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Opening 1 of a Major

So far, we've learned how to open two general types of hands.

One kind of hand is a distributionally flat hand with 15-17, 20-21, 22-24, or more points. We either opened these with 1N, 2N, 2♣ followed by a rebid of 2N, 3N, or 2N followed by a rebid of 4N, etc. These kinds of opening bids are pretty clear as to what we hold. Responder knows how many points we have (within one) and knows that we have flat distribution. Responder was the "captain" of the hand and could ask opener for more information in a variety of ways.

The other kind of hand was a distributional hand with many playing tricks. These were opened with 2♣ followed by a bid of the long suit(s). Opener and responder exchanged information about their points and distribution (as best they could) until one of them knew how high and where to play the hand. However, both knew that game was very likely and slam was possible.

However, we often hold hands which fit neither type. In these cases, we often open in one of our long suits and try to tell partner our points (or the general range) and any other long suits we hold with later bids. Thus, we have to use more than one bid to tell partner about our hand.

In the next few lessons, we're going to discuss how to open good hands and how to respond to opener. Sometimes we'll have to make "minor lies" in order not to deceive our partner about either our point count or our long suit(s).

The key to understanding this bidding revolves around (generally) two questions:
  1. What has partner told me about her hand?
  2. What have I told partner about my hand already and what more do I need to tell her?

Sometimes these questions are linked together. What I know about partner's hand might influence what I need to tell her with my bid. Just remember that we're trying to tell each other about our hands until one of us knows where and how high to play the hand.


In SAYC, opening bids of 1 or 1♠ (the major suits, remember?) say two things about our hand:

"I have at least five cards in the suit I bid, and I have 13 to 21 points or 11 points and seven or fewer losers." There's also the information that "I could not open 1N, 2N, 3N, or 2♣." [Always try to get a mental "picture" of partner's hand as you bid. It will help you make good decisions later.]

Let's look at a few hands and see if we would open them with 1 or 1♠.
Hand A:
♠ A8743
♠ A982
This hand has 12 HCP and 1 point for the spade length for a total of 13 points. It has seven losers (two each in spades, hearts and clubs and one in diamonds). This hand is good enough to open. We have a five card major suit, so we should open 1♠.
Hand B:
♠ 98743
♠ A
This hand has 12 HCP and 1 point for the spade length for a total of 13 points. It has seven losers (three in spades, two each in hearts and diamonds and none in clubs). We have a five card major suit, so we should open this hand 1♠ also. We might wish we had more high cards in spades, but that shouldn't stop us from opening this hand 1♠.
Hand C:
♠ void
♠ T864
Hand C has 12 points. It also has six losers. Although we don't have enough points to open, we should still open this hand with 1. [We'll see that this hand has a good rebid after all of responder's bids, which makes this hand worth the opening bid.]
Hand D:
♠ K873
♠ QJ
Hand D has 16 points and seven losers. This hand can be opened 1.
Hand E:
♠ QJ73
♠ QJ
Hand E has 14 points and eight losers. This one's tougher even though we have enough points to open. The problem is that a lot of the points are in the SHORT suits. The KQ may be worth only one trick (as counted by LTC) so is a bit overrated at 5 points. The ♣QJ may not take any tricks so is also overrated at 3 points. Since this hand has both major suits, it is probably worth opening 1 but it is a very close decision and PASS might be better. [It all depends on what responder's hand is like and the opening bidder has to make a initial guess.]
Hand F:
♠ 87
♠ 94
Hand F has 11 high card points and seven losers. This one is another close call, but can probably be opened 1. The high card points are in the long suits which makes opening this more attractive even though we don't have 13 points.

Well, hopefully you get the idea... you need 13 or more points or seven or fewer losers. Ideally, you want both. When you have only one, you need to make a decision (and stick with it in your later bidding).

Planning your next bid: general thinking

You might have noticed in a couple of the hands above that we talked about what you'd bid next. This is no minor point. If you remember from the lesson on "three important questions and the importance of planning," it was stressed that you needed to think about what you'd bid next if partner made a minimum bid.

Your next bid depends on whether you have a minimum (13-15 points or 7 losers), strong (16-18 points or 6 losers), or a strong (19-21 or 5 losers) and depends somewhat on what your partner has said in her response.  Partner's responses will be showing values which are either a) minimum response or more: "at least 6 points or 9 or fewer losers", b) good response or more: "at least 10 points or 8 or fewer losers",or c) game-forcing response or more: "at least 13 points or 7 or fewer losers".

Losing Trick Count for the Partnership

When LTC was introduced in the 2♣ lesson, we were only looking at the winners in our hand. 

When we begin a "conversation" by opening 1 of a suit, we can also use LTC to try to predict how many tricks the partnership can take.  This isn't perfect, but it can help us make some decisions when we have to make a guess. 

When using LTC for the partnership, you add the number of losers you have in your hand to the maximum number of losers that partner has said she has. 

To get the number of winners the partnership probably has, you subtract this number from 24.  [I'm not going to explain the theory behind this.  Just accept that 24 is the number you want to use.  Sometimes you just have to smile and say "Ok. If that's what you say, teacher."]

So, if you have 7 losers in your hand and partner says she has 9 or fewer losers in her hand, the partnership total for losers would be 16.  Thus, the partnership probably has 8 winners (which says you can probably bid safely to the 2-level in some suit.) 

Partner will also be doing the same thing, so both partners will be trying to tell each other about their points [trying to total to 26 or more for game] or trying to tell each other about the number of losers they have [trying to total 10 tricks for a major suit game or 11 tricks for a minor suit game].  This takes practice, and we'll be talking about these conversations a lot in the remaining lessons.

Planning your next bid:
partner makes a "minimum response or more"
(but doesn't support the major suit you bid)

Since your partner will most often respond with a bid which says she has at least 6 points or more or 9 or fewer losers (known as a minimum response), we'll only concern ourselves with what to do after this bid for the moment. However, if partner makes a bid which does not limit the number of points she holds you must bid again.

[For those who really have to know now, a bid of 1-of-another-suit shows 6 or more points, so you must bid again if partner makes this kind of bid.  A bid of 1 No Trump shows 6-10 points and you have the option of PASSing it since partner has limited the number of points she holds.  But we'll talk about your second bid in more detail in a later lesson, so for now, we're just going to say partner makes a "minimum response or more" which means you must make some kind of bid.]

If you have a maximum opening hand (19-21 points or 5 losers), you know that the partnership has at least 25 points and has at most 14 losers (which means 10 winners).  Thus, you should want to make a bid which partner cannot PASS.  Most often this will be some sort of jump shift or reverse.  

A jump shift is a bid in a suit which you could have made one-level lower than you did.  For example, you open 1and partner responds 1♠ (which, as we will see,  is a "minimum response or more").  If you decide that you want to bid clubs next, you could bid 2♣ (since you can't bid 1♣ because clubs is lower in rank than either hearts or spades).  So, 2♣ would not be a jump shift.  However, if you bid 3♣, it would be a jump shift!  So with a maximum opening hand, one possibility is to bid one level more than you need to.   Partner will then know you have (nearly) enough points to assure game and will not PASS when she gets to bid again.

A reverse is a bid is actually similar to a jump shift, but is just a bit different.  A reverse is a bid at the 2-level in a suit which is higher in rank than the suit you bid first.  (It doesn't have to be a jump, but it can be.)  You can also hold just a little bit less: 17-21 points are possible. [Note: since you may not have enough points to guarantee game (for example, you have 17 points and partner has 6 points so the partnership has only 23 points total), “your partner cannot PASS
on her first bid after the reverse. However she may PASS your next bid even if it's below the game level. She must bid something. We'll see more examples of how you and partner can get your communications sorted out.]

An example of a reverse: you open 1♣ and partner responds 1 (a "minimum response or more").  If you bid 2♠, you have bid a suit at the two-level in a suit higher in rank than clubs.  Thus, you have made a reverse.  The second piece of information is that that it usually implies you have more length in the first suit you bid than in the second.  [In the example, you probably have more clubs and spades.  Since a bid in a new suit is made with four in that suit, you have at least four spades and thus probably have five clubs.]

Jumps to NoTrump usually indicate that you had a five-card major, but everything else is good for NoTrump (stoppers in all the other suits) and a fairly balanced distribution (usually 5 cards in the major suit with the other suits being 3 cards, 3 cards and 2 cards: known as 5332 distribution).  A jump to 3NT indicates that you have 19 points or more.

If you have a strong opening hand (16-18 points or 6 losers), you aren't sure that the partnership has enough for game (in either points [22 or more total for the partnership] or winners [15 or fewer losers]).  You can't force partner to bid again, since you aren't sure "how high" the partnership should be.  You need to make a bid which is encouraging to partner, but can't reverse or jump shift.  If partner in her second bid, makes an encouraging bid (showing 10 or more points or 8 or fewer losers), you will try to get the partnership to game.  Right now, you'll probably just make a response like you have a minimum opening hand (see the next paragraph) and wait to see what partner says next.

If you are rebidding the suit you opened because you hold more than five cards in the suit, you can jump to 3 of that suit.  However, this usually implies that you don't have another (non-reverse) bid to make.

A jump to 2NT after partner makes a minimum response indicates that you have 17-18 points or so.

If you have a minimum opening hand (13-15 points or 7 losers), you can't be confident that game is assured.   However, partner might have a good hand and was just waiting to see what you have to tell her.  One thing you can't do is PASS since partner might have a good hand.  [Her response is forcing you to bid again!]  So, you will most definitely make a jump shift or reverse.  You'll make some kind of "non-jump" bid.

Let's look at a few hands and see how we will plan ahead (if partner makes a minimum bid).

Hand G:
If you decided to open this hand (and it was suggested above that you might consider it: it's a close call), you cannot jump.  You'd probably like to tell partner that you have four diamonds in addition to your five hearts, so if you decide to open this hand and partner makes a "minimum response", you'll bid 2.  Partner will now know that you have a minimum opening hand (13-15 points or 7 losers) and can add her points and losers to yours to see if game is possible.
You have 20 points and 5 losers, a maximum opening hand and should open 1.   If partner makes a minimum response, you'll want to make sure the partnership gets to game, since the partnership has 26 points (your 20 and partner's 6 [at least]) and 10 winners ( 24 - [5 losers (in your hand) + 9 losers or less (in partner's hand ) which will be enough for game.  You don't have a second suit that you're interested in telling partner about, so you should see if NoTrump is possible.  With this hand, you have a stopper in every suit, so you can probably go ahead and bid 3 NT .
Hand H:
You have 17 points (one for spade length) and 6 losers, which is a strong opening hand and should open 1♠.   If your partner makes a "minimum response", you're interested in game if she has 9 points (or a very good 8 points).  There's no way to know for sure how many points she has right now.  We need to make a bid which limits how many points we have so that partner can add her points to the point range we've shown and maybe she will know where and how high to play the hand.  We have another suit that we'd like to tell her about too.  We can't bid 3 since that would be a jump shift (over partner's minimum response).  So, we have to bid 2.   Partner will know that we might have as many as 18 points/6 losers for this bid (but most often 13-15/7 losers).  She won't PASS unless she's sure that we're in the right suit and we don't have enough points for game.  We'll talk about this "partnership conversation" once we have learned about what partner can have for a minimum response.
Hand I:
We have 14 points and 7 losers, so we should open this hand 1 (five card major!).  If partner bids 1♠ (which shows "four spades or more and 6 or more points and 9 or fewer losers" so it might be a minimum response), we have to decide what we want to tell partner.  We don't want to tell partner about hearts again (we have the five that we said we had, so saying them again would imply that we have more than five).  We don't have another four card suit to tell partner about.   We're relatively "flat" and have stoppers in diamonds and clubs, so we can tell partner this by bidding 1NT!  Partner will be pretty sure we don't have 15 points (otherwise we might have opened 1NT).  So, partner will "read us" for a maximum of 16 points (we could jump in No Trump with 17+), for five hearts (because we opened one-of-that-major), and for relatively flat distribution.  A very descriptive 1NT bid!



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