I can think of two: The first one is when the opener bids no trump. Then the responder knows that the opener has a "balanced" hand, and 15-17 high card points for 1NT, 20-21 for 2NT, etc.

Another example is when the opener bids 2 clubs (strong), the responder 2 diamonds (waiting), and the opener bids a suit (or no trump). Then the responder knows opener's strength (22+ points) and preferred suit.

In these cases, the responder is "captain," because he knows his own hand, and has a pretty good idea of opener's. The opener, on the other hand, should "dance to his partner's tune" because he can't match his partner's knowledge of the combined holdings.

Are these the main instances, or are there other instances of responders' captaincies that I have missed?

3 Answers 3


In addition to Opener's notrump openings, whenever Opener rebids notrump to show one of the gap-ranges in the opening notrump structure (typically after opening one of a suit or 1C/2C strong) Responder becomes Captain by virtue of a better grasp of combined partnership holdings.

Likewise if Opener makes a splinter raise of Responder's response then Responder becomes Captain.

Either Opener or Responder also becomes Captain by making a Blackwood or Gerber Ace-asking call, an area where beginners and intermediates often err by having the wrong hand makes this call.

Also Responder becomes Captain, at least temporarily, by making a Fourth-Suit Forcing (FSF) call at the second round. Consequently you will see this call made by experts on a three card suit from time-to-time as a prepared rebid, often revealing on the third round a hand too strong for an immediate splinter raise, which would have given Captaincy to Opener without properly revealing Responder's strength).

It's important to note that Captaincy can change during the auction, and these situations should be well discussed by any ongoing partnership as they are rife with possibilities for gross over- and under-bidding. Even in world-class play it is not unheard of to see slam played in part-score, which is a sure sign that a Captaincy change error occurred. It is especially important to discuss how and when these occur in competitive auctions.

  • Accepted for splinter raises and fourth suit forcing.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 14:01
  • Are you referring to the fact that slams can sometimes be made with 21 hcps (or less) if you have the appropriate double fits and shortness, while the same 21 hcps are only good for a part score if you don't have these fits (or don't know that you have them)?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 17:40
  • @TomAu: Nothing so subtle - just noting that disagreement on whether a call is game forcing or not happens even in world level play from time to time. Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 18:21

Possibly the most likely scenario for a responder to end up as a captain is when the responder does a weak take-out. i.e. Opener opens 1 of a suit, Responder says 1 of a different suit, Opener says 2 of his original suit, Responder says 2 of his original suit. Opener passes because it is clear there is no good match, and knows that Responder has chosen to play in his suit because (based on his limited knowledge) he believes it will play better than Opener's original suit.


At the beginning of the auction, Responder is the captain responsible for both level and strain for the partnership. If Responder then completely describes her hand, she then cedes the captaincy to opener.

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