Opener's Rebid

By Philip S. Smith


1. Summary of bids so far

In ‘the basics of bridge’ we covered the concepts that were required to play the game. These included Counting up points, making opening bids, responding, making overcalls, leading and scoring up. I will now go on to Openers re-bid and responding to overcalls. But first a summery on the bids we know about so far…


  • 1♣ ♠ – 12-20 pts, longest suit
  • 1NT – 12-14 pts, balanced
  • 2♣ - 20+ pts unbalanced or 23+ any hand
  • 2, , ♠, - 5-9 pts 6 card suit
  • 2NT-  20-22 pts, balanced
  • 3♣ ♠ - 5-9 pts 7 card suit

Responding to openers 1♣ ♠:

  • 4-card (or better) support:
    • 6-9 pts raise to 2
    • 10-12 pts raise to 3
  • No support:
    • 6+ pts – new suit
    • 6-9 pts – 1NT
    • 9+ - new suit at 2 level

Responding to openers 1NT:

  • 0-10 pts:
    • pass, 2, , ♠
    • 11-12 pts: 2NT
    • 11+ pts - 2♣ (Staymann)
    • 11+ pts – 3 Level bid (forcing)


  • 10+ pts, five-card suit – simple overcall
  • 15-17 pts, balanced, stops: 1NT
  • 12+ pts, shortage in oppo’s suit: Double
  • 5-9 pts, 6 card suit – weak jump overcall

Leads: top of a sequence, 4th to an honour, top of doubleton, MUD.

I shall now assume that you have played bridge a few times and are familiar with the mechanics of the game. If there’s anything that you’re not sure about, consult the ‘basics’.

2. Opener's Rebids

So you’ve made a bid, your partner has responded and it’s back to you. But what are you going to do? And what are you trying to achieve? I will out line the strategies for re-biding by appealing to reasoning and considering what’s actually going on at the table, rather than generating a series of rules that are to be learned and followed. There are one thing that I do need to insist on from the out set, namely: you don’t in general bid a suit twice unless it contains 5 or more cards.

2.1. The Support Auction

2.1.1. Major Suit Supported to the Two Level

The bidding goes:

You - Partner
1 - 2

And now what?

Well before we even consider and specific hands that we might have, let’s think about what’s we are trying to achieve in bidding on (or passing). We want to end up in a game contract: 3NT, 4/♠ or 5♣/. As both partner and ourselves have hearts, it seams reasonable that 4 is our desired contract, if we can get there. But when should we bid it and when should we refrain? Well we know that in general 25 points will be required for 4 to be a good contract. We also know that partner has 6-9 points. This means that if we have 15 or fewer points we should never be in game (15+9=24) and with 19 or more points we should always bid game (19+6=25). With 16-18pts, bidding game will depend on partners holding.

OK, some hands:

♠ K Q 4
A Q 9 7 2
Q J 3
♣ K 8
♠ 8 6
A K J 7 3
Q T 6
♣ K 9 6
♠ A Q 8 7
A K T 7
5 3
♣ K J 5

And the auction was as above. What do you bid? On hand a), we have 17 high card points and a five card heart suit. Partner has 4 (or more) hearts and 6-9 points. This leaves us with a combined 23-26 point count. In other words, we might like to play in 4 or we might not, depending on what our partner has. As we have a five-card heart suit, we bid 3 hearts.

On hand b) we have 13 points and five hearts – a combined total of 19-22. This is barely half the points in the pack! Clearly 4 is not going to be a sensible contract, so we may as well just pass.

On hand c) we have 17 points (combined 23-26) but we have only four hearts. We want to look for a game, and that game in almost certainly hearts, however we don’t re-bid four card suits. This may seam odd as we know we have a heart fit, but think about this for a moment: partner already knows you have a four card heart suit and doesn’t need to be told again. He may well be interested in our four card spade suit however. The best bid will be 2 spades. This is forcing (you’ve already agreed to play in hearts) but it also tells your partner that you hold a nice four-card spade suit and you're looking for a game contract.

Not entirely unreasonable on hand c: would be a 2NT bid – you have a balanced hand and your looking for a game contract holding exactly four hearts. This bid would be more appropriate on a hands like:

♠ A 4
A Q 9 2
Q J 3 2
♣ K J 8
♠ K 8 6
A J 7 3
A Q 6
♣ K 9 6

With hand a: the weak four card diamond suit is worth overlooking, especially as you hold an ace in the shortest suit. With hand b: you have no choice but to bid 2NT as you have no other biddable suit. 

2.1.2. Major Suit Supported to the Three Level

You - Partner
1 - 3

Working on the same principles that applied to the 1- 2 auction when should you bid game and when should you settle for a pass?

Partner has 10-12 points this time
you are looking for a combined 25 or more
so 10+15=25, 12+13=25

You can’t invite to game this time, but the general rule will be that with 14 points you will be worth a raise to game, while with 13 you might be a little light. This is one situation that you can bid a 4 card suit again.

2.1.3. Minor Suit Supported

So the auction goes like this:

You - Partner
1♣ - 2♣

And it’s back to you… now what. You may think that this will be very similar to the situation when your heart or spade bid was raised, but there is a very major difference. To make game in a minor requires 5♣ or 5 to come home. This requires more like 28 points between you and your partner – though it may come down to not loosing 3 tricks rather than winning 11. The other issue is the fact that 3NT is also a game contract and that this only requires 9 tricks to make. The simple fact of the matter is that when 5♣/ is making then usually so is 3NT. For this reason auctions that involve a minor suit being supported have to be treated very differently from those that involve a major suit.

First of all, your partner should not have supported your suit if he held a good 4 card major suit. So if you held:

a: b:
♠ 7 4
A Q 9 2
Q 6 3 2
♣ 9 8 5
♠ T 8 6
9 2
A Q 6 5
♣ K 9 6 3

And your partner opened 1, then with hand a) you should bid 1 rather than supporting with 2. With hand b) you would raise either a 1♣ or 1 opening to the two level.

If your partner has supported your minor suit, then that is no reason that you are going to play in that minor at some level: it is your duty to try and work out if 3NT is a reasonable contract. So let’s look as some hands.

a: b: c:
♠ K Q
K T 9
A Q T 3
♣ K 9 8 5
♠ 8 4
K Q J 3
K J 7 6 3
♣ A K
♠ Q J 5 3
A K J 8 4
♣ K Q 5

And the bidding was:

You - Partner
1 - 2

Three hands, each with 17 points. Each time your partner has supported your diamonds. Had this been a major suit then you would be sailing head long towards 4 major, especially on b and c. But it isn’t – your partner has 6-9 points and diamond support. What now? Well count up the points: 17+6=23. 17+9=27. 3NT could be there, 5 looks a long way off. So what shall we bid?

Hand a) is balanced. So you have a diamond fit… So What?! Bid 2NT as an invitation to 3NT. If partner has a good hand for his support (8-9 points) he will probably bid 3NT, otherwise he will probably plump for 3. (Note: if your not going to bid game, you should play in you best fit part score rather than no-trumps.)

Hand b) has 5 diamonds, so with partners support we have a huge diamond fit. But you don’t have a shortage for trumping, so your hand is semi-balanced: do you really want to give up on 3NT? The answer is no, though your spade holding is less than inspiring, so bidding NT yourself is a little foolhardy. Why no try 2? Partner could have some big spades, in which case he may be able to bid no-trumps, and if not all that will happen is that you will end up in 3!

Hand c) contains a very nice diamond suit that partner has supported and a single heart, so you’ll be able to trump in that suit. So surly this is a situation where we want to go for game in diamonds if we can. The point that I am now labouring is that you should never underestimate just how difficult a sound 5♣/ contract is to find, and you should always consider 3NT. Why not bid 2♠, tell your partner about your side suit, and if he is able to bid no-trumps (or support spades – you never know) it’s still probably better to try 3NT if partner has some big hearts. Of course there are risks in bidding no trumps with unbalanced hands, and if you don’t reach game you’ll be better of going back to diamonds.

OK, so if you picked up something like:

♠ A J
A T 9 8 6 3 2
♣ A K J

No-one would be to surprised if you chose 5 over 3NT. But then how often do you get hands like that?

2.2. No Support Auction

And so we come to the hard part (that support section was a little too straight forward after all). When partner supports he has shown us both a point range and something of his distribution (i.e. 4 cards in your suit). When the bidding goes:

You - Partner
1 - 1

Then you have no idea about his strength (well it’s 6 or more points) and 4 or more hearts. For this reason you have to keep the bidding open at all costs – if partner has 15 points he won’t be amused if you pass – but we also need to tell partner useful information about our hand. And let’s never forget our aim: we want one of those game contracts 3NT, 4/♠, (5♣/), and if they are not a realistic proposition, then we want to stop bidding at the lowest (sensible) opportunity.

So what might we hold if the auction proceeds as above? Well if we have support for partner’s hearts (4 cards) we can raise his suit. 

2.2.1. Support for Partner

With a weak opening hand – 15 or less points – you simply raise you partner’s suit, with a good hand you jump raise you partner’s suit. So with:

a: b:
♠ K 4
A Q 9 2
K J 6 3 2
♣ 9 8
♠ A K
J 9 7 3
A K J 8 7
♣ Q 6

a) is worth a raise to 2 hearts while hand b) is worth a jump to 3 hearts. Remember that partner could have 6 points, and he could have 16. The one thing that he definitely will have a another bid, so you can trust him to keep on biding if he has a good hand.

2.2.2. No Support for Partner

OK, so partner doesn’t have your suit, and you don’t have his. What now? Well the first principle of good bidding practice is that you have a planed re-bid when you open the bidding. (Yes I know, I didn’t mention that earlier on, but if you’ve obeyed the rules for opening bids you’ll have a re-bid now). There are three possibilities:

  • Bid No-trumps
  • Re-bid Your five card or longer suit
  • Bid a new four card (or longer) suit

We’ll take each of these situations in turn

No-trump rebid

The bidding goes:

You - Partner
1 - 1♠

And you hold:

a: b:
♠ A 4 3
A 9 2
Q J 3 2
♣ K J 8
♠ K J
Q J 7 3
A K J 6
♣ K 9 6

Holding hand a) you have 15 points and a balanced hand. Had you held only 14 points you would have opened 1NT, but with this hand you opened 1 and now expect to bid No-trumps. A minimum No-trump bid will show 15-17 points.

Holding hand b) you will still want to bid No-trumps, but you have a very nice hand (18pts) and so you should jump to 2NT. This will show 18-19 pts. Remember our aim is to reach a game call - 3NT for example - and that will require a combined 25 count. Partner could have only 6 points and 18+6=24, so forcing to game (ie by bidding 3NT yourself) is not recommended. If partner has more that 6pts he will bid game himself. Notice that on hand b: you could have bid hearts instead of no-trumps, since you have four cards in the heart suit: the problem with this is that had your partner held four hearts himself he would probably have bid 1 in preference to 1♠ at his first bid, so it is very unlikely that you have a heart fit.

Re-bidding Your Opening Suit

The auction proceeds

You - Partner
1 - 2♣

And you hold:

a: b:
♠ A 9 4
A Q J 9 2
J 3
♣ K Q 3
♠ 9 8 6
A Q J 9 8 3
Q 6
♣ K 9 6

With hand a: you have a nice 5-card suit and 17 points. You can re-bid you five card suit but to what level? If you simply bid 2 hearts your partner will think that you have only a weak opening hand: You could remove an Ace from this hand and still bid in this way. To put partner in the picture you should bid 3 - showing a strong opening hand (16+ points) and a good 5+ card heart suit. [With a 5-3-3-2 distribution, a weaker suit, and 15-17 points, you might consider the merit of 2NT]

With hand b: you have a 6-card heart suit and 12 points. Again you should re-bid hearts, but this time your hand is weak so a simple re-bid of you suit is all that is called for. Bid 2.

An important point that comes from this is that when re-bidding your own suit – just as when you support your partners suit – you should tell partner how strong your hand is, rather than focusing too closely on the length of your suit.

Bidding a New Suit 

Say you pick up one of the following hands: 

a: b: c:
♠ K 6 4
A Q T 6 3
♣ K J 6 5
♠ 8
K8 7 3
A Q T 6 3
♣ K 9 6
♠ A
A K T 7
A K 9 8 4
♣ J T 5

And the Auction proceeds:

You - Partner
1 - 1♠

If you held hand a) then you would bid 2♣ over partner’s 1♠. Yes, you could bid 2 as you have a five card suit, but it’s usually better to bid a new four card suit that to re-bid your five card suit if you can. The reason for this is that when you bid a new suit in this way your first suit will usually have a five cards in it anyway. Why? Well if you have only four cards in your longest suit then your hand is likely to be balanced and so you will have bid no-trumps. [NB:There is always the possibility of the 4-4-4-1 distribution, though this doesn’t come up all that often!] Therefore, the implication of bidding a new suit is that you probably hold five cards in your first suit.

Hands b) and c) have to be considered together as they illustrate a major problem that can arise. Hand b) has 12 points and 4 hearts and 5 diamonds. Hand c) has 19 points and a similar distribution. What should be bid on each of these hands? Well here we must introduce the concept of a reverse. If, as opener, you re-bid is higher than 2 of your opening bid, then you have reversed and shown a strong hand. I.E. in this case the opening bid was 1, and so if your re-bid is higher then 2 you will have reversed and shown a strong hand. Looking at hands b: and c: it is clear that while hand c: is a strong opening hand (16+ points, it’s actually 19 points) and can therefore bid 2 hearts, hand b: is rather weak as so cannot bid 2 hearts. What should hand b: bid then? Well he will simply have to re-bid his 5-card diamond suit.

The reasoning behind the reversing rules are as follows: If your partner has to pick between your two suits and you reverse, he will have to go to the three level to pick your first. In the two cases above, this would mean bidding 3 over 2. Remember partner could have 6 points and he probably doesn’t have four hearts (or he would probably have bid hearts at his first turn), so forcing him to bid at the 3 level with a weak 12 point hand would be madness. Far better to simply tell you partner that you have a weak hand by making a minimum re-bid of your first suit.

To reverse and show a strong hand sometimes requires a jump in the bidding. Consider the following hands:

a: b: c:
♠ A K 6 4
A K J 7 2
♣ Q J T
♠ 8
K 7
A K T 5 4
♣ A K T 6 3
♠ 3
K 7
Q J 7 5 4
♣ A K J T 5

And an auction that goes:

You - Partner
1 - 1

Hand a) is a strong hand (18 points) with a five card suit and a single heart. What are you going to bid? Well 1♠ is an option, but that isn’t forcing, so why not reverse into 2♠? [NB: OK so it’s virtually never going to get pass out, especially if game is on. For those learning bridge I believe there is virtue in making bids that actually describe the strength of the hands – biding as naturally as possible. I concede the theoretically dubious nature of jumping into a four card suit, but believe that weaker players are more likely to miss games by messing about with miscellaneous “I’m not sure what that means” auctions than pointing out in bold letters that they have a game try, even if on the odd occasion this end up in the wrong strain. ] It’s higher that 2, it’s forcing, and it will give partner a strong message that your looking for a game contract. If you remove one of the kings from this hand then you would settle for 1♠.

Hand b) is also a strong hand, this time with 2 five-card suits. You could bid two clubs, but why not reverse into 3♣ and tell you partner about your strong two suited hand.

Hand c) differs from hand b) in one important respect: namely it has only 14 points and so is not strong enough to reverse. Simply bid 2♣ and let your partner choose between your two suits. Remember, if he’s got a good hand then he’ll keep on bidding, while if he has a very poor hand then you’ll find 2♣ or 2 a challenging contract. 

2.2.3. Partner’s response was 1NT!

This is a situation that many beginners seam to have difficulty with. Usually because bidding no-trumps with unbalanced hands seams wrong, and what if they have to play it in 1NT? Well if opener is on the ball then this should only happen if it’s a reasonable bet. Imagine, as opener you hold:

♠ Q 6
A T 8 7 4
  9 8
♣ A Q 9 8

 This bidding goes:

You - Partner
1   –    1NT

And it’s back to you. To re-bid to this in a sensible way you have to appreciate what the 1NT bid means. It shows 6-9 points, and any hand that hasn’t got 4 hearts or 4 Spades. It should also deny 3 good hearts. So any of the following hands might have responded 1NT in the above auction:

a: b: c:
♠ J 5 4
9 6
J 7 5 2
♣ K J T 6

♠ 8 7 2
K J T 5 4 3
♣ T 7 3

♠ A 7 3
9 6 2
7 5
♣ K J T 6 5

In each case all that the 1NT bid showed was 6-9 and nothing much in the majors. Notice however that on the auction:

You - Partner
1 - 1NT 

Only hand c) would have bid 1NT – the others would have found 2 bids. Therefore over 1, a 1NT response shows a weak hand with at least 4 clubs and no other 4-card suit, while over 1, a 1NT response shows a weak hand with one or both minor suits. Over 1♠, a 1NT rebid shows a weak hand that doesn’t have spades. (Yes that’s all you know!) But what should opener do when he sees a 1NT bid? Well, basically he should make his planed rebid. In this case the bid would be 2♣ - a new 4 card suit, lower than 2 of the first suit bid. Hands a) and c) of the three sample hands above, will be delighted to hear this. Hand b) will be able to bid his diamond suit, and that’s as good a spot to play as any.

Opener needs to remember then just two things. Firstly, partner may well be desperate to play in a suit contract, in spite of the bid. Secondly, partner has a weak hand, so to go towards game requires a good hand from opener. This means that and non-reverse in NOT forcing, and any response from partner is also NOT forcing. What might you do if you held:

a: b:
♠ A 9 4
A J 9 6 2
K 3
♣ K Q 3

♠ K 8 6
A J 9 8 3
♣ A Q T 6

Well, you know that partner has 6-9 and no enthusiasm for the majors.

Hand a) has 17 points and a 5-3-3-2 distribution. Is game on?

17+6=23   17+9=26

So maybe, maybe not: we need an invitational bid, and given the hand is balanced, why not bid 2NT? - If partner wants to run away to either minor, then he can do so now. Otherwise he might try 3NT, or just pass the hand at 2NT. 

Hand b) has 18 points and is also distributional, so is certainly worth a game try. What to bid? Clubs would be good, however since 2♣ is not forcing, the bid to make is 3♣

2.3. Summarising

  • If partner supports your first suit you know his strength. Add up the possible combined strength as work out if game is, or might be, on.
  • If it’s a minor suit he’s supported, consider no-trumps if you think game might be on.
  • If your supporting your partner or planning to re-bid your own 5+ card suit then think about whether your hand is strong (around 16+ points) or weak (15 or less points) and either raise or jump raise
  • When bidding your own second suit, remember that if your re-bid is higher that two of your original bid, then you are reversing and are showing a strong hand. This action is forcing.
  • When re-bidding no-trumps a simple bid raise shows 15-16 points and a jump raise shows 17-18 points.
  • When partner has bid 1NT, this does not mean he nessecarily wants to play in a no trump contract, all he has is 6-9. Find your planed re-bid and bare in mind that you’ll need quite a lot for game to make.