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A question on which i think the Jury is still out - With a 5 card Major and 16 points - lets say 5-3-3-2 do I open 1 NT or bid 1 of the major. And how do I show my partner a medium hand if I do open 1 Spade. With a 5-4-2-2 I could bid 2 hearts as my 2nd bid but with a 4-5-2-2 I couldn't even do that as I would be reversing - which normally shows 17-18.

And if I bid 1NT then do I need to be playing Puppet Stayman?

Many thanks for your time and patience.

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This is a matter of partnership agreement. In particular, it is reasonable either to almost always or almost never open 1NT with a 5-card major.

If you are in the almost always camp, assuming a 15-17 NT opener, you should open any 5332 hand with a 5-card major and 15-16 HCP 1NT unless all of your points are in your major and one of the side suits. These bidders will also likely open 1NT with the appropriate point count and semibalanced shapes that are difficult to rebid (e.g. 2=4=5=2, 2=4=2=5, but not 4=2=5=2 since you can raise or introduce spades without reversing). Puppet Stayman is not a necessity, but it is useful. Justin Lall has a useful post about Puppet Stayman.

If you are in the almost never camp, you should open those hands one of the major. The types of hands that would open 1NT with a 5-card major would be those that have positional stoppers or half-stoppers in 2 or 3 of the side suits (like QTx, Kx, Qx) along with a poor 5-card major.

The most important thing is to be on the same page as your partner.

As to how to rebid after opening 1 of a major with a semibalanced or balanced 15-17, here's a guide:

  • If you have a 4-card suit lower than the suit you opened, rebid that.
  • If your shape is 4=5=2=2, rebid 2C.
  • Otherwise, rebid your longer minor at the two-level, preferring to bid a 3-card club suit before a 3-card diamond suit. However, be sure to discuss this with your partner -- you may find that you both prefer to rebid 2D with something like xx AKJxx AKx xxx.

Obviously, if partner invites, you'll accept. If partner takes a simple preference to your first major, you will probably want to make a game try:

  • If you have 3-card support for partner's suit, bid it as cheaply as possible.
  • If you have a truly excellent 5-card major (AKJTx or better) and values that look better for a suit contract than NT (fitting honors for partner's suit, side suits with either no honors or with quick tricks), you might make a try by rebidding 3 of your major.
  • Otherwise, 2NT.
  • If you really don't like rebidding 2C on 4-5-2-2 hands, you can either play Flannery or play this reverse a little light (possibly even a nonforcing 15-18, with stronger hands requiring a different bid). – Alexander Woo Nov 22 '16 at 2:06
  • One paragraph to describe the almost always approach; Five paragraphs to describe the almost never approach. Guess my preference. I add the constraint of never opening 1NT with a weak doubleton in the other major, in case partner transfers into it. – Forget I was ever here Nov 22 '16 at 3:59
  • Hi Ruds, I am keen to bid 1NT to show my partner my point range so If I open 1NT with a 5-3-4-2, how do I show my partner I have a 5 carder without Puppet stayman. If my partner bids 1C and I bid 1S how do I show 5 and not 4. If partner bids 2NT then I could either pass if I have 15 points or bid 3S showing a 5 carder? What if I have a 4-5-2-2, then what could be my bid ? what if my partner transfers me to a Minor? Thanks... – nick Dec 2 '16 at 15:32
  • With 5332 you can't show a 5-card suit without puppet (except over the 2nt invitation when you're strong enough to accept), but I find this disadvantage is outweighed by letting your partner know your strength and approximate shape early in the auction. With 4=5=2=2 exactly I would not open 1NT. With a 5-card minor and a 4-card major and 15-16 high card points, 1NT is OK and solves a lot of rebid problems. – ruds Dec 2 '16 at 15:39
  • @nick You have a lot of questions, which probably belong in questions not comments :) 1C-1S with 5 is the reason for New Minor Forcing and XYZ conventions, which allow you to bid the other minor (2d) in a sequence like, say, 1c-1s-1nt-2d, asking your partner if s/he has 4h or 3s. – Joe Dec 7 '16 at 21:31

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