This was a Baron Barclay's problem.

Both vulnerable, I was sitting South after three passes with the following hand: (All x's are 6 or lower). (s) AT7x (h) Kxx (d)9xx (c) AJX.

I elected to pass. I have 12 high card points but no five card suit. And my distribution is 4-3-3-3, so I deduct one point. I have one T, one 9, and one 7, but less than what was expected in intermediate cards (no 8s).

My second choice, with the "right" partner, would be 1 spade. Rule of 15, opposite a passed hand in third or fourth seat. Switch my hearts and spades and I would just pass; the other side is more likely to have spades.

But the answer given in the problem was one club. The two partners got to a precarious, but makeable 3 spade part score because partner had, (s) KJ8x (h) Qx (d) KT9 (c) T87x. Partner had his "quota" of 9 hcps, something extra in intermediate cards, and above all, four pretty good spades.

Was this a "lucky" result that I did well to shun? Was this a "natural" result of an opening one spade bid? Or should I follow Baron Barclay's supposedly expert line and bid one club?

1 Answer 1


It's not even particularly close - just open 1C.

In 4th seat the overriding consideration is the ability to make a plus score, and the use of Pierson Points to make that evaluation is widely regarded as the best (to date) means of assessing that prospect.

Here you have 12 HCP with 2.5 QT, well placed J and T, and another good spot card (albeit unsupported) in the Diamond suit. Additionally you have 4 Spades. The Pierson Count for your hand is therefore:

  • 12 HCP

  • 4 Spades

Total = 16.

Even with a deduction in terms of overall strength of 1 point for the 4333 distribution you clearly make the 15 PP cut-off and should open 1C. Unless you are playing 4-card Major system (such as Goren or ACOL) do not lie and open 1 Spade here. Your possession of 4 good Spades is a defensive as well as offensive value, and if partner holds 5 hearts you want to make it easy, not hard, for that suit to be introduced by partner - you cannot bid it over a Negative Double. If partner calls a Negative Double over a 2H overcall you will be delighted to rebid 2S and land in the 8-card Major fit.

If you want to "play games" on this hand: after a 1D overcall and a negative double by partner, just rebid 1H and pass partner's response.


But don't open 1S playing a 5-card major system.

The appropriate time to open this hand 1 Spade is in 3rd seat, not 4th. The goal of that call is to buy the contract in 2S or 3S and go down one (undoubled) for a smaller minus than opponents' part score. In 4th seat you are opening only if a plus looks to be in the cards, as a pass out is better still than a small minus.

I have always seen a description pf Pearson Points given as HCP + Spades - never as total points + Spades. In the absence of an analysis otherwise, take that at face value.

  • 1
    This exactly. I’d be very irritated if my partner opened 1S with four there - especially when I held xx AQxxx xx Kxxx or something like that and we actually have a good part score or even a game possible.
    – Joe
    May 17, 2020 at 2:13
  • So in a "restricted choice," you'd pass rather than bid one spade? But "one club" is better than either of the foregoing?
    – Tom Au
    May 17, 2020 at 14:53
  • 1
    @TomAu: Don't abuse technical terms - there is no restricted choice here, just good bidding decisions and bad bidding decisions. So just open 1 Club and stop mucking around. May 17, 2020 at 15:10
  • 1
    @TomAu: No, not at all. In that case you have 15 PP instead of 16, which still calls for an opening of 1 Club. PP = HCP + Spades, not Total Points + Spades, as I pointed out above. Further, your 12 HCP with 2.5 QT and good supporting structures must be regarded as a good 12, resolving all tendency to make a really bad call. May 17, 2020 at 15:38
  • 1
    OK, "good 12" Almost, but not quite 13. But clearly 12+ versus 12-.Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    May 17, 2020 at 15:41

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