These system notes are excerpted from "Howard Schenken's 'Big Club': A revolutionary, highly competitive, and accurate way to bid for every bridge player" (1968). Schenken was a luminary in American bridge who won the Bermuda Bowl thrice in the 1950s.

While now outdated, the Schenken System is an interesting and important ancester of modern strong club systems.

"Big Club" Summarized

Hand Evaluation

High Card Points: Ace=4, King=3, Queen=2, Jack=1.

As opening bidder, for a suit contract: add 1 point for each four card suit (Q-x-x-x, J-10-x-x or better). Add an additional point for the fifth card of any suit, and 2 points for every card over five.

When raising partner's suit: count high cards at face value, add 1 point extra for a high trump honor. For each doubleton, add 1 point. For a singleton, add 3 points. For a void, add 5 points (4 with 3 trumps).

Big Club Standard

Opening Bid of 1C (limited) 17-22 HCP

Notrump-type hand19-22 HCP.
Suit-type hand17 HCP plus at least 2 DP.
Strong spade suit or major two suit hand14 HCP plus 5 DP.


1DNegative, artificial, less than 9 HCP and 1.5 honor tricks.
1H/SAt least 9 HCP and 1.5 honor tricks, 5 card suit or longer, or strong 4 card suit. Forcing to game.
Single jump suit response = solid suit, double jump = semi-solid suit.
1NT9-11 HCP, balanced hand.
2C/DSee 1H/S.
2NT12-14 HCP, balanced hand.
Over opponents' overcall through 3DDouble shows positive response and requests a takeout by opener. A bid shows less than 9 HCP.

Rebids by Opener After 1D Response

Non-jump suit rebidMay be passed.
Jump suit rebidForcing for one more round.
1NT19-20 HCP, balanced hand.
2NT21-22 HCP, balanced hand.

Opening Notrump Bids - Standard American

1NT16-18 HCP.
2NT23-24 HCP.
3NT25-26 HCP.

Add 1 point for a good five-card suit.


Raise 1NT to 2NT with 8-9 HCP, to 3NT with 10-14 HCP.

Responses of 2D/H/S are weak.

Responses of 3 in a suit are game forces.

Jump takeout to 4C is Gerber and asks for opener's aces.

Stayman Convention: Standard after notrump openings, asking for a four card major.




Stayman after 1C Opening:





Opening Suit Bids of Two (except Clubs) - game force, Standard American

Five card suit plus 25 HCP.

Six card suit plus 23 HCP.

Seven card suit plus 21 HCP.


2NTLess than 7 HCP.
Suit responsePositive 5-card suit plus at least 7 HCP.
3NTBalanced hand, at least 7 HCP.

Opening Bid of 1D, 1H or 1S

Limited range, usually 12-16 HCP.

Good six or seven card suit or two-suit hand: 10-11 HCP.


Pass of opening bidGame remote, less than 7 HCP.
Single raiseConstructive, 8-11 points.
Jump raiseInvitational, not forcing, 12-13 points.
Jump to game in majorShutout, at least four trumps and 11-14 points, mostly distributional.
1NTBalanced hand, usually 8-11 HCP.
2NTBalanced hand, 12-13 HCP, not forcing.
3NTBalanced hand, 14-16 HCP.
One-over-oneAt least 8 points, including distribution.
Two in a lower ranking suitUsually 10 HCP or more (exceptions - six card suit headed by A-Q-J or A-K-J).
Single jump suit takeoutAt least 17 points including distribution.

Opening Bid of 2C

Six card or longer club suit or strong five card suit. 11-16 HCP.


Two in another suit is not forcing.

Two notrump or jump shift are forcing to game.

Opening Bid of 3C

Solid club suit (usually at least six), 10-15 HCP.


3NT8-12 HCP.
Suit responseStrong six card suit, forcing.
Raise to 4C or 5CWeak, shutout bid.

The Complete Schenken System

  • The strong artificial opening bid of 1C is used, but unlike Big Club Standard it is unlimited in strength.
  • Game forcing two bids, and the strong opening bids of 2NT and 3NT are not used. The strong artificial opening bid of 2D is substituted for the other strong Standard American bids.
  • Other opening bids, responses, and bidding procedures are the same as Big Club Standard with the following exceptions:

Opening Bid of 2D

Strong, artificial, forcing (usually to game).

Balanced hands: 23 HCP or more.

Freak hands: long powerful suit with not more than one loser, strong slam possibilities if partner can supply certain key cards.


Ace responses2H = none; 2NT = heart ace; 2S, 3C, 3D = ace of the suit bid.
3H, 3S, 4DThe ace bid and the ace below it.
4CAces of clubs and spades.
3NTAces of spades and diamonds or hearts and clubs.
4NTAny three aces.

Rebids by the Opening 2D Bidder

2NTBalanced hand, 23-25 HCP.
3NTBalanced hand, 26-27 HCP.
Cheapest suit rebid by openerAsks for kings. Then, if repeated, it asks for queens. Responder shows kings as he did aces.

Optional Notrump Openings

1. The Solid Minor Suit 2NT and 3NT Opening

2NTSolid minor suit, 17-20 HCP, 7-8 playing tricks.
3NTSolid minor suit, 17-21 HCP, 8.5-9 playing tricks, should include ace, king or queen in every suit.


Over 2NT3C is Gerber asking for aces.

Raise to 3NT with 4-10 HCP, to 6 Notrump with 13-14 HCP.

Bid a six card or longer suit on an unbalanced hand.

Over 3NT4C is Gerber asking for aces.

Raise to 6NT with 12-13 HCP.

Bid four in a seven card major suit.

2. The "Unusual" 2NT Opening

Not vulnerable10-13 HCP, 5-5 or 6-5 in the minors.
Vulnerable13-16 HCP, 5-5 or 6-5 in the minors.

All high card strength should be in the minor suits.


Not vulnerable: bid three of longest suit as a signoff.

Jump to four or five in a minor suit as a shutout.

Bid three in a strong six card major.

With very strong support in a minor and slam possibilities, bid 4NT, Blackwood.

Vulnerable opening 2NT bids are strong, therefore any response under game is forcing, except three in a minor suit.

A New Response to the Opening Bid of 2C

2D"" is forcing and may be artificial. It may be bid on a good diamond suit or may have support for one or both majors, plus 12 HCP or more. Opener is requested to bid a four card major, or else rebid his suit or bid 2NT.

New Responses to 1NT

2D is forcing to game and shows (a) 11 HCP or more, (b) 9 or 10 cards in two suits (usually the minors), (c) a singleton or void.

Rebids by the Opening Notrump Bidder:

2HHearts stopped.
2SSpades stopped.
2NTBoth majors stopped (Q-J-x or J-10-x-x).

The second bid by responder depends on opener's rebid. If opener shows strength in responder's short suit, responder bids 2NT or 3NT. If both hands are weak in a major, responder bids his longest suit. 3C and 3D are preemptive responses to 1NT and show weak hands with a six or seven card minor suit.

Nonforcing Stayman Applied to Minor Suits:

A Stayman 2C response to 1NT followed by a second response of three in a minor shows 6-7 HCP plus a 5-6 card minor. Opener may then pass, or with a strong notrump bid 3NT.

The New 3C Response to One in a Major Suit

This response shows (a) strong four card trump support, (b) 16-17 points including distribution.

Rebids by opener:

With a singleton or void, rebid in that suit. Otherwise, rebid original five or six card suit, or with a four card suit bid 3NT.

The New Step Response to 1C

A response of 2C is artificial and shows 7-8 HCP plus at least one king. This in turn reduces the negative response of 1D to 0-6 HCP. Responder promises to bid a second time.

Asking Bids

After a preemptive bid by partner of three or four:

A bid by responder at the five level in a new suit asks opener to show his controls in that suit by steps:

Lowest bidTwo or more losers.
Two stepsKing or singleton.
Three stepsAce or void.
An immediate jump to 5NTAsks partner to show the three top trump honors in the preempt suit by steps.

On constructive bidding:

A jump response one trick higher than a forcing bid asks partner to show his controls in the suit asked:

One stepNo controls.
Two stepsKing or singleton.
Three stepsThe ace.
Four stepsA-K, or void.

Weak Jump Overcalls

Not vulnerableGood six card suit plus one defensive trick.
VulnerableThe same, but extra playing strength usually within two tricks of the contract.

Weak Two Bids (Majors only)

Good six card suit, 8-12 HCP. 1.5-2 honor tricks, little or no support for the other major suit. Varies according to vulnerability, position at the table and partial score situations.


A simple suit response is a signoff and a strong denial of opener's suit.

2NT is the only forcing response. At least a sound opening bid, 13 HCP.

Rebids by the Weak Two Bidder After a 2NT Response

Three of opener's suit is a signoff.

With an almost solid suit and a sure reentry, bid 3NT.

Show a "feature": a side suit or a high card.

See also