Maintained by Grant Kilvington and Simon Hinge.

General principles

Four card suits (although a 3 card minor could possibly be opened in 3rd or 4th seat- but see Note below). Change of suit is forcing, unless responder has bid 1NT. Whenever we are in a game-forcing auction, a leap to game is weaker than slow arrival.

After a reverse, the cheaper of 2NT and 4th suit is "Blackout", that is, a poor hand, say less than 8 HCPs. All other responses are game forcing.

Bidding the fourth suit is game forcing. It can be a matter of agreement that it is Game forcing except when the partnership has to bail out in 4 of a minor (no stopper for NT and a likely 3 fast losers).


1♣               1

1               1♠               This is a 4th suit forcing auction. If opener has a 4-card spade suit he mustn't go past the three level in raising.

Ian: Do you still play 4th suit invitational?

When one or three suits have been shown, then the bid of a new suit asks, whereas when two suits have been shown, then the bid of a new suit shows.

Jumps to game in a suit are terminal: 1♣/ - 4/♠ to play. 1/♠ - 4♠/to play.

Note on 3-card suit openings

When I have a 4333 (a "box" on Spades), and I have a strong NT rebid available, I have been known (in truth I prefer) to open a minor.

Opening 4/4♠

These should not contain 2 Aces, at least in 1st or 2nd seat. After all they can go via 2♣ with a 3/3♠ rebid (Acol Two style). This avoids the problem faced by a responder with a good hand, if the range of quality for the opening bid is too wide, and venturing to the 5-level is not without risk.


Opening 3NT

Currently we use this to show a solid minor with at most a Q outside.

4♣ is a weak pass or correct exit, 5♣ is pass or correct at game.

The interesting bid is 4 asking partner to show a singleton (or I suppose a void), so that:


                  4/♠            Singleton in the suit bid


                  4NT           No singleton


                  5♣/            Opener’s suit, singleton in other minor.

If responder bids 4/♠ this is natural to play.

Ian thinks this 3NT opening can be extended to any solid suit, with 4♣ being the weak exit and 4 asking for a shortage. Opinions?

Direct Raises

In the interest of simplicity the same structure is (subject to agreement- see below for an alternative structure for minors) used for majors and minors.


1               2               6-9 HCP with 3 card support, but could occasionally be 4 card support when too ugly (too flat, large loser count) for 3.


1               3               6-9 HCP, 4+ support.


1               2NT           Either 10-12 balanced, 4+ support (over which opener can make a long suit trial), or a big balanced raise, 15+, 4+ support. 3rd round control is sufficient help in the trial suit to raise to game.


1               3NT           12-14 balanced, 4+ support.

Comments & Suggestions

Ian: I think it should be obligatory to show a shortage after 1X - 2NT, even with a minimum. Admittedly this gives away information. The upside is that even if 2NT is limit, knowledge of shortage may enable it to bid game.

Thus 1 - 2NT - 3 - 4 is not the strong hand . With 16+ would cue.

Minor Suit raises

An alternative raise structure for the minors is for the raise to the 3-level to be an old-fashioned limit raise (9-11, 4+ support, no major), and for the 2NT response to be primary trump support and slammish.

After the 2NT raise, opener rebids his suit with nothing to say, rebids 3NT if he was always going to rebid in NT, and otherwise he shows a shortage. 4♣/ (our suit) from either side is RKC.

I must admit I prefer this.

Because responder would not suppress the holding of a 4-card major to raise partner's minor, we can use the alternatives of the direct raise to the 2-level and the response of 1NT to differentiate responder's strength after a 1♣ opening:


1♣               2♣               5 - 8, 4+ support.


1♣               1NT           8 - 10, 4+ support.

Fit-showing Jumps

These have primary support for partner's suit, a good 5+ suit of their own, and a shortage somewhere. A good suit in principle is two of the top three honours, but we allow AJ10xx.

Ian thinks that the suit quality requirement for the fit-show is too restrictive, and I’m tending to lean that way myself. He also thinks that “primary support” after a 1♠ opening should include Honour third (because 1♠ is almost always 5+). He also thinks 1♠ - 4 should be a fit-show but I don’t agree - you can always use 3 and raise a retreat to 3♠ to game.

The strength required depends on the level to which the jump takes you. Thus:


1               2♠, or


1               3♣/3

are all either a limit raise, forcing to 3 only, or slammish, whereas:


1               3♠, or


1               4♣/4

have no ambitions beyond game.

Some of these requirements can be relaxed if you are a passed hand.

Fit-showing fragments

The idea behind these is to unearth good fits without necessarily having a lot of high card strength.

If, after a suit opening bid and a response (other than in NT), opener jump rebids a new suit he shows primary trump support for responder, and a 6-loser hand in support.

A fragment should consist of some useful card or cards so that partner can assess the usefulness (or otherwise) of his holding. Thus fragmenting on xxx would disappoint a partner who held QJ doubleton and thought the hole had been filled.

Note that if responder simply retreats to the agreed suit at the three level, it shows no desire to play in game.

If responder is interested then he shows this by bidding the next step.

I need some clarification here (Charlie?). Are opener's suit and/or NT rebids "steps"?


1               1♠

3♣               4-card support, Club fragment, Diamond shortage and ability to play at this level.

Under certain circumstances this fragment can be huge, that is, stronger than a 4-level fragment which fast-arrives the partnership in game.

Goodish 6-4 hands

What about goodish 64s?

Thus after 1♣ - 1♠, a 4♣ rebid should show a good six card suit of your own, good four card support and the inability to fragment, say:

♠ AK53



♣ AQJ743

1NT Opening


12-14 HCP, balanced or semi-balanced. A poor 5-card major is allowed. Also permitted is a 6-card minor.


2♣               Stayman, or the start of an invitation to 3NT (1NT - 2♣, 2 any - 2NT). Note that Stayman followed by 3NT will always show 4 cards in the other major.


2♣, followed by 2NT after any response from opener, is an invitation to 3NT and says nothing about majors (this should be alerted).


2♣, followed by 3♣ or 3 after any response from opener, is an invitation to 3NT and shows 5+ cards in the minor bid and 4 cards in a (or the other) major.


After 2♣, if opener bids 2 denying a major, 2 of a major by responder shows 5 cards in the bid major, and 4 in the other, and invitational values. With a game going hand he would transfer and then show the other suit.


2/            Transfers to /♠respectively. 2 can also be used to start a Baron sequence (see below).


2♠, 2NT      Transfers to 3♣/3 respectively. Opener can refuse to take the transfer with an unsuitable hand (small doubleton), by bidding 2NT/3♣ respectively.


Note that this gives an opportunity for a responder with a weak minor 55 to transfer to Diamonds using 2NT, and if responder bids 3♣ he can be allowed to play there.

3♣/, and

3/♠            Natural, 6+ suit, forcing, slam interest. With a suitable hand opener should cue.


3NT           Natural, terminal.


4♣               Gerber. Responses in steps are 0, 1, 2, or 3.


4               55+ in the majors, with no slam interest.


4/4♠          To play. What is the difference between this, and a transfer followed by a raise to game? Perhaps just protecting a card?


4NT           Natural, balanced, invitational. There are two approaches that could be used by partner if accepting: respond using a Baron approach, bidding suits up the line, or respond using steps to show Aces.

What does it mean when partner transfers to a major and raises it to the three level? I think it should show a six card suit with invitational values, in particular looking for fast cards. A maximum stuffed with queens and jacks will be too slow.

Ian doesn’t like the 4bid - “This is unnecessary. With game-going 5/5 simply transfer to ♠ and rebid 4. I don't care what 4D is but shouldn't be that”.

When Davey suggested this I thought that the inference was that by transferring to Spades and then bidding game in Hearts you show at least some slam interest.

Jim and Norma Borin used to play a gadget that seems to me to have a lot of merit. After using Stayman and partner responding in a major, then the bid of the other major at the three level shows a four card fit with partner but with the dreaded 4-3-3-3 shape. This may allow the partnership to play in 3NT when the 4-4 major suit game may not have a play when the distributions are mirrored.



1NT           2♣

2♠               3               Shows four spades in the dreaded 4-3-3-3, and


1NT           2♣

2               3♠               Shows four hearts in the dreaded 4-3-3-3.

Baron Auctions (after 1NT opening)

These are supposed to have slam interest - is this too restrictive?

These are initiated via:


1NT           2

2               2♠               Game Forcing, slammish.

Opener rebids:


2NT           Dead flat, 4333 (Box). If responder hasn't lost interest, he starts bidding his suits up the line. If he starts with clubs, opener can make a further denial by bidding 3NT, showing club support but a poor hand.


3♣               4♣ + another 4-card suit


3               4 + a 4-card major


3               4 and 4♠


3♠               5♣


3NT           5


Alert!        As of today, we no longer use this. Davy wants us to be able to super-accept transfers to a major with 4 trumps and a suitable hand, which you cannot do if 2 is not necessarily a transfer.

NT Rebids

If opener could have opened 1NT 12-14 then NT rebids show 15-18 and 2♣ initiates a Baron-style inquiry (Checkback), with everything up-the-line.

Note that opener would limit his hand via the NT rebid, rather than bid his major (if he has one), so checkback is required if responder is interested in a major-suit game.

The corollary is that


1♣               1

1♠               is unbalanced, either 5+ Clubs and 4+ Spades, or the dreaded 4441 distribution.

After the checkback enquiry, show extra length of your own, three card support, or new suits. For example:


1               1♠

1NT           2♣

Minimum hands 15-16 respond:


2               4-card suit


2               5-card suit, not 4 diamonds


2♠               3-card support, neither 4 diamonds nor 5 hearts


2NT           4-card club suit (by inference)

Maximum hands 17-18 respond:


3♣               4-card suit


3               4-card suit, not 4 clubs


3               5-card suit, neither 4 clubs nor 4 diamonds


3♠               3-card support, neither 4 clubs or diamonds nor 5 hearts


3NT           4333

Jump NT rebids

A jump rebid of 2NT shows about 19 HCP (a "good" 18 or a "bad" 20) and is game forcing. It could conceal a big flat raise of responder's major.

For example:


1               1♠

2NT           3NT

4♠               would show a good 18 - bad 20 with 4-card trump support and no shortage.


1               1♠

3NT           would show 18+ to 20- and dead flat (Box).

Question: Should a minor opening followed by 3NT show a different sort of hand - like a solid 6+ minor say 16+?

Ian suggested that the 3NT response after a minor suit opening followed by 3NT should show this (solid 6+ suit and say 16+). I think this is right but should be extended to include the majors as well. Comments?

2NT Openings

This section also applies to 2♣ openings followed by a 2NT (23-24) or a 3NT (25-26) rebid).

Opener will have a balanced (or semi-balanced) hand with 20-22 HCP. A 5-card major, or a 6-card minor, are permitted. Occasionally opener might have a singleton A or K in a suit.

Responder bids:


3♣               Puppet Stayman


3/            Transfers: see Super-accepting


3♠               Baron. See Baron over 2NT


3NT           To play.


4♣/            Natural, 6+ suit. Opener can cue or bid 4NT RKC. 


4NT           Quantitative

How should opener proceed after 1NT - 4NT if accepting the invitation?

How about bidding a suit at the five level to show a decent 4-card suit or a poor 5 card suit. And bidding a suit at the six level shows a decent 5 (or occasionally 6) card suit. And if opener responds 5NT this should be a request to start bidding 4-card suits up the line (opener will have two suits to do this, never a box).

See the section on Quantitative raises to 4NT.

Puppet Stayman

This structure should also apply after partner has overcalled an opposition 2-bid with 2NT (15-18 balanced) - see if everyone agrees!.


2NT           3♣ Puppet Stayman

Opener rebids as follows:


3/♠            5 card suit


3               One or both 4 card majors, after which responder bids: 3/♠ - the major he doesn't have; or 4♣ - both majors, slam interest; or 4 - both majors, no slam interest.

NOTE: the change in order here suggested by Charlie - slower is stronger, consistent with fast arrival.


3NT           No 4 or 5 card major



If responder transfers to a major, then opener can super-accept with a maximum in various ways:


3NT           3-card support with 2 of the 3 top honours.

4 major      4 (or 5) card trump support.

Cue            4 (or 5) card trump support.

There are probably good ways to extend this.

Ian doesn’t like super-accepts but I think everyone else does.

Baron after 2NT

These sequences also apply after a 2♣ opening followed by a 2NT rebid.

These are initiated via:


2NT           3♠               Game Forcing, slammish (probably obvious!).

Opener rebids:


3NT           Dead flat, 4333 (Box).If responder hasn't lost heart, he starts bidding his suits up the line. If he starts with clubs, opener can make a further denial by bidding 4NT, showing club support but a poor hand (for a slam).


4♣               4♣ + another 4-card suit


4               4 + a 4-card major


4               4 and 4♠


4♠               5♣


4NT           5


5♣/            6-card suit

2♣ Openings

These initiate a game force except for a 2NT rebid, or a jump rebid of a major, which is like an Acol Two.

The 2 response is either weak or waiting.


2♣               2


3/♠            About 9 tricks, responder can drop this with a blizzard. The corollary of course is that 2/♠ is a game force.


2♣               2               (Or 2♠) 1½ quick tricks (AK, KKK, KKQ), and a reasonable suit (say at least K10xxx).


2♣               2NT           6-8 scattered. 3♣ from opener would be Stayman.

After a 2NT rebid, the auction continues as for a 2NT opening.


2♣               3♣///♠       6-card suit with two of the three top honours. Nothing much else, like a weak two.


2♣               3NT           Any solid suit. AKQJxx or AKQxxxx.

Ian suggests the requirement for a response of 2 or 2♠ should be a five card suit with two of the top three honours. I think this is right because it always feels wrong to bid bad suits on good hands.

He also doesn’t like the 2NT response, and suggests just waiting it out with 2 and see what develops. I agree with this as I have never responded 2NT in my life (that I can remember anyway). 2NT might be better employed as an expression of happiness, say 10+ balanced.

Other 2-bids

There are two basic arrangements for 2//♠, Weak Twos, or Donkeys.

Currently we mostly play Donkeys

Weak Twos

2//♠ all show a 6-card suit (occasionally 5 but we prefer no suicides), and less than an opening bid.

Responder can bid 2NT (Ogust) to enquire about hand quality:


3♣               Minimum points, poorish suit


3               Minimum points, good suit


3               Maximum points, poorish suit


3♠               Maximum points, goodish suit


3NT           Solid suit, AKQxxx

We will leave it to your conscience as to what constitutes a goodish suit: perhaps AJ10xxx or KQ10xxx?

If responder changes suit, this is forcing and could be supported with 2 small trumps. Responder should bid 3NT if necessary - he cannot go past that contract unless raising partner's suit. Someone might have the necessary stoppers!

Donkey Twos

These all contain Spades + another suit, can be 44, and are less than an opening bid. They should be concentrated - whatever values you have should (mostly) be in the suits bid.


2                + ♠

2                + ♠

2♠               ♣ + ♠

The only forcing bid available to responder is 2NT, and opener rebids as follows:


3♣               Any minimum, say 5-7.


3               Not minimum, 54, lower suit is longer.


3               Not minimum, 44.


3♠               Not minimum, 54, higher suit is longer.


3NT           Not minimum, 55.

After getting a non-minimum response, we assume we are in game forcing mode, which enables responder to set a suit safely without getting dropped (responder would usually need to know the relative suit lengths).

**Should the setting of the suit by responder below the game level be treated as Roman Key-card Blackwood??

In the case where responder has enquired with 2NT, and gets the minimum response (3♣), responder can continue the enquiry with 3 using the same step structure.

This is to be considered Game Forcing, even in the case where 2 was opened. Is this flawed?

Opener now responds:


3               54, lower suit is longer.


3♠               44.


3NT           54, higher suit is longer.


4♣               55.

Finally, anything that responder does at his first turn other than 2NT is non-forcing.

Some sample Donkey auctions

Please feel free to provide more if you can think of some tricky situations.


2               2NT

3 any          4               To play, but presumably interested in bigger things since didn’t bid it directly. If responder had a shortage in the unbid suit and 3 trumps this might be enough for a slam.

Which suit is agreed when we use Blackwood?

If responder uses RKC without having explicitly agreed a trump suit the inference must be that it is Spades.

Therefore responder must go via the 2NT machinery, and set the other suit, and then use Blackwood for that suit.

What happens when I was going to use the 2NT enquiry and they bid in front of me?

We need to be able to distinguish between hands that are simply competing (presumably just a simple bid of the suit or a jump) and those that are interested in bigger things. Suggestions?

Competitive Auctions

Negative and responsive doubles through 4. Don’t make off-shape doubles - so overcalls can be quite strong. Ian thinks that the negative and responsive doubles should go through 4♠. Comments?

When they open 1NT.


2♣               Both majors, 54+


2               A 6-card major, with 2/♠ being pass or correct. How should these auctions develop when partner has a decent hand of their own (especially the other major)?


2/♠            5+ in the bid suit and a 4+ minor.


2NT           55+ in the minors.


3any           Pre-emptive?


Double       Good hand. If they run partner’s X is takeout, and so is the doubler’s if it gets back to him and he has the indicated shortage.

When they open 2-suiters or other multis.

2NT is natural with system on (transfers). 3♣ is simple Stayman.

Double is 15+ unbalanced, and Lebensohl applies. I think we play 123 doubles here, so that the first double shows strength, the second double (from either side) is take-out, and the third double is penalty.

Cue Raises.


Primary trump support for partner, and sound values to the level indicated. It is important for partner to know that partner has values and is not pre-empting. If partner overcalls, and both opponents have bid different suits, then responder may have a way to show his trump length, depending on the level to which he wishes to raise. For example, say partner overcalls 1 and we have a sound raise to the three level: 1♣ - 1 - 1♠ - ?


2♣               Sound raise to 2


2♠               Sound raise to 3, 3 trumps


3♣               Sound raise to 3, 4+ trumps

Modified Roman Two-suited Overcalls.

When the opponents open with a suit, the immediate cue shows the suit below and the suit above, at least 55. Given that the cue is forcing, this can be very strong (occasionally).

A jump overcall shows the bid suit + the suit above, and is not forcing. For example:


1               2♠               Shows 55 in Spades and Clubs.

Note (this may be obvious!) that if the suit above would be their suit, the bid reverts to being a weak jump overcall.


1               3♣               Shows 6+ Clubs in a weakish hand (but no suicides).

Since this is non-forcing, we use the 2NT overcall to show a touching 2-suiter that wishes to play in a game.

Jump Cue-bid of Opponents (natural) Suit Opening.

Shows a solid suit, and stoppers except in the opponents suit. It requests partner to bid 3NT with the desired stopper.

Charlie likes to play it a lot looser than that - the solid suit and nothing else. Opinions please?

Ian suggests that unless this is played tight it is a solo flight. I think this is right, so all you are asking is that opener’s suit is stopped.

They Double our 1NT.

Redouble shows a goodish hand and a desire to (perhaps) catch them.

But beware - I have twice gone for 1000 after 1NT - double - redouble (both times with Ian I think!) when the doubler had a running minor and an Ace to cash. Both times we had a game in a major available.

Thus after 1NT - double:

2NT from responder shows a game-forcing two-suiter.

They bid naturally over our 1NT

X is take-out from either side. Note that for the No-trump opener to bid again he should be maximum with a small doubleton in the overcaller’s suit.



These are based on notes provided by Barbie Travis which seem to match my understanding of the usage.

                  North         East            South         West

                  1NT           2♠               ???

When you hold ♠6 KQ7 832 ♣QJ7642, you would like to bid 3♣ to play, but partner will most likely treat the bid as forcing.

On the other hand, if you were to hold ♠x AQ6 643 ♣AK9764 you want to be able to bid a forcing 3♣.

You cannot bid 3♣ on each of the above hands and expect partner to know how to respond.

Lebensohl allows you to differentiate between good hands and weak hands when the opponents interfere over your 1NT opening bids (and overcalls!).

2-level bids

Natural, non-forcing


Puppet to 3♣ (partner must bid 3♣), then:

  New suit = weak (Pass with clubs)

  3NT = stopper, no 4-card other major

  3-cuebid = stopper, 4-card other major

3-level bids

Natural, value-showing and forcing


No stopper, 4-card other major


No stopper, no 4-card other major

Thus "Slow Shows" (via 2NT = stopper and/or other major), "Direct Denies"


Corollary:  If a bid is available at the 2-level and 3-level, then using 2NT then bidding the suit shows invitational values and the 3-level is game forcing.


Examples:  See next page.

1NT – (2)

Bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl. Thus:  


2♠                natural and weak.


2NT            Lebensohl (to 3♣ – either weak in a suit or 3/3NT as above)


3♣/            natural and forcing


3               denies a stopper, shows 4♠


3♠               natural and forcing


3NT           denies both a stopper and 4♠

(1) – 1NT – (2)

Bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl

This allows you to distinguish between weak, competing hands and game-going hands. Both members of the partnership can then make more informed decisions.

Lebensohl can be extended to other uses, in addition to interference over 1NT.

When responding to partner's takeout X over an opponent's weak 2 opening:(2D multi) – X (should shows 16+ HCP) – (P or 2M) – bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl.

(2) – X (takeout) – (P) – bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl

When responding to partner's takeout X at the 2-level (1 – P – 2 – X)

(1) – P – (2) – X – bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl

(1♠) – P – (2♠) – X – bids from 2NT up are Lebensohl.

This would mean losing a natural 2NT bid - what do we think?

What about we overcall a NT and the next hand competes in a different suit?

(1♣) - 1NT - (2♠) - ?

What does X mean? Does it show a Spade shortage?

What does 2NT mean - presumably Lebensohl? I think this is correct, so a 3-level bid is forcing..

Roman Key-card Blackwood.

I have used Alan Mould’s Step-by-step Slam Bidding” for most of this. Note that some of the auctions used will be fairly standard Acol, rather than fitting the rest of this version of Acol. This shouldn’t affect the message the examples are trying to illustrate.

What are trumps?


                 If only one suit has been bid it is clearly trumps;

                 If only one suit has been agreed it is trumps;

                 If no suit has been supported then trumps are assumed to be the last suit bid by the partner of the RKC bidder.

When two suits have been bid and supported we should agree that trumps are the last suit bid by the RKC bidder.


1♠               2

3               3♠

4♠               4NT           Spades are trumps, I think fairly clearly.


1♠               2

3               3♠

4               4NT           Spades are trumps. Otherwise the RKC bidder would have bid it instead of 3♠.


1               1♠

2♠               3

4♠               4NT           Diamonds are trumps.

What are the responses?


5♣               0 or 3 of the 5 Aces

5               1 or 4 of the 5 Aces

5               2 of the 5 Aces and denies the queen of trumps

5♠               2 of the 5 Aces and promises the queen of trumps

Note that there is no response that shows all five aces. This means that if you use RKC you guarantee at least one key-card yourself.

If the response is 5♣ or 5 we ask for the trump queen by bidding the next suit up which is not trumps. If you do not hold the trump queen you should return to the trump suit. Anything else shows the trump queen plus that feature. Thus:

(See next page)

1♠               4NT

5♣               5               asks for the queen of trumps

5 shows the ♠Q and a feature

5♠ denies the ♠Q

5NT shows the ♠Q and denies any other useful feature.

All other bids show the ♠Q plus that feature.

If partner responds 5♣ or 5to RKC there is no compulsion to ask for the trump queen. There may be too many missing key-cards to go beyond the five level.

However if you continue to probe for slam and have not enquired about the trump queen the implication is that you are not interested, either because you are looking at it or there are so many trumps that it is irrelevant.

Davey (in particular) can you provide the notes for the sequences where 4 of our minor is inferentially RKC?

Quantitative 4NT raises

I have again used Alan Mould’s Step-by-step Slam Bidding” for most of this.





Say you open 1NT and partner bids 4NT. This is a clear-cut acceptance, a 13 count with good controls and a good five card suit that should provide more tricks than partner can reasonably expect.

So 6 offers a choice of contracts. Partner can return to 6NT if that is preferred but it is easy to construct hands where 6 is laydown but 6NT is a struggle.

Note that if you jump to six of a major then the quality of your suit will be limited by what you consider a reasonable hand for opening 1NT with a five card major. For example we might open 1NT with Jxxxx but not AQxxx. Thus if you jump to six of a major over 4NT your suit will not be great.

What about suit bids at the five level? How about being acceptance and showing a decent four card suit. In the unlikely event that opener has two decent four card suits we can go up the line Baron style. Responder can do the same thing. This may enable you to ferret out a good 4-4 fit at the eleventh hour. Note the requirement of a decent suit - perhaps two of the top three honours?

Finally, what about the exquisite torture of bidding 5NT over 4NT? It should probably denote “semi-acceptance”, say a 4-3-3-3 pattern with a poor four card suit and not quite good enough to bid 6NT directly.

Consider this sequence:


1NT           2♣ (Stayman)

2               4NT

This should not be Blackwood, simply natural and quantitative, inviting 6NT. Say you hold:

♠ AKJ6



♣ QJ2

Without a quantitative 4NT you are completely lost.

Now let’s make the K the ♣K after partner opens 1NT:

♠ AKJ6



♣ KQJ2

A grand slam could be laydown or you might not be able to make a slam at all depending on partner’s holding.

We don’t have methods to handle very good 4-4-4-1 hands, so what do we do?

Raising 1NT to 4NT quantitative is absurd as it mis-describes your hand and could have partner passing minimums with slam laydown.

Say you start with 2♣ Stayman and partner bids 2. A quantitative 4NT is not ideal but what else can you do?

Let’s reverse the majors in the first hand to show that we don’t have to give up Blackwood:

♠ K4



♣ QJ2


1NT           2♣ (Stayman)

2               ?

All we have to do is make a cuebid first with 4. Partner will probably sign off in 4 and now we can bid 4NT. We have clearly agreed hearts so this must be Blackwood.

Other sequences.


1NT           2

2               3NT

We all know what this means, but what about this:


1NT           2

2               4NT

This is quantitative, not Blackwood. It shows a 5-3-3-2 shape with about a 19-20 count, exactly like raising 1NT to 4NT directly except partner has knowledge of the five hearts.

However this situation is quite different:


1NT           2

3               4NT

Opener has super-accepted hearts (he could also have done this via a cue-bid), so 4NT is definitely Blackwood.

It is even more important to play 4NT as quantitative in a lot of sequences after partner has opened 2NT, a bid which really cramps you for room.

Thus 2NT - 4NT is (clearly) quantitative, but so should


2NT           3

3♠               4NT

be natural. Otherwise how can you handle a collection like

♠ AQ865



♣ 102

4NT as a sign off

If you have opened or rebid no trumps and partner makes a four level slam try it is essential to be able to sign off in 4NT. Take this hand:

♠ KJ72



♣ 75

and hear the auction go:


1NT           3♣

3NT           4

3♣ was natural and forcing and the 4 bid was also natural.

What now? You hate it. Your hand could not be worse for partner, and you want the whole thing to end as soon as possible. You cannot raise diamonds and partner may prefer a little more support in clubs.

Partner needs to allow you to bid a natural and weak 4NT.

If you have a good hand for partner you can cuebid instead. So after the 4 from partner you would cue 4♠ on:

♠ AK72



♣ Q75

This may allow partner to Blackwood and at least we have given a sensible description of our hand.

Sequences where opener wants to sign off in 4NT don’t come along all that often after an opening 1NT, but they are very frequent after a 2NT opening. Say aprtner has opened 2NT and you hold this nice hand:

♠ 973



♣ 1093

This could easily make 6 so say you start with 4. Partner continues with 4NT - get your dummy on the table! If you don’t, what is partner supposed to do with:

♠ AK72




Note that in this case at least 5 is significantly poorer than 4NT.

We have to allow partner a bid to say they do not like what is going on.

As an aide-mémoire, 4NT is quantitative unless someone has first cue bid.

Rolling 4NT

This occurs during a cuebidding sequence - a suit has been agreed, a slam is possible, a couple of cuebids have been exchanged and somebody bids 4NT. Now this could be Blackwood, but this alternative use is based on the idea that if you wanted to apply Blackwood you would have bid it before cuebidding started or say after only one cuebid.

If you have got to the stage of exchanging a couple of cuebids then you are much more likely to have a hand on which you wish to make a forward move but are stuck for a bid.

Depending on the sequence it can mean a number of different things or show a number of different features. Common uses are to ask for a control in a suit that has not been cuebid or to show trumps that are better than might be expected.

Example 1

♠ AJ9543



♣ xx

You open 1♠ and partner bids 2NT. There could easily be a slam here so you cue 4 and partner co-operates with 4.

You obviously cannot sign off now but there are two important things to find out. First, has partner got a club control and second are partner’s trumps good enough?

Playing the rolling 4NT we can bid that to focus partner’s attention on the club suit. If partner signs off, fine, and if he cues 5♣ you continue with 5 which will now focus partner’s attention on trumps.

Example 2

♠ KQ52



♣ 52

This time partner opens 1♠ and you raise via 2NT. Partner bids 4♣ and you have an easy 4 bid. Partner continues with 4 and its up to you. Again we are a bit stuck, because the hand is quite suitable with good trumps and a potentially useful doubleton.

Playing the rolling 4NT you should probably bid it. Since you have driven to the five level you must have a good hand but do not seem to be able to cuebid anything else. There is no suit that has not been cuebid so that is not the problem. The only sensible interpretation of 4NT in this case is that you have good trumps.

You may even get to show your Q if partner continues to cuebid.

What about the situation where you have made a slam try, partner has signed off and you now bid 4NT?


1♠(i)            2NT(ii)

4♣(iii)          4♠(iv)



(i)               I have an opening bid with spades.

(ii)              I have a limit raise in spades.

(iii)            Cuebid. I’ve got a good hand.

(iv)             I’ve got a load of garbage.

(v)              In that case I’ll use Blackwood.

The last bid doesn’t make sense, does it? If you have such a good hand that you want to use Blackwood you would have bid it last time.

It seems sensible to use 4NT here to say “OK, I know you’ve got a load of rubbish. Now tell me anything at all about this garbage that might be useful to me.”

Jumps to five of a major

Consider the sequence:


2(weak)    2♠               Pass           5♠

It is difficult to imagine what this leap can be other than “bid six with a heart control”.

In such sequences it is essential that you bid six with second round heard control (regardless of what garbage you overcalled on) and bid something else with first round heart control. Either bid a feature at the six level or bid 6 with nothing else to show. Partner may need nothing other than first round heart control to bid a grand.

This method proved so popular that all jumps to five of a major were being interpreted the same way. In particular they were often used to say “bid six with a control in the unbid suit”. So in the sequence:


1♠               2NT

4               4




1♠               2♠

3               3♠

4               5♠

both of these sequences were interpreted as bid six with a club control.

But the last sequence is absurd - how can a hand that refused a game try suddenly be issuing a slam force if partner has a club control?

And in the first sequence you could employ the rolling 4NT to squeeze a cuebid out of partner.

So instead of a blanket rule about asking for control in the unbid suit we can apply different meanings to jumps to five of a major depending on the sequence. A lot of the time it will be useful to show exceptional trumps. Aces and Kings can be cuebid.


Consider this hand:

♠ AK972



♣ 52

Partner opens 1♠ and you might have simply punted game. However you respond 2NT (limit) and partner bids 4♣. What now? Surely the trump holding will be of considerable interest to a partner who is busy looking for slam with a queen high suit. But you have nothing to cue.

The jump to 5♠ should show exceptional trumps in the context, and the failure to cue should deny an ace or a king outside and partner should be able to use this information wisely.

Similarly, say you hold:

♠ KQ952



♣ 52

and have raised partner’s spade opening via 2NT. The auction unfolds:


1♠               2NT

4♣               4

4               ?

It seems clear again to bid 5♠. You have heard partner make two cuebids, your hand is very good and you have exceptional trumps.

Two-way jumps to five of a major

These showed either good trumps and asked for good controls, or showed good controls and asked for good trumps.

This seems sensible and consistent. If you are looking at a fistful of controls partner’s jump to the five level will reassure you about trump quality, and if you are looking at a fistful of trumps partner’s jump to the five level will reassure you about the outside controls.


Say partner opens 2NT and we hold:

♠ K7



♣ A85

You could make a simple and sensible raise to 4NT, but say you bid 3♣ (puppet Stayman) and partner surprises you by bidding 3. Now a slam is looking good provided we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot because of bad trumps.

There is much to be said for an immediate 5. If partner holds:

♠ A10



♣ KQ7

partner will know to bid the slam despite being minimum secure in the knowledge that you have good controls. On the other hand if partner holds:

♠ AQ




partner will know to pass since our known five card suit is not good enough.

Make the trumps as good as A10652 and now we are maximum and the slam is still lousy (trumps 2-2, about 40%).

Add the J so that the trumps are now AJ1075 and take away a black queen or jack and the slam becomes excellent.

Now let us have a hand with good trumps:

♠ K7



♣ 875

and the same auction:

2NT           3♣ (puppet Stayman)

3               ?

This time a slam looks likely but will depend on partner holding enough aces and kings. Unless you can bid 5 on this hand you may as well give up now. You cannot bid 4NT (as that is natural) and you have nothing sensible to cuebid. It must be right to show the excellent trumps and poor controls by bidding 5NT.

Give partner a hand like:

♠ AQ9



♣ AK6

and partner can bid 6 in sleep despite not even having a real 2NT opening.

If partner has:

♠ AQ



♣ AK6

the hands fit horribly but is still basically on the diamond finesse. Finally 5 will kick a goal when partner has:

♠ AQ9



♣ AK

Unless you show really good trumps wild horses wouldn’t make partner bid 6 with that dreadful five card suit. He can now bid it expecting to lose only one trump trick.


Finally, sometimes it is sensible to play a jump to five of a major as a general slam try saying “I’m too good to just bid four, partner”. These positions only occur when the opponents are messing around in the auction and you up to quite high levels. Say you hold this hand:

♠ KQ75



♣ AK974

and the auction proceeds:


3               3♠               4               ?

Lovely! Giving up and bidding 4♠ seems really lily-livered. 5♣ should surely be natural, and you cannot cue 5 since that would show a heart control. So what to do?

The suggestion is to use 5♠ as a general slam try. Unlike the earlier meaning this is not a command to bid six with a heart control. Our 5♠ bid certainly denies a heart control so partner will need this but it asks partner to assess his hand as well.

♠ AJ109642



♣ J

Partner will pass on this hand, which is a good hand without a heart control.

♠ AJ10642



♣ 6

Partner will also pass on this hand, which has the heart control but is a heap of rubbish.

♠ AJ10642



♣ Q6

Partner will bid six on this hand which has the heart control and a decent hand.

♠ AJ10642



♣ Q6

And finally partner will bid 6 on this hand which has a first round heart control and a first round diamond control. Now it is up to us to have the bottle to bit seven.

Clubs sewn up, a golden doubleton K and good trumps.

Sample Auctions

I suggest this section should be added to from time to time as we find interesting auctions to reflect upon. The material will, I suspect, come from auctions we have screwed up. Don’t be shy, and feel free to include triumphs.


♠63             ♠AK10

KQ876     A1093

10             AQJ

♣AQJ42      ♣K85


I think the auction should go:



3               3♠

4NT           5♣

6♣               6♠


The cue of 3♠ super-accepts Hearts and 4NT is RKC. 5♣ shows 3 key-cards.

6♣ says that we have all the controls, including the trump Queen, and enquires about the ♣K.

6♠ says yes I have it (didn't simply retreat to 6H) and shows the ♠K as well.

Here is one from the 2007 GNOT semi-finals (rotated for convenience):


♠J86           ♠AKQ742

9               A10

AKQ32    54

♣AQJ6       ♣K98

Both the tables in the match I know about missed the grand.

At Arjuna and Ian’s table the bidding commenced 1 - (2) - 2♠. The overcall was a weak jump.

The bidding proceeded:


1               (2)            2♠               Pass

3♣               Pass           3♠               Pass

4(i)            Pass           4NT           Pass           (i) Splinter

5               Pass           6♠ //

I think this hand failed (a) because 4NT could have been followed up with 5♣ confirming all the keycards (including the trump queen) and showing the ♣K, or (b) it is much better for the opener to use Blackwood.

Here is the suggested auction:


1               (2)            2♠               Pass

3♣               Pass           3♠               Pass

4NT           Pass           4NT           5♣

5               Pass           6♣(i)            Pass           (i) Yes I have the trump king and the ♣K

7NT //

Note that if you use specific kings all is well, whereas if you use steps to show the trump queen and another king it is not a lot of help.


4th best, bottom from three to an honour, MUD. If you have raised partner’s suit with three small, it is probably best to lead the highest. 2nd highest from four small.

Overlead. Ian thinks there is merit in leading A for Attitude and K for Count, and presumably this is against NT only?

Reverse count.

McKenney when obvious.

Most important is to remember Tim Seres, who said he would give up all his knowledge of squeezes and endplays, if he could just look at dummy before he led!