Last week, I played my first session of bridge in about five years, meaning that I was "rusty," and I was also at a new club with a partner I had just met, who mentioned "Standard American."

Sitting South, neither side vulnerable, and dealing, I had (s) QT94 (h) A7 (d) K764 (c) AJ6. I opened:

1D Pass 1 Heart Pass
1NT Pass 3 Hearts Pass

At this point, I passed, giving my partner credit for something like (s) 53 (h) KQJT32 (d) 93 (c) Q87. That is a six card heart suit, and 6-9 points. Since we would have had 20-23 HCP and only eight hearts between us, I felt that 3 hearts was plenty, perhaps too high, unless he had seven hearts

Partner actually had (s) 53 (h) KQJT3 (d) A93 (c) Q87. He said, "I had an opening hand opposite an opening hand, and you were supposed to bid four hearts with at least three hearts, and 3NT otherwise."

Who was correct under Standard American bidding? (I had taken that sequence to mean an opening hand and 6-7 card suit when made only by the opener (not responder). What do other systems (than Standard American) have to say about this matter?

4 Answers 4


I agree in part and disagree in part with Forget. The Standard American system booklet indicates that responder's rebid of a suit at the three level is invitational, not forcing. However, your hand is a maximum for your rebid, and therefore you should accept the invitation.

While visualizing the kinds of hands partner might have is a useful exercise, particularly for slam bidding, (a) you have to visualize a half dozen or so different hands to draw useful conclusions rather than finding just one, and (b) it's probably not valuable enough to justify the energy expenditure when you're making a 3- vs 4-level decision with a run-of-the-mill balanced hand.


I agree with the others in that you have a maximum for your previous bidding, and should accept the invitation. For me it would be a close call between 4H and 3NT. The fact that your partner only had five hearts was a surprise to me.

My understanding of Standard American Yellow Card (as played on e.g. BBO, by the bots even) methods for further describing a hand after 1D-1H-1NT is:

  • 2H = drop, usually six bagger, but may be a fiver in a hand that judges hearts to play better than 1NT.
  • 3H = invitational with 6 hearts.
  • 2C = new minor forcing (AFAIK nearly everybody plays some form of checkback), primarily looking for a 3-card support, but may be some other opening hand that wants to investigate further. IMO this would have been the proper rebid for your partner, and you would have shown your spades at this point (denying 3 card heart support), and partner would then close shop with 3NT. This is also the route for single suited strong hands and balanced hands willing to hunt for a slam.
  • 4H = to play, no interest in any other contract.
  • 2D = drop.
  • 3D = invitational strength + 4 card support (you denied 4 hearts, so you cannot have the dreaded 4432 shape, and thus you have 4+ diamonds)
  • 2NT = invitational, balanced. You would accept.
  • 2S = natural with 4 spades, invitational. You would bid 4S. A hand with 45+ majors willing to force to game would go via NMF.
  • 3C = two suiter, forcing to game. Promises 5 hearts, and likely to have 5 clubs also.
  • 3NT = to play, what else :-)
  • 1
    Variations are possible and somewhat depended on style. The above is what I would expect with a pick-up partner on BBO - don't know about club players in the US. Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 9:24
  • In current US club play, it is not at all the case that "nearly everybody plays some form of checkback" I find that more than half of the players I see at club games and lower flight sectional games do not have NMF or checkback on their cards, and I don't think it is safe to assume either if the only agreement is "Standard American". If the Agreement is "Yellow card" that is much more specific and the SAYC booklet may be assumed. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 14:17
  • I take your word for that @David. I only play "internationally" on BBO, and a significant fraction of that is Robot games. GIB-bots there play NMF, and I extrapolated from that under the assumption that the choice of conventions would be well attuned to the tastes of US club players. Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 7:18
  • Order has meaning @TomAu. You cannot arbitrarily re-order someone else's list and presume that you have NOT changed the intended meaning. Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:44

First of all, i would not bid 1NT here. Your partner's response of 1H does not deny a 4-card spade suit, and if you have a 4-4 spade fit you want to find it. A rebid of 1S seems to me a better bid with your hand -- it more accurately describes it, and if you do in fact have a spade fit, you will find it.

However on the hand given your partner will not raise spades. In fact a jump-rebid of 3H is the most probable 2nd bid by partner with the hand shown. whether that is forcing or strongly invitation is a matter of partnership agreement -- playing with a pick-up partner with no specific discussion, I would treat it as a strong invite, showing at least an 11 point hand here. With your holding I would then bid 3NT, getting to a good contract.

Neither checkback Stayman nor New Minor forcing can be assumed when playing with a pick-up partner without discussion. Indeed I would say both should be considered OFF until they are discussed. Thus you should not use either playing with a new partner if the only agreement is "American Standard". Note that this does NOT indicate SAYC unless "yellow card" or "SAYC" is specifically mentioned. If they have been agreed, you ahve additional options, but after P 1D P 1H P 1S P 3H you know that there is no spade fit, and no heart fit unless partner has 6+ H which is possible but not promised by the 3H bid. So even playing NMF I would bid 3NT on that hand after that sequence. Partner can bid 4H with a 6 card suit, or do something else with values beyond those shown, although if partner had slam-invitational values, the 3H bid would be incorrect.

If you are playing NMF then a 2C bid looking for 3-card Heart support is a very plausible bid after 1S or 1NT. As your partner did not make that bid in the given auction, it would appear that partner was not playing NMF (or not playing it well).


The hand you seem to think partner had is the perfect hand for a 2H call in the second round, not a 3H call. If partner doesn't have a strong preference for Hearts, meaning at least a 6 card suit, his appropriate second round call is a simple Pass. You are aloowing him to have nothing extra beyond the 5th and 5th Hearts - the perfect description of a 2 Heart call at that point.

More generally, In Standard American jumps are strong excepting only when explicitly agreed or specific otherwise. A vanilla Standard American, presumably Yellow Card, is a system designed for individual events or beginners - who lack the experience and skill to bid more complicated arrangements.

Further, even if you think partner's rebid is an invitational 10-11 HCP, why aren't you accepting? You have a maximum 1NT rebid with a fitting honour in the trump suit, and no embarrassments in hand. (I regard your hand as short only Diamond 10 for a 1NT opening, given the 4432 distribution.) If partner has downgraded slightly for a weak suit like KJ9xxx you have the perfect complementary holding. Just bid 3NT, denying a 3-card Heart suit..


When you failed to specify either Check Back Stayman or New Minor Forcing after Opener's 1NT rebid - you explicitly agreed to cripple your bidding after that call, which is arguably the most common opening sequence you will encounter. It would not be unusual to have two or even three such in a 26 board evening.

  • OK, so even if I assume that partner has the Q of diamonds instead of the ace for 10 HCP, I should go to 3NT because our "24" is really more like 25-26 counting the good fits and large number of intermediates, right?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 0:29
  • 4
    @TomAu: Don't. Place. Cards. In. Partner's. Hand. Just don't. Learn to believe your bidding system, and to properly evaluate your own hand. The most fundamental concept in bidding is to know - unambiguously - what is and is not a forcing call. You always seem intent on creating your own bidding system, and learning weird heuristics for bidding, instead of properly learning a fundamentally sound system. Check out the Richard Pavlick web site. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 2:26

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