By Kitty and Steve Cooper

One of the primary objectives of bidding is to find an eight card major suit fit and play in it at the appropriate level. The other main objective is to determine whether the partnership should be in a partscore, game, or slam. These are the two questions you should ask yourself every time it’s your turn to bid:

  1. Do we have an eight card or longer major suit fit?
  2. Do we have the 26 points needed for game?
Once either partner knows that there cannot be 26 points, it is their job to stop in a makeable partscore. If we have at least the 26 points needed for a game, there is one more question we ask.
  • Do we have the 33 points needed for a small slam or the 37 needed for a grand slam?
When partner opens one of a major, first look to see if you have three or more cards in that major. If so, recount your points using short suit distributional values (dummy points) rather than long suit points. These are five points for a void, three points for a singleton, and two points for a doubleton.       

The next question is “Do I have at least six points?” If the answer is yes, then you must respond to partner’s opening bid because game is possible if partner is maximum. As responder, you need to categorize your hand by points, in order to determine what you can bid. Here is a chart that shows these point range categories (adapted from the Audrey Grant teaching methods):


Point Range Category Game Prospects
6-10 Minimum poor
11-12 Medium possible
13-16 Maximum bid game

When you have an eight card fit, you can raise your partner immediately and show your point range at the same time. If your hand is better than a minimum and you have only three card support,  you usually stop off to show another suit first and then raise or jump raise on your next bid.

Point Range Category Raise to
6-10 Minimum two level
11-12 Medium three level
13-16 Maximum game*

*Note that advanced players use 3NT or 2NT for a forcing raise in the major in order to leave room for slam explorations. Another way to leave room is to bid a new suit and then jump to game.

What if you cannot raise partner’s major (either because you do not have support or because the opening bid was one of a minor)? Here are responder’s choices, in order:

  1. Bid a new suit at the one level. This says nothing about points other than that you have enough to respond - you could be planning to pass partner’s next bid or look for game or slam.
    • Bid your longest suit first, unless you are minimum in points. Remember, minimums are too weak to bid new suits at the two level. If your longest suit requires a two level bid see section three, below.
    • With two five card or longer suits bid the higher ranking first.
    • With only four card suits bid up the line (nearest) but don’t bid 1D when you have a four card major unless you have more than a minimum hand.
  2. Raise partner’s minor with five card support (or sometimes four card support for diamonds).
    • With a minimum hand raise to two.
    • With a medium hand jump to three to invite.
    • A maximum hand must get to game. So when you are balanced you respond 2NT, if you play that forcing, else 3NT. Else you start by bidding a new suit.
  3. If you can’t do any of the above:
    • A minimum hand that cannot bid a new suit at the one level or raise partner’s suit, bids the catchall 1NT (6-10 points any distribution therefore not necessarily balanced).
    • Jump to 2NT with 13-15 balanced. Many players prefer to use 2NT to show the medium hand, 11-12 points.
    • Jump to 3NT with 16-18 balanced. If you use 2NT for 11-12 then 3N shows 13-15 points.
    • With 11+ bid a new suit at the two level, minors can be as few as four cards but majors must be five or more cards.

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