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With only the opponents vulnerable, I have the following hand. No one before me has bid.

Spades T6
Hearts QT4
Diamonds 9642
Clubs AKQ9

In which positions would I open one club. An expert (Frank Stewart) recommends opening "light" in third position as a lead-directing bid. (I would open this hand "freely" in any position if you changed my 2 of diamonds to a 2 of clubs, giving me a five card suit to go with my 11 points).

I was taught not to open with only four clubs and 11 hcps 50 years ago. But would modern players open in the first, second or fourth positions with the above hand and if so, which positions? Would this be because they evaluated this as a 12 point hand based on the good intermediates (tens and nines) or other factors?

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    ‘Are there any experts’ is not really a good way to ask the question. Just ask if it’s reasonable to open or not.
    – Joe
    Jan 16 at 22:08
  • @Joe: Ok, changed the wording.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 16 at 22:45
  • Well, if I'm playing a 10-12 NT... For that matter, I think almost all Precision partnerships playing 14-16 would open this 1D in any seat except 4th. I wouldn't object to a partnership agreement to open good 11s in a standard system, and this qualifies. Jan 17 at 2:11
  • @AlexanderWoo: Good points in regards partnerships playing weak NT and/or highly limited openings. My leaning is still against a 1D opening on this hand, but my experience with those systems is light. A 1NT opening however is attractive if in the range. There's always benefit to hiding opponents' Spade suit. Jan 17 at 2:35

2 Answers 2

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Even favourable vulnerability I am not opening this hand in any position. My reasons in first and second seat should be obvious, as the hand is simply not opening values. In fourth seat the hand is short several Pearson points due to the short Spade suit. In third seat the argument is more subtle.

If my Club suit was swapped with either major suit I see a third seat opening as being potentially valuable. There is a chance partner has sufficient values that we can buy a 2 Spade or 3 Heart contract profitably. However we are never buying this hand profitably in Clubs after two passes to me. Further, the 1 Club bid increases rather than decreases the bidding options for opponents. The possible lead directional gain is simply insufficient compensation.

Part of the reason is that Partner's only possible Club holding that is awkward for a Club opening lead is Jxxx: precisely 4 to the Jack. It's well known that making an opening lead from that holding, unguided, is a frequent lead of death. However the odds of Partner holding that is by my calculation only about 6%. A call that can only win about 6% of the time yet gives tangible benefits to the opponents, even if meager, the rest of the time is IMHO a losing option.

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    Good point about major versus minor suit for opener. And this may be the first time we caught Stewart being too "aggressive" as opposed to "too coutious" with bidding advice.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 17 at 0:37
  • @TomAu: Note my reply to Alexander Woo above in regards systems with a weak 1NT and/or very limited openings of 1D through1S. Jan 17 at 2:36
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My style playing North American 2/1 is "look for reasons to pass 11 counts", not "look for reasons to open 11 counts". On this hand, here are the reasons to pass:

  • no major suits (and I have a nice "maximum passed hand" raise of hearts, if it happens)
  • serious concentration of values (which means serious holes in other suits)

For me, if it's not a 1NT opener (more about that later), that's enough to get me to pass 1st and 2nd.

What would get me to change that? Well, swap the spades and clubs and I'd probably open it 1D - my style is to bypass majors to rebid 1NT, but if we have a spade fit and game-going values, we will find it anyway. Possibly even 3=3=3=4; yes, flat hands are bad, but here, 8-fourth is a 3-card suit anyway.

In third, my goal when opening light is to get a lead-director in and put them off their opening system (and possibly set up a "win the partscore" suit fit). If I'm opening this, it's 1C. Well, that gets the lead-director in - but we're losing the partscore fight, and we're not actually doing any preempting. Opposite a partner who will "look for reasons to pass 11 counts", we're not missing game either (sure, we might be 2[he]= vs 2[sp]-1, passouts are crapshoots). Note that if you switch the black suits, for me (very aggressive opening light third) this is an automatic 1S opener - same lead-director, plus preempt the red suits and now they're the ones going to the 3 level to win the partscore.

Now, if I'm not playing "ACBL's Correct Bidding Lessons"...

  • I play a weak NT in many partnerships. Is this a "good 11" for my "good 11 to 14"? Yeah, probably. Note the difference here is that I'm taking the entire 1 level away from the opponents, and doing a much better job of describing my hand to partner (including limiting it). Is it a "12-14"? Probably not.
  • In a Precision system, is this an 11-13 NT? Without thinking.
  • Playing 14-16 in a Precision, is this a 1D opener? Yeah, probably. Again, I'm not going to be giving partner false hope (limited to 15, will rebid "11"-13 NT almost certainly (okay, if I am allowed to raise 1H to 2 on 3, this is the hand I'd do it on)) and we open all "10s that look like 11s" NV, and "11-15" V.

A final note that comes back to the first: in my "12-14 NT" K/S system, what do I think about passing this out in fourth? I do it, but I hate it. Partner could have as much as 13, if there's no rebid, and those hands have a good minor fit (not sure which minor). Of course, the opponents likely have a good major fit. It could easily turn out that we're the only non-positive score. Of course, it could turn out, even when we have 23 or 24 points together, that zero is average-very-plus (but it's not likely). And if I do open it, I have to open 1NT. In fourth, this is likely to lead to a worse score than pass.

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  • Glad to see this show up as a complement to analysis above assuming strong NT. Jan 18 at 2:50

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