Standard American

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Standard American is a common bidding system for the game of bridge in the United States, also widely used in the rest of the world. This system, or a slight variant, is learned first by most beginners in the U.S. Most advanced or expert players in the U.S. play a variant of 2/1 game forcing.


Role of bidding systems

The purpose of bidding is to exchange information with your partner so that you can arrive at an optimal contract, while preventing the opponents from finding their optimal contract. A bidding system is a set of agreements about the meanings of the different bids that the players can make during the auction phase of each hand. Bids are generally defined in terms of the hand's suit distribution and strength. In Standard American, strength is evaluated by the high card point method, with adjustments for distribution. Most beginners rigidly follow point count requirements, but experts will make adjustments based on their hand and the bidding so far.


"Standard American" was the label given to the bridge bidding system developed by Charles Goren in the 1940s. This system was the first to employ the point-count method to evaluate the strength of a bridge hand. Most bids had fairly specific requirements regarding hand strength and suit distribution. The Goren point-count system became so popular that nearly all bridge players in the United States, social and tournament players alike, used it. American bridge teams won world championships using Goren's Standard American.

Modifications began to appear from the 1960s forward. By the year 2000, some completely new bidding systems had evolved, including "Precision Club" and "2/1 Game Forcing" which, although still relying on point-count rules for hand evaluation, are otherwise substantial departures from the early Goren system. Most tournament pairs now assemble their own system from a variety of new treatments and conventions that have evolved. The nearest thing to a common system in tournament play is the "Standard American Yellow Card" (SAYC) promulgated by the American Contract Bridge League. SAYC is widely used in internet bridge play, but only rarely in on-site tournament play.

There is no longer a universally recognized standard for social/rubber bridge players. However generally they follow the rules described in Standard American 21, The Rubber Bridge Players Guide for the Twenty-first Century by John Sheridan Thomas.

The essential common elements of modern Standard American systems are:

  • A hand-strength requirement of at least 12-13 points to open 1-of-a-suit.
  • Five-card majors: opening a major suit promises at least a five-card holding in that suit.
  • Weak two bids: Two diamond, heart or spade openers are made with a sound six-card suit in a hand without enough overall strength to open 1 of the suit.
  • Strong two clubs: All unbalanced hands too strong to open at the one-level are opened with an artificial 2♣ call, as well as balanced hands stronger than 22 HCP (unless opener has the right strength for a 3NT opening bid).

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