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Bidding Zones

There are three bidding zones: part-score, game and slam. Slams, that’s a small slam (bidding and making 12 tricks) or a grand slam (that’s bidding and making all 13 tricks) are fairly rare. Most auctions focus on the decision of the partnership as to whether or not to play game – that’s 3NT,4, 4, 5, 5.

Let’s assume you have the auction to yourselves (no opposing bidding). If your partnership definitely does not have enough for game, stop right there (assuming you’ve found your denomination ie which trump suit or notrumps).

The auction 1NT-2NT doesn’t say, “I want us to contract for eight tricks”, for there is no material advantage in playing the contract of 2NT rather than 1NT. Why give yourself a stiffer challenge for no real reward (who cares if you earn a 70 part-score rather than a 40 part-score – in practice it almost never makes a difference)? Instead, the auction 1NT-2NT invites game. It says, “I don’t know which zone we’re in – whether we’re in the part-score zone or the game zone”. The point-count guide for 3NT is 25 points, so presumably responder has calculated there may be 25 points, there may not. (Facing a 12-14 1NT opener, he will therefore have 11-12 points.) 

Exercise:  You opened 1 and partner raised to 2 (about 6-9 pts). Which zone are you in? What would you do now? (The point-count guide for 4 is 25, although this is approximate as good shape compensates for points.)


Hand a) Hand b) Hand c)
♠ Q 2
A J 7 3 2
K Q 2
 K 6 2
♠ K J 6
A K J 6 3
A Q 4 2
♠ K 2
K J 6 3 2
♦ A J 5
 A J 2
  • (a). You’re definitely in the part-score zone, not the game zone. So pass. Don’t bid 3 or 2NT – what would be the purpose?
  • (b). You’re in the game zone. Bid 4. You may be a point shy of 25 but the lovely shape (that singleton club) more than compensates.
  • (c). Bid 3. You’re not sure in which zone you lie, whether part-score or game – although you know you want to play in Hearts. So bid 3, inviting game, in effect telling partner you don’t know which zone you’re in and you need her to choose.

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