This refers to a strong (15-17) 1NT with hand shapes of 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2.

With "flat" hand like (s) Kxx (h) Kxx (d) KJx (c) KQxx, I would refrain from bidding 1NT, after deducting one point from my "bare" 15 for the 4-3-3-3 shape. (All the x's are 7 or lower; give me two or three tens or nines and I would probably open 1NT.) Instead, I would bid one club.

Change the hand slightly to (s) Kx (h) Kxx (d) KJxx (c) KQxx, and I'd probably bid 1 diamond since I'm 2-3 in the majors, even though my shape is technically 2-3-4-4. (But if the major and minor suits were switched, so I have two high card majors, I'd bid 1NT and hope to hear 2c (Stayman) or a transfer bid.)

With a 5-4-2-2 "semibalanced" hand, I wouldn't bid 1NT with 15-16, but might do so with 17-18, deducting a point or so for two doubletons.

Would most experts refrain from bidding 1NT with 15 high card points in the above situations, or similar ones that I haven't mentioned?

2 Answers 2


I can't speak for most experts, but I can speak for myself. I never downgrade a balanced 15-count. I occasionally upgrade a balanced 14-count, and I know several good players who do it more frequently (and announce "a good 14-17" when their partners open). Likewise, I never downgrade an 18-count into a 1NT opener, but occasionally upgrade a 17-count into a 1-level opening followed by 2NT rebid (almost always when holding a decent 5-card suit, more frequently when the suit is a major).

On the subject of 5332s, a national champion once told me that when you hold a 5-card major with 15 or 16 HCP, you should either almost always or almost never open 1NT. He was in the almost always camp; he would prefer to open the major if literally all of his high-card points were in two suits.

As to 5422 shapes, whether you should open 1NT depends on a couple of things. Most important is rebid problems. If you have 5 diamonds and 4 hearts (e.g. xx AQxx AKJxx Qx), you will have a rebid problem after partner responds 1S or 1NT. I don't think this hand is good enough to reverse, and rebidding 2D is terrible, so I would open 1NT. On the other hand, if your hand is AQxx xx Qx AKJxx, you have a good rebid after any of partner's likely responses, so there's no need to open 1NT. A difficult case is when you hold 5 clubs and 4 diamonds; if you play Crawling Stayman (i.e. that 1NT-2C-2D-2H shows that responder has a weak hand with length in both majors), you should avoid opening 1NT without at least three cards in at least one major.

Another consideration for 5422 hands is whether your values are in your long suits or your short suits. A hand like Kx Qxxxx Kxxx AK has values concentrated in the short suits; consider opening 1NT instead of 1H.

  • I think most experts would agree with this answer.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 21:43
  • I can only speak for myself - but I agree also. ;-) Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 21:58
  • 1
    As my first bridge teacher told me "we look for excuses to bid 1NT, not for excuses not to bid 1NT."
    – hunter
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 14:35
  • @PieterGeerkens: I'm a bit confused by your agreement, because I believe that you were the person that taught me to subtract a point for the 4-3-3-3 distribution, plus the fact that there were no "intermediates" (T, 9, 8), when I specified that the x's were 7 or less.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 17:48
  • @TomAu Hand evaluation is a funny thing. Rules of thumb are contextual. In this case, it is my opinion that subtracting a point for 4333 distribution is appropriate for responder deciding whether or not to invite, or whether or not to force to game, and it's appropriate for opener when deciding whether to make a game try, or whether to accept an invitation for responder. It's also useful for deciding whether to open a hand at all. But I don't think it's a useful rule of thumb for deciding which balanced opening sequence to make (1NT, 1 of a suit followed by 1 or 2NT, 2NT).
    – ruds
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 4:43

although a weak NT advocate (10-14 without a 5+ Major) I urge you to consider a 14+ - 17 or even 14+ - 18-. when the range for all minimum openers is identical, an opener that qualifies to open 1M & NT will never mislead partner in terms of shape & strength. further, that range would also apply to mini Roman, Flannery, gambling 3NT, & NAMYATS is used. keng

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