Lionel convention

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Lionel is a contract bridge bidding convention used in defense against an opposing 1NT openings. Using Lionel, over a 1NT opening of the opponents:

  • a double is conventional and denotes spades and a lower suit (4-4 or longer),
  • a 2/2 overcall denotes hearts and the suit bid (4-4 or longer), and
  • a 2/2 overcalls is natural.

Any of the overcalls denote high-card strength corresponding to 12+ (or good 11) high card points.

The convention is named after Lionel Wright from New Zealand who published it in the International Popular Bridge Monthly magazine of May 1993.[1]


Following the Lionel double, the partner of the double responds as follows:

(1NT) - dbl - (pass) - ??

pass = 10+ hcp, all subsequent doubles for penalty
2 = pass-or-correct bid (doubler to pass or bid second suit)
2 = Non-forcing, diamond length (typically 5+) with heart tolerance. Doubler can bid 2 with hearts as second suit and less than two diamonds.
2 = Natural, non-forcing
2 = Weak Raise
2NT = Invitational spade raise without a singleton side suit
3// = Invitational spade raise with singleton or void in bid suit
3 = preemptive raise

After a minor suit Lionel overcall, the responses are straightforward. For instance:

(1NT) - 2 - (pass) - ??

Pass = to play
2 = to play
2 = weak raise
2 = to play
2NT = invitational heart raise
3 = preemptive
3 = preemptive


Like using Brozel, CoCa or DONT, using Lionel has the consequence of losing the penalty double over opponent's 1NT. Although this is often seen as a loss, Lionel Wright argued that this loss turns into an advantage as it opens the possibility to defend 1NT doubled with split points between you and your partner. As a balanced holding of the majority of points is far more likely to occur than holding the majority of points in an imbalanced way, a conventional non-penalty double over 1NT holds the potential of paying-off on many hands. Also, non-penalty doubles are more difficult to deal with than traditional business doubles.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lionel Wright, Lionel in Action, International Popular Bridge Monthly, Vol. 19, No. 5 (May 1993).
  2. ^ Chris Ryall's page on 1NT defenses