Thursday, August 16, 2007

What to open? (2C, 4S, or 1S) *

Question: A friend sent in this hand and asked: What would you open with this hand after 3 passes to you? He noted that it was played online with a variety of opening bids. Apparently some folks opened 4S, some opened 1S and jumped to 4S, and some opened 2C.


Answer: Good question. This hand is not quite good enough for a 2C opener and far too good for a 4S opener. That leaves only the opening bid of 1S. Of course you will undoubtedly hold your breath until partner bids and then breathe a sigh of relief! But in actuality, if partner doesn’t have enough to bid, you probably can’t make a game.
An opening bid of 4Spades should not have any more than a minimum opener in high card points. The bid is preemptive in nature, not strength showing. It shows a long, good suit without a lot of outside cards. In general, if I can open 1S, I prefer that to opening 4S so that I can leave room for partnership bidding.
If you are not vulnerable, a Four-Bid tends to be weaker and more preemptive. It can be especially effective if the opponents are vulnerable -- the higher you bid, the tougher you make it for them to find their best contract. Non-vulnerable Four-Bids can be made with hands where you have little hope of making the contract unless partner has a very good hand. A good guideline is to have about 7-8 playing tricks.
Some examples of non-vulnerable Four-Bids:
AJ987xxx /x/QJ4/x
xx/Void /KJx /QJ1097xxx
A vulnerable Four-Bid may still be made to preempt the opponents, but you should have more playing strength -- about 8 or 9 tricks in your own hand. You can open a vulnerable Four-Bid with hands like:
An opening bid of 2C should ideally have only 4 losers. This hand has about 5. Give yourself the ace of clubs or the king of hearts and this hand would qualify. I hate to open 2C with 2 quick losers in any suit.

Normally when you open 2C you would rebid 2S with a very strong hand and good spades. Frank and I have a variation on the 2C bid which would actually work well for this hand. We open 2C and then jump to 4S! This shows a hand that is not as good as a standard 2C opener, and yet a hand where you want to take your chances in game. We play a lot of imps and can’t afford to miss games, so if we have a hand that we’re afraid might get passed in 1S, and yet is not quite as good as a standard 2C opener, we open 2C and jump to 4S. We alert and describe this bid.

Speaking of standard 2C openers, I have been involved in many discussions about the number of high card points required. Just when we thought we were clear that a 2C opener needed at least, say, 18-20 points, our opponents at a tournament got away with opening 2C with a long suit and about 10 points! We were damaged when they described it as “strong” and the director failed to give us redress.

Tip: Even if your opponents open 2C, if you have a good hand, bid it!

Thanks to Corrick B. for the problem. He also provided the other hand and noted that the HK was offside so the hand only made 5.



For a thorough discussion of these and many other bridge conventions check out Karen Walker’s website:
See you at the table!

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