Standard American

Standard American

Standard American (also Standard American Yellow Card, abbreviated SAYC) 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 elements of StdAm21 are:

* Five-card majors: opening a major suit promises at least a five-card suit.

* Weak two bids: Two diamond, heart or spade openers are made with a strong six-card suit without enough 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 2Clubs call, as well as balanced hands stronger than 21 HCP (unless opener has the right strength for a 3NT opening bid).

* Pre-emptive openers: All suit openers above the two level are pre-emptive, promising a long and strong suit.

* Notrump openers show a balanced hand (see note 1 below), with the following point ranges:
** 1 NT = 15-17 HCP
** 2 NT = 20-21 HCP
** 3 NT = 25-27 HCP Note 1: Some experts, notably Marty Bergen and John S. Thomas, strongly advise opening 1 NT also with a five-card major in preference to the major, arguing that the notrump choice produces better results considerably more often than 50% of the time.

* Notrump conventions include Stayman, Jacoby transfers and Gerber.

Opener approximate hand strengths

* 12- points: Normally pass unless opener has the right cards for a pre-emptive bid.

* 13-15 points: Hands of 13 points or more are strong enough to open the bidding. Follow up with a call that shows a maximum of 15 points (or does not show more than the minimum opening range).

* 16-18 points: A hand in this range is strong enough to open the bidding and bid again freely. This range may be defined accurately by making a reverse bid (forcing) after opening.

* 19-21 points: Opener shows this strength by a jump shift or by jumping to 2NT after opening a minor suit. This call is forcing to game. Having such accurate information (the jump shift shows 19 to 21 points, a five-card suit and a four-card suit) responding partner should be able to place the final contract.

* 22+ points: Normally a hand this strong should open either a strong 2Clubs (conventional), or 3NT (25-27 HCP).

Responder approximate hand strengths

Assuming partner has opened 1 of a suit:

* 0-5 points: A hand in this range should pass.

* 6-9 points: This is a minimum response hand, which should always respond (minimally) when partner opens.

* 10-11 points: This is known as invitational strength. When partner opens the bidding, this hand should bid in a manner that is recognized by partner as inviting to game.

* 12+ points: If partner opens and you hold a hand in this range, the partnership has sufficient strength for game in notrump or a major suit (25 points) and you should press on to game whenever a suitable contract can be found. With very strong hands, responder can make a jump shift response on the first turn to suggest interest in slam.


*"Standard American 21" by John Sheridan Thomas, ISBN 1-4120-2063-8

External links

* [ Standard American Yellow Card] by the American Contract Bridge League

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