Beginning bridge: Opening One-Bids

After the cards are dealt, the bidding begins with the dealer and progresses clockwise around the table. The first person to make a bid (rather than a Pass) is the opening bidder

An opening bid tells partner you want to name the final contract, and you'll want to have a better-than-average hand to send this message. You can determine your hand's strength by counting its high-card points. To do this, you mentally assign points for each of the high honors in your hand:

Ace = 4 pts. 

King = 3 pts.

Queen = 2 pts.

Jack = 1 pts.

There are 40 pts. in the whole deck, so an “average” hand would be 10 pts. To make a one-level opening bid, your hand should have at least 12-13 pts.

Should I open?

Always open the bidding if your hand counts up to 13 pts. or more.

You may open with only 11-12 pts. if you have at least 2 ˝ quick tricks and a good suit. (See "Evaluating your opening bid" below.)

If you’re in third position after two passes, you can open with 11 pts. if you have a good suit.

Pass with all other hands. You may bid later.

Which suit?

The suit you choose for your first bid isn’t necessarily the one that will be trumps, or even the one you want to be trumps. An opening bid is  meant only to get the bidding started. It asks partner to tell you something about his strength and suit length so you can both make a decision on what the final contract should be. 

Every opening bid has a simple, specific meaning. It tells partner about your minimum strength and whether or not you hold five or more cards in a major suit (hearts or spades). Your opening one-bids -- in the order you should consider them -- and their exact meanings are:

1NT = exactly 15 to 17 high-card points and balanced distribution (your 13 cards are divided 4333 or 4432 or 5332 or 5422).

1H or 1S = 12+ pts. and at least 5 cards in the bid suit.

1C or 1D = 12+ pts. and NO 5-card major. You may have only 3 cards in your suit for an opening 1C or 1D bid.  

Always choose a 1H or 1S opening if you have 5 or more cards in the major suit. If you cannot open 1H or 1S, choose your longer minor, even though you may hold only 3 cards (and/or no honors) in the suit. If you have two 3-card minors, open 1C to keep the bidding low.  

Evaluating your opening bid

You should open virtually all hands that have 13 or more high-card points. You may choose to open with 11 or 12 pts. (or even 10 pts.) if your hand and the conditions meet at least two or three of the following requirements:

Your hand has two or more quick tricks.  Quick tricks are strong honor holdings that offer "sure" tricks: 

A or KQ = 1 Quick Trick

King = 1/2 Quick Trick

AQ = 1 1/2 Quick Tricks

AK = 2 Quick Tricks

Stretch to open any hand with at least 2 1/2 quick tricks. Avoid opening "light" hands that have fewer than 2 quick tricks.

   A1043   1096   AK92   43 -- Open 1D. This is "only" 11 pts., but it has three prime quick tricks.
   Q106   AQ1073   KJ76   4 -- Open 1H. Just two quick tricks, but good playing strength.
   QJ6   K72   Q43   A753 -- Pass. This is a "soft" hand with only 1 1/2 quick tricks.

You have good suit quality -- honors and high "spot" cards in your long suits rather than your short suits.
   AQJ103   86   A1042   32 -- Open 1S.
   J7643   KQ   A2   Q643 -- Pass.

You'll have an easy, descriptive rebid -- a 6+-card suit or a two-suited hand.
   10   KQJ85   765   AJ93 -- Open 1H. You plan to rebid 2C if partner doesn't raise hearts.
   1032   3   KQJ1065   AJ9 -- Open 1D. You plan to rebid 2D over any response from partner.

You have length and strength in the majors. This gives you an easy rebid and makes it more likely that you'll play in a trump contract instead of notrump.
   K1072   AJ93   4   K954 -- Open 1C. If partner responds 1D, you can bid 1H. If he instead responds 1H or 1S, you'll raise to 2 of his suit.
   4   K43   AJ93   K9543 -- Pass. You'll have an awkward rebid if partner responds 1S.

You're vulnerable. It may be safer to open a vulnerable 1-bid than to overcall later, especially if you have a fairly weak suit.
   7   K98754   A102   KJ3 -- Open 1H. You'd hate to have to overcall 2H if your opponent opens 1S.
   Void   KJ10543   A102   J643 -- Pass. This hand is too weak for a 1-bid and too strong for a 3-bid. You can describe it better by overcalling later.

You have a partscore at rubber bridge. To complete your partscore, it's often important to show your values early in the auction. A light opener is fairly safe in this situation because partner will usually keep the bidding low.

A RULE TO REMEMBER:  If you decide your hand is worth an opening bid, stay with the courage of your conviction. Don't "lie" later just to make up for your thin high-card points. Treat your hand as a "real" opener, especially if you find a trump fit.

If you're in third seat (partner has passed)

Be more willing to open light. You should stretch to open a hand of just 10-11 pts. if:

You have a strong suit -- one you want partner to lead if you defend.
    KQ1093   J4   A75   983 -- Open 1S.

You can safely pass any suit partner responds.
KJ3   10876   1092   AQJ -- Open 1C and pass partner's response.

Copyright ©  Karen Walker