hen I was learning to play bridge, I was told that “just about everyone”follows these two rules for the opening bidder:
1. With 4-4 or longer in the minors, open 1 and rebid 2.
2. Never rebid 1NT with a singleton.
I found these rules a bit confusing, as they were sometimes in direct conflict with three other basic rules for opener:
3. Always open your longer minor.
4. Never rebid a five-card minor.
5. Rebid no trump when you have balanced distribution.
The only way to resolve these contradictions is to treat the rules as guidelines
, not commands, and to be flexible in deciding which to follow on any given deal. That requires evaluating your hand, anticipating how the auction will go and planning your rebid.
Balanced 4-4 and 4-5 Openers
Its easy to discount Rule 1 when you hold balanced hands such as:
J 7 2
Q 9 7 2
A Q 10 6
J 8 4 3
K J 10 5 2
There's no point in opening 1
unless you plan to show a two-suiter, and that's not the message you want to send with either hand.
Both are notrump-oriented, so Rules 3, 4 and 5 rate to be more successful. You can easily open 1
and rebid 1NT, with no qualms about “hiding” your diamond suit or long-ish clubs.
Unbalanced 4-5 Openers
Planning the auction is more difficult with hands such as:
Q J 6
A J 7 2
K Q 10 5 4
Experienced players have long debated the best way to handle this pattern, and there’s no consensus. One camp follows Rules 1 & 2: They open the ‘prepared’ 1
and rebid 2
over the expected 1
response. With strong clubs and weak diamonds, they may choose to open and rebid clubs.
Other pairs prefer to follow Rules 3, 4 and 5. They open 1
and rebid an off-shape 1NT over 1
Whether you open 1
, your rebid will mislead partner about your distribution, so decide which rule to break. If you open 1
, every rebid tells one lie. If partner responds 1
, you're a club short for a 2
rebid and a spade short for a 1NT rebid. If he responds 1
, you're technically one trump short for a 2
opener, however, leads to two lies. When you rebid 2
, partner assumes you're 5-4, so this auction misleads him about a club and a diamond. With a minimum and equal length in your suits, partner will take a preference to 2
and you may end up in a 4-2 fit.
Thos who follow Rules 3, 4 and 5 have fewer problems with this pattern. They open 1
, and if partner responds 1
, they evaluate this as a good dummy for a 4-3 fit, so they raise to 2
. If partner responds 1
, the values look right for a no trump contract.
Your considerations are slightly different
with a 1-4-4-4 opener. The same problems arise if partner responds 1
, but with only eight cards in the minors, you're reluctant to insist on a suit contract.
Your best approach will depend on where your honors are and how suitable your hand is for suit or notrump play. With a solid opener and honor concentration in the minors:
K 9 7 4
K Q 10 6
A K 9 4
and rebid 2
over a 1
response. You could have as many as 16-17 points for this rebid, so partner will stretch to keep the auction open and you'll have better chances of finding game.
With softer values and more high cards in the majors:
A J 9 2
J 6 5 4
K Q 10 3
limit your hand (and slow partner down) by rebidding 1NT over 1
. Opening 1
rather than 1
will keep all contracts in the picture and, if it's the opponents who bid spades, it gets partner off to the right lead.
No strategy will be right for every hand, but it’s a good idea to discuss your tendencies with partner. If you prefer the 1
approach with a 1-3-4-5 opener, partner should think twice about retreating to 2
with a doubleton. If you lean more toward 1
—then—1NT with this pattern, he’d better not insist on rebidding a five-card spade suit.
This article is reprinted from the original October 2006 "Bidding Matters
" column (ACBL Bulletin
), and is used here with kind permission of the author and publisher.
Karen Walkers's articles and bridge resources are available on her web site www.prairienet.org/bridge