This is the designation for the procedure, whereby the opponents will re-open the auction with a bid or a double when the opposing bidding has stopped at a low level. In England this action is known as Protection.


The designation balancing seat is common in the bridge community to describe the player, who has the option of either bidding the Third Pass, which would end the auction, or to take some additional action in order to increase the level of play either by the opponents and/or to compete for his/her side.

This designation is not related to the Immediate Seat and/or the Direct Seat designations to describe the next player in rotation after the right hand opponent has opened the auction. The designation of balancing seat bids has been coined by the bridge community and certain requirements have been established for such bids, which are listed below.

Note: The action of balancing is an extensive topic and not all perspectives are covered on this web page. Only the fundamental principles are presented, and thus the presentation is not necessarily comprehensive. The bridge player should initiate a self-study to familiarize himself with the additional aspects of this most important feature in the game of bridge.

After A Suit Opening

West North East South
1 Pass Pass ?

East's hand is known to be extremely weak, otherwise East would have responded. Therefore, South can balance with a hand of medium strength on the assumption that his partner has unrevealed strength.

The normal range for a simple suit bid by South in this situation would be from a minimum of 8 high card points to a maximum of 13 high card points. The Spade suit is particularly significant. Possession of Spades favors balancing action, and lack of Spades suggests against it.

In more general terms, a shortage in an unbid suit, especially a Major, militates against balancing, and a shortage in the suit of the opponents favors balancing.

West   North   East   South
1   Pass   Pass   ?

South has sufficient strength to bid 1 Heart, but that would be dangerous and risky. The opponents almost certainly have a Spade fit, which they are likely to discover if given the opportunity. It is perhaps better policy to allow them to play 1 Diamond which will more than likely be a poor contract for them, especially by unfavorable vulnerability. Realizing that West has a very strong hand, close to half the values in the deck, the tendency is to pass.

West   North   East   South
1   Pass   Pass   ?

But if the opening bid is 1 Spade, a balancing action would be considered just about automatic. A double would promise 4 Hearts and at least 3-card support in the other two unbid Minors. It is now probable that:

1. East-West are in their best denomination.
2. North and South have a fit somewhere.
3. North has some strength.
4. West has an Opening / South has 12 high card points; where are the other high card points?

North will frequently pass a strong hand with length and strength in the suit of the opponents. West has 5 Spades / South has 1 Spade / East is unable to respond. There are 7 Spades not accounted for, and this means that if South doubles, North may pass if he holds 5/6 good Spades.

But, in this situation, if South holds length and strength in suit of West, which is Spades, then he should pass. A double would invoke a forced response by his partner, which would be an undesired effect.

The Balancing Action takes some logical thinking and the logical deduction of where the values may be located:

West   North   East   South
1   Pass   Pass   ?

If South jumps in a new suit, he shows a hand too good for a simple balancing bid, in general a six-card suit or longer and about 12-16 high card points. Therefore, in the example above, South would a) count his high card points, 13, and b) count the length of his longest suit, 6, and c) make a jump bid of 3 Diamonds to inform his partner that he has a holding with the required length and strength in the suit bid. South is also communicating the fact that his holding is much too strong for a simple balancing bid.

The fact that North has already passed in the above example does not mean that the partnership should not reach a game contract. The fact that East has passed and not supported his partner's opening may strongly indicate that North may hold several stoppers and sufficient high card points to bid a game contract in No Trump, providing that North holds sufficient entries to the long Diamond suit held by his partner, South. This is a matter for the partnership agreement since the range shown by South is between 12 and 16 high card points, but the distribution should also be seriously considered.

After A Suit Opening And Response

The most important consideration is whether the opening side seems to have a fit. If the opening bid is raised to the two level and the opener then passes, balancing action is strongly indicated, especially if the opening bid was in a Minor suit.

West   North   East   South
1   Pass   2   ?

In this situation North should almost invariably balance. Holding the above hand, North should double, showing:

1. at least 8+ high card points, and
2. at least 3 card support in the unbid suits.

The double by South also strongly indicates that the holding contains both 4-card Majors. Modern bidding practices allow, however, that one Major suit may contain only a 3-card suit, but that the values held should be mainly in the Major suits.

In the above example, an affordable risk, even if partner responds in the unbid Minor. If South does bid 2 Diamonds, then North:

1. passes, or
2. perhaps corrects to 2 Hearts

leaving South the option of continuing with 2 Spades.

When one side has a fit, then their opponents are almost sure to have a fit also. If the opening bid was 1 Diamond, and was raised to 2 Diamonds, then a balancing action is almost obligatory. For this reason many players, after opening, continue to three of the Minor suit as a preemptive maneuver to forestall any balancing action.

1. Balancing action is desirable in theory but more difficult in practice if a Major suit has been opened and raised.
2. The player who balances must be prepared for his side to land at the Three Level.
3. Partner of a balancing action will suspect a four-card suit because of the failure to make an immediate overcall.

After A 1 No Trump Opening

A 1 No Trump bid passed by the partner of the opener produces a situation in which balancing action is expedient. The probabilities are that the opening side has no good fit, and therefore that the defending side also has no good fit. The best policy, therefore, generally is to pass.

If the range for a 1 No Trump by the opponents is a strong 15-18 high card points and you hold approximately the same amount of high card points or more, then a balancing action could bring you some points, but, on the other hand, it might be better to pass and try to set the contract, bringing you more points. It is the same difference between an offensive and defensive hand.

Note: Any balancing action must be considered under the aspects of the state of vulnerability and the successful chance to find a fit almost immediately.

If you follow these guidelines with your partner, then your partner will almost always understand the line of communication, and will be able to respond accurately, without taking you to any unfavorable bidding level, trying to find that fit, and discovering that you have exceeded your bidding level.

Book Suggestions

This topic of balancing in the game of bridge has received some attention, which is considered insufficient by the bridge community. This is only an observation and not a criticism of the individual bridge player. Much credit is due to those bridge experts, who do take the time, put forth the effort, and clarify this feature, such as Mr. Michael Lawrence in his publication Balancing published in 1980 and in subsequent years. The bridge student should familiarize himself with this subject, this feature, this possible action.


Strength - Values - Valuation

One of the more important aspects of balancing for the bridge player is the question regarding the minimum number of values necessary to initiate a balancing action. Mr. Michael Lawrence, early in his publication presents an example with the corresponding clarification, which addresses this question.

Example 1 - Vul. not important
West   North   East   South
1   Pass   Pass   ?

Quoted explanation: Even vulnerable, this is a fine double. You should feel no qualms about this. End quoted text.

Example 2 - Vul. vs. Not Vul.
West   North   East   South
1   Pass   Pass   ?

Quoted explanation: You would want to double with this hand. Your shape is ideal and your few values are working. End quoted text.



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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