The Happy Club


  1. Summary of Opening Bids
  2. General Agreements
  3. The 1C Opening
  4. The 1D Opening
  5. The 1H and 1S Openings
  6. The 1NT Opening
  7. The 2C Opening
  8. Preemptive Openings
  9. Opponents Open One of a Suit
  10. Opponents Open 1NT
  11. Opponents Preempt
  12. Opponents Open an Artificial Bid
  13. Slam Conventions
  14. Carding Agreements
  15. Hand Evaluation
  16. Glossary and Abbreviations

Summary Of Opening Bids

The 1C Opening

This bid shows either 16-19 or 22+ balanced, or an unbalanced hand with 16+ HCP or 8+ tricks. 1D is an artificial negative; other responses are mostly natural positives and are forcing to game. The schedule of responses is as follows:

If the opponents interfere with our strong club,...................

General Agreements

As of 2/20/00, this section is basically identical to the corresponding section in the Standard Happy system notes, except that the section on reverses has been deleted

General Agreements- Uncontested Auctions

Fourth Suit Forcing

A fourth-suit bid is artificial and game-forcing (with one exception; see below), and expresses doubt about strain. Opener should make a descriptive bid, such as rebidding a long suit, bidding NT with a stopper in the fourth suit, or preference to responder's first suit with three-card support. Opener may raise the fourth suit with four cards.

The one exception is the auction 1C : 1D :: 1H : 1S. Opener should treat the 1S bid as natural and forcing for one round only.


Splinters are typically double jump-shifts after an opening bid, promising four-card support, a singleton or void in the suit bid, and game-forcing strength.

2/1 Auctions

A 2/1 response by an unpassed hand is game-forcing, with one exception, the auction 1D : 2C. Because of the huge number of possible auctions, most of which are fairly natural, we have few specific agreements but many general rules:

General Agreements- Contested Auctions

The following agreements apply in all auctions where we open one of a suit and the opponents have the chutzpah to butt in.

In competitive auctions, all jump raises are preemptive and all jump shifts are fit bids, promising four-card support for partner's last bid suit and the values for whatever level the bid is at.

Opponents Make A Suit Overcall

  1. Jump raises are always preemptive in competition. Jump shifts are fit-showing bids.
  2. Negative Doubles. If the opponents make a suit overcall through 3S, a double by responder is negative, showing 6+ HCP at the one- or two-level and 9+ at the three-level. In addition, doubler promises four cards in an unbid major (or 4-4 if the overcall was 1D), or 4-4 in both unbid minors. As a corollary, freely bidding a major over an overcall of 1H or higher promises a five-card or longer suit.
  3. Support Doubles. Opener's double of a sandwich suit overcall through 2H, as in the auction 1D (P) 1H (1S) : X, shows exactly three-card support for responder's suit. Thus a raise guarantees four trumps and other bids (besides a cue-bid) generally deny as many as three. Support doubles also apply after an overcall, new-suit response, and raise, e.g.: 1D (1H) 1S (2H) : X.
  4. Cue-bids tend to show at least three-card support for partner's last bid or implied suit, and at least limit raise strength. Jump cue-bids are splinter raises.
  5. Unusual vs. Unusual. If the opponents make a two-suited overcall, the cheaper cue-bid shows a limit raise or better and the expensive cue-bid is a forcing bid in the unbid suit. As a corollary, a raise shows only single-raise strength and bidding the unbid suit is to play. For instance, after 1H (2NT) [minors], 3NT is always to play. A jump in one of overcaller's suits is presumably a splinter raise.

Opponents Make A Takeout Double

If the opponents make a takeout double of our one-of-a-suit opening, we have the following agreements:

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The 1D Opening Bid

This is natural, showing 11-15 points, 4+ diamonds, and no 5-card major. Responses are pretty much natural, but there are some gadgets:

The 1H and 1S Opening Bids

An opening bid of 1H or 1S promises a five-card suit 99% of the time. The only exception is that we open 1H (with fingers crossed) holding [4414].

In competition, this nonsense is off. See the competitive bidding section.

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The 1NT Opening Bid

The 1NT opening shows 12-15 HCP and a balanced hand with no five-card major. Exceptionally, opener may have a singleton king or queen somewhere.

Responses are as follows:

The 2C Opening Bid

This shows at least 5 clubs; if only 5 clubs are held then opener will also have a four-card major. The hand is usually unbalanced but presumably could be (332)6 or [42]25 with an aversion to opening 1NT.

Responses are as follows:

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Preemptive Openings

Bailey Two-Bids

An opening bid of 2D, 2H or 2S is aBailey Two- a disciplined weak two promising the following:

  1. 5-6 cards in the bid suit. If only five, they must be headed by the queen or better.
  2. 2-3 cards in any unbid major.
  3. 1-4 cards in any unbid minor.
  4. No more than nine cards in any two suits.
  5. 8-10 HCP if nine cards in the two longest suits; 9-11 HCP if eight cards in the two longest suits.

Responder acts as follows:

Three-Level and Higher Preempts

All suit openings at the 3- or 4-level, as well as 5C and 5D, are preemptive. Our preempting style is aggressive and, for the moment, undisciplined. All we have agreed is that a new suit is forcing.

The 3NT Opening

An opening 3NT bid in first, second or third seat promises a long solid minor, at least AKQ-seventh or AK-eighth, and no stopper outside. Responses are defined as follows:

A fourth-seat 3NT opening is to play and is user-defined.

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Opponents Open One Of A Suit

Suit Overcalls

Simple Overcall at the One-Level

Our one-level overcall style is heavily influenced by Mike Lawrence. Range is roughly 7-17 non-vulnerable, 9-17 vulnerable. Most of our overcalls are based on five-card suits (which can be crappy if the rest of the hand qualifies), but we have no problem overcalling on good four-card suits with length in the enemy suit.

Advancing the Overcall

Advancer has many options, as the overcall only defines a suit:

In competition, free bids carry the same meaning as if responder had passed. In addition,

Rebids by the Overcaller

The overcaller's rebid varies widely according to advancer's action. While this section is by no means comprehensive, here are some situations where overcaller's rebid may have hidden implications:


Further Rebids

Most auctions are straightforward given this framework. Note if advancer cuebids and then bids a new suit, this is forcing to the four-level as the balanced limit-raise cuebids give support at the next turn. Also, see our section on forcing passes in competition.

Simple Two-Level Overcalls

All two-level overcalls promise at least 5 cards, probably 6 (especially in a minor), and a good suit. A two-level overcall also promises significant values: 12+ HCP, maybe less with compensating distributional shape. Advances after a two-level overcall are the same: fit-showing jumps, invitational-plus cuebids, and new suits non-forcing. If a new suit is bid at the three-level, it should be missing at most one top honor and provide at least six tricks opposite a singleton and good breaks.

Jump Overcalls

Our jump overcalls are weak and slightly aggressive. We will usually have at least 6 cards for a single jump overcall and 7 cards for a double jump, except at favorable, where we will regularly jump overcall with a card less. We tend to have our strength in our suit, with at most 1 QT outside. Finally, we will strive to be within 2 tricks of our contract vulnerable. Jumps to game are to play. Opposite a passed hand, they may contain significant outside values and be bidding game as a tactical manuever. [Melucci's Law: 4H is the best preempt in the game.]

Advancing Jump Overcalls

Advancer pretends partner made the analogous opening bid and bids as if opener had not opened except that new suits should be non-forcing.

Notrump Overcalls

Most notrump overcalls over the opponents' one-of-a-suit opening show two-suited hands. The exceptions are notrump overcalls in the balancing seat or bids of 3NT.

The 1NT Overcall

Instead of the standard 15-18 balanced, we use a direct 1NT overcall to show exactly 4 cards in the highest unbid suit and 5 or more cards in the lowest unbid suit, with less than an opening hand. With 15-18 balanced, we either double and rebid NT or pass with length in the enemy suit. The general principle to remember is that all advances to a suit shown by a two-suited overcall are to play. Also, both notrump and the opening suit are "cuebids". Cuebid of the opening suit is similar to a cuebid advance of a simple overcall, while 2NT shows strength (12+ HCP) and demands information about the shape of opener's hand. In competition, a double uses the stolen-bid principle and redouble shows 9+ HCP and stoppers. The ignore-competition principle governs all free bids. For example, after (1H) : 1NT : (P): After (1H) : 1NT : (2D): Most of the time, overcaller passes the rebid, with a few exceptions: In competition, "Stolen bid" and "ignore competition" principles apply. A redouble shows a maximum and at least a partial stopper.

Unusual Notrump Overcalls

We play jump notrump overcalls to 2NT and 4NT over an opponent's one-of-a-suit bid as unusual, showing the lowest two unbid suits. The 2NT bid promises 5-5 shape (as we are going to be outbid unless we can count on partner for 5 cards in each suit) and the 4NT bid 6-6 or better. The point range is either weak (0-12) or strong (17+). We also require an average SQ of 7.5, adjustable based on the vulnerability. 4NT by advancer is straight Blackwood. A cuebid is a try for game or slam try; overcaller should rebid the cheapest shown suit with a minimum and make any other bid with a maximum. All other bids are to play. Advancer is captain of the auction. After an attempted sign-off, bidding a known suit only promises extra length; weird-sounding actions (cue-bid, further notrump bid, double or redouble) indicate one of the 17+ hands.

Balancing NT Overcalls

In balancing seat, we use a more standard interpretation for 1NT. All advances are natural. 2C is clubs, 2NT is invitational. A jump shift is undefined. A balancing 2NT overcall isnatural, showing 18-20 HCP, unless the hand is a passed hand, in which case it is for the minors. All advances are natural and non-forcing. In sandwich seat, 1NT shows at least four cards in the unbid suits - usually (54xx) - and 7-11 HCP. The meaning of a sandwich 2NT depends on whether a sandwich 1NT overcall is available. If it is, then 2NT shows at least 6-5 in the unbid suits with no specific HCP range. Otherwise, 2NT in the sandwich seat is unusual for the lowest two unbid suits, similar to a direct overcall. Advances after sandwich NT overcalls are similar to those for direct NT overcalls. All overcalls of 3NT over a one-level suit bid, no matter what position, are to play. It is overcaller's responsibility to know what he is doing. Generally, this shows around 8.5 playing tricks with a stopper in the enemy suit. (See the Jump Cuebid below for a corollary situation.) Advances are natural and non-forcing, with the exception that 4NT is Blackwood.

Scrambling 2NT

After the opponents bid and raise a suit, all 2NT bids by the defensive side are artificial and "scrambling", showing at least four cards in two of the three unbid suits. This also applies in response to a takeout double. Advancer bids four-card suits up-the-line until a fit is found. If no fit is found, then apply Hamilton's Law ("May God help you!").

Takeout Doubles

Our takeout doubles are pretty standard, showing either Advancer should assume the first hand-type, as we do below. He bids as follows: If advancer bids a suit cheaply, opener rebids his suit, and doubler doubles again, it shows 16-18 HCP and three-card support for advancer. [E.g., (1D) X (P) 1S : (2D) X.] With the rare strong hands, doubler can bid a new suit to show roughly that playing strength, bid 1NT with 16-18 HCP, bid 2NT with 19-20 HCP, or cue-bid with 21+.


We play Michaels Cuebids, solid-suit jump cuebids, and some natural cuebids in the sandwich seat.

Simple Cuebids

Simple cuebids in the direct seat are Michaels: The point range is either weak (0-12) or strong (17+). We tend to have 5-5, but may have 5-4 nonvulnerable. We also promise good suits, averaging around 7.5 SQ. In response to a Michaels cuebid, advancer has the following options:

Rebids by Cuebidder

Most of the time, the cuebidder will cooperate with advancer's request. However, after an attempted sign-off, bidding a known suit only promises extra length; weird-sounding actions (cue-bid, further notrump bid, double or redouble) indicate one of the 17+ hands.

Balancing Cuebids

In the balancing seat, a cuebid by a hand that has not had a previous opportunity to do so is Michaels, showing 13+ HCP. Weak hands either overcall in the higher suit and rebid the lower, or pass, declining to let the opponents find a better strain. If the balancing hand could have shown the suits earlier, a cuebid is natural.

Sandwich Cuebids

In the sandwich seat, a cuebid of opener's suit is Michaels, with no point count restrictions. Cuebid of responder's suit is natural. For example, after (1D) : P : (1S),

Jump Cuebids

Whenever partner has not bid, a jump cuebid shows a long, strong suit with 8.5 playing tricks and no stopper in the enemy suit. If opener's suit is a major, this guarantees a singleton or void in the enemy suit. Advancer has these options: In competition, advances are based on common sense. Pass with weakness, bid NT with a stopper, bid cheaper minor with a constructive hand, and double for penalties.

Rebids by Cuebidder

Rebids also follow common sense. Any new suit shows the solid suit, and a 4NT rebid is Blackwood.

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Opponents Open 1NT

We keep futzing around with different interference systems, but right now we're using Astro:

The length promised is 5-5 vulnerable, 5-4 with a singleton nonvulnerable.

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Opponents Preempt

Opponents Open a Weak Two

Our defenses to this common annoyance are pretty standard. A direct 2NT shows 15-18 and a direct 3NT shows 19+. All three-level cue-bids ask partner to bid 3NT with a stopper. We also use Leaping Michaels and Lebensohl after a double:

Leaping Michaels

After a 2M opening, a jump-shift to 4m shows that minor and the other major. 3M asks partner to bid 3NT with a stopper.

After a 2D opening, 4C shows clubs and a major, and 4D shows the majors. 3M is natural, showing a nine-trick hand.


After a direct or balancing double of a weak two, Lebensohl is on:

Opponents Open at the Three-Level

You're pretty much on your own here, just like the rest of the field.

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Opponents Open An Artificial Bid

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Slam Conventions

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Carding Agreements

Signalling Principles

Our signal hierarchy is attitude first, count second, and suit-preference third. We use upside-down count and attitude: low encourages or shows an even number, high discourages or shows an odd number. In suit-preference situations, the higher spot card indicates the higher-ranking side suit excluding trump. All signals should be made to help partner with the defense; they are not commands. If partner does not need the information, do not signal. Above all, we trynever to tell declarer anything he needs to know, so do not expect or give signals in a critical suit for declarer.

Opening Leads

We tend to lead aggressively unless the auction clearly calls for a passive lead. Since we do not lead trumps without reason, partner must have a good reason to discontinue a trump attack. Against suit contracts, we use third and fifth best leads: xxX, xxXx, xxxxX, xxXxxx. In particular, we lead low from three small unless partner has bid the suit and we have supported. We lead the ace from ace-king in general, except when it is doubleton or against a five-level or higher contract, when the ace asks for attitude and the king for count. Other leads are standard. Against notrump contracts, we use standard fourth-best leads. We lead the top of three small cards unless partner has bid the suit and we have not supported. From four or more small cards, we lead fourth best if we want partner to continue the suit, or a high spot if not. Sequence leads are standard: the lead of an ace asks partner to unblock an honor or give count. From KQT9, we lead the queen. If third hand can determine that the opening leader has made an unusual opening lead (i.e. underlead of an ace at a trump contract, or the deuce from a five-card suit), this is an "alarm clock signal" and means that third hand should try to find an unusual defense (usually hitting a void).

Third-Hand Signals

If third hand does not have to play high to attempt to win the trick, his signals are primarilyattitude, with the following exceptions:

Later Signals

Leads and Returns

After an 3-card or longer honor sequence is led, continuing with the bottom of the sequence requests partner to unblock and continuing with the next highest requests partner to hold off. In general, when a defender switches to a new suit, a high spot card denies interest in the new suit, while a low spot card shows tolerance for a return and is fourth-best if possible. Sometimes, though, a defender has no choice but to lead a particular spot card (i.e. for a surrounding play) Do not let the size of the card lull you into complacency! If the defender switches to an honor card, the opening lead structure applies, except that the K should now be led from the AK. If a defender ever returns a led suit, he plays his highest card with one or two cards remaining, and his original fourth-best otherwise. The first discard from this suit should be the same card that would be returned. This is the one exception to giving attitude on the first discard.

Following Suit

Whenever a defender peters in trump, it shows an odd number of trumps. However, like all count signals, they should be used with discretion. Note that these peters also apply to ruffs and overruffs. When declarer shows out of a suit, each defender knows the other's exact holding in that suit. Therefore, all voluntarily played cards in that suit should be played in suit-preference order. When declarer plays on a suit that could be missing a key honor, the defenders should signal the count in that suit. Later rounds of the suit can be suit-preference. The defense is advised to avoid excessive count signals as that tends to help declarer more than the defense. (Exception: if declarer is known to be inattentive, signal whenever possible!)


Our first discard is always attitude, except in the case of a suit led by partner (see above). In addition, if a defender discards a point card, he denies the card above it and promises at least a 3-card honor sequence. We strive to discard immediately from the suit we cannot guard, but common sense takes precedence as it may be declarer's guess suit. Subsequent discards in a suit show count based on the present number of cards held, not the original number. Also, against notrumps, we tend to make discouraging discards, as using an encouraging card may throw away a trick.

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Hand Evaluation

We use several different metrics to evaluate hands:

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Glossary And Abbreviations

Uncontested auctions are notated as follows:

1D : 1S :: 2C : 2NT :: ....

Contested auctions are notated as follows, with the opponents' bids in parentheses:

1D (X) 1S (2C) :: P (2NT) ....

A shape within (parentheses) shows any permutation of the given shape, while a shape within [brackets] shows exactly one shape. E.g., (4333) means one four-card suit and three three-card suits; [4333] means four spades and three of everything else; [44(32)] means either [4432] or [4423].

The following abbreviations are used throughout:

Term Definition
Advancer Overcaller's partner
Balanced A (4333), (4432), or (5332) hand
Cue-Bid Bidding the enemy suit
Controls A=2, K=1
Flat A (4333) hand
Forcing Forcing for one round
Happy bid An overbid
Honor The ace, king, queen or jack of a suit
Opener The person who is first to make a bid
Overcaller The first person to bid for the non-opening side
Q-Bid Control-showing bid
Quick Tricks A=1, K=.5, AQ=1.5, AK=2, KQ=1
Responder Opener's partner
Semi-balanced A hand without a singleton or void
Signoff A bid which partner must pass
Suit Quality Suit length + number of honors
Suit Spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs
To Play Natural; expecting (but not requiring) partner to pass
Top Honor The ace, king, or queen of a suit
Unbalanced A hand with at least one singleton or void
Abbreviation Meaning
M Major
m Minor
OM Other Major
om Other Minor
X Double (or any suit when preceded by a number)
XX Redouble
HCP High-card points
LP Length points
QT Quick tricks
SP Suit points
SQ Suit quality
SSP Short-suit points

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