How to Use Basic Bridge Conventions (Lesson 14)

By eHow Contributor
Aces Are Winners!

How to Use Basic Bridge Conventions (Lesson 14). Bridge is a game of communicating with a special language-which brings us to the focus of this article: "Conventions." These are basically bidding "agreements" or understandings between you and your partner. There are other applications as well, including suit preference or opening lead indicators. At higher levels of competition, some systems are so intricate and complicated, it becomes necessary to "alert" or inform the opponents. (A special "Convention Card" is used at all tournaments.) Many of the great Bridge pioneers and masters created several popular Conventions which bear their names. Players of all levels use many of these applications as part of their repertoire. If you are a Novice/Intermediate Bridge player, you should consider learning these systems in order to improve your game and have a better partnership rapport.

Step 1


Samuel Stayman (1909 to 1993) was one of the ACBL pioneers. He and his regular partner, George Rapee, created this Convention in the mid 1940s. It is basically the 2 Club response to a 1 No trump opening bid. This bid is a request for a FOUR-card Major suit (Hearts or Spades). The reponse of 2 Diamonds denies a four-card Major suit. A reponse of 2 Hearts promises four hearts (and possibly four Spades) Finally, the response of 2 Spades denies hearts, but guarantees four Spades. In order to use Stayman you MUST have 8 + HCP (high card points), a FOUR-card Major suit and an unbalanced hand (NOT 4-3-3-3 shape). Stayman has many other variations too numerous to list here.

Step 2

THE BLACKWOOD CONVENTION (4 NT over any previous lower level bid)

Easely Blackwood, (1903 to 1992), another Bridge Icon, created this Convention in 1933. It is the most basic and popular application in the Bridge community. In short, this is a request for Aces. The responses are simple: 5 C = zero or all 4 Aces; 5 D = 1 Ace; 5 H = 2 Aces and 5 S = 3 Aces. In order to consider Blackwood, you MUST: a. Have a very good shot at a minimum of 12 tricks b. Have a good trump fit (4-4, 5-3 or better) c. Have a strong trump suit with no more than potential loser d. Have all suits stopped with no more than loser (if playing NT)

In addition, the defense cannot have A-K in the same suit for two fast tricks. Blackwood is often abused and must be used with great discipline. I suggest additional research on playing this Convention.

Step 3

WEAK TWO BIDS (6-Card Suits)

Weak Two Bids are generally credited to Harold Vanderbilt, a famous player from the 1920s, who was instrumental in modernizing Bridge. The Weak Two Bid can be an effective weapon if it is used with control. It also deprives the opponents of bidding space and helps to guide your partner. In order to bid a Weak Two, you MUST have: a. 6 to 10 High Card Points and a six- (not seven) card suit. b. Less than 13 HCP c. No 4 or 5-card Major suit in your hand

There are various responses to the Weak Two bid, including a raise in your own suit (with 13+ HCP), a limit raise of partner's suit, a bid of 2NT asking for information or a pass.

Step 4

TAKEOUT DOUBLES (Not to be confused with Penalty Doubles)

This bid has been around for nearly 80 years. It is usually called when the bidding is at a level below game. In addition, the doubler has not made a suit or NT bid and the opponents have not bid a suit. Some teams also prefer that the doubler's partner has not made a call of his own (other than pass). In order to double for takout, you MUST: a. Have at least 13 HCP (an opening hand) b. Have decent 3-card support for the other (unbid) suits c. Less than three cards in the opponent's called suit

As is the case with many of these applications, there is a myriad number of responses and scenarios which need to be discussed with Partner.

Step 5

JACOBY TRANSFER BIDS (over 1 NT opening))

Oswald Jacoby (1902 to 1984) was a perennial North American Champion and regarded as one of the 10 best players of all time. The transfer bid was designed to protect the strong NT opening hand. It is most effective when the responder has a 5-card Major and enough HCP to go for game. For example, if partner opens 1 NT with a 16 to 18 HCP and you hold 5 Hearts and 9+ HCP, you respond two DIAMONDS. (If your Major is Spades, you respond two HEARTS.) Partner now bids the Major suit above your Transfer bid. (If he has less than three-card support, his bid is 2 NT (or 3 NT). Game is reached if the HCP count is sufficient. There are variations on this system, as well as a "Texas" Transfer Bid to the fourth level.

Step 6


Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone were prominent East Coast players who promoted and modified the Negative Double system. It is frequently applied to low level (one or two bids) and geared to responding hands with a four-card Major suit. If partner opens with one of Minor and the next player (your RHO) overcalls with one of Major, you are an in awkward position to show a decent four-card Heart suit and sufficent points to respond.

Voila! The Negative double (over the interference) promises the other Major (if the overcaller has bid his own Major). There are applications when both Majors are shown, as well as jump overcalls.

Step 7


Strong opening two bids have been around for years. Charles Goren (1901 to 1991), the devotee of "Standard American" bidding systems, supported strong two bids during his illustrious career. Modern players now prefer weak two bids for Spades, Hearts and Diamond-oriented hands. Two Clubs (21 or 22+ HCP are forcing to game and require partner to bid two Diamonds with a week balanced hand or any other suit bid to show a Major or possible Slam. There are too many intricate systems to list here; I will leave it up to you to do the research.

Step 8


A "reverse" is used when the opening bidder rebids a suit which is HIGHER ranking than his first bid suit. Partner is required to go to the three level. A reverse almost always shows an UNBALANCED hand and 16+ HCP. Partner can NEVER pass a reverse bid and must gauge the feasibility of game if he has the HCP.