With a "12 point" hand like ♠ QJ2 ♡K64 ♢A42 ♣ Q852, I might pass, rather than open in first or second seat because of its "flat" shape, for which I would deduct a point. It also has no four card major.

But upgrade the hand to ♠ QJ2 ♡K64 ♢A42 ♣ KQ85, and I have a 15 pointer that I would open 1 NT with. Put another way, I would not deduct a point for the flat distribution because I consider it an advantage in no trump (all four suits are guarded). I worry less about the "flatness" of the hand because I need only nine tricks, not ten, for game.

Is it reasonable to treat flat hands this way? Or should I be more "consistent" and deduct one point for no trump hands with 4-3-3-3 distribution as well, and therefore open one club?

2 Answers 2


You should downgrade balanced hands (or not) consistently. Bidding systems are generally designed for opener to be able to show a balanced hand and its narrowly limited range by the second round of bidding at the latest. Your partner should have a good understanding of what those narrowly limited ranges look like. Opening 1C and rebidding 1NT is just as much a balanced action as opening 1NT, so there's no real call to use different evaluation methods for the two auctions.

My advice would be not to downgrade. Bidding systems have tended toward opening more aggressively, not less, over time. This is because getting into the auction has way more upside than downside.

  • When bidding one of a minor, there might not be a problem when that is not my real suit. But the lack of a five card suit is a handicap when bidding a major.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 20:19
  • 1
    I added the words "balanced hands" to the first sentence to clarify what I meant. I'm not sure what bidding a major has to do with these sequences.
    – ruds
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 20:40

I would definitely pass with your first hand. Not only is it flat, but it doesn't match rule of 20, and the unsupported Q is not really worth 2 points.

But I'd open 1 NT with your 2nd hand. Yeah, it's flat, but here the lesser honors are supported and all the suits are at least somewhat protected.

  • 1
    Your second point in the first paragraph is completely inaccurate. There is no reason to devalue unsupported quacks in suits of 3 or more cards. Not only are these cards adequately guarded, but the chance of developing a trick from Qxx or Jxx is vastly improved, in both cases, over having just 9xx. It's vital to recognize that the value counted for high cards also includes their effect on promoting length tricks in their suit. That's a key factor in why short honour holdings are devalued. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 14:19

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