card suit and 8 points.
  • 2NT = a balanced 8 HCP.
If opener rebids 2NT after a 2D response (showing 22-24 points), the same responses are used as over a 2NT opening. After 2C-2D-2NT:
  • 3C = Stayman.
  • 3D, 3H = Jacoby transfers to hearts and spades respectively.
  • 4C = Gerber.
  • 4NT = Inviting a slam in notrump.
If opener rebids a suit over a 2D response, the bidding is forcing to 3 of opener's major or 4 of opener's minor. For example, 2C-2D-2H-2S-3H is not forcing.

Sequence After a Weak Two-Bid of 2D, 2H, or 2S

Weak two-bids show a six-card suit of reasonable quality and 5-11 HCP. On rare occasions it may be a very good five-card suit. It is possible to open a weak two with a poor seven-card suit (not good enough to open with at the three level). Responses:

  • 2NT is forcing, showing game interest. (This applies also if the opponents intervene with a double or a bid.) Opener rebids his suit with a minimum weak two (5-8 points). With a maximum hand opener bids another suit to show a "feature" (ace or king in that suit); lacking a feature he raises to 3NT and lets responder place the contract.
  • Any raise of opener's suit is to play and could be preemptive.
  • A 3NT response is also to play.
  • "RONF" on the card means "Raise Only Non-Force." A new suit response is forcing one round and shows at least a five-card suit. Opener should raise a major suit response with a three-card fit, or perhaps with a doubleton honor.
With no fit for responder's suit, opener rebids:
  • With a minimum weak two-bid (5-8 points), rebid the suit at the cheapest level.
  • With a maximum weak two-bid, name a new suit or bid notrump.

Slam Bidding

Blackwood 4NT is used to ask for aces. Responses show the number of aces by steps. 5NT is then used to ask for kings; 5NT guarantees the partnership holds all four aces.
after 4NT:             after 4NT-5x-5NT:
5C = 0 or 4 aces       6C -- 0 or 4 kings
5D = 1 ace             6D -- 1 king
5H = 2 aces            6H -- 2 kings
5S = 3 aces            6S -- 3 kings
A jump to 5NT (and some 5NT bids when the auction is at the five level) is "Grand Slam Force", asking partner to bid a grand slam with two of the three top trump honors. Responses:
  • 6 of the trump suit = fewer than two top trump honors (A, K, or Q).
  • 7 of the trump suit = two of the three top trump honors.

Defensive Bidding

Overcalls show 8-16 points (double and bid the long suit with a stronger hand). The only forcing response is a cuebid of opener's suit, asking the overcaller about the quality of his overcall. After {1D}-1S-{Pass}-2D-{Pass}:
  • 2S = minimum overcall.
  • other = extra strength (11 or 12 points minimum).
A 1NT overcall shows 15-18 points and a balanced hand (preferably a stopper in opener's suit). No artificial responses are used to the 1NT overcall except 2C, which is Stayman.

A jump overcall of 2NT shows at least 5-5 in the lower two unbid suits.

Jump overcalls are preemptive, showing the same values as an opening bid at the same level. After {1D}:

  • 2S = a hand that would open a weak two-bid in spades.
  • 3C = a hand that would open 3C.
A cuebid overcall when the opponents have bid two suits is natural in either suit.

A cuebid overcall, when the opponents have bid only one suit, is a "Michaels cuebid", showing a 5-5 two-suiter (or more distributional). If the opening is in a minor suit, the cuebid shows the majors; if the opening is in a major, the cuebid shows the other major and an unspecified minor. For example:

  • {1D}-2D = at least 5-5 in the majors, 8 points or more.
  • {1S}-2S = at least 5-5 in hearts and a minor; 10 points or more.
Responder can bid 2NT over a major suit cuebid to ask for partner's minor. For example, {1H}-2H-{Pass}-2NT asks for the minor. Then:
  • {Pass}-3C = club suit.
  • {Pass}-3D = diamond suit.
Reopening bids mean much the same as direct seat bids, though they can be lighter at the minimum end. A reopening 1NT after an opponent has opened shows 10-15 points. This is a wide range but there will not usually be a game on for you.

Doubles are for takeout over opening partscore bids (4 D or lower); penalty over opening game bids (4H or higher). A below-game jump response to a takeout double is invitational. To force, responder cuebids opener's suit.

Versus opening preempts, overcalls in suits or notrump are natural; cuebids are Michaels.

Competitive Bidding

There is almost an endless variety of possible sequences, so it pays to have simple guidelines to prevent bidding misunderstandings:

Bids mean the same thing they meant without the intervening bid. However it is sometimes necessary to pick a bid that would normally have been a second choice without the overcall: 1D-{Pass}-1S-{2C}-2S with S J43 H A875 D AQJ4 C J3 (rebid 1NT if RHO has passed).

Cuebidding RHO's suit shows values for game without clear direction for the moment. This is often used to show a game-forcing raise: 1S-{2C}-3C is a game force; usually a raise.

Negative doubles are used through 2S promising four cards (at least) in any unbid major. Bidding a major at the two level or higher shows 11 or more points and a five-card or longer suit. For example:

  • 1C-{1D}-Double = 4-4 or better in the majors.
  • 1D-{1H}-Double = exactly four spades (1S promises five).
  • 1D-{1S}-Double = four hearts and 6+ points or five hearts and 5-10 points.
If RHO makes a takeout double (for example, after 1D-{Double}):
  • 1H, 1S = forcing, point count not limited.
  • 2C = non-forcing (6-10 points, usually a six-card suit).
  • 2NT = limit raise (at least 10 points) -- or better.
  • Redouble = 10 points or more, but it is better to make a more descriptive bid of 1H, 1S, or 2NT with the appropriate hand.
  • 3D = Preemptive, good trump support but fewer than 10 points.
  • a jump shift is to play. 2H, 2S, 3C = six-plus-card suit, like a weak two-bid or preemptive three-bid.
A redouble can have one of three meanings:
  • To play if:
    • Your side is at the four level or higher: 4S-{Double}-Redouble = Penalty.
    • The opponents double an artificial bid: 1NT-{Pass}-2D-{Double}-Redouble = Penalty. good diamond suit.
  • A good hand if their double is for takeout: 1S -- (Double) -- Redouble = 10+ points.
  • SOS, requesting a different suit, if your side is doubled for penalty in a trump suit at the three level or lower:
    1D-{Pass}-Pass-{Double}-Pass-{Pass}-Redouble = SOS, responder can support at least two of the unbid suits.

Unless otherwise noted elsewhere, any bid or double by the opponents cancels a convention intended for non-competitive sequences. Examples:

  • 1H-{1S}-2NT = Natural (12-14 HCP).
  • 2C-{Double}-2D = Natural and Positive.
If the opponents use a convention (such as Michaels or the unusual notrump), you can double to show at least 10 points, or you can cuebid one of their shown suit(s) to force to game. For example, after 1S-{2S}:
  • 3H = game force.
  • Double = at least 10 points, probably balanced.

Defensive Leads and Signals

This is the one area where choices are offered. The following are specified: Defensive signals when following suit or discarding are "high encourages, low discourages." Leads are top of touching honors (with choices from AKx and interior sequences).

Pairs must choose from the following options. Where no card is pre-marked in bold italics, pairs must mark their leads.

  • Which card is led from AKx.
  • Which card is led from xxx, xxxx or xxxxx.
  • Whether 4th best, or & 5th best leads are used.
  • Whether 3rd best is led from KJ10x, K109x, or Q109x, (and from AJ10x or A109x versus NT). Must be indicated by circling the card led.
  • Whether or not frequent count signals are given.

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