The bidding has proceeded as follows:

1S     - 2D
2NT(*) - ?

(*) 15-17 HCP balanced, denies 4H. With both majors, 1H would have been opened.

Holding S: 6 5 H: 9 3 D: A K J 5 4 C: K 10 8 6

What is your response playing Acol/Standard English at rubber scoring? Does it change if opener opened 1H instead of 1S?

  • How would AQXXX JTxx QT AQ be opened and bid? Are you seriously playing Canape - and not explicitly saying so? Feb 1 at 13:59
  • I would open a two-suiter, especially a touching two-suiter, with the longer suit. So, with your hand, I open 1S and rebid an appropriate number of hearts after responder's reply. And no, I don't play Canapé. Yet.
    – AlDante
    Feb 1 at 20:54

4 Answers 4


First, I'm assuming that 2N was forcing to game (or at least to 3N), as I believe is the case in modern Acol but might not be the case in 50-year-old Acol.

Second, I've never actually played cut-for-your-partner rubber, so the tactical considerations of whether you want the rubber to be over quickly or slowly (because your partner is weaker or stronger than the person you'd expect to cut next) aren't something I really understand.

Your choices are basically 3C or 3N. The bid of 3C basically asks partner for the heart stopper; the bid of 3N is a bluff pretending to have both stoppers.

At matchpoints, there is no question I would bid 3N. The opponents don't know you're missing a stopper; if they think you're missing a stopper they don't know whether it's clubs or hearts. If you bid 3C and partner doesn't have a heart stopper, you've lost the board. If partner bluffs, opponents will usually lead hearts (partner bluffing a heart stopper to bid 3N is more likely than you bluffing a club stopper with your 3C bid). If partner doesn't bluff, you might not make 5 of a minor, and, if you do, your +400/600 will still lose to all the people who got +430/630 on a successful bluff.

At rubber, where +400 and +430 aren't so different, the odds don't favor 3N quite as much, but I think the bluff still has a lot going for it, especially since there are a lot of hands where 5 of a minor is not making. (Give partner AKQx Jxx Qxx QJx and 5D is not so good.)

I might add that the odds do depend on your agreements for what suit you open with 4432 hands (where the 4 card suits could be any 2) - you might want to specify that in your question as I understand Acol players don't all have the same agreements.

  • 2NT, even in modern Acol / Standard English, simply shows a strong NT hand (if the opening 1NT is weak). The strength depends on partner's response. If the opening 1NT is 12-14 and partner responds at the one level, then a rebid of 1NT shows 15-16, 2NT shows 17-18 and 3NT shows 19 HCP. If partner responds at the 2 level, rebid of 2NT with 15-17 and 3NT with 18-19 HCP. The NT response is a not forcing limit bid, but partner's 2-level response shows 8+. I usually play with one partner per evening, so I've actually never even thought about the tactics of cut-for-your-partner :-)
    – AlDante
    Jan 31 at 15:27
  • 1
    @AlDante - the question is whether Qx Jx Kxxxx Qxxx is a 2 level response, or you need something like xx xx AQxxxx Qxx if you have only 8. The first is not suitable for 3N if partner has 15 balanced; the second is as long as the 15 includes the K of diamonds. I believe modern English Acol (but not 50-years-ago English Acol) takes the 2N rebid after a 2 level response to be game forcing on the theory that 15 balanced opposite a 2 level response should always have chances for game, because the first hand is not a 2 level response in modern Acol. Jan 31 at 15:41
  • 1
    I made enough playing rubber bridge, back in the day, to pay for expensive backgammon lessons. I never adjusted my game much except: (1) Don't sacrifice playing with the weakest player; (2) Tweak invitations a bit, but open and accept/decline the same; (3) If reasonable, play 3NT in your hand instead of partner's suit in his hand; and, finally (4) Don't create any ethical dilemmas for partner. That's it. If you try to get fancy you risk messing up and confusing an already outmatched player - and that can be really bad news. Feb 2 at 2:16
  • That said - it matters if the weakest player is a regular. If they are, they have come for gentle lessons and are quite willing to pay for those. You want to be an opponent they search out each week, rather than avoid. Then you get a nicely weekly bonus, and they get the gentle lessons they have paid for. So, don't milk them for every penny - maybe once a session, as a reminder of to avoid bad habits, but no more than that. Feb 2 at 2:18

26-28 points, looking at your hand I can't imagine something partner has that you're more than 50% for a slam. Perfect hand maybe AKQx spades Axx hearts AJxx clubs, you're still two finesses away from the slam. 3NT seems pretty solid here no matter the format, unless you have good tools for identifying the heart stopper.

  • Yes, I don't think we are in slam territory. My question is more, can we be sure that 3NT is the best game? I left the question open because I am genuinely interested in all opinions. What tools do you know of that would identify the heart stopper? 4th suit is not yet available...
    – AlDante
    Jan 27 at 18:11

This page lists three possible approaches. The one the author prefers is structured along Standard American lines with new minor forcing and the 2NT rebid over a two level response also being forcing.

The second approach, detailed here, is Crowhurst. A 1NT rebid is 12-16 HCP, responders 2C rebid asks for opener's strength and major suit distribution.

The third approach is what I currently play, with 2NT not forcing but obviously unlikely to be left in after a 2 level response.

Edit: I generated 10 hands to get an idea of what might be the most sensible contracts.

Some statistics:

  • 75% of the time opener has a heart stopper

  • 3NT makes 70% of the time (given reasonable distribution)

  • 5m makes about 50% of the time (but often 3NT is a better contract)

  • There is one hand where 3NT does not make, but 5C has a 50% chance

  • There are two hands where 3NT makes, and 5m doesn't, and one hand where 3NT makes easily and 5m requires the CQ to be found.

  • There are 2 hands where 6 of a minor is a 50% chance.

So, based on this amazingly large sample, unless you like bidding 50% slams, 3NT seems to be the way to go.

NB: The screenshot is the first 9 hands, the LIN file should be all of them.

enter image description here


qx|o1|md|3SK742HAQ4DQT73CA5,SQT983HJ65D92CJ42,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 1|sv|0|pg|| qx|o2|md|4SK874HAK8D72CAQ75,ST32HT762DQT8CJ94,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 2|sv|n|pg|| qx|o3|md|1SAKQTHA84D862CQ32,SJ732HQJ52DCAJ754,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 3|sv|e|pg|| qx|o4|md|2SKQT7HK72DQ9CAJ54,S9HAQT8654D732C72,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 4|sv|b|pg|| qx|o5|md|3SAK84HQ2D863CAQJ3,SJT972HKJT654DC94,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 5|sv|n|pg|| qx|o6|md|4SAKQ7H87DQT32CA42,SJT94HQT62D976CJ9,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 6|sv|e|pg|| qx|o7|md|1SAJ92HA65DQ872CA3,SQ873H82DT93CQ954,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 7|sv|b|pg|| qx|o8|md|2SAQ42HA2DQT876CA2,SJ83HJ8D32CJ97543,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 8|sv|0|pg|| qx|o9|md|3SAK97HQ76DT8CAQ95,SQTHJT8542DQ3CJ72,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 9|sv|e|pg|| qx|o10|md|4SAQ84HKJ7DQ8CAJ93,SKT72H4DT962CQ742,S65H93DAKJ54CKT86|rh||ah|Board 10|sv|b|pg||
I would bid 3C, forcing, denying a heart stopper and strongly suggesting 3NT. If opener bids 3H, fourth suit denying the heart stopper, then I would rebid my diamonds and a possible precarious minor game contract.
Situation is almost identical with a 1H opening. You can not support either major and a NT game is dependent on opener having the cover in these suits.
  • 1
    But is 3C forcing? What do you bid with a weak 5-5 in the minors?
    – AlDante
    Jan 31 at 15:28
  • 1
    @AlDante - I believe a weak 5-5 in the minors responds 1N to 1M, not 2D. Feb 2 at 3:35
  • Original question has responder with 5 Diamonds and 4 Clubs and sufficient points to suggest game. A bid of 3C should be understood as this. Any new suit bid at the third level is game forcing.
    – sixString
    Feb 2 at 10:04
  • In Standard English, which is Acol's modern successor, a new suit at the 3 level is forcing for one round, not game forcing. Over a 2 level response, as discussed above, it is effectively game forcing. ebu.co.uk/documents/laws-and-ethics/convention-cards/…
    – AlDante
    Feb 2 at 20:53

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