In SAYC my partner bid 1 NT showing 15-17 HCP (no void, no singleton and only one doubleton). I was holding a hand of 10 HCP with 5S, 5H, 2D and 1C. Using Jacoby transfers should I have responded 2D (showing 5H) or 2H (showing 5S)

6 Answers 6


This is mostly a matter of agreement.

The reason this is so, is that what you decide to do with a 5-5 game forcing hand would effect other hand types.

Here are some hand types the responder can have:

5-4 majors game forcing. 5-4 majors invitational

5-5 majors game forcing 5-5 majors invitational.

They are multiple ways of bidding:

For instance, some folks play 3H response to 1NT as invite with 5-5 majors and 3S response as GF with 5-5 majors. This allows them to transfer and bid the other suit to show some 5-4 hands etc.

So there is no one way to bid this, and is something you need to agree with your partner.

  • 1
    Good; you could also note that SAYC is (except in rare limited events) where system agreements with partner begin, not where they end. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 2:08
  • @PieterGeerkens: Right! SAYC documentation is quite inadequate. No idea what is part of it, and what is not. Technically, SAYC is supposed to be a complete system...
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 0:50
  • Incorrect - SAYC makes no attempt or pretension at being a complete system - merely a minimally playable system, mostly for novices. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 1:30
  • SAYC is standard american yellow card, and is supposed to be a system that can be used in Indys etc. Perhaps I have misunderstood the motivation for the creation of SAYC. Anyway, I do agree, it is woefully inadequate.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 2:16
  • It's five-card majors without a Forcing 1NT response - how can that possibly be an adequate system? It's Goren with five card majors, straight out of the late 1950's with a couple of bells and whistles. Latest additions to the system appears to Sputnik doubles through 2S and D0P1 after Blackwood interference: web2.acbl.org/documentlibrary/play/sayc_card.pdf Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 3:17

In bridge, the rule is to bid the lower suit in order to proceed more slowly.

Here, the "lower" bid is two diamonds, partner transfers into two hearts, and then you bid two spades, staying at the "two" level when you show your second suit. It depends on the partnership style, but such bids at the two level are often treated as "invitational," and not forcing.

If you bid two hearts first and partner transferred into two spades, you'd need to bid three hearts to show your hearts. More to the point, a bid at the three level would be considered by many to be game forcing and show slam interest.

Whatever "subsystem" you use should be agreed with partner beforehand.

  • 1
    +1. 2D shows hearts, and says nothing about spades: 2H shows spades, and (since you could have shown hearts but chose not to) implicitly denies good hearts. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 12:42
  • -1: Sorry. This is quite incomplete and misleading. See my answer (posting soon, so you might not see it yet).
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:55
  • @Aryabhata: I amended my answer to capture the nuances. Is this better?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 23:20
  • Well, the first paragraphs are still misleading.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 0:02
  • Seems like a 10 point hand opposite a strong NT opener should be a game forcing hand.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 18:33

Playing SAYC there is always the possibility of partner making an error - both my partner or partner's partner. This is a different situation that two strong players with a very solid system understanding.

With 10 points you are entitled to show both majors, creating a game forcing situation - however with a weak partner it is advisable always bid 2D first (showing Hearts) instead of the other way around, because a rebid of 2S will be unambiguous to a weak partner, but a return to 3H might be misunderstood.

All else equal this also happens to be best practice, as Tom Au has already mentioned, but in practice there are advantages in this situation to bidding your weaker suit first - middle honours in partner's hand are gold, and he learns fo their value sooner this way.

  • Given this is a game forcing hand, but a minimum game forcing hand, I don't see why you would choose the slower (=stronger) bidding sequence. I don't disagree that bidding that way is more unambiguous to a partner who may well be confused, though.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 18:49

In SAYC, continuations from Jacoby in other suits are all game forcing.

If, after the transfer is accepted, responder bids a new suit, that is natural and game forcing.

As such, both

1NT - 2D

2H - 2S

and the inverse

1NT - 2H

2S - 3H

are game-forcing. Without any other agreements, there is technically no difference in the system; I would suggest that the choice of transferring to spades first is the weaker option, and transferring to hearts first is the stronger option, as it gives you more room to discuss possible slams.

As you are a minimum game forcing hand (10 points opposite 15-17), you should make the weaker choice, and bid 2H to transfer to spades. Since partner is guaranteed to have a 3 card fit with one of these two suits based on your rules for opening 1NT, you don't need to worry about ending up in 3NT.

Of course, it is preferable to have a superior agreement with partner than the basic SAYC agreement, as this hand pattern (5-5 Majors opposite 1NT) is frequently a slam-going hand even with only 10-12 points, if things line up properly. You likely can't find that with only Jacoby, while the direct bid of 3S (GF 5-5 Majors) as Aryabhata suggests would be quite helpful in possibly finding that slam.


This is too long for a comment but it could be of interest to somebody.

I do not play the SAYC but, with my partners, what we use for describing a 5-5 distribution after the partner open 1 NT is a bid at the level of 5 in the shortest suit (for H and S) or at the level of 4 (for C and D).

For example :

  • 1 NT - pass - 5 C means 5 H + 5 S (void or singleton in C)
  • 1 NT - pass - 5 D means 5 H + 5 S (void or singleton in D)
  • 1 NT - pass - 4 H means 5 C + 5 D (void or singleton in H)
  • 1 NT - pass - 4 S means 5 C + 5 D (void or singleton in S)

This implies no hope for a slam.

Using this convention for almost 30 years, we think it is very precise and we have good results with it.

  • This is interesting, but could do with some amplification. If there is a point bracket, it seems this would come up once in a blue moon; if not, all you know is that the partnership has 7 trumps, which isn't much to go to game on. Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 11:35

I personally would not bid this using Jacoby transfers, but using Stayman. By bidding 2C in response to the 1NT opening, you ask if opener holds a 4-card (possibly 5, depending on your definition of a 1NT opening) in a major. partner responds with:

  • 2 Diamonds: none
  • 2 Hearts or 2 Spades: that one, or
  • 2 NT: both majors.

If he has no majors, you can still bid 2H. Having asked him about his 4-card Majors, him denying and you still bidding one makes it at least 5 cards long. 3NT is still an option at this point, even with your distribution.

If he does have one (or both) of the majors, pick one for game.

  • 1
    I wouldn't bid Stayman here unless you play Smolen (and even there, I wouldn't, because I'd have a bid for 5-5 Majors). Definitely not in pure SAYC. Too confusing and too hard to show both 5 card majors. And beyond that, 2H after stayman is not necessarily game forcing (it may show 5-4 with 5 hearts and invite opener to pass).
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 18:47
  • I would be very surprised if my partner passes on 2H. He knows I have at least 8 points, but I haven't put an upper bound on my strength yet. Unlike Jacoby, Stayman is not played with less than 8 points.
    – steenbergh
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:12
  • 1NT bidder gets limited choice on continue/pass. Responder is in control, always. If you make an invitational response, 1NT opener must pass with minimum (15-weak 16).
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:13
  • @steenbergh:Incorrect. The conventional definition of [Non-Forcing Stayman]9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stayman_convention#Forcing_and_Non-Forcing_Stayman) is that the 2H rebid may be passed - it does NOT imply game forcing values. if you are choosing to play that bid as forcing instead of passable that is an alertable partnership agreement. Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 23:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .