Auction of To-day
by Milton C. Work
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Transcriber's note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.




Author of "Whist of To-day"

Boston and New York Houghton Mifflin Company The Riverside Press Cambridge 1913

Copyright, 1913, by Milton C. Work All Rights Reserved

Published January 1913






The Bid of One No-trump. Table of Hands in which the No-trump Declaration is Doubtful. When to bid Two No-trumps. Exception to the No-trump Rule. Table of Doubtful Hands illustrating Exception. Suit Declarations. Various Ideas of the Two Spade Bid. The Two Spade Bid. The Three Spade Bid. When to bid Two in Either Royals or Hearts. When to bid Three in Either Royals or Hearts. The Two Bid in Diamonds or Clubs. How to declare Two-Suit Hands. Table of Hands in which a Trump Declaration is Doubtful.


Bidding over One Spade. When to bid No-trump. When to make a Trump Declaration. The Double of One Spade. The Bid of Two Spades. Table of Spade Bids. The Bid of Three Spades. How Second Hand should bid after an Offensive Declaration. The Shift. When to Bid Two No-trumps over One No-trump. How to Bid against Two or Three Spades. When to Bid No-trump over a Suit.


When the Dealer has called One Spade, and the Second Hand passed. When the Dealer has shown Strength, and the Second Hand passed. When "Two Spades" has been declared. When "Three Spades" has been declared. When "One Club" or "One Diamond" has been declared. When "Two Diamonds" or "Two Clubs" has been declared. When "One Heart" or "One Royal" has been declared. When "Two Hearts" or "Two Royals" has been declared. When to overbid a Partner's No-trump. When to overbid with Strong Clubs. A New Plan for Overbidding. When to overbid One No-trump with Two No-trumps. What Third Hand should bid when Second Hand has declared.


When the Dealer's Defensive Declaration has been the Only Bid. When the Only Offensive Declaration has been made by the Dealer. When the Only Offensive Declaration has been made by the Second Hand. When the Only Offensive Declaration has been made by the Third Hand. When the Dealer has Made a Defensive, and both the Second and Third Hands Offensive, Declarations. When the Dealer and Second Hand have made Offensive Declarations, and the Third Hand passed. When the Dealer and Third Hand have made Offensive Declarations, and the Second Hand passed. When all Three Players have made Offensive Declarations.


When to advance the Bid. When to overbid the Partner. Flag-Flying.


The Choice between a Game and a Double. When to redouble. What to do when the Partner is doubled.


How to lead against a No-trump. Number-showing Leads. The Lead against a Suit Declaration. How to lead to a Double. Table of Opening Leads against a Trump Declaration.


Difference between Play in Auction and Bridge. Playing for Game. Play for an Even Break. General Play of the Declarer. Declarer's Play of No-trump. Declarer's Play of a Suit Declaration. Play by Declarer's Adversaries. The Signal. The Discard. Blocking the Dummy. Avoid opening New Suits. How to return Partner's Bid. The Finesse. Table showing when Third Hand should finesse.


Samples of Score-Sheets.


1912 Code of The Whist Club of New York. Decisions by the Card Committee of The Whist Club of New York.




With so many excellent textbooks now in circulation, it seems almost audacious to add another treatise to current card literature. It happens, however, that the game of Auction, or Auction Bridge, as it is generally called ("Auction Whist" is perhaps a more appropriate title), has been so completely and so suddenly revolutionized that books written upon the subject a few months ago do not treat of Auction of to-day, but of a game abandoned in the march of progress. Only a small portion of the change has been due to the development of the game, the alteration that has taken place in the count having been the main factor in the transformation. Just as a nation, in the course of a century, changes its habits, customs, and ideas, so Auction in a few months has developed surprising innovations, and evolved theories that only yesterday would have seemed to belong to the heretic or the fanatic. The expert bidder of last Christmas would find himself a veritable Rip Van Winkle, should he awake in the midst of a game of to-day.

The present tourist along the newly macadamized Auction highway has no modern signpost to guide him, no milestone to mark his progress. The old ones, while most excellent when erected, now lead to abandoned and impassable roads, and contain information that of necessity confuses and misleads.

Beyond doubt, the present game, like other modern improvements, has come to stay, and with that belief the following pages are offered as an aid to the thorough understanding of the new order of things.

Until the latter part of 1911, practically all players used the same count in Auction that had for years obtained in Bridge; namely, No-trump, 12; Hearts, 8; Diamonds, 6; Clubs, 4; and Spades, 2. The change was first suggested by the author, and it, therefore, seems only appropriate that he, having had the good fortune to conceive a system which has been endorsed by general adoption, should have the privilege of giving to the Auction-loving public his views upon the most advantageous methods of playing the game under the new conditions, and thus possibly help to allay the confusion created by the introduction of an innovation so drastic.

In this connection, it may be interesting to recall how this new count, which is now so universally used that it should be called, not the "new" count, but "the" count, came to be suggested, and why it met with popular favor.

When Auction first took the place of Bridge as the paramount game in the club and social life of the scientific card-player of the United States (just as Bridge had previously superseded Whist), it was but natural that the Bridge count should be continued in Auction.

Admitting that these values were the best possible for Bridge (and of that there is considerable doubt in the mind of the player of to-day), it, nevertheless, did not mean that for the new and very different game of Auction they would of necessity be the most suitable. It was soon found that the No-trump was so much more powerful than any other bid that competition was almost eliminated. With even unusually strong suits, only occasionally could a declaration valued at 12 be successfully combated by one valued at 8 or less, and the vast majority of hands were, consequently, played without a Trump.

The inherent theory of the game of Auction provides for a bidding in which each one of the four suits competes with each other, and also with the No-trump. Using the Bridge count, this does not take place. The two black suits, by reason of their inconsequential valuation, are practically eliminated from the sea of competitive bidding. The Diamond creates only a slight ripple, and even the Heart has to be unusually strong to resist the strenuous wave of the No-trump.

Players in different parts of the country realized that as long as the Bridge count was used, five bids could not compete in the race, as, due to unequal handicapping, the two blacks could barely pass the starter, while the two reds could not last long in a keen contest.

The desire to make the Spade a potent declaration had appeared in Bridge; Royal Spades, valued at 10, having been played by some unfortunates who believed that, whenever they had the deal, the fickle goddess favored them with an undue proportion of "black beauties." As competitive bidding is not a part of the game of Bridge, that could not be offered as a reason for increasing the value of the Spade, and to be logical, Royal Clubs should also have been created. Naturally, Royal Spades never received any very large or intelligent Bridge following, but as making the Spade of value was in line with the obvious need of Auction, as soon as that game became the popular pastime, Royal Spades (or Lilies, as they were perhaps foolishly called in some places, the pseudonym being suggested by the color of the Spade), valued at 11 and at 10, were accorded a more thorough trial.

They met objection on the ground that three Royals, equally with three No-trumps, carried a side to game from a love score, and, therefore, while some continued to experiment with Royals, it cannot be said that they were anywhere accepted as a conventional part of Auction. Finally, some clever Bostonians suggested that their value be made nine, and this proved both more logical and more popular.

With affairs in this state, the author determined that it would materially improve the game to arrange the count so that the various bids be as nearly as possible equalized, every suit given a real rating, and the maximum competition created. After some little experimentation, the very simple expedient now in vogue was suggested. It makes the game in reality what it previously was only in name.

In September, 1911, the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, the first club to act upon the subject, incorporated in its club code the count of 10 for No-trump, 9 for Royal Spades, 8 for Hearts, 7 for Diamonds, 6 for Clubs, and 2 for Spades. Other clubs in this country and abroad slowly but surely followed, and the card-playing public in its social game adopted the new plan as soon as it received a fair trial.

Early in 1912, the Whist Club of New York, a most conservative body, yielded to the pressure, and accepted the new count. Since then, it has been universally used.

It has been given various names, such as the "new count," which is, of course, a title that cannot long be retained; the "Philadelphia count," which is now inappropriate, as it is played in all parts of the country; the "game of Royals," which is grossly incorrect, as it is not a game of Royals any more than of any other suit, and certainly is not one-tenth as much a game of Royals as the old count was a game of No-trumps. One writer, who ably advocates the new count, calls the present game "Royal Auction Bridge," yet frankly admits that No-trump is still played more frequently than Royals, and Hearts almost as often. There can be no question that the number of Diamond and Club declarations has materially increased, so the only apparent reason for calling the game Royals is the desire for some name to distinguish the count now used from its predecessor. That, however, is totally unnecessary. The old, or Bridge count, is a thing of the past—dead and almost forgotten. The "new" count is "Auction"—"Auction of To-day" if you will, but unquestionably the best Auction yet devised, the only Auction now played, and destined to be Auction for all future time, unless some system be suggested which will create keener competition in bidding. It is generally conceded that this is practically impossible.

In this book the author does not attempt to drill the uninitiated player in the intricacies of the game. The rudiments can be learned far more satisfactorily by watching a rubber, or by receiving the kindly instruction of a friend or teacher.

In perusing these pages, the beginner will seek in vain to receive such information as that the 10 is a higher card than the 9; or that the Third Hand plays after the Second. The reader is supposed to thoroughly understand the respective values of the cards, as well as the underlying principles and the rules of the game.

Neither is this book intended for the player who recognizes himself as an expert and continuously prates of his own ability. Even should he condescend to read, he would find either "nothing new," or "nothing new worth knowing." Why, indeed, should he waste his valuable time considering the ideas of others, when by his brilliant exposition of his own inimitable theories, he can inculcate in the minds of his inferiors a new conception of Auction possibilities? Such a player may at any time confuse a conscientious partner by making an original bid without an Ace or King, or by committing some equally atrocious Auction faux pas, but as even a constant recurrence of such "trifles" will not disturb his equanimity, why suggest ideas for his guidance?

The real purpose of this little book is to point out to the moderate player the system of bidding and methods of play now adopted by the best exponents of the game, and to advise generally how to produce a satisfactory result at the end of the rubber, sitting, or season.

Much of the success of an Auction player is due to his ability to concentrate his entire attention upon the game. If it were possible to make only a single suggestion to a beginner, the most important point that could be called to his attention would be the necessity for concentration. From the moment the first bid is made until the last card is played, the attention of every player should be confined to the declaration and the play, and during that time no other idea should enter his mind. This may seem rudimentary, but as a matter of fact, the loss of tricks is frequently blamed upon various causes, such as "pulling the wrong card," forgetting that a certain declaration had been made, or that a certain card has been played, miscounting the Trumps or the suit in question, etc., when the lack of complete concentration is the real trouble.

Success in Auction is indeed difficult, and the player who would grasp every situation, and capture every possible trick, must have the power to concentrate all his faculties upon the task before him. No matter how great his capacity, he cannot do thorough justice to any hand, if, during the declaration or play, his mind wander. Too often do we see a player, while the play is in progress, thinking of some such subject as how many more tricks his partner might have made in the last hand; whether his partner has declared in the manner which he believes to be sound and conventional; what is going on at some other table; whether this rubber will be over in time for him to play another, etc.

When this is the mental condition of a player, the best results cannot be obtained. If a trick has been lost, it is gone. Thinking over it cannot bring it back, but may very quickly give it one or more comrades. As soon as each deal is completed, it should be erased from the mind just as figures from a slate. In that way only can be obtained the complete and absolute concentration which is essential to perfect play, and goes a long way toward securing it.

Auction is beyond doubt the most scientific card game that has ever become popular in this country. The expert has the full measure of advantage to which his skill entitles him, and yet the game possesses wonderful fascination for the beginner and player of average ability. It is doubtless destined to a long term of increasing popularity, and it is, therefore, most advisable for all who participate that they thoroughly familiarize themselves with the conventional methods of bidding and playing, so that they may become intelligent partners, and a real addition to any table.




It is well to realize from the start that the declaration is the most important department of the game, and yet the most simple to master. A foolish bid may cost hundreds of points. The failure to make a sound one may lose a rubber, whereas mistakes in the play, while often expensive and irritating, are rarely attended with such disastrous results.

[1] Also known as "the Bid" and "the Call."

Any good player who has to choose between a partner who bids well and plays poorly, and one who is a wild or unreliable bidder, but handles his cards with perfection, without hesitation selects the former.

To be an expert player requires natural skill, long experience, keen intuition, deep concentration, and is an art that cannot be accurately taught either by the instructor or by a textbook. Bidding has been reduced to a more or less definite system, which may be learned in a comparatively brief space of time. Consequently, any one possessed of ordinary intelligence, regardless of sex, age, temperament, or experience, may become an expert declarer, but of all who attempt to play, not more than forty per cent. possess that almost indefinable characteristic known as a "card head," without which it is impossible to become a player of the highest class.

The average club or social game, however, produces numerous expert players, while the sound bidder is indeed a rara avis.

The explanation of this peculiar condition is not hard to find. Most Auction devotees began their card experience with Whist, a game in which, beyond doubt, "The play's the thing"; then they transferred their allegiance to Bridge, where the play was the predominant factor; and now they fail to realize that in their new pastime the most important part of the game is concluded before the first card leaves the leader's hand.

It must encourage the student to know that he may surely and quickly become a sound bidder, and that he will then be a more valued partner than a Whist or Bridge celebrity who does not accord to the Declaration the care it deserves and rewards.

Many methods of bidding have been suggested; some have been so absurd that they have not warranted or received serious consideration; others have been accorded a thorough trial, and found wanting.

The system which is herein advocated is believed to be the most sound and informatory yet devised.

Before taking up the declaration by each hand, it is important for the player to realize that with the introduction of the count of to-day, much of the bidding previously in vogue has, of necessity, passed into disuse. For example, under the old count, a player, knowing that the Club suit would never be played and that there was no danger of that declaration being continued by his partner, very properly called a Club to show the Ace and King, even when these two cards were the only Clubs in his hand.

In Auction of to-day, it being possible to score game with any declaration, a suit cannot be safely called unless it be of such length and strength that the partner may continue it as far as his hand warrants. In discussing the subject of Bidding, under the subheads of DEALER, SECOND HAND, etc., this will be considered more thoroughly, and it is referred to at this time only for the purpose of pointing out that informatory bids from short suits containing high cards are no longer included in the vocabulary of the Declarer.

Another difference between the old and the present game is worthy of notice. In the old game a marked distinction was drawn between the color of the suits in the make-up of a No-trumper, it being more important that the black suits should be guarded than the red. Using the Bridge count, the adversaries, if strong in the red suits, were apt to bid, but the black suits, by reason of their low valuation, frequently could not be called. Black was, consequently, the natural lead against a No-trump, and therefore, required more protection.

Now, as every suit can be named with practically equal effectiveness, the color distinction has ceased to exist. The original leader, when No-trump has been declared, no longer attempts to guess his partner's strength by starting with a black suit, in preference to a red; and in bidding one No-trump, strength in one color is just as valuable as in the other.

When Auction was first played in England, it was believed that the deal was a disadvantage, that the Declarer should disguise his hand as long as possible and use every expedient to force his adversary to be the first to show real strength. This doctrine has been found to be ridiculous. The premium of 250 for winning the rubber is a bonus well worth having, and the player who, when his cards justify a bid, unduly postpones his declaration, belongs to an antiquated and almost extinct school.

It is now conceded that the best results are obtained by that character of bidding which gives the partner the most immediate and accurate information regarding the strength of the Declarer.

There are still the "old fogies" who preach that, as there are two opponents and only one partner, all information is doubly advantageous to the adversary. This "moss-covered" idea was advanced concerning the play in Whist and Bridge, but experience proved it fallacious. In Auction, its folly is apparent, not only in the matter of the play, but even more surely when applied to the bidding.

A moment's consideration causes the realization that the declaration would become an easy task if the exact composition of the partner's hand were known; it should, therefore, be the aim of the bidder to simplify the next call of his partner by describing his own cards as accurately as possible.

True it is that the deceptive bidder at times succeeds in duping some confiding or inexperienced adversary and thereby achieves a temporary triumph of which he loves to boast. For every such coup, however, he loses many conventional opportunities, frequently gets into trouble, and keeps his partner in a continual state of nervous unrest, entirely inimical to the exercise of sound judgment. Nevertheless, the erratic one rarely realizes this. He gives his deceptive play the credit for his winning whenever he holds cards with which it is impossible for him to lose, but characterizes as "hard luck" the hundreds that his adversaries tally in their honor columns by reason of his antics, and is oblivious of the opportunities to win games which he allows to slip from his grasp.

The difference between informative and deceptive bidding is shown in the harmony of a partnership. When the former is practised, the pair pull together; the latter results in misunderstandings and disputes.

It must not be understood, however, that the ability to give accurate information comprises the entire skill of the bidder. It is most important that he possess the judgment which enables him to force the adversary into dangerous waters without getting beyond his own depth.

It is no excuse for a player who has led his partner on to their mutual destruction to murmur, "I could have made my bid." An early bid being allowed to become the final declaration is exceptional. Whether or not it could be made is, therefore, immaterial, but the result it may produce is vital.

In club circles the story is told of the player of experience, who, after he had been deceived by his partner's declaration, said: "Partner, if you were reading the paper to a stranger, you would not vary a word of even an unimportant item. Why, then, should you, in describing your thirteen cards, deliberately misinform a trusting partner?"

Another exploded idea is that an advantage can be obtained by so-called "misleading" or "trap" bidding. There are some players who imagine that, by calling one Spade with an excellent hand, they can induce the adversaries to believe that the bidder possesses a trickless combination, and as a result, some ridiculous declaration will follow, which will give an opportunity for a profitable double. Experience has shown that in practice this idea does not produce satisfactory results. Adversaries will not bid to a point where they are apt to be doubled, except in the face of competition. When the Dealer has called one Spade, his partner, unless he hold very strong cards, will not materially elevate the declaration. If both partners have strength, it is not probable that the adversaries can do much bidding, so that it is only in the unusual case, and against the inexperienced and unskilled, that such a scheme is apt to prove successful. On the other hand, it transfers the advantage of being the first to show strength and abuses the confidence of the partner. It is a tool which should be employed only by the Declarer of ripe experience, and he will limit its use to the unusual hand.

The bidder should remember that part of the finesse of the game, when partners vary considerably in their respective skill, is to so arrange the declaration that the stronger player is at the helm most of the time. A weak player with a strong partner should not jump with undue haste into a No-trump, Royal, or Heart declaration; but rather, wait for the partner, and then back up his call. The weak player should also hesitate before taking away his partner's bid, although of course, there are many situations which thoroughly justify it, regardless of the greatest difference in the skill of the players.

The objection to the game of Auction which makes it the subject of the most severe criticism is the possibility that improper information may be conveyed to the partner by the manner of making the bid.

After starting to bid, by using the word "one" or "two" there should never be any hesitation, as that tells the partner that there is more than one call under consideration. The same comment applies to hesitation when it is evident to the partner that it must be caused by a doubt whether or not to double, and the opportunity so to do still remains with him. An extended delay in passing or bidding one Spade also conveys an obvious suggestion. It goes without saying that no honorable partner would avail himself of such information. Being the unwilling recipient of it, however, places him in an awkward position, as he must cross-examine himself as to whether any questionable bid or double he contemplates is in any way encouraged by it. If he have even a scintilla of doubt, he must pass.

A few principles of bidding applicable to all conditions may be stated at the beginning of the consideration of the subject.

Adopt informatory and conservative methods.

A good player may bid higher than a poor one.

When your partner fails to assist your bid, do not count on him for more strength than a Dealer who has bid one Spade.

Any overbid of an adversary shows strength; an overbid of a partner who has declared No-trump may show weakness.

Overbidding a partner who has declared Royals or Hearts shows weakness in his suit.

Being without a suit, or holding a singleton, is an element of strength for a Trump declaration; of weakness for a No-trumper.

When, if you do not bid, the adversary will be left in with a declaration with which he cannot make game, do not take him out unless you expect to score game with your declaration.

Do not, by reckless bidding, make the loss of one rubber equal the usual value of two.

With a love score, it requires three tricks in No-trumps, four in Royals or Hearts, and five in Diamonds or Clubs, to make game. It is an exceptional hand in which the Declarer does not lose more than two tricks. Diamonds and Clubs are, therefore, rarely played in preference to one of the three declarations of higher value, which are spoken of as "game-going" declarations.

There is very little declaring to the score in Auction, as the majority of deals in which the contract is fulfilled score game, so that most of the time the score is love. In a certain percentage of cases, however, there is a score, and it affects the bidding to the following extent:—

If it be 2 or more, Diamonds should be treated as Royals or Hearts would be at love; if it be 6 or more, Clubs should be similarly treated.

If it be 3 or more, Royals, with a holding of five or more, should be bid in preference to No-trump, even with all the suits stopped, and if it be 6 or more, Hearts should be similarly treated.

When the score reaches a higher figure, such as 16, for example, holding five Diamonds, Hearts, or Spades, suit bids should be given the preference over No-trumpers.

The reason is plain. The winning of the game is the object of the bidder; when that is in sight with a suit declaration, No-trump should not be risked unless in the higher declaration the fulfilment of the contract be equally sure.

The establishment of an adverse suit is the rock which sinks many a No-trumper. There is little chance of this with a suit declaration. Therefore, especially when it does not require any more tricks to go game, the suit should be selected, if the No-trump present any element of danger.

The state of the score never justifies an original bid which would not be conventional at love. In other words, while being the possessor of a score may make it wise for a bidder to select a suit instead of a No-trump, it never justifies his calling a suit in which he has not both the length and strength requisite for a declaration with a love score.

Bidding by the different hands is so varied in its character that each must be considered as practically a separate subject, and they will, therefore, be taken up seriatim. In all cases where the score is not especially mentioned, it should be understood that neither side is supposed to have scored.



The Dealer, in making the initial declaration, obtains a valuable strategic position whenever his hand justifies an offensive bid (i.e., anything but one Spade); but when he is compelled to assume the defensive, this advantage passes to his opponents. By any declaration which shows strength, he materially aids his partner and places difficulties in the path of his adversaries. A No-trump is naturally his most advantageous opening.

There are many hands in which the strength is so evenly divided that the advantage of playing the Dummy enables the player who "gets to the No-trump first" to make good his declaration, and frequently, in such equally balanced hands, one No-trump is the only bid that can be made. One No-trump eliminates all adverse calls of one, and sometimes when the strength of the opponents is considerable, but divided, results in shutting out a productive declaration. The Dealer, therefore, whenever his hand warrants it, should grasp his good fortune and declare his strength.

He should not, however, rashly assume the offensive. There is no way in which he can more thoroughly deceive his partner, create greater havoc with the bidding of the hand and cast deeper distrust upon his future declarations than by using the keynote bid to announce strength which his hand does not contain.

He must thoroughly understand the conventional declarations, and when in doubt should bid one Spade, as the damage which is apt to result from an overestimation by his partner of his winning cards is much greater than any benefit gained by starting the attack.


The Dealer is justified in basing his declaration upon the assumption that his partner has one-third of the high cards not in his own hand. He may, therefore, bid one No-trump with any holding better than the average whenever he has

(a) Four suits stopped.

(b) Three suits stopped and his hand contains an Ace.

(c) Three King suits, all of which contain in addition either Queen or Knave.

(d) A solid five-card Club or Diamond suit and another Ace.

The first question to determine is what, from the standpoint of the Declarer, constitutes a guarded or stopped suit.

That an Ace comes under that head is self-evident.

So also must a King, if accompanied by one small, because the lead comes up to the Declarer, and the King must either be able to win the trick or be made good.

A Queen and one other manifestly will not stop a suit, and a Queen and two others is not apt to do so unless the leader hold both Ace and King. Queen and three others is, however, comparatively safe, and Queen, Knave, and one other is a most satisfactory guard.

Knave, Ten, and two others surely stops a suit, but Knave and three small is about as unreliable as Queen and two small. It, therefore, becomes evident that the Dealer, to count a suit as stopped, must have in it one of the following holdings:—

Ace. King and one other. Queen and three others. Queen, Knave, and one other. Knave and four others. Knave, Ten, and two others.

Some experts, with three suits stopped, bid No-trump with exactly an average hand, but experience has shown that this is advisable only when supported by exceptional skill, and cannot be recommended to most players. The average holding of high cards is one Ace, one King, one Queen, and one Knave. From the average standpoint it is immaterial whether they are all in one suit or divided. Any hand containing a face card or Ace above this average is a No-trumper, whenever it complies with the other above-mentioned requirements. When the average is exceeded by holding two Aces, instead of an Ace and King, a No-trump should be called, but two Kings, instead of a King and Queen, or even a King and Knave, is a very slight margin, and the declaration is doubtful for any but the most expert. A hand with two Queens instead of one Queen and one Knave, while technically above the average, cannot be so considered when viewed from a trick-taking standpoint, and does not warrant a No-trump call.

In bidding No-trump with three guarded suits, it does not matter which is unprotected. For example, the minimum strength of a No-trumper composed of one face card more than the average is an Ace in one suit; King, Knave, in another; and Queen, Knave, in a third. This hand would be a No-trumper, regardless of whether the suit void of strength happened to be Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, or Spades.

The above-described method of determining when the hand sizes up to the No-trump standard is generally known as the "average system," and has been found more simple and much safer than any of the other tests suggested. It avoids the necessity of taking the Ten into consideration, and does not involve the problems in mental arithmetic which become necessary when each honor is valued at a certain figure and a total fixed as requisite for a No-trump bid.

The theory upon which a player with possibly only three tricks declares to take seven, is that a hand containing three sure tricks, benefited by the advantage derived from having twenty-six cards played in unison, is apt to produce one more; and until the Dummy refuse to help, he may be figured on for average assistance. The Dealer is expecting to take four tricks with his own hand, and if the Dummy take three (one-third of the remaining nine), he will fulfil his contract. Even if the Dummy fail to render the amount of aid the doctrine of chances makes probable, the declaration is not likely to prove disastrous, as one No-trump is rarely doubled.

It is also conventional to declare one No-trump with a five-card or longer Club or Diamond suit,[2] headed by Ace, King, Queen, and one other Ace. This is the only hand containing strength in but two suits with which a No-trump should be called.

[2] With a similar suit in either Spades or Hearts, Royals or Hearts should be the bid.

As a rule a combination of high cards massed into two suits does not produce a No-trumper, although the same cards, divided into three suits, may do so. For example, a hand containing Ace, Queen, Knave, in one suit; King, Queen, Knave, in another, and the two remaining suits unguarded, should not be bid No-trump, although the high cards are stronger than the example given above with strength in three suits.

Admitting all the advantage of the original No-trump, even the boldest bidders do not consider it a sound declaration with two defenseless suits, unless one of the strong suits be established and the other headed by an Ace. The reason for this is easily understood. When the adversaries have a long suit of which they have all the high cards, the chances are that it will be opened; but if not, it will soon be found unless the Declarer can at once run a suit of considerable length. When a suit is established by the adversaries, the Declarer is put in an embarrassing position, and would probably have been better off playing a Trump declaration. It is a reasonable risk to trust the partner to stop one suit, but it is being much too sanguine to expect him to protect two. Should he fail to have either stopped, the Declarer's loss is so heavy that only with a long and apparently established suit and an additional Ace is the risk justified. It is realized that the case cited, namely, Ace, King, Queen, and two others, may not prove to be an established (or solid, as it is often called) suit. If however, the division be at all even, as it is in the vast majority of cases, the suit can be run, and it is cited as the minimum holding which may be treated as established.

With the present value of Clubs and Diamonds, either suit presents an effective original declaration. There is, therefore, much less excuse than formerly for a reckless No-trump bid, based upon five or six Club or Diamond tricks and one other suit stopped. When, however, an Ace of another suit accompanies the unusual Club or Diamond strength, the advantage of being the first to bid No-trump makes the chance worth taking.

The hands above cited as containing the minimum strength to warrant the call are all what are known as "weak No-trumpers." This kind of bidding may not be conservative, but experience has shown it to be effective as long as it is kept within the specified limits. A No-trump must, however, justify the partner in acting upon the assumption that the bidder has at least the stipulated strength, and it merely courts disaster to venture such a declaration with less than the conventional holding.

A few examples may possibly make the above somewhat more clear, as by that means the various "minimum-strength" or "border-line" No-trumpers, and also hands which fall just below the mark, can be accurately shown. It will be understood that an effort is made to give the weakest hands which justify the No-trump declaration, and also the hands which fall short by the smallest possible margin. In other words, the hands which puzzle the Declarer. With greater strength or greater weakness the correct bid is plainly indicated.

The suits are numbered, not designated by their respective names, in order to emphasize that it does not matter where the weakness is located.


Suit 1 King, Knave, X Does not contain an Ace, but is " 2 King, X, X above the average and has four " 3 Queen, Knave, X suits stopped. It is a No-trump " 4 Knave, Ten, X, X bid.

Suit 1 Ace, Knave, X Has an Ace, three suits stopped, " 2 X, X, X and a Knave over the average. It " 3 King, X, X, X is a No-trump bid. " 4 Queen, Knave, X

Suit 1 Ace, Queen, X Has an Ace and two face cards " 2 King, Queen, Knave more than the average, but, not " 3 X, X, X, X having three suits stopped, is " 4 Knave, X, X not a No-trump bid.

Suit 1 King, Queen, X Has three suits stopped, but is " 2 King, Knave, X, X without an Ace, and is one King " 3 Queen, Knave, X short of three King suits all with " 4 X, X, X another face card. It is not a No-trump bid.

Suit 1 King, Knave, X Has three King-Queen, or " 2 King, Queen, X King-Knave suits. It is a No-trump " 3 King, Knave, X bid. " 4 X, X, X, X

Suit 1 Ace, X, X Has three suits stopped and is " 2 Ace, X, X, X above the average. It is a No-trump " 3 Queen, Knave, X bid. " 4 X, X, X

Suit 1 Ace, X, X This is the border-line hand " 2 King, X, X mentioned above. It may be a " 3 X, X, X, X No-trump bid for an expert, but " 4 King, Knave, X the moderate player is hardly justified in risking it. The presence of one or two Tens would add materially to the strength of this hand and make it a No-trump.

Suit 1 Ace, X, X, X Only above the average to the " 2 King, Queen, X extent of a Queen in place of " 3 Queen, X, X, X a Knave. No-trump is not advised " 4 X, X unless Declarer is confident he can outplay his adversaries.

Suit 1 Ace, Knave, X An average hand. With this holding " 2 King, X, X only an expert is justified in " 3 Queen, X, X, X bidding No-trump. " 4 X, X, X

Suit 1 Ace, X, X Below the average, and, therefore, " 2 King, X, X only "one Spade" should be bid. " 3 Queen, X, X, X " 4 X, X, X

Clubs } Has the weakest "solid" suit or } Ace, King, Queen, X, X that with one other Ace warrants Diamonds } a No-trump bid. Suit 2 Ace, X, X " 3 X, X, X " 4 X, X

Clubs } Ace, King, Knave, X, X Absence of Queen in one case, and or } or of King in the other, keeps the Diamonds } Ace, Queen, Knave, X, X suit from being established. Even } the presence of the additional Suit 2 Ace, Queen, X Queen in Suit 2 does not make this " 3 X, X, X a No-trumper. " 4 X, X

Clubs } Absence of additional Ace makes or } Ace, King, Queen, X, X a No-trump inadvisable. Diamonds } Suit 2 King, Queen, X " 3 X, X, X " 4 X, X

It is realized that in the last three cases cited the margin is unusually close; the last one, should the partner happen to have either Suit 3 or 4 stopped, and the Ace and some length of Suit 2, would be very much stronger than the example justifying the bid. It is also true that a fortunate drop of the King or Queen of the long suit, with a little help from the partner, would make the next to the last the strongest of the three. It is idle, however, to speculate on what the partner may have. In such close cases it is most important to invariably follow some fixed rule. The player who guesses each time may always be wrong, while the player who sticks to the sound bid is sure to be right most of the time. Experience has shown that, when only two suits are stopped, it is not wise to bid No-trump without both an Ace and a solid suit, and experience is the best teacher.


An original bid of more than one No-trump is rarely advisable, as it is important that the partner be given the option of bidding two of a suit. With great strength such a call should never be made, as in that case there is no good reason for attempting to shut out the adversary. The only character of hand which justifies starting with two No-trumps is the rare combination in which a long, solid suit of six or seven Clubs or Diamonds is held, accompanied by an Ace or guarded King in at least two of the remaining suits, the idea being to shut out adverse Royals or Hearts.

Some players believe in bidding two No-trumps with "every Ace and not a face," but that sort of an effort to "steal" the 100 is not justified as the partner's hand may make a game, which could not be won at No-trumps, obtainable in a suit declaration. A game with the incidental score is worth much more than "one hundred Aces" and only two odd tricks, or perchance an unfilled contract. It is also important that the bid be limited to the one case mentioned, as in that way it gives the most accurate information.


There is one important exception to most of the No-trump bids above described, and that is when the hand, which otherwise would be a No-trumper, contains as its strong suit five or more Spades or Hearts. It takes only one more Royal or Heart than it does No-trump to win the game, and with a suit unguarded, it is far safer and wiser, with such a holding, to bid the Heart or Royal than the No-trump. For example, with Ace, King, Knave, and two small Clubs; King, Queen, Knave, and one Diamond; Queen, Knave, and one Heart; and one Spade, the bid would unquestionably be No-trump. If, however, the Club and Spade holding be transposed, a Royal should be declared. When there is a score which places the Club or Diamond within four tricks of game, these suits become as valuable as the Heart or Royal, with the score at love, and should be treated accordingly.

The Declarer should bear in mind that as the game is the desideratum, the surest, not the most glorious or enjoyable, route of reaching it should be chosen. When No-trump is declared with a hand containing a defenceless suit, there is a grave chance that the adversaries may save game by making five tricks in that suit before the Declarer can obtain the lead. With five or more strong cards of a suit and two other suits stopped, four tricks are more probable with the suit declaration than three with No-trump, but three with the No-trump are more likely than five with the suit. It, therefore, depends upon which suit be held whether it or No-trump should be bid. The inclination which many players have for a No-trump bid should be firmly curbed, when the holding is of the character mentioned and the strength is in Spades or Hearts.

A very different case arises, however, when all the suits are stopped; the Dealer is then, the game being probable with either declaration, justified in bidding either the No-trump or the suit, as he may prefer, and the value of the honors he holds should be an important factor in guiding his decision. When he has more than five Spades or Hearts, the suit declaration is generally to be preferred, even with all suits stopped, unless the hand contain four Aces. A few examples follow:—

Spades Ace, King, Queen, X, X While this hand contains three Hearts Ace, Queen, X Aces, it is more apt to score Diamonds Ace, Knave, X, X game with Royals than without a Clubs X Trump. With the Spade and Club or Spade and Diamond suits transposed, it is a No-trumper.

Spades Ace, King, Queen, X Not having five Spades, this hand Hearts Ace, Queen, X, X is a No-trump bid. The fact that Diamonds Ace, Knave, X, X it contains a singleton is an Clubs X argument in favor of a suit declaration, but with only four Spades it is safer to risk the Clubs than long adverse Spades with one more trick required for game.

Spades Knave, Ten, X, X A No-trumper, as it has three Hearts Ace, Queen, Knave suits stopped and contains an Diamonds X Ace. A transposition of the Clubs Clubs King, Queen, Knave, X, X to Spades or Hearts would make it a Trump declaration.

Spades King, Queen, Knave, X, X Can be declared either Royals Hearts Ace, Queen or No-trump, as four suits are Diamonds Ace, X, X stopped and it has five strong Clubs Ace, Knave, X Spades. The 30 Aces as compared with 18 honors in Royals and the absence of a singleton make the No-trump more attractive. If, however, the Ten of Spades be substituted for a small Spade, the 72 honors would make it a Royal.

Spades King, Knave, X While the four Suits are stopped, Hearts King, Queen, Ten, X, X, X the length in Hearts makes the Diamonds Ace, X suit call the more advisable. Clubs Ace, X

Spades King, Queen, Ten The Diamond is tempting, as a Hearts King, Knave, Ten score of 56 honors is compared Diamonds Ace, King, Queen, Knave with possibly 30 adverse aces. Clubs King, Queen, Knave If, however, the three missing Aces be held by the adversaries, game cannot be scored in Diamonds, and a game is always worth more than 100. It is therefore a No-trump.


For some reason the Dealer is more apt to make faulty suit bids than unwarranted No-trumpers. It seems as difficult for the old Whist and Bridge player as it is for the novice to realize that even excessive length does not justify an original suit call, unless the suit contain either the Ace or the King. It, also, is just as important to remember that if the suit does not contain both the Ace and the King, the hand must in addition have at least one other honor in the suit named,[3] and one other sure trick. By "sure trick" in this connection is not meant merely a suit stopped, but a trick that can be won not later than the second round; in other words, either an Ace or a King and Queen, or King and Knave, of the same suit.

[3] While, as a general rule, to justify an original suit declaration, "one other honor" should accompany either Ace or King, it is not necessary to blindly follow such a requirement to an absurd extreme.

If the suit be headed by the Ace, either unusual length (six or more) or considerable strength in another suit (Ace and King, or Ace, Queen, Knave) would justify a call without "one other honor."

If, however, the suit be headed by the King, the presence of another honor is essential unless the length or additional strength be extraordinary.

Stating in another way the combination of high cards requisite for an original suit bid, it may be said that a suit should never be originally declared unless the hand contain two sure high-card tricks, one of which must be in the suit named. These sure high-card tricks must be either two Aces or their equivalent in value for trick-taking purposes. The reason is obvious. The declaration of a suit by an informatory bidder tells the partner, not only that the bidder is satisfied to have that hand played with the suit named as the Trump, but also that his holding will be helpful to the extent of at least two tricks, one of which is in his suit, should the declaration be shifted to No-trump. This is one of the simplest and most vital rules of bidding, yet it is probably the most frequently disregarded. Innumerable points have appeared in the adverse honor column because a partner has properly assumed that an original suit call showed the high-card strength just mentioned, only to find out too late that the bidder, with perhaps a couple of Kings, had yielded to the lure of length. Even at the risk of seeming repetition, it is necessary to be a little more explicit upon this subject.

When the Dealer bids a suit, he says: "Partner, I have great strength in this suit; it is probable that I have both the Ace and King, but if not, I have either the Ace or King, supported by at least one other honor,[4] and the Ace or the King and Queen, or King and Knave, of some other suit; you can bid No-trump or double any adverse declaration, positively assured that I will support you to the extent named."

[4] See footnote, page 31.

The holding in the suit which is declared, is vital. Take, for example, such a hand as Queen, Knave, and five small Hearts; and the Ace and King of Clubs. Of course, the Dealer wants to play this hand with Hearts as Trump, but he should not bid a Heart at the start, as he has not the Ace or King. The fact that he has both the Ace and King of Clubs does not justify a Heart call without either the Ace or King of Hearts. With the hand cited there will be plenty of time to bid Hearts later.

The rule which governs this case is the foundation of modern bidding; it is without exception, is not affected by the score, and is the most important of all Auction conventions.

Every player should resolve that, whatever his other shortcomings may be, he will treat it as a veritable law of the Medes and Persians, and that never, as Dealer, will he call a suit unless he hold the Ace or King of it, and the other requisite strength.

The combination of high cards above mentioned, however, is not in itself sufficient to justify a suit declaration. There must, in addition, be length in the suit. This is just as essential in Clubs or Diamonds as in Hearts or Royals. The partner may have great strength, and yet be unable to stop the adverse suit. A No-trump being thus eliminated, he, acting on the assurance given by the original call, may carry the suit to high figures. This is sure to prove disastrous, unless the original bidder has length as well as strength.

As a general rule, five is the minimum length with which a suit should be called, but with great strength, such as Ace, King, Knave; Ace, Queen, Knave; or King, Queen, Knave, in the suit, coupled with another Ace; or a King and Queen, a bid with a four-card combination may be ventured. A four-card suit, headed by Ace, King, Queen, may be called without other strength.

A short suit, that is, one of three cards or less, should never be bid originally, regardless of its strength. Even the holding of Ace, King, Queen, does not justify the naming of such a suit.

While the doctrine above enunciated as to the minimum strength required for a Trump bid is unquestionably logical and is now regarded as conventional by a very large proportion of the expert players of Auction, it is only natural that there should be some dissent. There is a certain character of mind that always desires to carry any sound theory to dangerous extremes, and, consequently, some players and writers have seen fit, while adopting the theory which has altered the old system of always starting with one Spade into the modern informatory game, to advocate extensions which would practically eliminate the defensive declaration.

These extremists desire to permit a Dealer to bid whenever he has a long suit, regardless of whether it be headed by high cards, and also whether it would aid a No-trump. One system suggested is that a Trump be called whenever the Dealer holds any suit which counts 7, on the basis of an Ace or face counting 2, and any lower card, 1. The believers in this doctrine would, therefore, bid a Club from such a hand as Queen, Knave, X, X, X, without any possibility of another trick; or even from Knave, X, X, X, X, X. The absurdity of this becomes obvious when it is remembered that the only real object in bidding a Club or Diamond is to show strength which will justify the partner in declaring one of the three game-going declarations. Any such holding as that mentioned not only does not help any other declaration, but as a matter of fact is a hand so far under the trick-taking average that, if any method could be devised by which weakness could be emphasized more strongly than by making the defensive declaration, such a hand would fully justify employing it. It is difficult to conceive what benefit can result to a partnership from any such weakness being, for the purpose of the declaration, changed into alleged strength. If a player declare with any such combination, his power to give information when he really possesses strength of course immediately ceases to exist, and the entire structure of informative bidding thereby drops to pieces.

The system of suit declarations above outlined, and upon which all that is hereinafter suggested in relation to bidding is based, must be followed by players who wish to give their partners accurate data, and while it may be tempting at times to depart from the conventional, the more frequently such exception is made by the Dealer in his bid, the more often does misunderstanding between the partners ensue.


Every game of the Whist family has some point upon which experts disagree, and which, consequently, produces apparently interminable discussion.

In Auction, it is the two Spade bid, and no less than four recognized factions have widely divergent views concerning it. These views may be briefly stated as follows:—

(a) With the border-line No-trumpers now in vogue, a hand not strong enough to bid No-trump is too weak to warrant any call but one Spade. The two Spade bid is, therefore, useless and should never be made.

(b) The two Spade bid should be used as a No-trump invitation with any hand not quite strong enough to justify a No-trump call. Having this meaning it does not matter whether the hand contain any Spade strength.

(c) The two Spade bid should be used as a No-trump invitation, but must also give the additional information that the hand contains at least one trick in Spades.

(d) The two Spade bid should be used to tell the partner that the hand has the high-card strength to bid one Royal, but not sufficient length. It thus becomes either a No-trump or Royal invitation.

All these systems have their advocates, most of whom refuse to see merit in any plan but their own. It is only fair, however, before reaching a definite conclusion to accord to all a fair and dispassionate consideration.


The argument that, as long as light No-trumpers are conventional, any hand not sufficiently strong to call No-trump is too weak to justify declaring more than one Spade, has considerable force. Beyond question, many followers of plans "b" and "c" call two Spades when their holdings do not warrant such action, but the fact that a declaration is at times abused is far from being a sufficient reason for wiping it off the Auction map, and saying to those who desire to use it rationally, "No, because some players see fit to make this bid with two Knaves and a Queen, it is not safe to allow you the privilege of using it sanely, wisely, and at the appropriate time."

The supporters of "a," however, go further, and say that the hands in which a No-trump cannot be called, but with which the invitation should be extended to the partner to bid it, are so rare that the retention of the two Spade call merely encumbers the catalogue of the Declarer with a bid that is practically obsolete.

This, if it be true, would be most convincing, but it is so surprising a statement that it should be examined before being accepted.

Every hand that class "d" would bid two Spades would be similarly called by "b" and "c," and at least ninety-nine per cent. of expert Auction players concede that such a bid is sound. For example:—

Spades Ace, King, Knave Hearts X, X, X, X Diamonds X, X, X Clubs Ace, Queen, X

has strength which deserves, if possible, to be shown.

This is merely a sample of a hand which would be a Royal, if length in Spades accompanied the strength. Such hands come within the "d" classification, and are not rare. This must be admitted when it is considered that three- or four-card suits are much more frequently held than suits of greater length. Therefore, two Spades should be bid more often than one Royal. With the single exception of No-trump, Royals is the call most frequently played; consequently, as a preliminary call, two Spades must be used more constantly than any declaration, except No-trump.

Experience bears out this argument, and it, therefore, seems that the "a" allegations are not supported by examination.

It is obvious that the more original calls with which it is possible to equip a Dealer, the more accurately can he distinguish for the benefit of his partner between the different classes of holdings. It therefore seems absurd to contend that the bid of two spades should be eliminated.


The argument presented by the "b" school is also at first quite convincing. Take such a hand as

Spades X, X, X Hearts Ace, X, X Diamonds King, Knave, X Clubs Knave, X, X, X

It is just too weak for a No-trump, but at first glance seems too strong for a Spade.

Why, however, should it be too strong for a Spade? It is under the average, which means the holding of the partner must be quite a bit better than the average to get one odd. If he have such a hand he will declare it in any event, and the dealer can then help. Furthermore, this system does not point out any one suit as stopped, and, therefore, gives the minimum degree of information. It is practically saying, "I bid half a No-trump." It is quite doubtful whether the holding essential for such a bid can be properly limited and whether it will not tempt bidding with too great weakness.

Furthermore, it must be taken out. The Third Hand cannot allow his partner to play two Spades, and if he be weak, all he can do under this system is to call three Spades, which only makes matters worse, as it is sure to be doubled, and the dealer must in turn take that out. To do this with the hand above cited, he must either call two Clubs with four to a Knave, or one Diamond with three to the King, Knave.

The trouble is evident—the result apt to be unfortunate. If the partner with average strength accept such a No-trump invitation, the contract cannot be fulfilled; while if he be strong, he will bid in any event, so where is the advantage of the call?

For one purpose, however, this system of bid seems sound. If the dealer be a poor player and the Third Hand an expert, it is for the benefit of the partnership that the Third Hand be the Declarer. When the Dealer holds a real No-trumper, but wishes his partner to become the Declarer, the two Spade,—not invitation, but command,—has real merit, but as few players either concede their own inferiority or are willing to allow their partners to play a majority of the hands, this apparent argument in favor of the plan will not appeal to many, and will, therefore, seldom prove of service.


This comes nearer being logical, as it shows one Spade trick, and, therefore, indicates help for a partner's Royal, but with that exception, it is subject to the same objections as "b." It is troublesome to take out, and when compared with "d" gives extremely limited information.

It may, however, be of distinct advantage for a player who does not approve of light No-trumpers. Followers of the theory that the call of one No-trump means four or five sure tricks will certainly find "c" or even "b" an advantageous system, but the advantage of "getting to the No-trump first" is so manifest that the light declarations have become generally popular, and but few of the "I-will-not-declare-unless-I-have-the-'goods'" bidders are now to be found.

If a player believe in calling No-trump with the minimum strength now considered sufficient, he has little use for either "b" or "c."

It is self-evident that "c" cannot be used as often as "b," so the Declarer who likes always to say something will prefer "b," but the bidder who wishes, when he calls, to have distinct value attached to his announcement, will elect in favor of "c" rather than "b," and for the same reason will find "d" the best system of all.


It is toward this system that the evolution of modern bidding is turning. True, two Spades cannot be declared as frequently when "d" is used as when "b" or "c" is employed, but the "d" bid conveys information so comprehensive and important that one call is of greater value than several "b" or "c" bids, which, at best, furnish the partner with indefinite data.

It makes the weakness take-out of the partner, namely, one Royal, easy and logical, and in every way seems the soundest, safest, simplest, and most conducive to game-winning of all the plans suggested.

It invites equally the two most important declarations, makes easy the position of the partner when he holds long, weak Spades, and is doubtless destined, in a short time, to be the only two-Spade system in use, unless it be found advisable to include in the repertory of the original declarer both "b" and "d."

This can be readily accomplished by calling two Spades for "b"; three Spades for "d"; and four Spades for the combination hereinafter given, for which the declaration of three Spades is suggested.

No serious objection can be advanced to this plan, except that it is somewhat complicated, and for a light No-trump bidder, possibly unnecessary. It is a totally new idea, but believed to be of sufficient value to entitle it to a trial.

As it is impossible to declare or play intelligently when any doubt exists between partners regarding the convention employed, and as it is wise not to follow unsound theories, no further reference will be made to "a," "b," or "c" plans. The "d" system will be fully described, and all suggestions that hereinafter appear will be based upon the supposition that it is being used.


The bid of two Spades is a showing of Spade strength, with a hand which does not contain Spade length sufficient to justify the bid of one Royal.

[5] See page 89, as to how the partner should treat this declaration; also table on pages 68 and 69.

The latter is the more advantageous declaration, and should be made whenever five Spades with the requisite high-card strength are held. When, however, the hand contains the strength, but not the length, for a Royal call, the bid of two Spades is a most useful substitute.

It may be made with three or four Spades in any case in which, with five, one Royal could be declared, except the solitary instance of holding Ace and King of Spades without another trick of any kind. A Royal may be called with five, headed by Ace, King, as, should the bid stand, the three small Trumps would surely take one trick. Every original offensive declaration is based upon a minimum of three tricks. This principle applies to the bid of two Spades, and, therefore, a hand containing less than five Spades, headed by Ace, King, and no other winning card, is a one Spade call, as it is one and one-quarter tricks below the average.

When a player bids two Spades, he sends his partner a message which gives information about as follows: "I have three or four Spades with two or three high honors, and in addition, unless I have Ace, King, and Queen of Spades, I have one other suit well stopped. My hand does not warrant a No-trump, because I have only two suits stopped. As I have not more than four Spades, I do not wish to bid a Royal; I am too strong to be satisfied with one Spade, so I bid two for the purpose of encouraging you to call No-trump or Royals."

Such a declaration certainly gives very accurate information, and should be used whenever such a hand occurs, but not under any other circumstances.


The declaration of three Spades by the Dealer is a very recent idea and is also most informatory. It says: "Partner, I am anxious to have Royals the Trump, but I cannot make that declaration now, as I have not the requisite high cards. I probably have not the Ace of Spades, and the chances are that I am without the King also. Either because the balance of my hand is so strong that I fear I will be left in with one Spade, or for some other reason, I do not wish to open with the defensive declaration and wait for a later round to show strength. You can count on me for five or more (probably more) Spades and other strength."

[6] See page 90, as to how the partner should treat this declaration.


Another case to consider in bidding by the Dealer is when more than one of any game-scoring suit should be declared.

The original theory of declaration was to withhold from the table as long as possible all information regarding the strength of the hand; therefore, to start with one in the real suit was regarded as most unwise, and to bid two would have been deemed the act of a lunatic.

Now, however, the original suit declaration of more than one is generally acknowledged to be an important part of the finesse of the skilled bidder, and such bidding, when justified by the hand, is recognized as eminently wise and proper.

When the "two" and "three" original Trump bids first came into vogue, they were used indiscriminately with great length, regardless of whether or not high cards headed the suit. The meaning of the bid was "Do not take me out," and it was made under widely divergent conditions. No distinction was drawn between a hand which might be trickless as an aid to, or defense against, a No-trump declaration, and one which would produce seven or eight tricks under such circumstances. This kind of bidding was found to be much too confusing for the partner, and prevented him from rendering intelligent support.

It is now realized that it is far wiser with length, no matter how great, but without commanding cards, to start with a Spade and then bid the long suit on the succeeding round, thus practically photographing the hand for the partner and energetically waving the red flag for any declaration but the one suit.

Take, for example, such a hand as seven Hearts, headed by Queen, Knave; Ace, Knave, and two Clubs; two small Diamonds, and no Spades. An original two Heart or one Club call would grossly mislead the partner without being of any real advantage, but one Spade followed by two Hearts, or even three, if necessary, shows the exact situation. As long as the hand containing a long suit is not so strong that there is grave danger of its being left in with one Spade, it should be started with the defensive declaration. When such great strength exists, a sound opening bid invariably presents itself.

It, therefore, becomes apparent that an original suit bid of two or three, just as necessarily as a bid of one, should demonstrate the underlying principle of original suit declarations—namely, strength, as well as length.

The incidental object in bidding more than one originally is to warn the partner that the Dealer prefers to play the suit named rather than a doubtful No-trump; the main reason, however, is, if possible, to shut out adverse bidding. When there is great length in either Spades or Hearts and distinct weakness in the other, a two or three bid is most advisable. In that case, the strength in the other suit may be entirely with the adversaries and may be divided between them. They could readily find this out, if allowed to start with a cheap bid, but it frequently happens that neither is sufficiently strong to make a high declaration without assistance from his partner.

When the Dealer has sufficient strength in either Royals or Hearts to bid more than one, and, in addition, has considerable strength in the other suits, it is as a rule advisable to bid but one, as in that case he does not wish to frighten off adverse bidding, but prefers to encourage it with the hope that it may reach a point which will give him a safe and profitable double.

Six sure tricks with the possibility of more is the minimum strength for an original call of two Hearts or two Royals.


An original bid of three Royals or Hearts is justified by a hand in which sufficient strength exists to make it probable that the declaration will be successful, and which nevertheless cannot effectively defend against a high bid by the adversaries in the other suit. As a rule this is a two-suit hand, and in a genuine two-suiter it often happens that one side may be able to win eleven tricks in Royals or Hearts, while their adversaries can capture a similar number in the other.

The three bid is, of course, a "shut-out" measure, and should be employed for that purpose only.

Seven sure tricks, with the possibility of more, is the minimum strength for an original call of three Hearts or three Royals.


The original bid of two in either Diamonds or Clubs with the score at love is a totally different character of declaration from two Hearts or two Royals. The Dealer does not with this declaration say, "Let me stay in and make game," but he does say, "I have a long suit (at least five cards) headed by Ace, King, Queen, with no considerable support on the side. (If I had another Ace, I would bid No-trump.) Now you know my exact hand."

When there is a score which places Diamonds or Clubs within four tricks of game, the original bid of two or more in either suit is of exactly the same significance as a similar call of Royals or Hearts, with the score at love.


The only remaining case of original declaration by the Dealer is the hand with two suits, both of which are of sufficient strength to bid. As a general rule, it is wiser first to call the lower in value, and then to declare the higher on the next round. This gives the maximum amount of information, but should only be attempted when the hand clearly indicates that there will be another opportunity to bid, as otherwise the Dealer may be left in with a non-game-producing declaration.

The Dealer must determine from the composition of his hand whether a second opportunity to bid is assured. When he is not very strong, the chances are that some one else will declare. When he is without a suit or has a singleton, it is a reasonably safe assumption that some one will be strong enough in that suit to call it.

A few examples follow of hands which have the minimum strength to justify the various Trump calls and also of hands which, by a small margin, fall short:—


Spades Ace, King, X, X, X Has five Spades headed by Ace Hearts X, X, X and King. With Royals Trump has Diamonds X, X, X two high-card tricks, and can Clubs X, X take at least one with small cards. It is, therefore, a one Royal bid.

Spades King, X, X, X Has not high-card strength Hearts King, Knave, X, X, X sufficient for either a Heart or Diamonds X, X two-Spade bid. One Spade is the Clubs X, X correct call.

Spades X, X Complies with all the requirements Hearts King, Queen, X, X, X of a Heart bid. Diamonds Ace, Knave, X Clubs X, X, X

Spades X, X, X Has only four Hearts; is, Hearts King, Queen, X, X therefore, a one Spade call. Diamonds Ace, Knave, X Clubs X, X, X

Spades X, X, X Has only four Hearts, but has Hearts Ace, Queen, Knave, X sufficient high-card strength Diamonds Ace, Queen, X to justify a Heart bid. Clubs X, X, X

Spades Ace, Queen, X, X A two Spade bid; with one more Hearts X, X, X Spade, it would be one Royal. Diamonds Ace, X, X Clubs X, X, X

Spades Ace, Knave, X A two Spade bid. With two more Hearts X, X, X, Spades, it would be one Royal. Diamonds King, Queen, X Clubs X, X, X, X

Spades Ace, Knave, X, X Either two Spades or one Club Hearts X, X could be bid, but the Club is Diamonds X, X distinctly preferable. Clubs Ace, Queen, Knave, X, X

Spades King, X, X, X A one Spade bid, as it has not Hearts Ace, X, X two honors in Spades. Diamonds Knave, X, X Clubs Knave, X, X

Spades Queen, Knave, Ten, X, X, A three Spade bid; cannot be X, X started as a Royal without Ace Hearts Ace, Queen or King, and so strong, one Spade Diamonds King, Knave, X might not be overbid. Clubs King

Spades None A two or three Heart bid. Hearts Ace, King, Knave, Ten, X, X Diamonds Queen, Knave, Ten Clubs Ace, X, X, X

Spades Ace, King A one Heart bid. So strong that Hearts Ace, King, Knave, Ten, a higher call is unnecessary, as X, X adverse bidding is desired. Diamonds Queen, Knave, Ten Clubs King, Queen

Spades Ace, King, Knave, Ten, A three Royals bid. Important to X, X, X shut out adverse bidding. Hearts None Diamonds X, X Clubs Ace, King, X, X

Spades X, X A two Diamonds bid. Hearts King, X, X Diamonds Ace, King, Queen, X, X, X Clubs X, X

Spades Ace, King, Knave, X, X Should either be bid one Club Hearts X and subsequently Royals, or Diamonds X, X started at two Royals to shut out Clubs Ace, King, X, X, X other bidding.

Spades King, X While this hand has more than Hearts Ace, King, Queen sufficient high-card strength to Diamonds X, X, X, X justify an offensive bid, it is only Clubs X, X, X, X a Spade. Two Spades would mislead the partner as to length and strength of Spades and might induce him to bid high Royals; one Heart would mislead him as to length of Hearts; having, however, called one Spade, the hand can advance any declaration of the partner and if the partner bid either Clubs or Diamonds, can call No-trump.

Spades King, Knave, X, X, X, Should not be bid one Royal, as X, X that deceives partner as to Hearts X, X high-card strength; two Spades Diamonds X, X invites a No-trump, which is not Clubs X, X wanted. Either three Spades or one Spade should be called. The hand, outside of Spades, is so weak that the latter is the wiser bid.

Spades Queen, Ten, X, X Spade honors are too weak for two Hearts Ace, X, X Spades. One Spade is the only Diamonds X, X, X sound bid. Clubs X, X, X

Spades X One Club should be bid, followed, Hearts Queen, Knave, Ten, X, regardless of the partner's X, X, X declaration, with Hearts. Diamonds None Clubs Ace, King, X, X, X

Spades Queen, Knave, Ten, X, Three Spades, and on the next X, X round, Hearts, unless the partner Hearts King, Knave, Ten, X, has bid two Royals. X, X Diamonds None Clubs X

Spades Knave, Ten, Nine, X, X, X This very interesting hand affords Hearts None a number of correct original bids. Diamonds Ace, Knave, X One Club, three Spades, and one Clubs Ace, Queen, Knave, X Spade are all sound; the latter is not apt to be left in, as a Heart call is most probable, the long hand in that suit containing at least five. Three Suits being stopped, with more than an average hand, one No-trump is also technically correct. The chances are, however, that the hand will produce better results if the Trump be Royals, and as the call of one No-trump may stand, it is not wise to open the bidding that way. Three Spades seems the most advisable declaration, as it gives the information most important for the partner to receive. The risk in calling one Spade, while slight, is totally unnecessary, and one Club does not warn the partner not to bid Hearts, if he have anything in Spades.

Should three Spades be called and the partner declare one Heart, the dealer on the next round could try No-trump, but one Club, followed by one Heart from partner, would necessitate a Royal from the dealer, as the absence of Spades in the partner's hand is not then announced.

In the event of the small Club being transposed to a Diamond, so that the hand contain four Diamonds and three Clubs, three Spades would unquestionably be the most advantageous original call.



The Second Hand bids under two totally dissimilar conditions. The Dealer of necessity has declared and, either by a call of one Spade, shown comparative weakness, or, by an offensive declaration, given evidence of strength.

It is obvious that whether the Dealer be strong or weak materially affects the question of how the Second Hand should bid, as it makes quite a variation in the number of tricks he has the right to expect to find in his partner's hand. This, however, is not the only, and, possibly, not the most important difference.

When the Dealer has called one Spade, it is practically certain, should the Second Hand pass, that he will have another opportunity to enter the bidding. When, however, the Dealer has declared a suit or No-trump, it is possible, if the Second Hand fail to declare, that no other bid will be made, and the declaration of the Dealer will stand.

It is, therefore, readily seen that, in the first case, the Second Hand is making an initial declaration; in the other, a forced bid.


When Auction was in its infancy, the authorities advised the Second Hand, regardless of the character of his cards, to pass a declaration of one Spade. The reason given was that the Third Hand would have to take his partner out, which might prove embarrassing, and that a bid by the Second Hand would release his left-hand adversary from this, possibly, trying position.

Modern Auction developments have proven the futility of this idea. The Third Hand of to-day is not troubled by any obligation to take the Dealer out of "one Spade," and will not do so without considerable strength. Should the Second Hand pass, with winning cards, the Fourth Hand may be the player who finds himself in the awkward position, and if, adopting the conservative course, he allow the Spade declaration to stand, a good chance to score game may be lost by the failure of the Second Hand to avail himself of his opportunity.

Second Hand silence is not now regarded as golden, but there is still some question as to the amount of strength required to make a declaration advisable. Some authorities believe the Second Hand should pass, unless his cards justify him in expecting to make game. This theory was for a time very generally accepted, and even yet has a considerable following. Experience, however, has convinced most of its advocates that it is unsound, and it is being rapidly abandoned.

It is now conceded that the deal is quite an advantage, because of the opportunity it gives the Dealer to strike the first blow. It follows that when the Dealer has been obliged to relinquish his favorable position, it is the height of folly for the Second Hand, when he has the requisite strength, not to grasp it. Furthermore, the Dealer having shown weakness, the adverse strength is probably in the Third Hand. Should the Third Hand call No-trump, the Fourth Hand will be the leader, and it will then be important for him to know which suit his partner desires opened. On the first round of the declaration, this can be indicated by a bid of one, but after the No-trump, it takes two, which, with the strength over the bidder, may be dangerous.

The bid of the Second Hand, furthermore, makes the task of his left-hand adversary more difficult and may prevent a No-trump. It certainly aids the Fourth Hand—indeed, it may be just the information he needs for a game declaration.

It seems clear, therefore, that the Second Hand should show his strength when he has the chance. He should not, however, carry too far the principles above outlined. It is just as fatal for the Second Hand as for the Dealer, to deceive his partner.


The rules governing an original offensive bid by the Dealer apply to the Second Hand, after the Dealer has called one Spade, in practically every instance. The only possible exception is the holding necessary for a border-line No-trump. When the Dealer, with the minimum strength, declares "one No-trump," he figures on the probability that his partner holds one-third of the high cards not in his own hand. When the Second Hand declares after "one Spade," it is reasonable for him to count upon his partner for a slightly greater percentage of strength; therefore, he may bid No-trump a little more freely.

To justify a No-trump by the Dealer, he should have slightly better than average cards. The Second Hand, with exactly an average holding, may make the bid. The No-trump requirements,—namely, four suits stopped, three suits stopped and an Ace, three King-Queen or King-Knave suits, or at least five solid Diamonds or Clubs and an Ace,—which limit the declaration of the Dealer, apply, however, with equal force to the Second Hand, and should never be disregarded.


The Dealer, having declared one Spade, a Trump declaration of one, two, or three by the Second Hand is subject to exactly the same rules as in the case of the original call by the Dealer. Precisely the same reasoning holds good and the same danger is apt to arise, should the Second Hand digress from the recognized principles of safety, and bid a long suit which does not contain the requisite high cards. The Second Hand will have an opportunity to declare his weak suit of great length on the next round, and there is no necessity for deceiving the partner as to its composition by jumping into it with undue celerity.


The question of when the Second Hand should double is covered in the chapter on "Doubling," but as the double of one Spade is really a declaration, rather than a double, it seems proper to consider it here, especially as it is of vital importance that it be accurately distinguished from the Second Hand bid of two Spades, with which it is very frequently confused. Many good players treat the two declarations as synonymous, although by so doing they fail to avail themselves of a simple and safe opportunity to convey valuable information. The reason for this apparent carelessness on the part of many bidders is that no scheme of declaring that accurately fits the situation has hitherto been generally understood.

The idea that follows has been found to work well, and while as yet not sufficiently used to be termed conventional, seems to be growing in favor with such rapidity that its general adoption in the near future is clearly indicated.

The Second Hand doubles one Spade, with practically the same holding with which the dealer bids two Spades, not with the expectation or wish that the double will stand, but as the most informatory action possible, and as an invitation to his partner to bid No-trumps or Royals. In a general way his bid of two Spades has the same significance, except that it more emphatically suggests a call of Royals. By accurately distinguishing the two, the partner may declare with much greater effect.

The double shows short Spades (two or three), with at least two high honors in Spades, and one other trick, or the Ace of Spades and two other tricks.


The bid of two Spades shows exactly four Spades and the same high-card holding which justifies doubling one Spade.

[7] See Bid of Two Spades by Dealer, page 47.

The Second Hand, when he doubles one, or bids two Spades, says: "I have not three suits stopped, so I cannot bid No-trumps. While I have sufficient high-card strength to call one Royal, I have less than five Spades, and, therefore, am without sufficient length. I can, however, by this declaration, tell you the exact number of my Spades, and I expect you to make the best possible use of the exceptionally accurate information with which you are furnished."

As much care should be taken in selecting the correct declaration, when in doubt whether to bid two Spades or double one, as when determining whether to call a Royal or a Heart. Many a player doubles one Spade with five or six, headed by Knave, Ten, apparently never realizing that with such a hand he wishes the trump to be Royals, and yet, by his bid, is inviting his partner to call No-trump; or he bids two Spades with the Queen of Spades and a couple of Kings, and after his partner has declared a Royal, or doubled an adverse No-trump, counting on the announced Spade strength, says: "I realize I deceived you in the Spades, but I had two Kings about which you did not know."

That sort of a declarer makes it impossible for his partner to take full advantage of any sound bid he may make.

Every Second Hand bidder should remember that when he doubles one Spade or bids two, he tells his partner he has short or exactly four Spades, as the case may be; that he has not three suits stopped, and that his minimum high-card holding is one of the following combinations:—


Ace, King, Queen No strength required Ace, King Queen, Knave, and one other Ace, Queen King, Knave

Ace, Knave Ace, or King and Queen, or King, Knave, Ten

Ace Ace and King; Ace, Queen, Knave; or King, Queen, Knave

King, Queen Ace, or King and Queen, or King, Knave, Ten

King, Knave, Ten Ace, or King and Queen, or King, Knave, Ten

King, Knave Ace and King; Ace, Queen, Knave; or King, Queen, Knave

Queen, Knave, Ten Ace and King; Ace, Queen, Knave; or King, Queen, Knave

In order that the distinction between the various Second Hand Spade declarations may be clearly marked, take such a holding as

Spades Ace, King Hearts Three small Diamonds Four small Clubs Ace

Only ten cards are mentioned, and the remaining three are either Spades or Clubs.

When Making the The Second the missing number of Hand cards are Spades in the Hand should

All Clubs Two Double Two Clubs and one Spade Three Double One Club and two Spades Four Bid two Spades All Spades Five Bid one Royal

The method suggested above is not the only plan for distinguishing between the double of one and the bid of two Spades.

Some players think the double should mean a No-trump invitation, without any significance as to strength in the Spade suit, and two Spades should show two honors in Spades. The same comment applies to this as to a similar declaration by the Dealer; namely, that with the light No-trumpers now conventional, the invitation without Spade strength is unnecessary and possibly dangerous.

Those, however, who wish to have the privilege of issuing such an invitation, are not obliged to deprive themselves of the undoubted and material advantage of being able, when strong in Spades, to distinguish between a holding of short Spades (two or three) and of exactly four. They can convey to their partners that very important information by using the following system:—


Double of one Spade A No-trump invitation. No information as to Spade strength

Two Spades Short Spades with two high honors and one other trick

Three Spades Four Spades with two high honors and one other trick

Four Spades Same as bid of three Spades described immediately below

This system is entirely new, is somewhat complicated, and is suggested for what it is worth for those who wish, without Spade strength, to invite a No-trump.

As the bid of four Spades can be taken out by the partner with one Royal, the system is not subject to objection, on the ground that four Spades forces the partner to an unduly high declaration. The scheme is, as yet, merely an experiment, and of doubtful value except for the purpose of enabling a poor player to place with an expert partner the responsibility of the play.

It is not hereinafter referred to, but the suggestions made regarding Third and Fourth Hand bidding can be readily adapted to comply with its self-evident requirements.


The bid of three Spades when made by the Second Hand shows a holding of at least five (probably six) Spades, almost certainly without the Ace and probably without the King, but with some side strength. It says, "I want this hand played with Royals as the Trump, but I cannot bid that suit now, as I have not the requisite high-card holding. Either because the rest of my hand is so strong that I fear neither the Third Hand nor my partner can bid, or for some other good reason, I prefer now, rather than later, to give my partner all possible information."

[8] See page 123 as to how the partner should treat this declaration.

This system of bidding differentiates most accurately between the various lengths of Spade holdings and enables the partner to elect between No-trump and Royals, with an exact knowledge of the situation not otherwise obtainable.


When the Dealer has made an offensive declaration, the Second Hand must bear in mind that it is possible this may be his last opportunity to declare. A declaration under such circumstances being what is very properly termed "forced," is of a totally different character from the "free" declaration heretofore considered, and is not limited by any hard-and-fast rules as to the presence of certain cards. For example, should the Dealer bid one Royal, and the Second Hand hold seven Hearts, headed by Queen, Knave, he obviously must declare two Hearts; otherwise, even if the Fourth Hand hold the Ace and King of Hearts, and other strength, the declaration of one Royal might stand.

The principle is that an offensive bid having been made, the declaration of the player following does not of necessity show high cards, but does suggest the ability of the Declarer to successfully carry out the proposed contract.

When the Dealer has called a No-trump, the Second Hand is obliged either to pass, or declare two of some suit, or of No-trump. He must remember that against the Dealer's No-trump he is the leader, and as the information regarding his strong suit will be given to his partner by the first card played, it is not important that he convey it by a bid.

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