My partner and I play a strong NT and 5 card Majors. However, we're unsure how to open strong hands with no long suits.

For example, how do we open a 4432 hand with 16-19 high card points or 20-22 high card points?

How do we open 4441 hands with 16 or more high card points?

  • 3
    Two things: 4432 is by no means an unbalanced hand. Balanced shapes are 5332, 4432, and 4333. 6322 and 5422 are sometimes referred to as semibalanced. Also, I'm not quite sure what all the hyphens after 20/22 pts are supposed to mean. – ruds Jul 24 '13 at 18:03

4432, 5332, and 4333 shapes are all balanced, and should be bid as such. It is my sense that these days, it is common to open 1NT even with a 5-card major, although it is not universal. Pairs with weak 1NT openers are less likely to open a 5-card major with 1NT because they have a different set of methods than pairs with strong NT openers.

In America these days, a "strong no trump" implies a 15-17 HCP range for 1NT openers, so you'd open a 4432 like so:

  • With 12-14 HCP, open a minor and plan to rebid 1NT.
  • With 15-17 HCP, open 1NT.
  • With 18-19 HCP, open a minor and plan to jump to 2NT.
  • With 20-21 HCP, open 2NT.

4441 is the hardest shape to bid, since systems are mostly not built with them in mind. My preference is to open the lowest 4-card suit. With 16+ (not counting any singleton honor), you can splinter if partner bids one of your suits. If your short suit is spades or clubs, you can rebid 2H (slightly lying about your shape) when partner bids your singleton. If your short suit is diamonds or hearts, with 17-19 you'll have to rebid 2NT, and with 20-22 you'll have to jump to 2S when partner bids your singleton.

  • That is a really awkward style. Why give yourself problems in more scenarios than necessary. Did you once play Kaplan-Sheinwold perhaps, before switching to West-coast style? You seem to have a mish-mash of the two styles in your head. – Forget I was ever here Jul 24 '13 at 22:07
  • @PieterGeerkens The main difference I see between our two styles comes in 1=4=4=4 17-counts. You prefer the auction 1D-1S-2C and I prefer 1C-1S-2H. When partner holds KJxxx Kxxx x xxx, I'd rather play in 4H than 2C. I think that's the sort of thing that will happen too often in your approach, and is more of a risk than getting too high or missing a diamond slam in my approach. – ruds Jul 25 '13 at 4:15
  • If partner is going to make only 1 bid it must be in hearts, for exactly this reason. Partner has the luxury of not bidding up the line only when strong enough to bid twice. – Forget I was ever here Jul 25 '13 at 9:48
  • As I recall the original Joy of Bridge system by Eric Rodwell and Audrey Grant had opener bidding suits up the line and responder showing shape early. This has merits, but absolutely requires that both partners be In on the secret. It is thus not a Standard American system, and is incompatible with SAYC. If you play this way without partner's knowledge there are far more instances when one or both of you will not be able to draw correct bidding inferences, particularly negative ones. – Forget I was ever here Jul 25 '13 at 9:53
  • @ruds - a 1=4=4=4 17 count may easily not be worth a reverse. Note that you have shortness in partner's bid suit, often a bad thing. If your points are good, so aces and kings, rather than lower honors, and you have good spots, I can agree with a reverse. However, it is very easy to construct hands that are simply not worth a reverse. On those hands, open 1D, planning on a 2C rebid. NEVER base your choice of bid purely by counting your high card points. That is a trap. – user3264 Jul 27 '13 at 14:48

As already pointed out, 4432 hands are balanced and must be bid as such:

  • With 16-19 HCP open a minor (1D if they are 44, 1C if they are 33, else the longest) and rebid 2NT.
  • With 20-21 HCP open 2NT.
  • With 22+ open 2C and rebid 2NT.

For 12-14 pt. 4441 hands:

  • singleton heart or spade: open 1D and either raise partner's suit or rebid 2C.
  • singleton diamond: open 1C and either raise partner's suit or rebid 1H.
  • singleton club: open 1D and either raise partner's suit or rebid 2H over 2C. If partner bids your singleton every possible rebid is a lie; choose the smallest lie, choose it smoothly to not give partner an ethical problem; and bid cautiously unless a delayed fit is found.

Likewise for stronger 4441 hands, except the caution can be reduced a bit.

  • With 16-19 HCP and three points for the singleton, we are talking a strong hand. Open as above, and splinter if partner bids one of your suits. A 2NT rebid might be considered if partner responds 2C over your singleton club, but some partners won't tolerate this. Otherwise rebid as above, and await partner's rebid; Without a fit, there is no hurry to force to a challenging game.

Remember that if partner responds 2C over a 1D opening, partner promises to give you a third bid opportunity. That is the meaning of a two-over-one.

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