A Recommended Basic Acol system for scratch pairings at Twyford Bridge Club.
Some Basic Rules of Hand Evaluation


To evaluate your hand you need the High Card Point Count and a Losing Trick Count.


To calculate a Losing Trick Count.  For each suit you need only imagine 3 rounds being played or 2 rounds if you have a doubleton and 1 round with a singleton.  Assume an A will take the first round, a K the second round and a Q the third round.  So for example, AQxx has 1 loser, Kxxx has 2 losers, xxxx has 3 losers.    


As an approximate guide, you need 25 points or more to make 3NT, 26 points or more to make 4© or 4ª and 28 points or more to make 5§ or 5¨.  However, you can achieve games on lower point counts with favourable distributions. 


You need 33 points or more to make a small slam and 37 points or more to make a grand slam, favourable distributions, particularly for suit slams, may lower these limits.


Use the Losing Trick Count to calculate how many tricks can be made in a suit contract as follows:


Add your losing trick count to your partner’s losing trick count and subtract this total from 24.  This will tell you approximately how many tricks you can make in total.  For example, if you have 7 losers and your partner has 7 losers you have a total losing trick count of 14.  Subtract this from 24 to get 10 winners and this is sufficient to make a major contract.  


Chapter 1 Opening Bidding and Rebidding


Balanced Hands (5-3-3-2, 4-4-3-2, 4-3-3-3)



Note: The bidding below assumes that partner responds with a suit for which you have no support.  With 4 or 5 card support of partner’s suit opener must, of course, raise partner’s suit.



Two Suited Hands (5-4-3-1, 5-4-2-2)


RULE OF 20.  Open the bidding if the number of cards in the two longest suits plus the number of points sums to 20 or more.  Add 1 to this rule if a lot of your points are in the short suits.


A  REVERSE. A rebid which forces partner to give preference at the 3 level is a reverse and is used to show a strong opening bid.  1ª - (2¨) -3§, 1© - (2§) - 2ª, 1¨- (1ª) - 2© are examples of reverses, because responder would need to bid at the 3 level to show which of opener’s suits is preferred. A rebid in a higher ranking suit at the 1 level is not a reverse. 


Note: The bidding below assumes that partner responds with a suit for which you have no support.  Opener with 4 or 5 card support of partner’s suit you must, of course, raise partner’s suit on the rebid.



Two Suited Hands (5-5-3-0, 5-5-2-1)


For opening and rebidding treat these hands as the 5–4 hands above BUT always bid the higher ranking suit first, and rebid the lower ranking.  If you get the chance, bid the lower ranking suit again to show 5-5.


Two Suited Hands (6-4-3-0, 6-4-2-1)


For opening and rebidding treat these hands as the 5–4 hands.  If you get the chance of a third bid, bid the higher ranking again.


Two Suited Hands (6-5-2-0, 6-5-1-1)


These rare hands should be bid like the 5-5 hands even though you are failing to show the 6 card hand.


One Suited Hands (6-3-3-1, 6-3-2-2)


With 6 – 9 points use the Benjamin Weak 2 opening for the majors otherwise pass.

With 11 – 14 points open at the 1 level and rebid the 6 card suit.

With 15 – 19 points and a 6 loser hand, open at the 1 level and jump rebid the 6 card suit.


One Suited Hands (7-3-3-1, 7-3-2-2)


With 6 – 9 points Pre-emptively bid 3 of your 7 card suit.

With opening points as for 6 card one suited hands.


4-4-4-1 Distributions


Singleton A’s are good but downgrade your point count with singleton K’s, Q’s or J’s.  

The simplest system is to bid the suit below the singleton.

Chapter 2 Responding


Supporting Partner’s Suit - Opener bids 1© or 1ª


With 4 of partner’s suit you must support.  Re-evaluate you high card point count by adding 1 for a doubleton, 3 for a singleton and 5 for a void.  Then:


With 0 – 5 points        Pass

With 6 – 9 points        Raise partner’s suit to the 2 level

With 10 – 12 points    Raise partner’s suit to the 3 level

With 13+ points          Raise partner’s suit to the 4 level


Supporting Partner’s Suit - Opener bids 1§ or 1¨


Before going for a contract in a minor suit you need to explore the possibility of a major suit fit or even a No Trump contract.  With 4 of partner’s suit you must support similarly to the above but show a 4+ card major suit first, you may have an 8 or 9 card major fit between you.


No Support for Partner’s Opening Bid of 1 of a suit


Opener can have up to 19 points so with less than 6 points it is not worth bidding.


Rule of 14


To respond at the 2 level, add the length of the suit to the number of points.  If this comes to 14 then bid the suit.  So to respond with a 5 card suit you need 9 points and a 6 card suit needs 8 points.


With 0 – 5 points        Pass

With 6 – 9 points        Bid 1NT (sometimes known as Dustbin NT) if Rule of 14 fails.  But always bid a 4 card major before a NT bid.

With 6 – 11 points      Bid the longest suit at the lowest level, so over 1ª bid the lower ranking of 2 four card or the higher ranking of 2 five card suits (because you are aiming to bid both suits if possible).    


Responding when Opener bids 1NT




With a 4 card major suit, and to find a major suit fit, responder bids 2§.  Opener then bids 2 of a 4 card major suit or 2¨ without one.  Responder must be prepared to bail out with 2NT without a fit so 11-12 points are required to bid Stayman.  Opener then can pass with 12-13 points or bid 3NT with 14 points.


With both major suits, opener bids 2© in response to Stayman.  This enables responder to bid 2ª with only a 4 card ª suit which opener can pass with 12-13 points or bid 3ª with 14 points.




With a 5+ card © suit, responder bids 2¨ asking partner to bid 2© and similarly with a 5+ card ª suit responder bids 2© asking partner to bid 2ª.  With 11-12 points responder can bid on with 2NT to show a 5 card major suit or bid the major suit at the 3 level to show a 6 card suit.  Opener can then work out which is preferable, a NT or a suit contract and bid accordingly.


Suit Response at the 3 Level


After a 1NT opening a suit bid by the responder at the 3 Level shows 15+ points is game forcing and a slam try.  Responder must have a 6 card or solid 5 card suit.  With 2 card support for the responder’s suit, opener bids 3NT.  With 4 card support or a good 3 card support opener bids game with 12 – 13 points and bids 4NT with 14 points as a slam try.


Other Bids over 1NT


With hands not suitable for the above bids, that is, balanced hands with no worthwhile major suit or strong hand with a 6 card minor suit, bid as follows:



Chapter 3 Slam Bidding




Blackwood is not the best tool for bidding slams but it is good for avoiding them.  If you have enough A’s to bid a slam anyway, just bid it and avoid using Blackwood.


Following a suit bid, a 4NT bid asks partner for A’s.  Partner responds with 5§ with none (or four!), 5¨ with one, 5© with two and 5ª with three.  It is not a good idea to bid 4NT with no aces in hand and when trying for minor suit slams it is not a good idea to have only one A in hand. 


Quantitive Bidding


For NT slams it is better to use quantitive bidding.


Over a 1NT opening, bid 4NT with 19+ points inviting opener to bid 6NT with a maximum of 14 points but to pass otherwise.


Over a 2NT opening, bid 4NT with 11+ points inviting partner to bid 6NT with a maximum of 22 points.


Chapter 4 OverCalls


Suit Overcalls


To overcall with a suit you need at least a good suit of 5 cards.  Suit quality is more important than points so you need 2 honours in the suit to consider bidding it at the 1 level and an additional honour (include the 10) to overcall at the 2 level.  With 6 cards you can survive with one less honour.  Point Count is the next consideration.  For 1 level overcalls 8 – 10 points is recommended and 10 – 12 points for a 2 level overcall.  These point counts can be lowered with eccentric distribution.


Jump suit overcalls need 12 – 14 points (Intermediate Strength) and a 6 card suit.


Overcalling 1NT


You need 15+ points and a stopper in opener’s suit to overcall 1NT.  A double over any NT call is always for penalties.


The Take Out Double


The requirement for a take out double is shortage in the opener’s suit and at least 3 card support in the other 3 suits so that you can support any bid your partner is forced to make.  You also need opening values.  A double over any suit opening of up to 3ª is for take out.


Chapter 5 Defence - Leading and Signalling


Leading to the first trick


Deciding what to lead on the first trick depends largely on inferences from the preceding auction.  However, there are a number of basic rules and priorities to note.


Consider these leads in order of decreasing priority.



Useful general tips





When following suit, either to partner’s lead or declarer’s lead, you have an opportunity to signal whether you like the suit to be played in future or not.  Reverse Attitude is when you play a small card to indicate preference for this suit and a high card indicates not.  Reverse Attitude signals are preferred to avoid wasting high cards signalling preference for a suit that you maybe trying to set up for additional tricks.




You have another opportunity to signal when you need to discard on a suit you cannot follow to.  The McKenny discard is the easiest to operate and requires the player to discard a card from a suit of no interest but at the same time show which of the two remaining suits is preferred.  A high card discard indicates the higher of the other two suits and a low card indicates the lower of the other two suits.