Trumps Standard System
In most games at Trumps, normal system regulations apply, with red systems and brown sticker conventions allowed. However, in most games starting with a talk, only green systems are allowed, although blue systems may be permitted at the director's discretion. Normal alerting regulations apply.
Within these limits, you and your partner may play any system you like. However, you may be interested to know that we have surveyed our players to find out what are their favourite methods. These methods form the system we call Trumps Standard, and are outlined in the Five-Card Majors Flipper.
Advanced players will generally fine-tune their system, even if playing basically Standard. At Trumps we also have Trumps Open Players system cards assuming popular conventions such as negative doubles to 3 and some other popular conventions, as described in the Modern Standard Flipper.
Trumps Standard is based on methods common in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia, and could broadly be classed as a Standard American system, with variations. It is a green system, meaning that it features fairly natural openings. (Blue systems include those with a strong 1♣ opening. Red systems include unusual, artificial openings.)
Trumps Standard is a sound basic system. It does not aim to be the definitive system containing complex expert methods. It is suitable for club players who are looking for a sensible, standard set of agreements.
Many partnerships agree to play the following conventions:
Negative doubles to 3
Transfers to majors (in response to 1NT/2NT)
Unusual 2NT overcall for the lower 2 unbid suits
Jacoby 2NT in response to 1-major
Further down is some detail about the system. You can scroll through it if you like, or access the relevant parts through the links above. Some standard parts of a bidding system such as pre-empts are not covered here.
About Trumps Open
Trumps Advanced is based on Trumps Standard, but with the notrump ranges used by most top players, and with more conventions assumed as standard.
Some conventions are semi-natural and safe to play with a good player without discussion:
Some partnerships adopt other conventions such as Lebensohl and other two-openings such as Multi Twos that are not covered here. Other conventions such as Fourth Suit Forcing would be assumed when playing with an advanced player.
The 3NT opening shows 25-27 balanced in Standard, although many play it as gambling (long solid minor with little or no strength in the other suits).
What should you open with this hand?
Open 1NT. A weak doubleton should not stop you.
As a general guideline, each card after the first four in any suit is almost as good as an extra point. Long, strong suits are particularly valuable.
Consider your opening with this hand:
The powerful 5-card suit adds to the value of the hand, making it a tad strong for a 1NT opening. Best is to open 1, and treat this hand as a 18-pointer. The 1 opening is also appealing because it allows you to show the 5-card major, and locate a possible fit there.
This raises the whole issue of whether you may ever open 1NT with a 5-card major. There is no ideal solution on this one. We saw above that it is better not to if you have a suitable alternative, but imagine you have this hand:
The point count is just right for 1NT and with a nice smattering of values all over, that “feels” like it is probably the best move on the hand. If you were to open 1 and partner were to respond 2♣, 2♦ or 2, you would have a problem. In standard methods, a minimum notrump rebid (2NT) shows a minimum hand (12-14) while a jump in notrumps (3NT) shows 18-19.
There is an alternative approach. Some pairs agree that a 2NT rebid following a major opening shows 15-17 points as here - but that creates different problems. If you don’t want to cope with this new set of problems, loosen up a little and be prepared to open 1NT with a 5-card major, as most top players do.
Minimum length of suit
Super-strong hands are opened at the 2-level, but most hands of opening strength start with a 1-bid - with as little as 12 points or so to as much as a 20-count.
The 1NT opening is very specific, showing a balanced hand of 15-17 points. Far more common is to open 1-of-a-suit:
• open the longest suit with one exception:
• don’t open in a major unless you have 5+ cards in it; else open the longer minor, even with only three cards.
With 2 equally long suits:
• bid the higher-ranked of two 5-card or (rare) two 6-card suits
• bid the cheaper of two 4-card or (rare - only for a minor suit opening) two 3-card suits
The 1♦ opening is almost always at least a 4-card suit. It may be 3-cards, but only with exactly a 4-4-3-2 shape.
The Benjamin 2♣ opening shows a hand with a long suit and a good eight or nine playing tricks. A common misconception is that all 19-21 HCP hands should open 2♣. Wrong! However, a good guideline is that hands of 19-21 HCP with a 6-card suit are suitable:
This hand is ideal for a Benjamin 2♣: it is worth over eight playing tricks and it has a good 6-card suit. If you were not playing Benjamin Twos, you would open this hand 1♦ leading to two possible problems. Firstly, you could be left there when partner has a few points, and miss a game. Secondly, if partner does respond, say 1 or 1, the hand is too good for a non-forcing 3♦ rebid, yet nor does any other bid describe the hand accurately.
You may open 2♣ with as few as 16 HCP if your hand has over eight playing tricks:
Another perfect Benjamin 2♣ and, once again, a hand that it would be hard to do justice to otherwise.
2♦ is the strongest opening bid in the Benjamin system. It is artificial; the real suit (or notrumps) is shown on the next round. The 2 opening is game forcing unless opener rebids 2NT, and even then responder will bid on except with a complete bust.
Open 2♦ with all hands of 23+ HCP, and most unbalanced hands of 22 HCP. You may open a hand with somewhat less in high card strength so long as it contains ten playing tricks.
Weak twos are sometimes described as mini-preempts. A weak two shows 6-10 HCP, just like a preemptive 3-opening. The difference is that a weak two shows a good 6-card suit, instead of the 7-card or longer suit expected for a higher level preempt.
A weak two gives partner a clear picture of opener’s hand before the opponents get a word in.
You should have
• 6-10 HCP
• good 6-card suit
The hand above is a classic weak two. Open 2.
Weak Jump Overcalls
Most players who adopt weak two openings play that a jump overcall of the opponent’s opening bid is also weak.
You would open this hand with a weak 2, and if you play weak jump overcalls, you can make the same bid over an opening one of a minor by the opponents.
However, if the opening bid was 1, you would have to bid 3 to show the weak jump hand. That is a little excessive on the cards shown, unless you are not vulnerable. Otherwise just pass - it is often wise to have a 7-card suit if your weak jump overcall will take you to the 3-level.
If you play weak jump overcalls, how do you show a hand too strong to make a simple overcall, say 17+ HCP? In fact it is easy: you start with a double, showing about 12+ HCP, then you bid again to reveal extra values.
If you double an opponents' low-level suit bid, when your own partner has not bid (except pass), then you have made a takeout double. Normal requirements are:
• opening points (say 12+ HCP)
• tolerance for the unbid suits (preferably short in the enemy suit)
Double of an opponent's weak two or opening three-level preempt is also takeout, with much the same requirements (perhaps a little more at the higher levels).
Which card to lead:
• top of touching honours e.g. three touching cards headed by an honour (J-10-9-x or even 10-9-8-x), or two touching then the next card after a gap of one (J-10-8-x), or an interior sequence of two touching plus a higher honour (K-J-10-x)
• two touching honours is enough when leading a 3-card suit (K-Q-x) or with high touching honours against a suit contract (K-Q-x-x v. suit, but K-Q-x-x v. notrumps)
• else lead fourth highest (third from 3-card suit) but
• from three or four rags (small cards) lead second top (8-6-2), planning to play the top card next, then low (this is called middle-up-down or MUD)
• top from a doubleton. Doubleton honour leads such as K-x, Q-x or J-x are only appealing if partner bid the suit, but if you do lead this suit it is important to lead high-low, not only to signal your doubleton to partner but also to unblock.
• on the opening lead against a suit contract, don’t “lead away from an ace” (i.e. don’t lead a lower card in a suit headed by the ace). This is because the opponents may have a singleton in the suit, in which case if you lead away from the ace you may never make it.
• Thus with ♦A-8-6-4-3, against notrumps lead ♦4 (a normal fourth highest). Against a suit contract do not “lead away from an ace”, therefore prefer to lead a different suit (or if you must lead this suit, lead the ace - but be aware that you should normally have A-K if you lead the ace).
As third player, you normally play high to try and win the trick. However if you are not fighting to win the trick, you should try to signal your attitude to the suit partner has led. The same approach may be used in discarding.
The traditonal method was to play high to encourage, but most now play "reverse" signals:
• "low like" - a low card is encouraging
• "high hate" - a high card is discouraging
A card 6 or higher is generally considered high, but a second card may be needed to confirm the signal:
• high then low is discouraging (even 3 then 2)
• low then high is encouraging (even 8 then 9)
Encourage if you have a useful honour or, against a suit contract, if you have a doubleton and wish to ruff the third round of the suit.
If partner leads an honour sequence, it is normal to encourage if you have an “equal honour”, meaning an honour in sequence to the honours partner is showing.
One other thing. Throwing a high card normally promises the cards immediately lower in rank. Thus if partner leads the A (promising the K) and you throw the Q under this, you are promising the J - it is not discouraging.
Stayman is a bid that asks partner for a major (of 4 cards). Stayman applies in two main situations:
• a bid of 2♣ in response to an opening (or overcall) of 1NT
• a bid of 3♣ in response to an opening (or overcall if natural) of 2NT
Stayman also applies in other situations where notrumps is the first natural bid, e.g. after a Benjamin 2♦ opening and a 2 negative response, now if opener rebids 2NT, that is the first natural bid, so 3♣ by responder would be Stayman.
Responder should bid Stayman with
• a 4-card major (or both majors) and
• game interest (about 8+ points in response to 1NT); only if the Stayman bidder stops in 2-of-a-suit may it be a weaker hand
In reply to responder’s Stayman, opener should
• show a major
• else deny a major by bidding 2♦ (or 3♦ after 2NT:3♣ Stayman)
Ogust tells you about your partner’s range and suit quality. Use it when you are unsure whether to go to game (or, for that matter, slam) so that you can find out more about partner’s hand and decide the appropriate level. After a weak two opening, followed by a 2NT (Ogust) response, opener rebids:
3♣ = minimum hand, one top honour (A, K or Q)
3♦ = minimum hand, two top honours (A-K, A-Q or K-Q)
3 = maximum hand, one top honour
3 = maximum hand, two top honours
3NT = solid suit (AKQxxx)
A “minimum” weak two has 6-8 HCP. A “maximum” has 8-10 HCP. Treat 8 HCP as maximum with 6-4 shape or other good features. “Top honours” are the A-K-Q of the long suit (the weak two suit).
The 2NT bidder finds out about opener’s hand and can then sign off in three of the major, bid game or possibly even go to slam.
A negative double means a takeout double by responder. (If you don't agree to play negative doubles, then double by responder would be penalties.) Negative doubles are popularly played to the level of 3.
You open 1, next player overcalls 2♦, and your partner doubles. What does this show? Firstly, if you are not playing negative doubles, then responder's double would be a penalty (or positive) double, asking you to pass. However, let us assume we are playing negative doubles to 3. The negative double shows:
• 4 cards in the unbid major(s) and
• responding points (6+)
(If both majors have been bid, then the negative double shows both minors.)
In response to a 1NT opening, if playing transfers,
• a bid of 2♦ is a transfer to hearts
• a bid of 2 is a transfer to spades
Responder must have 5 cards in the suit being transferred to. Opener now bids the next suit up (as requested), and responder can bid on accordingly. If responder rebids the suit (e.g. 1NT:2, 2:3), that shows a 6-card suit.
In response to 2NT, transfers apply in much the same way.
After the opponents open, a bid of 2NT by the other side (except over a Weak Two) is popularly used to show a weak 2-suiter, the so-called "Unusual 2NT". The normal requirements are:
• 5-5 or better in the lower two unbid suits (e.g. the minors)
• typically 7-11 HCP (less is OK according to shape, vulnerability etc)
Michaels Cue Bids
After the opponents open, a bid of the enemy suit is popularly used to show a weak 2-suiter, the "Michaels Cue Bid", like the Unusual 2NT but showing different suits. The normal requirements are:
• 5-5 or better including the unbid major(s)
• typically 7-11 HCP (as with the Unusual NT, this is a guide only, varying according to shape, vulnerability, level etc)
In the modern style, a jump raise of opener’s suit (e.g. 1 : 3) is a “limit raise”, inviting game (11-12 TP, or a good 10 TP), or perhaps something even weaker. The immediate game raise of opener’s suit (e.g. 1 : 4) is reserved as a shutout, showing a weak hand with a good fit. How, then, does responder show a hand with a fit and 13+ TP?
The solution is to use the Jacoby 2NT. The Jacoby 2NT shows:
• a fit with opener’s major
• game values (13+ TP)
You may agree with your partner that the 2NT response shows 4+ card support for partner’s major (most experts play this way).
Except by agreement with your partner, the Jacoby 2NT does not apply in response to a minor opening (rather, it retains its normal meaning, commonly 11-12, balanced).
The Jacoby 2NT also does not apply in competition, or if responder is a passed hand. In either case, 2NT would not show a fit, it would be a natural invitation to game (about 11 HCP).
There is a special set of rebids by opener after responder bids 2NT (Jacoby):
•· A new suit by opener shows a singleton or void. After opener bids 1, 2NT Jacoby by responder, now if opener rebids 3♣, 3♦ or 3, that would show a singleton or void in the bid suit.
• With no singleton, opener jumps to game in the opened suit (e.g. 1 : 2NT, 4) with up to 14 TP, bids 3NT with 15-16 TP, or bids 3 of the agreed suit (e.g. 1:2NT, 3) with 17+ TP. (Please note that there is much variation in these methods. In particular, some players use different point counts for opener’s return to 3 of the trump suit and to 3NT.)
The reason opener shows a singleton or void is that this helps responder evaluate the hands for slam purposes. Weakness opposite the shortage is ideal (because the losers can be ruffed). Honours (except Ace) opposite the shortage are often wasted values (e.g. opposite a singleton, K-Q-J does not prevent the loser).
Later bidding: With no interest in slam, either player may sign off in game (although partner may still move with slam values). Bids of new suits are cue bids. As a guideline, bid for small slam with 33 TP, or grand slam with 37 TP, but this may be adjusted based on knowledge of partner’s hand, in particular if partner has shown a singleton it is important to evaluate your holding in that suit.
After opening 1 and having partner to raise you to 2, the most descriptive bid is 2. This invites game (else you would pass), but also focuses partner's attention on spades – with good help for you in that suit, responder will be more keen to accept the game invitation. (You are not suggesting interest in playing in spades although with four spades and maximum, responder may consider raising to 3 to offer a choice of games.)
When a minor has been raised to the 2- or 3-level, e.g. 1♦ : 2♦, now a bid of a new suit e.g. 2 not only shows game interest but is normally played as showing a stopper in the suit, looking for 3NT.
A splinter is an "unnecessary jump" (e.g. 1 : 4♦ which is not a normal change of suit and even too high to be a jump shift) and shows:
• a good fit for partner (4+ support for a major opening, 5+ for a minor opening)
• a singleton or void in the bid suit (partner may not pass!)
• game points (say 13-16 TP opposite a 1-opening)
Partner considers slam. Weakness opposite the shown shortage appeals. Returning to the trump suit at game level is a signoff.
Roman Keycard Blackwood (RKCB) uses 4NT to ask for keycards – the four aces and the trump king (if no trump suit has been agreed, the last bid suit is assumed as trumps):
• 5♣ = 0 or 3 keycards
• 5♦ = 1 or 4 keycards (many pairs invert these first two replies; this style is called "14-30" RKCB)
• 5 = 2 (rarely, 5) keycards, no queen of trumps
• 5 = 2 (rarely, 5) keycards, plus the queen of trumps (QT)
Over 5C or 5D (which don't specify possession of the queen of trumps), the next step (excluding trumps) asks for it; the simplest method of answering is to use Step 1 = no QT, Step 2 = the QT (10+ trumps between the two hands = the QT). After asking for keycards, 5NT asks for kings (excluding the trump king which was already shown):
• 6♣ = 0
• 6♦ = 1
• 6 = 2
• 6 = 3 kings
Over 5NT, some pairs instead bid the cheapest king, e.g. 6♣ shows the ♣K. Trumps recommends this approach.
After a trump suit is agreed and you are committed to game in it (this will usually be at the 4-level), a bid of a new suit shows first round control (ace or void) there.
Thus after 1 : 3, now 4♦ shows slam interest and diamond control (and denies the ace or void in clubs – bid controls up the line).
Reverting to the trump suit shows no further interest. After first round control has been shown (or denied) in a suit, second round control (king or singleton) is shown.
(Note that after suit agreement at a low level, e.g. 1 : 2, a new suit e.g. 3♦ is normally played as a trial bid investigating game, not as a control bid investigating slam.)
Checkback 2 ♣
Over a 1NT rebid by opener, one recommended system is shown below:
• 2 ♣ = Checkback (enquiry, with game interest or better, say 11+)
• 2♦// = weak, to play
• 2NT = invitational (as usual)
• 3 ♣ = weak, to play (since 2 ♣ not available)
Opener's replies to 2♣ Checkback:
• 2-level rebid = minimum (12-13), 3-level = maximum (14)
• show features: rebidding a minor shows five cards there, delayed support for responder's suit shows three cards, other suit shows four cards. Bid up the line (cheapest feature first).
Truscott 2NT over double
The Truscott 2NT, also known as Jordan 2NT, applies after partner opens 1-of-a-suit and the next player makes a takeout double. It shows:
• a fit with partner's suit
• 10+ points
Opener can use this information to decide whether to: bid game; revert to 3-of-the-suit if minimum; make a trial bid; or investigate slam.
Puppet Stayman over 2NT
Puppet Stayman is used by most top players in reply to a 2NT opening. Over 2NT : 3♣, now:
• 3NT by opener = no 4-card or 5-card major
• 3 by opener shows a 5-card spade suit
• 3 by opener shows a 5-card heart suit
• 3♦ by opener shows a 4-card major. Now responder bids: 3 to show four spades; 3 to show four hearts; 4♦ to show both majors; or 3NT with no 4-card major.
The system regulations of the Australian Bridge Federation (ABF) closely parallel those of the World Bridge Federation (WBF), with the usual colour-coding. The sole criterion is now your system's 1-level opening structure. Opening points are no longer relevant – if you wish to open a weak two on no points, that is legal.
Basic colour coding of systems:
• Green systems: Natural, includes those who open 1♣ with a doubleton on 4=4=3=2 shape
• Blue systems: Strong club systems, where 1, 1 and 1NT are natural (e.g. Precision)
• Red systems: Intermediate 1♣ (e.g. Polish Club) or Strong 1♣ where 1/1 or 1NT are not natural (e.g. modern Moscito)
• Yellow systems: Strong pass or multi-meaning 1-level openings.
While system colour is determined by 1-level openings (as outlined above), some complex overcalls and 2-level openings are called "brown sticker" conventions:
• Weak 2-level openings with no anchor suit, e.g. RCO and Myxo Twos
• Multi 1-level overcalls
Pairs using these are supposed to attached a brown spot to the system card, at least if playing in major events. Note that a Multi 2♦ (or 2♣ showing a weak two in either major does NOT necessitate a brown sticker. Nor do gadgets used over a strong 1♣ or over 1NT (e.g. Hamilton).
Green and blue systems are allowed in almost all events. Red systems and Brown sticker conventions are prohibited in most Novice and Restricted games, including supervised and intermediate games at Trumps.
In some national events, a pair who are playing a green system and who are both below National Master (or if one is below Local Master) may apply for an orange sticker, in which case brown sticker conventions may not be used against them.
Alerts during the auction:
Alert by circling partner's call and saying "alert", but don't offer an explanation unless asked (then aim to be concise, yet complete).
• all other conventional calls (e.g. transfers, a 1♣ opening that could be a doubleton, or 2 that shows hearts and a minor
• "unusual" natural bids. These include: weak jump shift responses; pre-emptive jump raises by responder; inverted minors; canapé tendency; negative free bids; transfer accepts that deny four trumps; etc)
At the end of the auction, the declaring side should mark any unusual calls that weren't alerted at the time. Do this with a plus (+) sign.
If partner stuffs up:
• Defenders: If partner fails to alert or mis-explains, wait until the end of the hand before calling the director and correcting
• Declarer/dummy: Wait only until the end of the auction before piping up (partner cannot benefit from your explanation by then)
• When partner opens 1♣, you are supposed to announce e.g. "3+"
• When partner opens 1NT, you are supposed to announce e.g. "15-17"