ACBL Standard

Yellow Card System Booklet
Revised September, 1988


The "ACBL Standard Yellow Card" game is one where all partnerships have agreed to play the system exactly as described in this booklet. The object is to provide a simple, modern method which will lead to a good, solid understanding in a partnership when both players have read this booklet.

The beauty of the event is that players know in advance not only their own bidding agreements, but those of their opponents. The game is free of complex bidding systems. There are few Alerts, none unexpected, and there should be a minimum of director calls.

Few sequences are defined in the later rounds of "ACBL Standard Yellow Card" auctions. Players are free to assign forcing, invitational or non-forcing meanings to natural calls in such sequences. They are not, however, free to introduce their own sophisticated methods in these undefined areas.

The relaxed spirit of the ACBL Standard Yellow Card game is best achieved by group cooperation. Contestants are encouraged to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the game.

Players may still exercise their bridge judgments, such as in deciding to open a four-card major in third seat. The ACBL Standard Yellow Card "normally five-card majors" approach can withstand an occasional deviation. However players who routinely open a four-card major in third seat are not adhering to the spirit of the game. Similarly, partnerships that prefer to use light initial actions are expected to adjust their requirements or to choose the concurrent General Conventions Chart event.

Psychs are a sensitive subject to players in this event. A very rare, totally unexpected psych is not illegal, but pairs who wish to psych with any degree of frequency are encouraged to enter other games.

Please read the booklet before entering the game and understand that you have agreed to play the system as described. Enjoy!



If you are playing in an ACBL Standard Yellow Card game, you have only five choices to make. They involve defensive card play: see DEFENSIVE LEADS AND SIGNALS.


General Approach

Normally open five-card majors in all seats. Open the higher of long suits of equal length: 5-5 or 6-6. Normally open 10 with 4-4 in the minors. Normally open 1 with 3-3 in the minors. Notrump openings show a balanced hand and can be made with a five-card major or minor suit.

1 NT: 15-17 high card points
2 NT: 20-21 high card points
3NT: 25-27 high card points
Strong artificial 2 opening
Weak Two Bids in Diamonds, Hearts and Spades


Responses and Later Bidding after a 15-17 1NT Opening

2 is "non-forcing" Stayman, meaning that the bidding can stop in two of a suit. Opener bids 2 with 4-4 in the majors. If responder rebids three of either minor, he is showing slam interest and at least a five-card suit.

Jacoby transfers showing a five-card suit are used for the majors: 2 is a transfer to hearts, 2 is a transfer to spades. Opener accepts the transfer though he can jump to the three level with 17 points and four-card support for responder's major, for example: 1NT - 2 - 2 = normal acceptance of the transfer, 3 = 17 points and four-card heart support. If, after the transfer is accepted, responder bids a new suit, that is natural and game forcing. Possible calls after the accepted transfer are:

1NT - 2 - 2 -
  Pass: content to play 2.
  2NT, 3: invitational. Over 2NT opener can pass or return to 3 with a minimum hand; bid 3NT or 4 with a maximum.
  3, 3, 3: natural and game forcing.
  3 NT: asking for a choice between 3NT and 4.
  4: placing the contract, with a six-card or longer suit.
A 2 response requires the 1NT bidder to rebid 3, which can be passed with a club bust, or responder can rebid 3 with a diamond bust. Example: 1NT - 2 - 3 - Pass = club bust, - 3 = diamond bust, notrump opener passes.

Other responses to 1NT: 1NT - 3, 3 = invitational to 3NT with a six-card or longer suit, 1NT - 3, 3 = at least a six-card suit and slam interest, otherwise responder uses a transfer bid, 1NT - 4 = Gerber, asking for aces. 41 GERBER OVER ANY 1NT OR 2NT BID BY PARTNER INCLUDING A REBID OF 1NT or 2NT. Responses show the number of aces, by steps, just as over a Blackwood 4NT. 5 is used to ask for kings.


Ace Asking, King Asking

1NT - 4 -
  4 : 0 or 4 aces
  4 : 1 ace
  4 : 4 aces
  4 NT: 3 aces
1NT - 4 - 4///NT - 5 -
  5 : 0 or 4 kings
  5 : 1 king
  5 : 2 kings
  5 NT: 3 kings
If the player using Gerber makes any bid other than 5, that is to play, including 4NT.

A direct raise of 1NT to 4NT is natural and invites 6NT. 4NT is slam invitational only because 4 is available as Gerber.


Interference after 1NT Opening Bids

If the opponents double, all conventional responses are "on" For example:

1NT - double -
  2 : Stayman
  2 : transfer to hearts
If the opponents bid over your 1NT opener, Stayman and transfers are "off". Bids are natural except for a cuebid, which can be used with game force strength as a substitute for Stayman.

If the opponents intervene over a conventional response, bids carry the same meaning as if there were no intervention. A bid says, "I'm bidding voluntarily, so I have a real fit with you."

1NT - Pass - 2 - Double -
  2 : Real fit for hearts; pass with only two hearts


Responses to a 2NT or 3NT Opening

Stayman and Jacoby transfers for the majors are used.

2NT -
  3 : Stayman
  3 , 3 : Jacoby transfers to hearts and spades respectively.
  4 : Gerber
  4 NT: Inviting a slam in notrump.
3 NT -
  4 : Stayman.
  4 , 4 : Jacoby transfers to hearts and spades respectively.


Responses and Later Bidding after a 1 Heart or 1 Spade Opening

1 and 1 openings show a five-card or longer suit. Responses:

1 -
  1 : at least four spades, 6 or more points. Tends to deny a heart fit.
  1 NT: 6-10 points, denies four spades or three hearts. NOT forcing.
  2 , 2 : 11 points or more, promises at least four of the suit.
  2 : three-card or longer heart support; 6-10 dummy points.
  2 NT: Game-forcing raise ("Jacoby 2NT"), 13+ dummy points. Asks opener to show a short suit to help responder evaluate slam prospects.
  2 , 3 , 3 : strong jump shifts. Invite a slam.
  3 : limit raise; 10-12 dummy points with three or more hearts.
  3 NT: 15-17 HCP, balanced hand with two-card support for partner.
  4 : usually 5+ hearts, a singleton or void, and fewer than 10 HCP.
Opener's rebids are natural and standard.

Rebids with a minimum hand, 13-16 points: Rebidding notrump at the cheapest available level; Raising responder's suit at the cheapest level; this can be done with good three-card support if desired; Rebidding a new suit, but not reversing; Rebidding opener's suit at the lowest level.

Rebids with a medium hand, 17-18 points: Jump raise or jump rebid of opener's suit; Reverse in a new suit Non-reverse bid in a new suit; this has the wide range of 13-18 points.

With a maximum hand, 19-21 or 22 points, opener must make a very strong rebid: Jump in notrump; Double jump raise in responder's suit or double jump rebid of opener's suit; Jump shift in a new suit.

If responder jumps to 2NT over a 1 or 1 opening, that is Jacoby 2NT, asking opener to show a singleton or void. If opener has no short suit, he shows his hand strength; 1 - 2NT - 3, 3, 3 = singleton or void in that suit. Other bids deny a short suit: - 4 = minimum hand, 3NT = medium hand, 15-17, 3 = maximum hand, 18+.

Responder follows up by attempting to sign off in game, bidding 4NT Blackwood, or cuebidding if still interested in trying to cooperate with opener in making the slam decision.


Subsequent Bidding by Responder

If responder has bid a suit at the one level, he next determines whether he wishes to sign off in a partscore, invite game, sign off in game, or force to game and get more information about opener's hand. Having made his choice, he selects the best available bid.

Bids available for signoff in partscore: Pass, 1NT, 2 of a previously bid suit.

1 - 1 - 2 -
  Pass, 2, 2: 6-10 points, signoff in partscore.

Bids available for inviting game: 2NT, 3 of a previously bid suit.

1 - 1 - 2 -
  2NT, 3, 3, 3: 11-12 points, inviting game.
Second-round forcing bids. A new suit response, other than after a 1NT rebid by opener, is a one-round force. If it is a fourth suit in the auction, it may be artificial. 1 - 1 - 2 - 2 = one-round force, could be artificial. But 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2, 2 = non-forcing. Responder must jump shift to 3 or 3 to force game.

Second round forcing bids following a 1NT rebid by opener: A reverse or jump shift into a new suit is a game force.

1 - 1 - 1NT -
  2 or 3: game force.
Bids available for signing off in game: 3NT, 4, 4, 5, 5.

If responder initially bids a new suit at the two level, the same rules apply EXCEPT that a subsequent jump raise of opener's first suit to the THREE LEVEL is game forcing; responder should make a limit raise directly over the opening with 10-12 points and at least three-card support.

1 - 2 - 2 -
  2NT, 3, 3: Invitational to game (11-12 points).
  2 : Preference, not forcing. Responder has 11-12 points and a doubleton spade.
  3 : Game force, could be artificial.
  3 : Game force.

NOTE: Responder promises to bid again if he responded with a new suit at the two level unless opener's rebid is at the game level. 1 - 2 2 = forcing one round. Responder can limit his hand by bidding 2, 2NT, 3, or 3 at this point. He should not pass, since opener could have 18 points; just short of a jump shift rebid.


Responses to a 1 Club or 1 Diamond Opening

A 1 opener suggests a four-card or longer suit, since 1 is preferred on hands where a three-card minor suit must be opened. The exception is a hand with 4-4-3-2 shape: four spades, four hearts, three diamonds, and two clubs, which should be opened 1.

Responses and later bidding generally follow the ideas set down in the previous section. Bidding at the one level is up-the-line in principle. Responder needs more trumps to raise, 4 to raise 1; 5 to raise 1, though one less trump will do in a pinch in a competitive sequence. Responses of 2NT and 3NT are standard: 1 - 2NT = 13-15, game forcing - 3NT = 16-17 There is no forcing minor-suit raise.


A 2 Clubs Opening, Responses and Later Bidding

A 2 opening shows at least 22+ points, or the playing equivalent. Responses:

2 -
  2 : artificial, could be "waiting" with a good hand not suited to a positive response.
  2, 2, 3, 3: natural and game forcing. At least a five-card suit and 8 points.
  2 NT: a balanced 8 HCP.

If opener rebids 2NT after a 2 response, showing 22-24 points, the same responses are used as over a 2NT opening:

2 - 2 - 2NT -
  3 : Stayman
  3, 3: Jacoby transfers to hearts and spades respectively.
  4 : Gerber
  4 NT: Inviting a slam in notrump.
If opener rebids a suit over a 2 response, the bidding is forcing to 3 of opener's major or 4 of opener's minor.

2 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 3 = not forcing.


Sequence after a Weak Two-Bid of 2 Diamonds, 2 Hearts, or 2 Spades

Weak two-bids show a six-card suit of reasonable quality and 5-11 HCP. On rare occasions it may be a very good five-card suit. It is possible to open a weak two with a poor seven-card suit, not good enough to open with at the three level. Responses:

A 2NT response is forcing, showing game interest. This applies also if the opponents intervene with a double or a bid. Opener rebids his suit with a minimum weak two, 5-8 points. With a maximum hand opener bids another suit to show a "feature" (ace or king in that suit); lacking a feature he raises to 3NT and lets responder place the contract.
Any raise of opener's suit is to play and could be preemptive. A 3NT response is also to play.
"RONF" on the card means "Raise Only Non-Force." A new suit response is forcing one round and shows at least a five-card suit. Opener should raise a major suit response with a three-card fit, or perhaps with a doubleton honor.
With no fit for responder's suit, opener rebids:
  With a minimum weak two-bid, 5-8 points, rebid the suit at the cheapest level.
  With a maximum weak two-bid, name a new suit or bid notrump.


Slam Bidding

Blackwood 4NT is used to ask for aces. Responses show the number of aces by steps. 5NT is then used to ask for kings; 5NT guarantees the partnership holds all four aces.

- 4NT -
  5 : 0 or 4 aces
  5 : 1 ace
  5 : 2 aces
  5 : 3 aces
- 4NT - 5/// - 5NT -
  6 : 0 or 4 kings
  6 : 1 king
  6 : 2 kings
  6 : 3 kings

A jump to 5NT, and some 5NT bids when the auction is at the five level, is "Grand Slam Force", asking partner to bid a grand slam with two of the three top trump honors; 5NT - 6 of the trump suit = fewer than two top trump honors: A, K, or Q, - 7 of the trump suit = two of the three top trump honors.


Defensive Bidding

Overcalls show 8-16 points, double and bid the long suit with a stronger hand. The only forcing response is a cuebid of opener's suit, asking the overcaller about the quality of his overcall:

1 1 - 2 - 2 = minimum overcall, -- other = extra strength; 11 or 12 points minimum.

A 1NT overcall shows 15-18 points and a balanced hand, preferably a stopper in opener's suit. No artificial responses are used to the 1NT overcall except 2, which is Stayman.

A jump overcall of 2NT shows at least 5-5 in the lower two unbid suits.

Jump overcalls are preemptive, showing the same values as an opening bid at the same level: 1 - 2 = a hand that would open a weak two-bid in spades. - 3 = a hand that would open 3.

A cuebid overcall when the opponents have bid two suits is natural in either suit.

A cuebid overcall, when the opponents have bid only one suit, is a "Michaels cuebid", showing a 5-5 two-suiter, or more distributional. If the opening is in a minor suit, the cuebid shows the majors; if the opening is in a major, the cuebid shows the other major and an unspecified minor. 1 - 2 = at least 5-5 in the majors, 8 points or more. 1 - 2 = at least 5-5 in hearts and a minor; 10 points or more. Responder can bid 2NT over a major suit cuebid to ask for partner's minor. 1 - 2 - Pass - 2NT asks for the minor. Pass - 3 = club suit. - 3 = diamond suit.

Reopening bids mean much the same as direct seat bids, though they can be lighter at the minimum end. A reopening 1NT after an opponent has opened shows 10-15 points. This is a wide range but there will not usually be a game on for you.

Doubles are for takeout over opening partscore bids, 4 or lower; penalty over opening game bids, 4 or higher. A below-game jump response to a takeout double is invitational. To force, responder cuebids opener's suit.

Versus opening preempts, overcalls in suits or notrump are natural; cuebids are Michaels.


Competitive Bidding

There is almost an endless variety of possible sequences, so it pays to have simple guidelines to prevent bidding misunderstandings:

Bids mean the same thing they meant without the intervening bid. However it is sometimes necessary to pick a bid that would normally have been a second choice without the overcall:

1 - Pass - 1 - 2 - 2 with : J43 : A875 : AQJ4 : J3; rebid 1NT if RHO has passed.

Cuebidding RHO's suit shows values for game without clear direction for the moment. This is often used to show a game-forcing raise: 1 - 2, 3 = game force; usually a raise.

Negative doubles are used through 2 promising four cards, at least, in any unbid major. Bidding a major at the two level or higher shows 11 or more points and a five-card or longer suit. 1 - 1 - Double = 4-4 or better in the majors. 1 - 1 - Double = exactly four spades; 1 promises five. 1 - 1 - Double = four hearts and 6+ points or five hearts and 5-10 points.

If RHO makes a takeout double: 1 - Double - 1, 1 = forcing, point count not limited, -2 = non-forcing, 6-10 points, usually a six-card suit, -2NT = limit raise, at least 10 points, - Redouble = 10 points or more, but it is better to make a more descriptive bid of 1, 1, or 2NT with the appropriate hand, - 3 = Preemptive, good trump support but fewer than 10 points.

A responder's jump shift after a double is to play: 1 - Double - 2, 2, 3 = six-plus-card suit, like a weak two-bid or preemptive three-bid.

A redouble can have one of three meanings:

To play if:

Your side is at the four level or higher: 4 - Double - Redouble = Penalty:

The opponents double an artificial bid: 1NT - Pass - 2 - Double - Redouble = Penalty, good diamond suit;

A good hand if their double is for takeout: 1 - Double - Redouble = 10+ points;

SOS, requesting a different suit, if your side is doubled for penalty in a trump suit at the three level or lower: 1 - Pass - Double - Pass - Redouble = SOS, responder can support at least two of the unbid suits.

Unless otherwise noted elsewhere, any bid or double by the opponents cancels a convention intended for non-competitive sequences.

Examples: 1 or 1 - 2NT = Natural,12-14 HCP. 2, Double, 2 = Natural and Positive.

If the opponents use a convention, such as Michaels or the unusual notrump, you can double to show at least 10 points, or you can cuebid one of their shown suit(s) to force to game. 1 - 2 - 3 = game force, - Double = at least 10 points, probably balanced.


Defensive Leads and Signals

This is the one area where choices are offered. The following are specified: Defensive signals when following suit or discarding are "high encourages, low discourages." Leads are top of touching honors, with choices from AKx and interior sequences.

Pairs must choose from the following options. Where no card is pre-marked in bold italics, pairs must mark their leads.

Which card is led from AKx. Which card is led from xxx, xxxx or xxxxx. Whether 4th best, or & 5th best leads are used. Whether 3rd best is led from KJ10x, K109x or Q109x (and from AJ10x or A109x versus NT). Must be indicated by circling the card led. Whether or not frequent count signals are given.

It is Declarer's responsibility to look at opponents' carding agreements. In the absence of a circle, cards in bold italics are presumed to be the agreement.

Note: If you are playing the ACBL Standard Yellow Card in an open game, you may add defenses to opponents' conventions, e.g., Unusual vs. Unusual, and Mathe over big club. Put these convention-defenses in the section "Defenses vs. Opp's Conventions" on the left-hand side of the convention card.