Goulash bidding

‘Goulash’ bridge --- wild extreme hands ---  are dealt to be tough!

These are the kind of hands you might get: you are dealer, what would you open as dealer, and why?


In the second hand, your partner is dealer and opens the bidding with 1♠, and the player to your right bids 5♦. You bid 6♣ and the player to your left bids 6♦. This is passed back to you. What do you do?


Full hands are further down this page, as are some tips on Goulash bidding.

Hand one

Open high or low, that’s the question! As North on the first hand your options include a modest 1♠, a pushy 2♣, a shaky 2♦ multi, 4♠, or maybe something else like a 1♣ psyche!

West is likely to chime in with the big suited minors perhaps with 4NT or ♦ followed by ♣ (or ♣ then ♦), at which point EW may punt for 6♣ or 7♣.

So the benefit of a slow open is a chance to find the ♥ fit early, however it opens the door for West to push both ♦ and ♣.

Expect some big swing scores, anything from 7♥  making NS for 2210, 2470 doubled or 2940 redoubled, or EW making 6♣ for -920 or one off in 7♣ doubled for -100.

- NS vulnerable AK43
- Dealer N 10
K1095432 Almost anything Q76
AKQ763 could happen J10854

Hand two

The second hand comes from the TGR Club in London, once run by the late member Lionel Wright and his wife Anisia Shami. West doubled 6♦ and eventually leads his partner’s suit, Q♠.  Can you see how West makes 6♦X?

Q4   KJ108763
A Dealer W KQJ
Q How to make -
AKJ987543 6X? Q106

 (Tip: it is all about forcing one hand to be on lead).

About goulash hand bidding

In goulash dealing some players adjust their bidding to accommodate the anticipated wildness of the hand, but of course it is up to you to decide! Some examples of guidelines are:

  • Only five-card suits may be bid
  • Weak balanced hands (in 12-15 high card points range) are passed rather than opened
  • Pre-emptive openings are forbidden; instead, a high-level opening bid denotes the exact number of tricks the hand possesses
  • Conventions are highly reduced, as opponents will often interfere and break up the subtle information exchange
  • Doubles behind a bidder are for penalties, where they would usually be for take-out

Others use opening bids to identify aces or two-suited hands, or have other conventional meanings that aid in determining whether to bid or double in competition: almost inevitably there will be plenty of competitive bids.

Information about distribution may more useful than information about points. The ideas below may not be helpful but might stimulate the brain: 

  • Use pass to show any balanced hand regardless of range
  • Use NT bids as pre-empts. This bid will show some kind of shapely hand, but deny constructive values
  • Use suit bids to show specific hands, but show values
  • 3H would show a constructive two suiter (5/5 or better) with hearts and another suit
  • 3S shows a constructive two suiter with spades and a minor
  • 3N shows a bad 4 level preempt in either major
  • 4C shows a good hand with clubs and a 4 card major
  • 4D shows a good hand with 6+ diamonds and a 4 card major
  • 4H shows a good hand with hearts
  • 4S shows a good hand with spades
  • 4N shows a good 5 level preempt in either minor
  • 5C shows both minors

Take all of this with a bucket-load of salt!