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If any of this is unclear, go back and watch Module 9.1 again.
Before we start talking about the meanings of various bids, we should point out that these are not the same for all bridge players. As the game developed, people devised various SYSTEMS - ascribing particular meanings to certain bids, with those meanings being common to all players who chose to adopt a given system. Many bids carry broadly the same meaning in all systems, but there are some important differences. In the UK, the Acol system has traditionally been popular, whereas in the US and most of Europe most players tend to favour what is known as a five card majors system or Standard American. This is now growing in popularity in the UK, and it is this system that will form the basis of our tutorial materials. People’s choice of system is essentially a matter of personal preference and once you have learned about bidding you may choose to go a different route. For now, however, the key elements of the basic system that we plan to teach are:
5 card majors: An opening bid of 1♥ or 1♠ shows at least five cards in the suit bid.
15-17 no-trump: An opening bid of 1NT shows a balanced hand in the point range 15-17
‘Short club’: An opening bid of 1♣ can show as few as two clubs in a balanced hand.
When we talk about a point ranges for opening bids you should regard these as fixed for balanced hands. A hand that opens 1NT should always have between 15 and 17 high card points. With unbalanced hands, however, you have to use your judgement because of the power of distribution. Think back to Module 5, when we talked about evaluating the strength of your hand. So, for example, when we say you need 12 points to open the bidding at the one level, a hand like this one, with two good suits and all of its 11 points in those long suits is clearly worth opening at the one level:
Your judgement will improve with experience but when it comes to unbalanced hands you should think in terms of playing strength as well as point count. You can choose to use a system of adding an extra point for each additional card in a long suit, as well as for a singleton (two extra for a void) or you can just think of the more shapely hands as being worth more than their point count. Either way, you will need to make a judgement call about some hands that have 10 or 11 points but are worth an opening bid at the one level nonetheless.