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Reverse Bids in Bridge

Reverse bids in bridge made easy! Reverses are an important part of Standard, Acol and all natural bidding systems. The barrier principle is a simple way to make sense of it all.

Barrier Principle

Imagine that a barrier is created when an opening bid is made. This barrier is simply the 2 level of that opening suit.

barrier principle in bridge

The opening bid was 1♣ so the barrier is 2♣. After a 1 opening bid, the barrier is 2. After a 1 opening bid, the barrier is 2 and so on. After 1♠? 2♠, of course.

What is the point of this? The answer is that we use the barrier principle to describe a certain type of hand, which is called a reverse.

What does a reverse show?

A reverse shows a strong hand with the first bid suit always being longer than the second. A reverse means that partner has to bid to the 3 level in order to return to opener's first suit.

simple auction in bridge

North's 2♣ bid is below the barrier of 2. 2♣ is not a reverse. South could bid 2, returning to opener's suit at the 2 level.

reverse bids in bridge

2 is above the barrier of 2, so 2 is a reverse. It shows a strong hand, 4 hearts and 5 diamonds. Notice that if South wants to go back to North's first suit it will need to be at the 3 level with a bid of 3.

Why can't a reverse be made with two 4 card suits?

In most auctions if a player shows two suits, the hand should be unbalanced. If you're balanced you're either going to open 1NT or bid NT on the second round. If you haven't bid notrumps by the second round you won't be balanced. The first suit will, therefore, always contain at least 5 cards.

Opener's Reverse Bids

opener rebids suit

Can you show the heart suit? No, you can't bid above the barrier. You have to rebid 2 which is not forcing. You can't force partner to bid again, given that she may only have 6 HCP.

opener reverses in bridge

You would like to bid your heart suit wouldn't you. You can this time as you have more than 16 HCP, so you can afford to show both your suits.

Responding to a Reverse

Reverses are forcing! You must bid at least once more.

You can support either of partner's suit. Remember, partner has shown 5 of the first suit. With no fit for partner you can rebid your suit or 2NT.

responding to a reverse

This time you have a known we have an 8-card fit in clubs (Partner must have 5 clubs to reverse). It is good that partner has a strong hand, as we are forced to the 3-level.

responding to a reverse with a strong hand

This time you are stronger and it's up to you to indicate your extra strength. 3NT seems the best option here. You have spades covered.

Practicing Reverse Bidding

Reverse bids come up a lot! We talk about them often in our online bridge games and you'll find plenty of opportunity to practice this important bidding technique.


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