Responding without a Major Fit (Acol)

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Length: 10 minutes

When you don’t have support for partner’s major, you should look to bid your longest suit if you are strong enough.

Guidelines:

  • New suit at the 1-level = 6+ HCP (as your partner’s upper limit is usually 19)
  • New suit at the 2-level (not a jump) = 10+ HCP (at least invitational)

Note that these bids are unlimited in strength, as you have no upper limit to your possible number of HCP. Therefore, bidding a new suit is forcing: this means that your partner is not allowed to pass.

Remember the order of priority for strain: the first priority is to find an 8-card fit in a major. Therefore, bidding a new suit after Partner opens a minor does not deny support for the minor but supporting Partner’s minor does deny a 4-card major.

Which suit should I choose with equal length?

If you have a choice of two suits, bid the longer one first; if they are equal length, choosing is more complicated.

Rules:

  • 5-5 = bid the higher-ranking suit first
  • 4-4 at the 1-level if both majors / 2-level with any two suits = bid the lower-ranking suit first
  • 4-4 if one major and one minor = bid the major

What if I am not strong enough to bid my suit?

This will be a situation where you only have 6-9 HCP and can neither bid your longest suit (as it would take you up to the 2-level), nor support your partner’s suit. So what is the only other bid available? 1NT!

The 1NT response is often referred to as the “Dustbin 1NT”, as it does not necessarily show a balanced hand and can therefore be all sorts of different shapes. It just shows 6-9 HCP and denies the ability to make any other bid.

That means that the more bids you have skipped, the more information you are giving:

  • 1♠ – 1NT = 6-9 HCP, no ♠ support
  • 1♥ – 1NT = 6-9 HCP, no ♥ support and not 4 ♠,
  • 1♦ – 1NT = 6-9 HCP, not 4 ♥/♠ or any ♦ support.

NB: The 1NT response is the only 1NT bid that does not show a balanced hand.

Summary of responses to 1x:

With support

2x = 6-9                                   “Weak”            [Non-forcing]

3x = 10-12                               “Invitational”    [Non-forcing]

4♥/♠ (after 1♥/♠) = 13-15        “Game-going” [Non-forcing]

6-9 without support

1y = 6+, 4+cards in the bid suit          “Weak or better”          [Forcing]

1NT = 6-9, no other bid available       “Weak”                        [Non-forcing]

10+ without support

1y = 6+, 4+cards in the bid suit          “Weak or better”          [Forcing]

2y = 10+, 4+cards in the bid suit        “Invitational or better”  [Forcing]

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