Lesson 4 -- 1 of a Major Opening and Responses

Unlike the NT openings, opening 1 of a suit is basically an unlimited bid. You could have from 13-20 points (yes, techinically this is limited, but not very much) and you could have anywhere from 5 of the suit (less in a minor suit) to 8 or even more. While NT bidding is usually quite clear cut, bidding after a major suit opening can be quite confusing.

Requirements for opening 1 of a Major

You should open 1 of a major suit when:
• You have 13 or more points, but
• You have less than 21 points (with 21+, open 2C).
• You have 5 or more cards in the suit, and
• Another opening isn't better.
That last one is a bit touchy. Forexample, if you have S AKQxxx H QJTxx D Jx C -- then you meet all of the requirements for a 1H opening, but 1S is better.

What to do with two suited hands

If you have two suits that are both 5 cards or longer, open the longest suit. If they are both the same strength and one is a major suit (H,S) and the other is a minor (D,C) then open the major. If both suits are majors, open spades first, unless you have 17+ points, in which case you'll open hearts and bid spades (this is called Reversing and shows a hand of at least an ace better than regular opening hands).

When to open 1NT with a five card major

This is a subject up to individual parntership, but I would consider a 1NT opening hiding a five card major acceptable if:
• My distribution was 5-3-3-2.
• My major suit was weak
• I had stoppers in all the other suits.
• I didn't have 18 points.
Of course, this is assuming I have a hand that I would open 1NT with if I didn't have a 5 card suit (16-18 points, balanced).

Responses to a major suit opening

Hands can be devided up into ranges based on points and whether or not a fit exists. We'll first deal with hands where you don't have a fit.

Responding with 0-2 of partner's bid suit.

• With 0-5 points: Pass.
• With 6-9 points: Bid 1NT (or, if you have 4+ spades over a 1H opening, bid 1S).
• With 10-11 points and a balanced hand: Bid 2NT.
• With 12-13 points and a balanced hand: Bid 3NT.
• With 10-16 points and a 5 card suit, bid it.
• With 17+ points and a 5+ card suit, jump bid it.
Well, look at some of the reasons behind this in more depth.

The Pass is based on the fact that opener is limited to 20 HCP, so if you have 0-5, you have less than the necessary points for game. PASS tells partner that. Even if you have no cards in partners suit, you should pass. Odds are you won't go down that much, and if you are doubled, then you can bid your best suit if you have to.

With 6-9 HCP, you have to bid 1NT , unless you have a 4+ card spade suit after a 1H opening, You need 5 of a major to open it, but only 4 to respond in it. (The reasons for that will be given in the next lesson.) You might wind up bidding 1NT with a void, that's ok. You have to bid 1NT because of a fundamental rule: Responding at the two level to a 1-of-a-suit opener shows at least 10 points.

The 2NT and 3NT bids are Limited bids, and you will probably play in 3NT unless a) partner passes 2NT with a minimum or b) partner has a 6 card suit or c) partner has a very distributional hand. Remember, since you have a balanced hand, but not enough trumps to support partner, 2/3 NT shows exactly 2 card support for partner. (1NT is exempt because it is a catch-all response).

If you have a 5 card suit and 10+ points, you can bid it at the two level. (Or 1S over 1H). If you have two suits of equal length bid the lowest suit first. Remember Open the higher of two equal suits, respond with the lower . Very rarely, you'll have to bid a 4 card suit at the two level. This will only occur when you have 1-4-4-4 distribution (only 1 card support for partner, 4 of each other suit). In that case, it is probably best to bid 2C (the cheapest suit) unless one suit is much better than the others.

If you have an exceptional hand (17+ HCP), Jump-Shift, that is, bid your suit at a higher level than necessary. Your suit must be at least 5 cards or longer. Once you Jump-Shift, the biddding must go to game, and slam is a distinct possibility.

Responding with a fit in opener's suit

If you have a fit with partner (3+ cards in his suit) then you will probably be bidding partner's suit. But, once you have a fit with partner, you are allowed to re-evaluate your hand, based on the number of distributional points you have.

Distributional Points

In addition to your high-card points, you get points for having a void, singleton or doubleton:
• 3 points for a void,
• 2 points for a singleton,
• 1 point for a doubleton.
• 1 point for each trump beyond 3.
This is only when you plan to raise partner. There are a few things to remember about this. Singleton honors (except the ace) should be devalued (this is true in general), and if you have three small trump, you should be wary of counting a doubleton for anything. Anyway, now that you have re-evaluated your hand (adding your distributional points to your HCP):
• With 0-5 HCP: Pass
• With 6-9 HCP: Raise to the 2 level
• With 13+ HCP: Raise to the 3 level
• With 6-9 HCP* and 5+ Trumps: Raise to the 4 level. (* For this bid, 6-9HCP NOT counting distribution).
• With 17+ HCP and a good side suit: Jump in the side suit.
• With 10-12 HCP: Make a temporizing bid.
Again, with 0-5 HCP, you Pass and await developments. If the auction continues, you can safely make a raise.

With 6-9 HCP, you raise to the 2 level. This shows minimum support.

With 13+ HCP and a fit, you make a jump raise to the 3 level. This is forcing to game and either side may make slam attempts if they have an extra ace or so.

With a weakish hand and 5+ trump, you may jump directly to game. Notice that again the double jump is weaker than the jump. Hands in which the partnership have 10+ trumps between them have a very good trick taking potential, and the opponents may have the ability to make a 3 or 4 level contract themselves. So, the jump to 4 usually either makes or keeps the opponents from making a good contract themselves. This bid is meant (as most game bids are) as a signoff bid.

If you have 10-12 HCP and trump support, you have an intermediate hand. You should bid your best non-trump suit , and plan on bidding 3 of opener's major on the next round if opener shows a weak hand. If opener shows a stronger hand then you will go to the 4 level. Which suit you bid is the same as if you didn't have a fit, except you are more likely to have to bid a 4 card suit. This type of bidding is called temporizing.

A jump shift again shows a strong hand, but you may be hiding support. Only do this if your second suit is very good and your support is not that good (three small, for example).

SUMMARY

In this summary M means major suit, m means minor. 2M/1M means a raise of opener's Major suit...
• Pass: 0-5 HCP.
• 1H: 13-20 HCP, 5+ Hearts, probably less Spades than Hearts.
• 1S: 13-20 HCP, 5+ Spades, may have as many Hearts as Spades.
• 1S(/1H): 6+ HCP, 4+ Spades. May have 3+ Hearts if 10-12 HCP (temporizing bid).
• 1NT: 6-9 HCP, 0-2 cards in opener's suit.
• 2m: 10+ HCP, 5+ cards in suit (sometimes 4). May have 10-12 HCP and 3+ in opener's major (temporizing bid).
• 2H(/1S): 10+HCP, 5+ cards in suit. May be temporizing.
• 2M(/1M): 6-9 HCP, 3+ card support
• 2S(/1H): 17+ HCP, 5+ Spades.
• 2N: 10-11 HCP, 2 card support for opener. No good 5 card suit. Denies 4 spades after a 1H opening.
• 3C,3D,3H(/1S): 17+ HCP, 5+ Card suit.
• 3M(/1M): 13+ HCP, 3+ card support. Game Forcing.
• 3NT: 12-13 HCP, 2 card support for opener. No good 5 card suit. Denies 4 spades after a 1H opening.
• 4M(/1M): 6-9 HCP (No distribution), 5+ card support.
• 4NT: Blackwood (see slam bidding).

Final Notes

Of all of the aspects of a system, the 1 Level Openings are the most toyed with, because these bids occur the most frequently. Typical tournament players will probably have a very different system, including innocous changes such as making 3M/1M an intermediate bid and temporizing with strong hands. More radical systems exist and are fairly common.