Standard American is a widely used bidding system for the game of bridge in North America and elsewhere. Owing to the popularization of the game by Charles Goren in the 1950s and '60s, its earliest versions were sometimes referred to simply as 'Goren'. With the addition and evolution of various treatments and conventions, it is now more generally referred to as Modern Standard American. It is a natural bidding system based on five card majors and a strong notrump; players may add conventions and refine the meanings of bids through partnership agreements summarized in their convention card.
Role of bidding systems
The purpose of bidding during the auction phase of each deal is to exchange information with one's partner in order to arrive at an optimal contract while concurrently contending with the opponents' attempts to do likewise. A bidding system is a set of agreements about the meanings of the different bids that the players can make. Each bid provides information about the hand's high-card strength and suit distribution based upon hand evaluation techniques.
"Standard American" was the label given to the bridge bidding system developed by Charles Goren and his contemporaries 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 early Goren methods. 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.
Most common elements
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).
- Pre-emptive opening bids: All suit openings above the two level are pre-emptive, promising a long and strong suit.
- Limit Raises: A jump-raise of the opener's suit by responder, in the absence of opponent interference, is invitational to game. In Goren's system, this was a strong game-forcing raise.
- Notrump openers show a balanced hand, with the following common point ranges:
- 1NT = 15-17 HCP
- 2NT = 20-21 HCP
- 3NT = 25-27 HCP
"SAYC" is an acronym for Standard American Yellow Card, which is a specific set of partnership agreements and conventions, using Standard American as a base. Some of the specific agreements in SAYC that elaborate on basic Standard American are:
- A 2♣ response to a 1 NT opening is specified as the "non-forcing" version of the Stayman convention.
- A 2♠ response to a 1 NT opening forces the opener to bid 3♣, so that the responder may play there or bid 3♦, which the opener is expected to pass.
- Straight Blackwood is used, and not the "Roman Key-Card" or other variation.
- In response to a 2♣ opening, the 2♦ response is the "waiting" version of that response.
- In response to a weak-two opening, RONF ("Raise Only Non-Force") is used.
- The Jacoby 2NT is used to show a game-forcing raise of a major suit with four-card support.
- Negative doubles are used through the level of 2♠.
- Fourth suit forcing is used.
- Michaels cuebid and Unusual notrump are used.
- Conventions are specified as being "off" in response to a 1NT overcall, except that 2♣ is still Stayman.
SAYC is a very specific collection of agreements, which can, of course, be modified and augmented by partnership agreement. In practical use, the term is often mis-used to refer to Standard American in general, or it could refer to a system that used SAYC as a base and made additional augmentations or changes to the base agreements.
- Standard American 21 by John Sheridan Thomas, ISBN 1-4120-2063-8
- Standard Bidding with SAYC by Ned Downey & Ellen Pomer, ISBN 1-897106-03-3, eBook version
- Standard American Yellow Card by the American Contract Bridge League