Ghestem Convention

The Ghestem conventional method is a concept to show a strong two-suited holding after an opening by the opponents. This concept was devised by Mr. Pierre Ghestem of France. The concept is not difficult and can be learned within minutes, but the important feature is to remember that the Ghestem overcall promises a strong holding.

Picture of Mr. Pierre Ghestem

All Ghestem bids are Alertable and, upon request, they must be explained in an accurate manner. The explanation should include the fact that the high card point range is particularly non-relevant owing to the distribution of the holding. The better explanation should be that, in general and by partnership agreement, the holding is calculated on Losing Tricks, approximately a maximum of 6 Losing Tricks if vulnerable and approximately a maximum of 8 Losing Tricks by favorable vulnerability. It is also essential that the honor cards of the Ghestem bidder are located in such a manner as to secure no more than the number of allowed Losing Tricks.

The Ghestem system is generally applied after a 1 Club opening by the opponents, but is also used when the opponents open any other suit on the One Level. These overcalls can be confused with other natural overcalls, and therefore the partner of the overcaller must be aware at all times that the difference must be distinguished.

Opponent   Overcaller Meaning
1   2 NT Promises Diamonds and Hearts, both Red suits.
    2 Promises both Major suits, Hearts and Spades.
    2 A natural bid, maybe a cuebid, but not a part of Ghestem.
    3 Promises Diamonds and Spades - Not a cuebid.

An illustration showing the difference between a Michaels Cuebid and the Ghestem system, which shows a strong two-suited holding. If North overcalls 2 Clubs, then his partner will know the distribution and the two suits but his partner will not know his range of values, weak, medium, or strong. With the Ghestem system, the partner knows immediately that the 2 Diamonds overcall promises a strong holding and a two-suited holding. In the following illustration, North calculates a minimum of four Losing Tricks.




With the following example, North can also apply the Ghestem system owing to the strength of the distribution. In the following illustration, North again calculates a minimum of three losers. And even though North does not have the identical amount of points as in the first example, North can still apply the Ghestem system, informing his partner that he holds a strong two-suited holding.





In the case that the opponents opens the auction with any other bid on the one level besides 1 Club, the Ghestem system can be used also to show a strong two-suited holding, generally with at least a 5-5 and sometimes a 5-6 distribution.

Auction 1

Opponent   Overcaller Meaning
1   2 Cuebid promises the top and bottom suits - Clubs and Spades.
  2 NT Promises the low-ranking suits - Clubs and Hearts.
    3 Promises the high-ranking suits - Hearts and Spades.

Auction 2

Opponent   Overcaller Meaning
1   2 Cuebid promises the top and bottom suits - Spades and Clubs.
  2 NT Promises the low-ranking suits - Diamonds and Clubs.
    3 Promises the high-ranking suits - Diamonds and Spades.

Auction 3

Opponent   Overcaller Meaning
1   2 Cuebid promises the top and bottom suits - Hearts and Clubs.
  2 NT Promises the low-ranking suits - Diamonds and Clubs.
    3 Promises the high-ranking suits - Hearts and Diamonds.


Modified Ghestem

A variation of the original version includes only the feature that the meaning of the cuebid and the 3 overcall are simply reversed.


Defense Method

The best defense method against a Ghestem overcall is the same as with all other interfering overcalls. If the overcall does not interfere with the natural bidding structure of the partnership, then the partnership plays system on. If the overcall does interfere with the natural structure of the partnership, then certain general guidelines can be employed. As with all defense mechanisms, nothing is etched in stone and partnerships may form their own defense structure. It is of the utmost importance, after such an overcall, to review the Convention Card of the opponents before continuing the bidding auction.


Modified Version

Some partnerships have decided to alter the Ghestem system and use a modified version or a version called Upside-Down Ghestem. These versions use interchanged and reversed meanings of the original Ghestem system.

1. A double is for penalties of at least one of their known suits.
2. Bidding one of their known suits shows a tolerance for the suit of the partner, and values in that bid suit.
Bidding one of their known suits also asks partner to bid No Trump, if partner has the other known suit covered.
3. Bidding the 4th suit is forcing and shows support in the suit of partner and no interest in penalty.
4. A Raise of the suit of partner is a Limited Raise.
5. A Jump Raise of the suit of the partner is preemptive.
6. A Jump Raise in one of the suits of the opponents is preemptive and is intended as obstructive.
7. A Jump in one of the known suits of the opponents is a Splinter bid.
8. A Jump in the 4th suit promises a bid hand and is a slam attempt.


Note: A complete compilation of the Ghestem system has been prepared for the Internet and can be found at: This link is, however, no longer active.

Note: These .pdf files have been only archived and preserved on this site for future reference. They are listed below in the same order as presented on the web at the above, non-functioning link. These .pdf files are in French only and are not translated.


Anyone wishing to translate these .pdf files, please feel free to do so. We would greatly appreciate the effort and publish them on this site for the benefit of all bridge players using the Internet to improve their game skills.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.

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