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How to bid 4-4-3-2 hands

edited November 2008 in All Things Bridge
Will somebody please tell me the correct order to bid hands with 2 four card suits that are too strong for 1NT.
Old Acol always bid 4 and 5 card suits downwards, making no distinction. In recent years we have been told to bid 4 card suits upwards and 5 card suits downwards, which seems a much better method as it gives more detailed information more quickly.
I have heard that the old method is making a comeback. I should love to know the up-to-date expert views on the subject. JackC


  • edited 7:55AM
    Bernard, in his new crib sheet just out (in Mr Bridge Library) says for "4-4" which can only be 4-4-3-2:
    "Bid the MAJOR. Both majors bid 1H. Both minors bid 1C".
  • edited 7:55AM
    Thamks for that HarryWMG. I read the crib sheet but , as ever with crib sheetsw, there were no reasons given. With 4-4 in Clubs and Spades opening 1C and rebidding 1S over a red suit response gets three suits bid at the one level, and prevents partner from having to bid 1NT over 1S with a weak unbalanced hand. It also means that when you open 1S your partner knows that practically all the time you have 5+ Spades and whenyou don't you have exactly 4,3,3,3 in a 15+ hand. The argument is similar with Hearts and a minir, though the inferences are not so clear-cut as 1H is opened with both 4 card majors as per crib sheet . I'd like some arguments for the crib sheet view.. jackc
  • edited 7:55AM
    Jack, unfortunately there are not enough experienced players participating in this forum at present. I had hoped that someone might have given an reasoned response to your comments, as I would also like to know the answers. I am only an "improver" and would also like to hear the arguments that support the crib sheet recommendations. Harry
  • edited 7:55AM
    You bid your spades first with 4 spades, 4 clubs and 15-19 points (12-14 if playing strong NT) because, 4-4-4-1 hands aside, a bid of two different suits shows at least a 5-4 hand. Your re-bid with a balanced 4-4-3-2 hand is a quantitative NT bid.

    Opening 1S allows you to show 4 spades, a balanced hand when you rebid in no trumps, and a rough idea of your point count. This allows partner to judge the strength of your combined hands quite easily.

    If you open 1C you either have to rebid in no trumps (not showing your spades) or rebid spades (showing a semi-balanced or non-balanced) hand. You could have any shape from 5-4-2-2 to 7-6-0-0. Your partner is also likely to be less sure of your point count.
  • edited 7:55AM
    Thanks Jonno, I think you have convinced me.

  • edited 7:55AM
    Where is this crib sheet?----Jonno response is a good guide,but to clarify,ply acol 1sp then rebid n/t's accordingly 2/3.
    but using sayc,15/17 n/t open 1cl and bid suits up if pard responds 1d (min 6 points)----regards
  • edited 7:55AM
    Come to think of it, if partner is weak his bid over 1S will be a catch-all 1NT which puts your hand on the table - possibly not a good idea.
    Moreover if I open a club it gives partner an opportunity to bid my doubleton which makes subsequent NT bids on my part a bit happier.

  • edited 7:55AM
    Funnily enough, I was looking at this question of bidding two 4 card suits today. I've always bid lower of two fours, higher of two fives. This has 2 real advantages: partner knows a spade opening will mean 5 cards 90% of the time, and when you open a major and rebid a minor, partner knows you always have 5 of the major, and so can go straight to losing trick count with 3 in support. If sometimes you bid the major first, partner cannot tell if you have 4 or 5. We find doing it that way helps a lot; also, we often go straight to losing trick count when spades are opened (say, with three spades including an honour), cutting the opponents out. The other alternatives I see mentioned on Acol guides make things more complicated, giving you much more to remember - I always believe in Keep It Simple, Stupid unless there is good reason to make it more difficult.

    I've been told this causes a problem if you open one 1D, partner replies 1S and you then can't bid your 4 card heart suit. But we never would want to: partner would have bid 1H if she had 4, so you won't be playing in hearts.

  • edited 7:55AM
    Thanks for all your comments. I've been experimenting with the options and I find I like bidding Clubs first with four Spades and four Clubs, though I admit partner is in temporary doubt about my strength. It has not led to the uncertainty I expected from Jonno's comments above.
    I see why 1H is preferred with four Diamonds and four Hearts. but opening 1D keeps the pattern and allows partner to support your minor, rather than bid 1NT.
    I like the idea that if you open 1S followed by a NT rebid partner knows you are exactly 4,3,3,3 with 15-16 points.
    The discussion will doubtless go on but at least we have given it an airing and perhaps clarified it a bit.
  • edited 7:55AM
    I generally prefer to open 1C with 4C-4S-3-2 hands and 15 or more points as it gives partner the opportunity to show a different 4 card suit at the one level. However, on two occasions recently my partner and I have missed good spade contracts because a two level intervening bid has disuaded my partner, with a not very strong hand, from showing a 4card spade suit at the two (or higher) level. Is this the best reason to open 1S in these circumstances ?
    gordon 99
  • edited 7:55AM
    1S locates a major suit fit quickly if there is one. It also stops your opponents making a red suit overcall at the one level. Generally Majors are more important.
  • edited April 2012
    with a 4-4 major/minor I would always open the major.
    with a 4-4 major, open 1 heart, this way you will never miss a spade fit, because if partner has 4+ spades they will bid them keeping the bidding at the 1 level rather than bidding a longer minor at the 2 level.
  • edited 7:55AM
    Going back to Jeremy's comment, his partner could have made a negative double which would have shown 4 Spades and solved the problem.

  • edited 7:55AM
    If you play Acol which is a 4-card major system then you should open the major given a choice. If you consistently open a minor it would be better to formally adopt 5-card major openings. It is a perfectly acceptable solution to play 5-card majors and a weak NT and this is gaining ground.
  • edited 7:55AM

    I disagree with the last comment.  If you always bid two 4-card suits upwards you don't need to play 5-card majors, with their "convenience?" minor suit bids.  The only time an opening 1S woould not be a 5-card suit is with exactly 4,3,3,3 distribution and a strength more than 14 ( presuming a weak NT system).  It's not quite so good for Hearts as a 4 card suit would be bid with both majors if again too strong for 1NT, and with a singleton Club in 4441 hands.  In effect bidding 5 card majors most of the time without having to give up the usefulness of 4 card majors is great.  It is easy to remember and don't forget you can often make 11 tricks in a 4-4 fit while only 10 are available in a 5-3 fit.



  • edited 7:55AM

    Ok Jack.  You hold a 2-4-4-3 16 count and pd has a 5-4-2-2 6 count.   You open 1D pd bids 1S and you rebid 1NT.  Is pd going to dare to rebid 2H with his 6hcp? Is there not a risk that you will misinterpret his strength?     I bid 1H, pd raises to 2H and we find the fit straightaway.  Wohoo, a success for 4-card majors, when you open the major first!  My rule bid with 4-4s: bid the major before the minor, hearts before spades, clubs before diamonds.


    Ned P

  • edited 7:55AM

    I agree that there is no point in playing 4-card majors if you are not going to use them and agree with Ned (majors before minors hearts before spades).

    But I am curious why it should be preferablo open one club with 4-4 in the minors. I can't think of a holding where it would make a difference (you are always going to rebid 1NT even if partner responds one diamond).

    I have been advised in the past to open the weaker suit in order to obtain a more favourable lead against our eventual no trump contract! But I suspect that any such agreement with partner would need to be on your convention card (and alerted?). What are your thoughts?

  • edited July 2013
    No great preference between 1C/1D but pd occasional wants to raise clubs.  Pretty well everyone is onto the 'weaker suit' thing and you are right, if it is structural then it should be on your convention card.   Usually though partner is the last person to fall in - and when you lose the bidding and partner is on lead, partner will enthusiastically lead you weak suit - and lead it again when next gaining the lead!   Doesn't quite feel so clever then.
  • edited 7:55AM
    *The only time an opening 1S woould not be a 5-card suit is with exactly
    4,3,3,3 distribution and a strength more than 14 ( presuming a weak NT
    system). *

    Most Acol players open these 1C.
  • edited 7:55AM
    'Most', Daisy?   That's a matter of opinion. It's almost like a religion.  With four clubs and four spades some open 1S and believe this to be the 'correct' way; some open 1C and swear by this. In either case the players concerned will go the grave spitting on the other side's opinion.  My own view?  Why bother to play 4-card majors at all if you don't open a major when you've got one.  With a balanced hand your rebid is going to be NTs anyway and never 1S. 
  • edited 7:55AM

    JackC The whole point of bidding 1C with 4 2 3 4 hands is that you will bid 1S over a red suit response, thus showing a probable 4 4 distribution (could have 5 clubs) thus denying 5 spades and avoiding partner having to make a useless unbalanced 1NT response to a 1S opener which could be 4 or 5 cards long.  Bidding two suits upwards has no implication that the first suit is 5 cards

    It doesn't matter much which suit you open with clubs and diamonds but 1C keeps the pattern and is less likely to miss a fit,


  • edited 7:55AM

    A fundamental principle of Acol is that we try to describe
    the nature of the hand at the earliest opportunity. In this case the
    fundamental information that we need to tell is whether the hand is balanced or
    unbalanced. With a balanced hand we either open 1NT if the hand is within our
    range (12-14) or open a suit and bid no trumps at the first rebid (15+). With
    an unbalanced hand we open a suit and either rebid the suit or bid a new suit
    at our second turn.


    If you choose to open 1♣ and rebid 1♠ with a 4-4 shape you
    are not just deceiving partner about your club length (you have promised at
    least five), but have also wrongly told your partner that you have an
    unbalanced hand.
    This will be bad enough in an uncontested auction, but if
    your opponents compete your partner will be poorly placed to judge whether to
    bid on or defend. Partner will often wrongly choose to bid on, expecting you to
    hold a distributional hand.


    Hands with a 4-4 shape are balanced hands. You should only
    planning to make one suit bid before bidding no trumps and should choose to bid
    the major suit, since playing in an eight-card major suit fit is usually preferred.


    This really is modern Acol – see the English
    Bridge Union’s Standard English Acol:
  • edited 7:55AM
    If I have the required opening points and a four card heart suit, I will always open 1H.  Because if I don't show it now, my partner will never know I have one, simple.  This gives him the chance to bid 1S should he have a spade suit, or 1NT if his point count is low i.e. 6-9.
    If he bids a 2, whatever,  I assume he has applied the count of 14 before bidding it.
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