Suit Declarations

For some reason the Dealer is more apt to make faulty suit bids than

unwarranted No-trumpers. It seems as difficult for the old Whist and

Bridge player as it is for the novice to realize that even excessive

length does not justify an original suit call, unless the suit contain

either the Ace or the King. It, also, is just as important to remember

that if the suit does not contain both the Ace and the King, the hand

must in addition have at least one other honor in the suit named,[3]

and one other sure trick. By "sure trick" in this connection is not

meant merely a suit stopped, but a trick that can be won not later than

the second round; in other words, either an Ace or a King and Queen, or

King and Knave, of the same suit.

[3] While, as a general rule, to justify an original suit

declaration, "one other honor" should accompany either Ace or

King, it is not necessary to blindly follow such a requirement to

an absurd extreme.

If the suit be headed by the Ace, either unusual length (six or

more) or considerable strength in another suit (Ace and King, or

Ace, Queen, Knave) would justify a call without "one other


If, however, the suit be headed by the King, the presence of

another honor is essential unless the length or additional

strength be extraordinary.

Stating in another way the combination of high cards requisite for an

original suit bid, it may be said that a suit should never be

originally declared unless the hand contain two sure high-card tricks,

one of which must be in the suit named. These sure high-card tricks

must be either two Aces or their equivalent in value for trick-taking

purposes. The reason is obvious. The declaration of a suit by an

informatory bidder tells the partner, not only that the bidder is

satisfied to have that hand played with the suit named as the Trump,

but also that his holding will be helpful to the extent of at least two

tricks, one of which is in his suit, should the declaration be shifted

to No-trump. This is one of the simplest and most vital rules of

bidding, yet it is probably the most frequently disregarded.

Innumerable points have appeared in the adverse honor column because a

partner has properly assumed that an original suit call showed the

high-card strength just mentioned, only to find out too late that the

bidder, with perhaps a couple of Kings, had yielded to the lure of

length. Even at the risk of seeming repetition, it is necessary to be a

little more explicit upon this subject.

When the Dealer bids a suit, he says: "Partner, I have great strength

in this suit; it is probable that I have both the Ace and King, but if

not, I have either the Ace or King, supported by at least one other

honor,[4] and the Ace or the King and Queen, or King and Knave, of some

other suit; you can bid No-trump or double any adverse declaration,

positively assured that I will support you to the extent named."

[4] See footnote, page 31.

The holding in the suit which is declared, is vital. Take, for example,

such a hand as Queen, Knave, and five small Hearts; and the Ace and

King of Clubs. Of course, the Dealer wants to play this hand with

Hearts as Trump, but he should not bid a Heart at the start, as he has

not the Ace or King. The fact that he has both the Ace and King of

Clubs does not justify a Heart call without either the Ace or King of

Hearts. With the hand cited there will be plenty of time to bid Hearts


The rule which governs this case is the foundation of modern bidding;

it is without exception, is not affected by the score, and is the most

important of all Auction conventions.

Every player should resolve that, whatever his other shortcomings may

be, he will treat it as a veritable law of the Medes and Persians, and

that never, as Dealer, will he call a suit unless he hold the Ace or

King of it, and the other requisite strength.

The combination of high cards above mentioned, however, is not in

itself sufficient to justify a suit declaration. There must, in

addition, be length in the suit. This is just as essential in Clubs or

Diamonds as in Hearts or Royals. The partner may have great strength,

and yet be unable to stop the adverse suit. A No-trump being thus

eliminated, he, acting on the assurance given by the original call, may

carry the suit to high figures. This is sure to prove disastrous,

unless the original bidder has length as well as strength.

As a general rule, five is the minimum length with which a suit should

be called, but with great strength, such as Ace, King, Knave; Ace,

Queen, Knave; or King, Queen, Knave, in the suit, coupled with another

Ace; or a King and Queen, a bid with a four-card combination may be

ventured. A four-card suit, headed by Ace, King, Queen, may be called

without other strength.

A short suit, that is, one of three cards or less, should never be bid

originally, regardless of its strength. Even the holding of Ace, King,

Queen, does not justify the naming of such a suit.

While the doctrine above enunciated as to the minimum strength required

for a Trump bid is unquestionably logical and is now regarded as

conventional by a very large proportion of the expert players of

Auction, it is only natural that there should be some dissent. There is

a certain character of mind that always desires to carry any sound

theory to dangerous extremes, and, consequently, some players and

writers have seen fit, while adopting the theory which has altered the

old system of always starting with one Spade into the modern

informatory game, to advocate extensions which would practically

eliminate the defensive declaration.

These extremists desire to permit a Dealer to bid whenever he has a

long suit, regardless of whether it be headed by high cards, and also

whether it would aid a No-trump. One system suggested is that a Trump

be called whenever the Dealer holds any suit which counts 7, on the

basis of an Ace or face counting 2, and any lower card, 1. The

believers in this doctrine would, therefore, bid a Club from such a

hand as Queen, Knave, X, X, X, without any possibility of another

trick; or even from Knave, X, X, X, X, X. The absurdity of this becomes

obvious when it is remembered that the only real object in bidding a

Club or Diamond is to show strength which will justify the partner in

declaring one of the three game-going declarations. Any such holding as

that mentioned not only does not help any other declaration, but as a

matter of fact is a hand so far under the trick-taking average that, if

any method could be devised by which weakness could be emphasized more

strongly than by making the defensive declaration, such a hand would

fully justify employing it. It is difficult to conceive what benefit

can result to a partnership from any such weakness being, for the

purpose of the declaration, changed into alleged strength. If a player

declare with any such combination, his power to give information when

he really possesses strength of course immediately ceases to exist, and

the entire structure of informative bidding thereby drops to pieces.

The system of suit declarations above outlined, and upon which all that

is hereinafter suggested in relation to bidding is based, must be

followed by players who wish to give their partners accurate data, and

while it may be tempting at times to depart from the conventional, the

more frequently such exception is made by the Dealer in his bid, the

more often does misunderstanding between the partners ensue.

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