1. Suit Agreement Responses
2. Change of Suit Responses
3. No Trump Responses
4. Change of Suit Jump Responses

1. Suit Agreement Responses

If partner opens a suit and you have at least 4-card support for that suit, especially if the suit is a major, then you should show partner your support for that suit. Your immediate responses to show support are limit bids and say to partner “On the basis of what you have shown me so far, this is as far as we can go”:-

See Section 4. for hands with 16+ points.

If partner opens a minor, then the same guidelines apply, however, if you have 4-card support in the minor and also have a 4-card major, bid the major before supporting the minor – it’s possible partner has a 4-card major as well as a 5-card minor. (Remember - if partner were 4 - 4 in a minor and major and 15+ points, he would open the major to maximise the chance of finding a major fit.)

It has been assumed here that immediate support is only given with a 4-card suit. Some Acol books suggest that immediate support can be given with a 3-card suit - but normally only a single raise. If you adopt this, Opener must be sure to remember it is subsequent bidding as it is inadvisible to be in a game contract on a 4 - 3 fit, especially in the minors! With a better-than minimum hand, delayed support can always be given on 3-card support e.g. 1 - 2 - 2 - 3 or 4 .

Losing Trick Count

There is a technique – “Losing Trick Count”, which will help you in assessing the value of your hand and defining your response if partner opens your suit. It involves a ‘Rule Of Eleven’, as follows:-

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, your hand is: -

     Kxxx                Kx                   QJx                  Kxxx

You have two losers in spades, one loser in hearts, two losers in diamonds and two losers (remember, you only count the first three cards) 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.

If using the Losing Count Tricks in the minors, you must be cautious as the losing trick count sometimes over-values the hand, use the point count guidelines above.

Losing Trick Count assumes Opener has seven losers. So, if partner raises to the 3-level, and Opener has only six losers, he should bid 4, but pass if he has seven losers.

2. Change of Suit Responses

To respond at the 1-level with a new suit, at least 6 points are required. To respond with a new suit at the 2-level, at least 9 points are required. This change of suit response is forcing for one round, provided you haven’t previously passed.

A bid of 2 over 1 requires a 5-card suit, though other bids at the 2-level don’t need a 5-card suit.   

Response at the 1-Level
If partner opens a suit at the 1-level and you can’t support partner’s suit, choose a response at the 1-level with 6+ points as follows: -

Response at the 2-Level
If partner opens a suit at the 1-level and you can’t support partner’s suit, choose a response at the 2-level with 9+ points as follows: -

3. No Trump Responses

No Trump responses are limit bids. But they should only be used when you are unable to raise partner’s suit or bid another suit. This is particularly so with the 2NT and 3NT responses because they take up so much bidding space.

1NT Response

The 1NT response shows 6 - 9 points. Unlike the 1NT Opener, a 1NT response doesn’t promise a balanced hand. It says you have enough points to respond but you: -

It is sometimes referred to as the “dustbin” bid.

An extreme example of a this after partner opens 1 is: -
     -                      Qxxx                Qxxxx              Kxxx
Bidding 2 would promise you have at least 9 points, which could get you out of your depth, whereas 1NT shows partner your limitations - he knows you haven’t necessarily got a balanced hand.

If you are able to bid a suit at the 1-level over partner’s opening bid, bid it, especially if it is a major, even a grotty major. A bid of 1NT over a minor denies a 4-card major.

2NT Response
A response of 2NT over a 1-level suit opening shows a balanced hand and 10 - 12 points. If you hold a 4-card major, however poor, you should bid it, as a 2NT response normally denies a 4-card major. The only exception to this is if partner opens 1 and you have a 4-card heart suit, as the sequence 1 - 2 requires a 5-card heart suit.

This 2NT bid can also be used as your second round bid, e.g. 1 – 2 – 2 – 2NT. HOWEVER, if partner rebids his original suit, showing a minimum hand, then your 2NT second response should be based on a stronger hand, say 12 – 14 points because of partner’s weakness. It would be madness to bid 2NT on a 10-count hand as partner may have only 10 or 11 points and a 5- or 6-card suit.

If you hold 3-card support for your partner’s major suit and 10+ points, it is preferable to bid your 4-card side suit rather than jumping to 2NT or 3NT. This gives you more bidding space and also gives you the chance to show delayed support to your partner after his second bid. As an example, 1 – 2 – 2NT – 3 shows 3-card support for partner’s spades, and he can decide whether to bid 3NT or 4 with the 5 – 3 fit. If the bidding had gone 1 – 2NT or 1 – 3NT, you wouldn’t have found the 5 – 3 fit in spades.

3NT Response
A response of 3NT over a 1-level suit opening shows a balanced hand and 13 - 15 points. The same comments apply as with the 2NT bid, bid a suit whenever possible and the 3NT bid denies a 4-card major, and probably denies 3-card support for your partner’s major, as explained above in the “2NT Response” section.


4. Change of Suit Jump Responses

Twenty or more years ago, Acol recommended that, with 16+ points and no obvious misfit with partner’s opening bid, you should make a jump response with a new suit. That has changed and Modern Acol recommends that you make a jump response in a new suit with 16+ points only in two situations:-

Without either of the above, a simple change of suit by Responder is forcing and Responder can always show his strength later - the simple change of suit saves bidding space.