This Tuition Module deals with the situation where you are able to establish suit agreement with your partner. It helps you assess initially what support you need to raise partner's suit and how high you should raise him, using Point Count assessment and 'Losing Trick Count' assessment.
Once suit agreement has been achieved, Trial Bids can be used to determine whether game should be bid on borderline hands. Trial Bids with the majors usually result in a 4♥ or 4♠ contract, but Trial Bids with the minors is usually aimed at a 3NT contract.
Once game is committed, Cue Bids can be used to explore the possibility of a slam and these are discussed.
Sometimes, suit agreement is not immediately apparent, but subsequent bidding can indicate suit agreement, for example through a 5 – 3 fit. Methods of achieving this are discussed.
Finally, methods of coping with opponent's intervention are discussed, after opponents double, or overcall with a suit.
2.0 RESPONDING TO PARTNER'S OPENING SUIT BID
When partner bids your suit, you should show your support immediately if you have 4- or more card support of that suit. The level of support, i.e. how high you bid, will depend on the strength of your hand and this is discussed in the next two sections 2.2 and 2.3.
Where you have only 3-card support for partner, you need to decide whether you should give immediate support, and this needs to be a partnership agreement. Some Acol gurus suggest you should only give immediate support on a 4- or more card suit, others suggest you can do so on 3-card support. The notes in this Tuition Module assume that 4- or more card support is needed for an immediate raise, and if you decide on 3-card support, your bidding may vary slightly. It's up to you to decide which to adopt, but it is important that you make that decision as a partnership.
However, there is one situation where you can give immediate 3-card support, and that is where the bidding has gone 1♠ – 2♥, as the 2♥ bid guarantees a 5-card suit.
☀ If partner bids a major suit in which you hold at least four cards, you should normally raise him immediately, depending on the strength of your hand. Assuming Milton Point Count assessment with doubletons worth 1 point, singletons worth 2 points and voids worth 3 points, you should generally raise as follows: -
☀ Unfortunately, the triple raise takes up a lot of bidding space and can make it difficult to find a slam. An immediate jump to game is also used for a strongly distributional hand with limited points, aimed at causing maximum difficulties for the opposition, but with a chance of making game. So it is not possible initially to differentiate between a strong raise to four and a weaker distributional raise to four. A technique to show the 13 – 15 point hand, if you have a 4-card side suit, is to bid the side suit initially and then jump to game next time – a "Delayed Game Raise". A couple of examples of the Delayed Game Raise are: -
Usually, the Delayed Game Raise is bid with 4-card support but if your partner's bidding sequence promises a 5-card suit, for example the first sequence above, then the Delayed Game Raise can be bid on 3-card support.
☀ The point-count requirement for minor suit raises is the same as for majors.
☀ If your partner opens with a minor and you have a 4-card major, you should always bid the major rather than raise partner's minor - it is always possible he has a two-suited hand.
☀ If you have both minors and 10 or more points, the possibility of your partnership making 3NT should be considered, especially at "Pairs", so an immediate jump to the 3- or 4-level is ill advised – much better to bid the other minor initially and await partner's rebid. You'll then be in a better position to assess which is the most appropriate contract.
If, in either of the two above scenarios, you do bid a side suit, and he then rebids his minor suit showing weakness, and you have 12 – 14 points with the points distributed evenly across the suits, you can still try for 3NT by bidding 2NT. This sequence (e.g. 1♦ – 1♠ – 2♦ – 2NT) promises 13 – 15 points as it would be silly to progress further with a 2NT bid on 10 – 12 points (the usual requirement) with partner's weak hand.
If you hold a 4-3-3-3 hand with partner's suit your 4-card suit, and more than 10 points, then probably the best responses to an opening bid of one of a minor are 2NT with 10 – 12 points and 3NT with 13 – 15 points. If partner is very distributional, he will bid further in his suit or a second suit, otherwise the chances are that you are more likely to make 3NT than five in a minor.
In the early days, Acol recommended that you jump if you have more than 16 points, unless there was a serious misfit. With this style of bidding, if you have such a big hand and 4-card support, you should jump immediately, either in a side 4-card suit if you have one, or in a 3-card minor.
☀ The modern approach for a jump after partner has opened (See the Tuition Module 'Responses to One of a Suit') is that you should jump in another suit only in two situations: -
☀ If you have neither of these hands but have 4-card support and 16+ points, you should make a simple change of suit bid, even if it is a 3-card minor. This will give partner the opportunity to clarify his hand through his rebid, and you can then take control of the bidding.
It is clear from this that handling of big hands with 4-card support for partner can become quite difficult, especially if you haven't a 4-card side suit and are forced to respond with a 3-card minor. More advanced Acol can cope with this, and the Tuition Module 'Advanced Acol – Suit Agreement Bidding' will explain this.
☀ Another method of assessing the strength of a hand is the Losing Trick Count. When responder has 4-card support of partner's opening bid, Losing Trick Count uses a 'Rule Of Eleven'. Responder counts losers in each suit: -
Then subtract from eleven to give the contract level, e.g. seven losers means the contract level is four. As an example, partner opens 1♠ and your hand is: -
♠ Kxxx ♥ Kx ♦ QJx ♣ Kxxx
You have two losers in spades (remember, you only count the first three cards), one loser in hearts, two losers in diamonds and two losers in clubs, giving you a total loser count of seven. Subtract from eleven and you have four – so bid 4♠. This hand has 13 points, including distribution, which is consistent with the guidelines earlier of a triple raise for 13 - 15 points.
When using the Losing Count Tricks in the minors, you must be cautious as the losing trick count sometimes overvalues the hand - use the Milton Point Count guidelines also before you decide your bid.
☀ Losing Trick Count makes the assumption that opener has a seven-losing trick hand. If responder raises opener by one or two levels, he has done so assuming opener has seven losers. So opener should raise the responder's bid to game if he has the appropriate number of losers e.g. if partner raises your opening 1♠ to 3♠, then you should bid 4♠ with five or six losers, and after a 2♠ response, you need five losers to bid 4♠.
☀ When partner bids a major and you have 3-card support for that suit, we have assumed that you do not give immediate support and you respond with a side suit or No Trumps. However, after partners second bid, you can then give delayed support, showing your 3-card support. The level of your support, a simple raise or jump raise will depend on your strength. However, if you jump in a major, a Delayed Game Raise as described in Section 2.2.1 above, it will usually be based on 4-card support, unless partner's bidding has promised a 5-card suit, in which case 3-card support is sufficient.
As an example of delayed support, in the sequence 1♥ - 2♣ - 2NT - 3♥, responder has 3-card support for opener's hearts and is offering two alternatives, either 3NT or 4♥ depending on whether partner has a 5-card suit, and if so, whether he wants to play in 3NT or 4♥. In 'Teams' with a 5-3 fit, he's likely to opt for 4♥ but in 'Pairs', he may well opt for 3NT. Another example is when partner opens and rebids a major, promising at least a 5-card suit. You can then give him delayed support, e.g. 1♥ – 2♣ – 2♥ – 3♥, showing 3-card support and inviting him to bid four if he has more than a minimum.
3.0 YOUR FIRST REBID
If partner gives you a single raise in your suit, you have a number of options open to you, depending on the strength and nature of your hand. The main options are: -
The first is fairly obvious. Your initial opening bid offers a hand with 7 losers. If partner gives you a single raise in your suit and you have 7 losers, then pass is the bid for you.
Raise in the Suit ☀
As you will see below, there are several ways of showing an interest in game, so a further raise of the agreed suit is used primarily as an obstructive bid to make life difficult for the opponents if you think they may have a contract. If your hand is strong and distributional enough for you to make game after partner's single raise, bid it straight away – don't hang around and give the opposition the chance to compete.
Double Raise in the Suit ☀
Your hand may be so strong that simple support from partner is enough for you to raise to game in a major or to bid four or five in a minor. If so, bid it. This bid shows strength, it is not a weak pre-emptive bid based on distribution. In the case of a double raise in the minors, this is an invitation to five.
Bid No Trumps ☀
You may have opened on an even distribution with sufficient points to rebid No Trumps. The fact that partner has supported your suit does not mean that you need not respond No Trumps, BUT, because partner is weak, the No Trump rebid should be raised a notch, e.g. 1♥ – 2♥ – 2NT shows an even distribution and 17 / 18 points, NOT 15 / 16 points. Think about it, do you really want to be in a 3♥ contract with 15 points and partner has 4-card support and 6 points? And even if you have 16 points and he has 8 or 9 points, your chances of making 3NT or 4♥ are poor.
Having described your opening hand through the suit opening and No Trump rebid, partner can then decide what the final contract should be - either a suit or No Trump contract at either part-score or game level. Inevitably, if the agreed suit is a minor, then a 3NT contract is likely to be more attractive unless the hands are very distributional. With a major suit agreement, it is a harder decision between 3NT and four of the major – at 'Pairs' it may be better in No Trumps with fairly even distribution, but at 'Teams', four of a major should be safer.
If your opening hand is more than a minimum, say 17 or more honour points including distribution and a 6- or less loser hand, then game may be a possibility, but how do you find out? There's a way of finding out whether it's worth proceeding – 'Trial Bids'. And Trial Bids can be used for the minors as well as the majors.
Trial Bids in the Majors ☀
If you open a major and partner raises you to the two level, showing a weak hand, what do you do if you have a good hand but aren't sure if four will make? Jump to four and hope it will make? Bid three and hope partner knows what to do? This is where Trial Bids come in – you bid a side suit where you need support from partner. This will typically be a poor 3- or 4-card suit with a maximum of a king or queen. If partner can help you, either with a shortage or with good honours, he will bid four, but with no help he will bid three. Below is an example, where partner has raised your 1♥ to 2♥.
♠ xx ♥ AKQxx ♦ Kxxx ♣ Ax
If partner can help you with diamonds, you have a good chance of making 4♥ so you do a trial bid of 3♦. Partner will assume you have two or three losers in that suit, and will: -
Trial Bids in the Minors ☀
In the minors, trial bids are a little different as a contract of five in the minors is often more difficult to make than 3NT. A bid after support by partner in the minors, e.g. 1♣ – 2♣ – 2♥ or 1♣ – 3♣ – 3♥, shows cover in that suit and is inviting partner to a no trump contract. It will often be based on only a 3-card suit. With reasonable cover in the other two suits, responder should bid No Trumps at the appropriate level - in the case of a sequence 1♣ – 2♣ – 2♥ and holding cover in diamonds and spades, responder should bid 2NT with a minimum hand and 3NT with a maximum. If responder has only cover in one of the suits, he may bid it, depending on his feel for the hand, but with neither suit covered, he should escape to the original minor.
If partner gives you a double raise in your suit, again you have a number of options open to you, depending on the strength and nature of your hand. They are: -
Again, the first is fairly obvious. Your initial opening bid offers a hand with 7 losers. If partner gives you a double raise in your suit and you have 7 losers, then pass is the bid for you.
Raise in the Suit ☀
If the agreed suit is a major and you have 5 or 6 losers, then simply raise him to four as you have no interest in slam - you know he is limited to 12 points by his jump-raise. If the agreed suit is a minor, your hand is distributional and you don't think No Trumps is the contract, and you have only five losers, raise him to five. If you have 6 or lower losers, but five of a minor isn't the obvious contract, then a 3NT or Trial Bid may be used. These are discussed below.
Bid No Trumps ☀
After a double raise by partner, a rebid of 3NT only requires the usual 15+ points, and is likely to be bid on a hand where the points are distributed across all suits, and will be between 15 and 18 honour points.
With the majors, it is fairly straight forward for responder after opener's 3NT rebid. Responder knows your point count (15 – 18) and that you have at least four cards in the agreed suit. On the basis of his distribution, and whether you are playing 'Pairs' or 'Teams', he will decide the contract as 3NT or four of the major.
With the minors, the decision on the final contract is a little more difficult – the final contract may be 3NT, or four or five of a minor, depending on strength and distribution. If you bid 3NT over responder's 3 of a minor with an even distribution and 15 – 18 points, responder may decide that is the best contract. Alternately, if he is too distributional, he will bid four with a minimum and jump to five with a maximum. And if he does bid the minimum, you can still raise him to five if you have a maximum.
Trial Bids ☀
After a double raise of a minor, any further bid does not commit the partnership to game, so a trial bid can be used. As we saw in Section 3.1, a trial bid after a double raise in the minors promises cover in the bid suit and invites partner to bid 3NT. See Section 3.1 for more details of this.
Cue Bids ☀
After a double raise of a major, any further bid of a suit is committed to game, and the 'Cue Bid' convention is used here. A cue bid is a bid of a side suit and it shows first round control - an ace or a void - in the suit bid. Cue bidding involves both partners in the slam decision. It helps place specific high cards.
A cue bid of a side suit shows a first round control in that suit, if BOTH: -
1♠ - 2♠ - 3♦ - ?
3♦ is a trial bid, not a cue bid. Responder has to choose between a part score and game.
1♠ - 3♠ - 4♦ - ?
4♦ is a cue bid, showing first round control in diamonds and denying such control in clubs. Game is already committed.
1♠ - 2♣ - 2♥ - 4♠ - 5♦ - ?
5♦ is a cue bid. The agreed suit is spades. East should bid 5♥ with the ace of hearts.
Using Cue Bids
It should be noted that this latter bid is not a shut out bid, it is just describing the hand.
If partner responds with your second suit at the 2-level: -
Again, this latter bid is not a shut out bid, it is just describing the hand.
But remember, the sequence 1♠ – 2♥ guarantees a 5-card heart suit, so you can raise the heart suit to the appropriate level with only 3 hearts.
Trial bids with the majors can be used to equal benefit after opener supports responder's bid, as they are after a single raise by responder. In this sequence, 1♣ - 1♥ - 2♥ - ?, a trial bid of 2♠ or 3♦ by responder is used to seek support in that suit from opener, giving him the choice of a part score or game in hearts, depending on his holding. The guidelines for this are the same as described in Section 3.1.
Similarly, trial bids in the minors can be used if opener supports responder's suit, e.g. 1♥ - 2♣ - 3♣ - ?. Here, similar to trial bids after a direct minor suit raise, a trial bid of 3♦ or 3♠ shows cover in that suit and suggests partner should bid 3NT if he has cover in the unbid suit. Without that cover, opener escapes to 4♣ as he knows responder would have bid 3NT with cover in both suits.
Cue bids can also be used after opener supports responder's second suit, providing of course the bidding sequence is already committed to game, e.g. 1♣ - 1♥ - 3♥ - 3♠ shows first round control in spades and is showing interest in a slam, asking partner to cue bid further.
4.0 OPPONENTS INTERVENE
If the opponents double your opening bid, then Basic Acol uses a convention called 'Truscott' to make life more difficult for the opponents. With this convention, responder's bid after the opponent's double uses 2NT is a good raise to 3 - around 10 - 12 points. The raises to two and three are therefore a bit weaker than normal, with single raises of about 4 - 6 points and double raises of about 7 - 9 points respectively.
Out of interest, more recent developments of Acol involve the use this convention more widely, even to the extent that these bids are made whether opponents intervene or not. More details on this will be found in the Tuition Module 'Advanced Acol - Suit Agreement Bidding'.
If opponents overcall but it doesn't interfere with a bid you were going to make, e.g. 1♥ - 1♠ overcall and you were going to bid 2 or 3 hearts with your 4-card support, then there are no problems and you bid as you would have done without the interference.
However, the opponent's overcall may have interfered with your response on a moderate hand, inhibiting you from making the bid you had intended. For example, if your partner bid 1♥, opponent to your right overcalled 2♣ or 2♦, then you'd be in difficulties with the following hands: -
In the first example, you would have responded 1♠ to partner's opening 1♥, and in the second example, you would have bid 1NT. The last thing you want to do is pass after the opponent's overcall - his overcall was intended to cause you problems! So in these situations, with 3-card support for partner, a raise to two of his suit can be used. As long as partner remembers that the overcall may have caused you to support him on a 3-card suit, you shouldn't get into trouble.
If opponents overcall and you have a game going hand, either in partner's suit or because of your sheer strength, you can use a cue bid of the opponents suit to show that, e.g. 1♥ - 2♣ overcall - 3♣. But you will need to decide as a partnership whether this cue bid is either showing: -
If the first option is used, a further partnership agreement needs to be
made. Does this cue bid just mean a game going hand with suit agreement
or, more specifically, a game going hand with suit agreement and first
round control in the opponent's overcall suit?