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Bridge: The UK Acol bidding style

This guide to the Acol style of bidding is meant to reflect what one might expect sitting down with a pickup partner and agreeing to play 'Acol' or 'Benjaminised Acol'.

Unfortunately there is no 'Standard Acol' system and its 4cM Weak 1NT chassis gets much modified. The main difference from N American methods here is that there is an 8 trick 'strong 2' in addition to 2C. Note that there are 2 incompatible styles of showing these - as laid out below

Reese described Acol Twos: "like the dreadnaughts of old, seldom used but reassuring by their presence".

Acol summary

Responding to
one of a Suit


Weak No Trump

Opening 2 level:
- Standard Acol
- Benjamin style


Slam Bidding


Play conventions


Acol Two level openings

You need to appreciate that there are two completely different ways of playing Acol.
  • Traditionally all two level bids were strong. 2C was game forcing and 'Acol two' 2D/H/S showed upwards of 8 playing tricks, limited by failure to open 2C. You need a 'hand of quality and power' with a couple of defensive tricks outside - say
    S4 HAKQJ963 D K3 CAJ10 (move the H3 to another suit in this '9 tricker', and it's still enough)
  • UK players felt jealous of N American weak two's, until in the 1970's Scotland's Albert Benjamin popularised 2C showing the strong two type, with 2D as his game force. Note that those strong two's are still there however.

So "Benji Acol" maintains the fast and light opening style of Acol. The freed-up 2H/S calls are then used as weak in a style of your choosing. Default is 5-9 six card. Note that a 10 point nv (or 11 vul) 6cM is still often opened "light" at the one level

Please note that I don't personally recommend Benji. It makes big heart hands in particular quite difficult to bid and is vulnerable to pre-emption. Albert himself only played it "for a few seasons". But it is a veritable Lingua Franca amongst UK tournament and online Acolytes.

You can assume xx opposite and the odd Q/J when assessing your 8 playing tricks. When in doubt - if 2-3 card support and a key king (or queen) would give fair play for game, then launch a strong two. A one level opening may be passed out!

Traditional style
"Benji" Acol
2C a 23+NT hand (rebid 2NT) or GF unbalanced
- a modern positive response shows A or KK
- commonly you call 2D="negative"
- your own suit should be HHxxx at least, +ve values
- 2NT response is 8+ balanced
- responder calls 2D .. then 2NT with rubbish
 – opener's 3C rebid is not totally forcing ( 9½ tricks)

2D/H/S show 8-9 trick hand forcing one round
- A strong 2 may be passed in desperation only!
- 2NT is negative (denies A or KK again) say 3-8
- Bidding may then subside in 3 of opener's suit
- Own suit natural and good quality please! GF

2NT = 20-22 balanced. High singleton acceptable
- 3C is commonly simple Stayman (NB: traditionally it was Baron, 'bid suits upward until 3NT', and still occasionally seen)
- 3D/H/S to play (unless you have agreed transfers)

A 23-24 balanced hand opens 2C and rebids 2NT -then as above

Older players like their +ve thresholds to be A+K or KKK, but otherwise .. that's it! smile
2C shows an Acol two in any suit
- relay 2D unless you have a really good suit of your own
- 2NT response is 10+, but better avoided
- opener's rebid is 99% forcing one round as per tradition
- opener's 2NT rebid tends to be around 22 (varies, see below)
- - opener's 2NT opening after 2C is around 20 (or vice versa)
- - - opener's 2NT rebid after 2D is around 24

2D shows 23+ balanced or any GF hand
- 2H=negative denies A or KK, as per "trad"
- new suit should be sound, A or KK held
- 2NT is 8+ with A or KK
- after openers 2S rebid 2NT = "rubbish"

2H/2S openings are weak in a style of your choice

Following a strong opening just bid your hand naturally. Try to keep the bidding low - your 2D - 2H, 3-suit auctions may be particularly inelegant and Benji is not kind to 5-5 shapes. Calls of 4 of a suit can be ambiguous. Is ita cue, or a real suit?

Good opponents will also often preempt (particularly) 2C openings. Opener should then bid his suit naturally or double with strong balance type. 3rd hand's double is best played as 'points'. Or he can pass with values in their suit, hoping partner will double for him.

When sitting down to play 'Acol' always ask 'Benji or traditional?' and also check whether transfers are played

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