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Various Ideas Of The Two Spade Bid

Every game of the Whist family has some point upon which experts
disagree, and which, consequently, produces apparently interminable

In Auction, it is the two Spade bid, and no less than four recognized
factions have widely divergent views concerning it. These views may be
briefly stated as follows:--

(a) With the border-line No-trumpers now in vogue, a hand not
strong enough to bid No-trump is too weak to warrant any call but
one Spade. The two Spade bid is, therefore, useless and should
never be made.

(b) The two Spade bid should be used as a No-trump invitation
with any hand not quite strong enough to justify a No-trump call.
Having this meaning it does not matter whether the hand contain any
Spade strength.

(c) The two Spade bid should be used as a No-trump invitation,
but must also give the additional information that the hand
contains at least one trick in Spades.

(d) The two Spade bid should be used to tell the partner that
the hand has the high-card strength to bid one Royal, but not
sufficient length. It thus becomes either a No-trump or Royal

All these systems have their advocates, most of whom refuse to see
merit in any plan but their own. It is only fair, however, before
reaching a definite conclusion to accord to all a fair and
dispassionate consideration.


The argument that, as long as light No-trumpers are conventional, any
hand not sufficiently strong to call No-trump is too weak to justify
declaring more than one Spade, has considerable force. Beyond question,
many followers of plans "b" and "c" call two Spades when their
holdings do not warrant such action, but the fact that a declaration is
at times abused is far from being a sufficient reason for wiping it off
the Auction map, and saying to those who desire to use it rationally,
"No, because some players see fit to make this bid with two Knaves and
a Queen, it is not safe to allow you the privilege of using it sanely,
wisely, and at the appropriate time."

The supporters of "a," however, go further, and say that the hands in
which a No-trump cannot be called, but with which the invitation should
be extended to the partner to bid it, are so rare that the retention of
the two Spade call merely encumbers the catalogue of the Declarer with
a bid that is practically obsolete.

This, if it be true, would be most convincing, but it is so surprising
a statement that it should be examined before being accepted.

Every hand that class "d" would bid two Spades would be similarly
called by "b" and "c," and at least ninety-nine per cent. of
expert Auction players concede that such a bid is sound. For example:--

Spades Ace, King, Knave
Hearts X, X, X, X
Diamonds X, X, X
Clubs Ace, Queen, X

has strength which deserves, if possible, to be shown.

This is merely a sample of a hand which would be a Royal, if length in
Spades accompanied the strength. Such hands come within the "d"
classification, and are not rare. This must be admitted when it is
considered that three- or four-card suits are much more frequently held
than suits of greater length. Therefore, two Spades should be bid more
often than one Royal. With the single exception of No-trump, Royals is
the call most frequently played; consequently, as a preliminary call,
two Spades must be used more constantly than any declaration, except

Experience bears out this argument, and it, therefore, seems that the
"a" allegations are not supported by examination.

It is obvious that the more original calls with which it is possible to
equip a Dealer, the more accurately can he distinguish for the benefit
of his partner between the different classes of holdings. It therefore
seems absurd to contend that the bid of two spades should be


The argument presented by the "b" school is also at first quite
convincing. Take such a hand as

Spades X, X, X
Hearts Ace, X, X
Diamonds King, Knave, X
Clubs Knave, X, X, X

It is just too weak for a No-trump, but at first glance seems too
strong for a Spade.

Why, however, should it be too strong for a Spade? It is under the
average, which means the holding of the partner must be quite a bit
better than the average to get one odd. If he have such a hand he will
declare it in any event, and the dealer can then help. Furthermore,
this system does not point out any one suit as stopped, and, therefore,
gives the minimum degree of information. It is practically saying, "I
bid half a No-trump." It is quite doubtful whether the holding
essential for such a bid can be properly limited and whether it will
not tempt bidding with too great weakness.

Furthermore, it must be taken out. The Third Hand cannot allow his
partner to play two Spades, and if he be weak, all he can do under this
system is to call three Spades, which only makes matters worse, as it
is sure to be doubled, and the dealer must in turn take that out. To do
this with the hand above cited, he must either call two Clubs with four
to a Knave, or one Diamond with three to the King, Knave.

The trouble is evident--the result apt to be unfortunate. If the
partner with average strength accept such a No-trump invitation, the
contract cannot be fulfilled; while if he be strong, he will bid in any
event, so where is the advantage of the call?

For one purpose, however, this system of bid seems sound. If the dealer
be a poor player and the Third Hand an expert, it is for the benefit of
the partnership that the Third Hand be the Declarer. When the Dealer
holds a real No-trumper, but wishes his partner to become the Declarer,
the two Spade,--not invitation, but command,--has real merit, but as
few players either concede their own inferiority or are willing to
allow their partners to play a majority of the hands, this apparent
argument in favor of the plan will not appeal to many, and will,
therefore, seldom prove of service.


This comes nearer being logical, as it shows one Spade trick, and,
therefore, indicates help for a partner's Royal, but with that
exception, it is subject to the same objections as "b." It is
troublesome to take out, and when compared with "d" gives extremely
limited information.

It may, however, be of distinct advantage for a player who does not
approve of light No-trumpers. Followers of the theory that the call
of one No-trump means four or five sure tricks will certainly find
"c" or even "b" an advantageous system, but the advantage of
"getting to the No-trump first" is so manifest that the light
declarations have become generally popular, and but few of the
"I-will-not-declare-unless-I-have-the-'goods'" bidders are now to be

If a player believe in calling No-trump with the minimum strength now
considered sufficient, he has little use for either "b" or "c."

It is self-evident that "c" cannot be used as often as "b," so the
Declarer who likes always to say something will prefer "b," but the
bidder who wishes, when he calls, to have distinct value attached to
his announcement, will elect in favor of "c" rather than "b," and
for the same reason will find "d" the best system of all.


It is toward this system that the evolution of modern bidding is
turning. True, two Spades cannot be declared as frequently when "d"
is used as when "b" or "c" is employed, but the "d" bid conveys
information so comprehensive and important that one call is of greater
value than several "b" or "c" bids, which, at best, furnish the
partner with indefinite data.

It makes the weakness take-out of the partner, namely, one Royal, easy
and logical, and in every way seems the soundest, safest, simplest, and
most conducive to game-winning of all the plans suggested.

It invites equally the two most important declarations, makes easy the
position of the partner when he holds long, weak Spades, and is
doubtless destined, in a short time, to be the only two-Spade system
in use, unless it be found advisable to include in the repertory of
the original declarer both "b" and "d."

This can be readily accomplished by calling two Spades for "b"; three
Spades for "d"; and four Spades for the combination hereinafter
given, for which the declaration of three Spades is suggested.

No serious objection can be advanced to this plan, except that it is
somewhat complicated, and for a light No-trump bidder, possibly
unnecessary. It is a totally new idea, but believed to be of sufficient
value to entitle it to a trial.

As it is impossible to declare or play intelligently when any doubt
exists between partners regarding the convention employed, and as it is
wise not to follow unsound theories, no further reference will be made
to "a," "b," or "c" plans. The "d" system will be fully
described, and all suggestions that hereinafter appear will be based
upon the supposition that it is being used.

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