By Kitty and Steve Cooper

The objective of bidding is getting your side to the best contract. If you have an eight card or longer major suit fit, that’s where to play the hand since it tends to outscore the other possibilities. Although notrump will score better than a major if you take the same number of tricks, having a trump suit is usually worth at least one extra trick. The modern standard bidding approach favors finding eight card major suit fits. With no major suit fit, you should prefer to play notrump over a minor if possible, since you have to make two more tricks in a minor than in notrump to get a better score. For example, 1NT making two is 120, while 2C making three is 110 and making four is 130. Try a few for yourself.

A basic principle for opening the bidding at the one level is that you must hold 13-21 points; with less you pass and with more you open 2C, 2NT, or 3NT (if you play that as strong). Some players like to open all hands with 12 points, others even like to open 11. Use the hand evaluation methods discussed in the first article of this series to see if your 11 or 12 high card points reevaluate to 13.

Before we go any further we need to define some terms. A hand with no void or singleton and not more than one doubleton meets our definition of a “balanced” hand. The term “high card points” (HCP) refers to points just from high cards, no distributional or reevaluated points, while the term “points” includes all points.

Here is the basic set of questions to ask yourself when deciding what to open at the one level - keep asking them in sequence until you answer one with a “yes”:

1)    Do I have 15-17 high card points in a balanced hand? Open One Notrump, except sometimes when you have a five card major (see below).
2)    Do I have a five card or longer suit? Open your highest ranking long suit.
3)    Do I have a four card minor? Open your highest ranking four card minor (1D if you have both minors).
4)    Do I have three clubs? Open one club.
5)    If you have answered “no” to all of the previous questions you must have a 4432 pattern (4S 4H 3D 2C), in which case you open one diamond, note that this is the only time that an opening bid of 1D is made without at least a four card suit

A good practice is to think about your rebid over partner’s most obvious responses before you make your first bid. Sometimes, the lack of a good rebid will alter your opening bid. The best example of this is the problem of whether to open 1NT or one of a major with a 5332 distribution and 15-17 points. Since major suits are so important in the scoring, you prefer to open a major if you have a good rebid. The modern practice is to call 17 points with a five card suit 18, so you can next rebid 2NT. With fewer points, open the major if you have a good three card minor to make your rebid in. Opener's rebids will be covered in a future article in this series.

Here’s a summary of opening bids with a hand too good to open at the one level.

2C: Any hand with 22 or more points unless you play 3N to show 25-26, an inferior method that most tournament players have abandoned in favor of treating 3N as showing a long and solid minor with nothing outside.
2N: 20-21 high card points and a balanced hand.

Other high level openings are reserved for preempts, which will be covered in a future article.

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