Opening Bids

Here we can practise basic Acol opening bids.

One Level Openings

You must open all hands with 12 or more high card points (hcp). You can also open at the one-level with 10 or 11 points if the hand satisfies the rule of 20.

If you are balanced, bid as follows:

Points Bidding Plan
0-11 Pass. Hopefully partner will show a suit you can support.
12-14 Open 1NT
15-17 Open a suit, planning to rebid in NT
18-19 Open a suit, planning to jump rebid in NT
20-22 Open 2NT
23+ Open 2♣, planning to rebid in NT

If you are opening a suit, and have less than 20 hcp, open your longest suit. Don't worry too much about the strength of the suit, it is the shape that counts. When you have equal longest suits:

With two four card suits, bid the lowest first (leaving room for partner to bid your higher suit at the 1-level).

With two five card suits, bid the highest first.

With three four card suits (4-4-4-1), if there are three suits in a row (a black singleton), open the middle suit, otherwise (a red singleton) open the suit below the gap:
  4441   4414   4144   1444.

Strong Opening Hands

With at least 20 hcp and a 5-card suit or better, open 2♣, planning to rebid the suit.

With a balanced 20-22 hcp, open 2NT

With a balanced 23-24 hcp, open 2♣, planning to rebid 2NT.

With a balanced 25+ hcp, open 2♣, planning to rebid 3NT.

More information: NZ Bridge Lesson: Strong Openings

Pre-emptive openings

With less than an opening hand, you might still be able to open the bidding if you have a long suit. The objective is to take bidding space away from the opponents.

With a good 6-card suit in !D, !h, or ♠, and 6-10 hcp, open your suit at the 2-level: 2!D, 2!H, or 2♠

With a good 7-card suit in ♣ !d, !h, or ♠, and 6-10 hcp, open your suit at the 3-level: 3!C, 3!D, 3!H, or 3!S

How good should it be? This is a matter for partnership agreement. In the exercises below we assume your pre-empts are sound - reasonable high-card strength in your long suit.

What are good features for your pre-empt? Holding intermediate cards in your suit (10, 9, 8, 7); having a singleton or void; being not vulnerable vs. vulnerable opponents; being in first or third position.

What are bad features in a pre-empt? High cards in side suits; a side 4-card major suit (even a 3-card major may mean you lose a major fit); being vulnerable; being in second position.

Does vulnerability matter? Yes. A common guideline is The Rule of 2 and 3: calculate how many tricks you think you can take in your own hand, and, if vulnerable, add 2, and if not vulnerable, add 3, to calculate the level to bid to.

More information: NZ Bridge Lesson: Pre-emptive Openings

You can practise opening bids on the hand below...


Rule of 20

You should always open the bidding with 12+ high card points. You can also open the bidding with slightly fewer than 12 points when you have a shapely hand. Use the Rule of 20—which states that you can open when your high card points added to the number of cards in your two longest suits adds to at least 20. But you don't need to all that adding—just use these shortcuts:

With 12 hcp or more: always open

With 11 hcp: open if your shape is 5-4 or better

With 10 hcp: open if your shape is 6-4 or 5-5 or better

You can use your discretion not to open shapely hands if your long suits are short in high cards.

Balanced Hand

Balanced hands are these shapes:




In other words, no singleton or void, and at most one doubleton.

In the Acol bidding system, when you are 5-3-3-2 and your 5-card suit is a major, you open in the major rather than NT.