Structured Reverses

Reverses are the most difficult part of standard bidding for a player to learn. Reverse auctions are not intuitive, defining reversed auctions are awkward, and there is no standardization of the following rebids.

All of these problems hinder the ability to use a reverse comfortably. I will start by giving a usable definition, and then giving solutions for dealing with responder’s rebid.


A structured reverse has occurred if taking preference to Opener’s first bid suit forces the partnership to the three-level. (and Opener’s rebid was not a strong jump shift).

Examples are:

North South             North South           North South

1C        1S                     1C        1H                  1D        1NT

2H                                 2D                              2S

In all of these examples if South (the Responder) wants to play in Opener’s suit, they are forced to take preference on the three-level.

What does a reverse show about Openers’s hand?

1) 16+HCP (less then an opening 2C bid)

2) A longer first bid suit then second bid suit.

3) Good suit quality.

4) Opener is prepared to go to at least the three-level.

5) A Reverse is forcing for one round.

Responders Rebids:

What if any of the responders rebids is forcing?

This is one a question which is not answered in standard. If this question is not addressed, then playing reverses becomes very problematic. There are a few popular agreements that give rules to Responder’s rebid over reverses. I will recommend a simple one and mention a few popular ideas.

Simple Solution:

All bids are forcing to game except if the responder bids 2NT, which is a weakness showing bid.

North South           North South           North South

1C        1S                   1C         1H                 1D        1S

2H       3C                   2D        2H                2H       3H

All of these auctions are forcing to game. The goal of having all auctions except the weakness response of 2NT be forcing to game is for the partnership to have no issues in finding the best game or best slam. Broadly defining which bids are forcing and which are non-forcing makes a long auction much easier. The partnership can comfortably bid naturally with no worries of being passed.

The weakness showing response of 2NT:

If the responder rebids 2NT after Opener makes a reverse it is a weakness showing bid. It is an artificial bid saying nothing about NT shape or the desire to play in NT. It describes this message to opener, “ Partner I know you have a good hand, I have a weak hand. Unless you have extras and show that to me, I am going to pass the next bid you make or correct the contract to the contract I think we should play on the three level. Please respect my decision unless you have something extreme”.

North South           North South           North South

1C         1S                 1C          1H                1D         1H

2H        2NT             2D         2NT             2S          2NT

3C         Pass            3C          3D               3D          3S
Pass                           Pass

There are other popular agreements for responder to use as their rebid structure after a reverse. Some of them are:

1) All bids are forcing to game other then a 2NT response

2) All bids are forcing to game other then a 2NT response or rebid of the major. Responder rebidding their major is forcing 1-round only.

3) All bids are forcing to game except an artificial weak fourth suit below 2NT or 2NT, whichever is lower.

4) All bids are forcing to game except an artificial weak fourth suit below 2NT or 2NT or a rebid of the major and rebidding the major is forcing only 1-round.

You should discuss which agreement you and your partner like best. Having good agreements with partner is paramount, and being the one to initiate a discussion of topics which are known to be problematic makes any partnership that you are in stronger.

I would recommend using the simple solution that I recommend. It works very well in practice, and is easy to remember.