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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. This page tries to set out what an Acol player might try to show in his second call of the auction. Note that the main idea is to somehow limit your hand.

Acol summary

Responding to
one of a Suit


Weak No Trump

Opening 2 level:
- Standard Acol
- Benjamin style


Slam Bidding


Play conventions


Opener's rebid

The ideal is to make a limit bid now so that responder knows what level we should play
  • 1NT rebid is 15-16. Partner's 2 level call is now "to play" (but see Crowhurst 2C)
  • 2NT rebid (1 over 1) is 17-18. Responders rebid of own suit is "to play". Any thing else should be regarded as GF. 1M - 1any; 2NT 3M is forcing "choose a game", but 3 of opener's minor may be passed
  • 2NT rebid (2 over 1) is 15-16. Same rules apply
  • 3NT shows a hand too good for 2NT
  • Opener's new suit simple rebid "continues the conversation" and may be passed in extremis. Respnder should give "false preference" on xx, and perhaps be aware of the (uncommon) possibility of a strong 4441. Some would play any new suit as forcing (but that's an 'agreement'). If the response was at the 2 level he should always bid again.
  • Opener's jump to the 3 level is game forcing and should promise 5-4
  • Reverse shows 16+ points - with always a longer 5+ initial suit. Most now play simple 3 level preference to opener's 1st suit, or a repeat of responder's suit as passable. Otherwise regard this auction as GF
  • Jump in your own major is 16+ good 6 card suit, non forcing, 7-7½ trick hand. New suit would now be a cue
  • Jump in your own minor is non forcing and a bit stronger, 7½-8 trick hand, strongly invites 3NT. After this call all continuations are GF. Responder will commonly call a suit with say K9x, exploring stoppers toward NT. Responders 4m is a slam try.
  • Jump rebid to game in your major doesn't show any extra, as logically you would have opened an Acol Two with that! Typically it is a good 7 card suit and around opening strength -- but unsuitable for an opening at 3 or 4 level (eg too many controls outside)
  • 4441 shape: Having opened suit below shortage on 4441 (or 1H with singleton club) your best course is to bid out your shape. Jump rebids if strong will suggest 5-4 to partner. Good luck - you were worse off in a 5cM system!
Playing pickup: watch out for the 'Crowhurst' checkback 2C gadget over the 1NT rebid.
If you agree 'Crowhurst' (aka 'checkback' in USA) your 1NT rebid is 12-16 and 2C sorts this out. It asks range, and for majors. Opener then rebids naturally and when lower range (12-14) calls at the 2 level (includs 2NT). A three level call shows 14½-16. The partners call unbid majors, or show 3 card support for partner's major "up the line". Crowhust 2C shows a good 10+. Any 3 level response is GF

Responder's rebid

A lot of Acol is not forcing, and this includes all 'limit' NT calls, and jump 3-level rebid of your own suit (10-12, good 6 carder). Even a raise of say a 2NT limit rebid to 4NT is 'quantitative' by tradition, and if you want it as Blackwood your arebetter to force with a new suit first. Return to 3 of opener's major after a NT limit bid will only be passed by inexperienced or antiquated partners.

Acol's 4th suit is usually played as a one round force inviting 2/3NT with a half stop. Then, opposite most partners your own suit rebid, or a 3 level raise of partner will be regarded as game forcing in the modern style. With a 'club level' partner it is may be safer to bid game on the 3rd round - if you can see it.

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