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THE BRIDGE WORLD

LESSON 5: Introduction To Bidding


All your skill in declarer play will avail you little if your bidding is inaccurate. If you reach a contract that not even a world champion could bring home because the contract is either too high or in the wrong denomination, you are beaten even before the dummy comes down. If you bid too little, the result will not look quite so bad because you will score some points on the deal, but experienced players know that languishing in a part-score when game is there for the taking (or stopping in game when slam is laydown) loses almost as much in the long run as overbidding. After all, the cards tend to even out over a period of time, so it is essential to take advantage of opportunity when it comes your way. Let's look at some procedures designed to turn this noble objective into reality.

The Language of Bidding

The typical bridge book of the early decades (contract bridge was first played in the late 1920's) introduced the subject of bidding in a most woeful manner. It informed its readers that South opened the bidding with one heart because the South hand justified contracting for seven tricks with hearts as trumps, and North raised to two hearts because the North hand warranted upping the commitment by a trick. The perceptive reader noted that a typical hand for a one-heart opening contained only three or four probable tricks rather than seven, further observed that there was no great advantage to playing in two hearts rather than one because neither contract represents game, and (needless to say) became considerably confused about the objectives of bidding.

A much more enlightened approach is to consider bidding as a language—i.e., a medium of communication. You and your partner must decide how much to bid (slam, game, part-score, or stay out of the auction altogether); if you do choose to try to secure the final contract, you also need to decide where it will be to your advantage to play the deal (notrump, spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs). Furthermore, you can exchange information only by choosing among fifteen words (pass, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, notrump, spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, double, and redouble), the only ones that are permitted during the bidding. For example, the following "auction" would be useful to North and South, but would clearly be illegal:

North: "I have a strong hand and regard game at notrump as a distinct possibility."

South: "That might be a good idea. I have a few useful cards and I like the idea of playing at notrump, but I'm not sure we're strong enough to bid game. Just how strong is your hand? If it's somewhat better than you've already announced, let's play in game; otherwise, we'd better not."

North: "I have some extra strength in reserve. Let's play game in notrump."

These ideas, however, could be expressed in the following legal manner:

North: "One notrump."

South: "Two notrump."

North: "Three notrump."

Each player's bid says something important about the hand, including both strength and distribution of cards. Therefore, each player must be careful to send accurate messages to partner, and must also know the meanings of partner's bids to be able to proceed properly. If each player is in tune with partner's calls, the auction will go smoothly to its correct destination; but if the communications go awry, a disaster is likely to occur. For example, suppose that North and South had different ideas conceming the meaning of South's two-notrump bid in the preceding auction:

North: "One notrump."
(North thinks: Strong hand. Possible game in notrump.)
(South thinks: Strong hand. Possible game in notrump.)

South: "Two notrump."
(North thinks: Bid game only if you have extra strength in reserve.)
(South thinks: We can surely make a game. Let's shop arond for a slam.)

North: "Pass."
(North thinks: I have nothing extra.)
(South thinks: #!$%^$@##!!.)

As a result of the disagreement about the message conveyed by South's two-notrump bid, North and South stop there and miss a "cold" game. Clearly, partners must know and agree on the meanings of bids before they come up at the bridge table!

Another type of catastrophe occurs when a player misevaluates a hand. Holding:

A K Q J    A K Q    A K Q    A K Q

it is easy to tell that you can take thirteen top tricks (and should therefore bid seven notrump); with,

5 4 3 2    4 3 2    4 3 2    4 3 2

it is not hard to determine that you cannot take any tricks (and should indicate weakness to your partner, presumably by passing). Hands that fall in between these two extremes, however, are harder to judge. In the example above where the bidding proceeded one notrump—two notrump—three notrump, all bids are properly interpreted, but the final contract will not be notably successful if what North regarded as a strong hand actually is pretty much of a lemon that won't take very many tricks.

Thus, there are two major prerequisites that are essential for bidding accuracy. Each player must know how to evaluate a hand—how to reach a correct conclusion as to the amount of strength held. Second, a bidding system must be agreed on so that each player will know how to transmit the messages to be sent and how to interpret the communications received from partner. In this lesson, we will deal with both hand evaluation and the meanings of the bids as they apply to the first bid made in an auction.

Basic Point-Count Principles

One possible method for evaluating hands is to count the number of sure (or "quick") tricks. For example, an ace would count as one trick, a holding of ace-king in the same suit as two tricks, a holding of king-three as one-half trick (half the time the finesse will win and you will score one trick; half the time the finesse will lose and you will get nothing), and so forth. This method was used extensively in the 1930s and 1940s, but it passed out of existence because using fractions is both difficult and unpleasant.

In the late 1940s, the quick-trick method was replaced by a far simpler and more accurate method: point-count. Under this technique, hands are evaluated by assigning points to various holdings. More points are assigned to more valuable possessions, and the total number of points gives an indication of the strength of the hand. Originally, only two kinds of points were counted:

(1) HIGH-CARD POINTS (often abbreviated HCP)

Since aces are more powerful than kings, kings more powerful than queens, and so on, hands with higher cards are stronger (more likely to take tricks) than hands with lower cards. This principle is expressed simply by counting points for each high card as follows:

Ace = 4 points
King = 3 points
Queen = 2 points
Jack = 1 point.

Cards below a jack are not likely enough to take tricks to be awarded any points. Some examples:

1. A Q 8 6    K 7 3    10 6 4    A J 5

This hand has 14 HCP: four for each ace (total eight), three for the king, two for the queen, and one for the jack.

2. 5 4 3 2    4 3 2    4 3 2    4 3 2

This miserable collection has 0 HCP (no aces) kings, queens or jacks.

3. A K 8    K Q J 6    A Q 8    J 7 2

This hard contains 20 HCP (four points for each ace, three points for each king, two points for each queen, and one point for each jack.). It is the strongest of the three example hands; hand 1 is next in strength, and hand 2 is the weakest.

(2) DISTRIBUTION POINTS

Short suits can also be valuable. As we saw in the discussion of declarer play, you are permitted to trump a trick if you cannot follow suit. If you have no cards in a suit (are void) you can rum immediately and need not lose a trick even to the ace; with a one-card suit (singleton) you must lose a trick to the ace, but can ruff the second round of the suit; and with a two-card suit (doubleton), you cannot prevent the opponents from cashing the ace and king but can ruff in thereafter. To give proper credit to valuable short suits, assign Distribution Points as follows:

Void = 3 points
Singleton = 2 points
Doubleton = 1 point.

For example:

1.   A Q 8 6 5    K Q 8    7    J 8 6 4

This hand has 14 points: four for the ace, three for the king, two for each queen, one for the jack, and two for the singleton.

2.   —    K J 8 6 5    K Q 10 3    A 5 4 2

Counting three points for the void, this hand has 16 points.

3.   A 9 8 6 5    8 6 5 4 3    7 2    4

This hand has 7 points, including one for the doubleton and two for the singleton.

4.   A 9 8 6    8 6 5    7 4 2    6 3 2

This hand is worth only 4 points; there are no Distribution Points at all.

Using the point-count method of hand evaluation, the following important concepts can be assigned numerical values:

Average hand = 10 HCP

Number of points in the combined partnership hands usually needed for:

Game in notrump, spades, or hearts = 26 or more points
Game in diamonds or clubs = 29 or more points
Small slam 33 or more points
Grand slam 37 or more points

This greatly simplifies your bidding strategy. For example, you would surely want at least an average hand to open the bidding, since you are encouraging partner to compete for the final contract and will need to take a majority of the tricks if (as is likely) your side becomes the declaring side. Once the bidding is under way, you can keep track of the points announced by your partner's bids, add them to the total you can see in your own hand, and have an idea as to the likelihood of your partnership's possessing the total of 26 points needed for game. If this total proves to be out of reach, you should plan to stop in the first safe landing spot, since game is out of the question; if there is a possibility that your side may possess 26 points, more investigation is needed; if you can tell that 26 points are present, you must make sure that game is reached; and if there is a possibility that your side may hold 33 points, slam should be investigated.

[ Note: For convenience, we will frequently use some simplifications in language that are not completely accurate. Game can be made with fewer than 26 points (for example, there may be a lucky lie of the cards) and you do not have a guarantee of making your contract if you bid game with 26 or more points; (you may run into bad luck). In general, however, it is a good policy to bid game when your partnership holds 26 or more points and to stop short of game with fewer than 26 points. Phrases such as "game is definite" and "game is impossible," should be interpreted with this in mind. ]

During the years immediately following the introduction of point-count, the average player's bidding skill improved greatly because of the greater accuracy of the point-count procedure. In later years, however, progress slowed dramatically. Experts soon realized that there were many flaws in the standard point-count method. Being experts, they were able to correct these flaws by substituting judgment for points whenever their experience told them that point-count would yield an inaccurate result. Average players and newcomers to bridge, however, were not so fortunate. Lacking the expertise of the top players, they necessarily adhered to point-count in all situations, and suffered poor results on those hands that point-count valued incorrectly. To add insult to injury, the inexperienced player was stuck with the same stodgy point-count for the duration of the auction, while the experts mentally upped their values when the auction took favorable turns and downgraded their assets when partness bids shrieked wamings. Since no one knew how to turn expert judgment into points, the average player was frequently led into incorrect contracts by fallacies in point-count rather than through any personal fault.

Bridge writers have suggested different methods of modifying point-count to increase its efficiency. In 1968, in Modern Bridge Bidding Complete, we introduced the first hand-evaluation method that enables expert evaluation procedures to be expressed entirely in terms of a point-count. This method, first envisioned by Alvin Roth, was then called the Roth Point Count. Starting with the same basic 4-3-2-1 point count described in the preceding section, the Roth Point Count takes the adjustments experts apply by intuition or "feel" and builds them into the point-count itself, so they can be used by the beginner and the experienced player alike. In addition to being more accurate, the Roth Point Count is far more exciting than the old-fashioned count, for it enables you to see the value of your hand change in front of your eyes as the result of the bids you and your partner make. When partner's bids signal good news, your points go up; when partner's bids flash warning signals, your points go down. This is quite different from traditional point-count, where the bidder is forced to remain with the same point count regardless of what transpires during the auction; the Roth Point Count lets you look at your hand through the eyes of the expert. For example:

   6    Q J 6 5 3    9 4    A 9 6 4 3

Before the bidding begins, your hand is worth 10 points: four for the ace, two for the queen, one for the jack, two for the singleton spade, and one for the doubleton diamond. Now suppose that partner is the dealer and opens the bidding with one spade, suggesting that your side play a spade contract. Something bad bas happened; partner is proposing a trump suit for which you have very poor support. Because of this unpleasant development, your hand is now worth much less than ten points—and you had better do something about it now, for it will be too late if you wait until after you reach a hopeless contract.

Suppose instead that your partner opens the bidding with one beart. This is indeed excellent news, for your heart holding makes it certain that your side possesses a fine trump suit. In view of this auspicious development, your hand is now worth much more than 10 points—and the time to take this into account is now, and not after you have missed a game or slam because you have underevaluated your hand.

Thus, the Roth Point Count is not only accurate, it is also fun to use because it makes every action an adventure. A hand of modest values may become quite powerful as a result of the bids you and your partner make, in which case you can bid strongly and reach the games that the old-fashioned point-counters miss. Alternatively, a hand that looks strong may prove to have a weak foundation once the bidding is underway, in which case you should tread softly and avoid the penalties for going set incurred by players using the inflexible traditional point-count. Any player, regardless of experience, can use and profit from this hand-evaluation technique. Naturally enough, as creators we are biased in favor of this particular extension to universal basic point-count techniques. However, you should get similar results from any sensible approach to flexible modifications, and you need not fear that you and your partner will end up on different planets because you adjust your point-counts in slightly different styles.

In this lesson, we are going to discuss only opener's first action. Since partner has not yet acted, and information is therefore limited, the adjustments in this area are quite simple. Let's suppose that you are the dealer and therefore are first to call. As we saw in previous chapters, tricks can be taken by length winners; consequently, the opening bidder should add points for particularly long suits. It is necessary to be careful, however, when your long suit is a minor. Game in a minor suit requires eleven tricks (and 29 points) and is harder to make than game in notrump, which requires only nine tricks (and only 26 points). As a result, many hands that include long minor suits are best played in notrump instead of clubs or diamonds, and you may have difficulty making your contract if your long suit is weak. For example, holding a suit with king-ten-six-five-four-three opposite eight-seven, it will take you several leads to drive out the enemy high cards and establish your length winners. The opponents will be building length winners in their own long suits, and (thanks to having the opening lead and thus being able to strike first) they may set up and run enough winners to defeat your notrump contract before you can run your long suit. Therefore, you should add points only for good minor suits—minor suits with two of the top three honors (ace-king, ace-queen, or king-queen). Opener should count Length Points as follows:

Major suits: Any six-card major suit = 1 point
Any seven-card major suit = 2 points
Minor suits: Any good six-card minor suit = 1 point
Any good seven-card minor suit = 2 points

In the following examples, the point-count is presented in detail. With a little practice, however, it will soon become automatic.

7 3    K 9 6 4 3 2    A    10 7 3 2

1.SuitHCPDist.LengthTotal
0101
3014
4206
0000
Total73111

Counting one Length Point for the six-card major suit, this hand is worth 11 points.

7 3    A    K 9 6 4 3 2    10 7 3 2

2.SuitHCPDist.LengthTotal
0101
4206
3003
0000
Total73010

Do not count a Length Point for the six-card minor suit, as it is not good (headed by two top honors). (Compare with the previous hand.)

Q 8 6    7    A K 7 6 4 3 2    6 5

3.SuitHCPDist.LengthTotal
2002
0202
7029
0101
Total93214

Do count two Length Points for your good seven-card minor suit.

J 10 8 7 6 4 3    A K    K 8 6 2   

4.SuitHCPDist.LengthTotal
1023
7108
3003
0303
Total114217

Count two Length Points for a seven-card major suit. As you can see, Length Points are an easy route to greater bidding accuracy. just be sure that a minor suit is good before adding the appropriate number of points.

Capsule Summary of Point Count for the Opening Bid

HIGH-CARD POINTS:
   Ace = 4, King = 3, Queen = 2, Jack = 1

DISTRIBUTION POINTS:
   Void = 3, Singleton = 2, Doubleton = 1

LENGTH POINTS:
   Six-card suit = 1 (in a minor only if good)
   Seven-card suit = 2 (in a minor only if good)

A good suit is one which includes two of the top three honors.

Review Quiz for Opener's Point-Count

How many points are in each of these dealer's hands?

1.   A Q 8 6 5    K Q 7    J 6 3    7 2

2.   K 6 3    7    A K 8 6 4 2    9 5 3

3.   J 9 7 6 3 2    A 5    6 3 2    7 3

4.   6 3    A 7    A 10 8 6 5 3    6 5 3

5.   K Q 8 6    A 5 3    7 3 2    A J 5

6.   A J 8 6 3 2    —    7    K Q 9 6 3 2

7.   K 9 7 6 4 3 2    8    6    A J 6 5

8.   6 5    9 4 3    A Q 9 7 5 3 2    A

9.   A K 9 8 6 3    J 8 6 5 4 2    —    7

10.   8 4    Q 7 3    A K    A K Q 7 4 2

Solutions

Each solutions gives, in order, the high-card points (HCP), Distribution Points, Length Points and Total.

HCPDist.LengthTotal
1.121013
2.102113
3.5218
4.82010
5.140014
6.105217
7.84214
8.103215
9.85215
10.182121

The Opening Bid

You are the dealer and have carefully counted your points. A most important question is now at hand: Should you open the bidding or should you pass? Although it is more entertaining to bid, discretion requires that you pass when you lack sufficient values to enter the auction. To open the bidding with a one-level bid, you should hold at least 13 points, including at least 10 high-card points (HCP). Some players require 14 points, although many of those allow opening with 13 if all the points are high-card points. As you become a more experienced player, you will find it acceptable not to treat pointcount too rigidly. Thus, many players set the opening bid requirement at "a good 13 points," and they judge good and bad by whether the honors are in long suits (good) or short suits (bad), and whether they hold streong intermediate cards such as tens and nines (good) or not (bad). Then, too, style plays a part; some players prefer "lighter" opening bids as a matter of style while other prefer a "sound" approach. For the sake of definiteness, we'll assume you have set your minimum requirement at 13 points, a popular choice in the 1990's. Here are a few examples:

1. A J 7 5    K J 6 2    Q 8 4    7 5

You have only 12 points. You should pass.

2. A 9 8 7 6 3    K 10 8 6 4 2    5   

You have 14 points (7 HCP, 5 Distribution Points, and 2 Length Points) but do not have the required 10 HCP. Therefore, you should pass.

3. A J 6    K 9 8 4 2    Q J 10 6 2   

You have 14 points and at least 10 HCP. You should open.

4. A Q 9 6 5    A K 8    A Q 6    9 5

With 20 points and at least 10 HCP, you must open.

The Opening One-Notrump Bid

If you find that you do not have at least 10 HCP and 14 total points, you pass and are no longer involved with the problems of the opening bid. If, however, fortune smiles and you do have the values necessary to open the bidding, your next decision concerns whether to open with one notrump or with one of a suit. There are three requirements for the one-notrump opening bid; if your hand meets all of them, you should open one notrump. However, if you fail to satisfy any one of the three requirements, you must reject the notrump opening and open with one of a suit. The requirements for the opening bid of one notrump are:
1. 16-18 HCP.
2. Balanced suit distribution: 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2.
3. High-card points in at least three of the four suits.

Once you have decided to open one notrump, you should not count your Distribution Points. It is impossible to ruff anything in a notrump contract, so your short suits possess no trick-taking value for notrump purposes. Therefore, you must reduce all Distribution Points to zero, lest you overevaluate your hand and reach too high a contract. For example:

1. K 9 6 5    A Q J 7    A Q 6    7 2

Open one notrump. With 16 HCP, balanced suit distribution, and high-card points in at least three suits, your hand meets all the requirements. Having decided to open one notrump, do not count a Distribution Point for the doubleton club; your hand is worth 16 points. Remember, you can't ruff anything in a notrump contract.

2. K Q 8    A J 7    Q 6 5    A Q 6 2

Open one notrump. You have 18 HCP, balanced suit distribution, and high-card points in at least three suits. (18 points)

3. 7    Q J 6 2    K Q 10 5    A K Q 4

Open with one of a suit. You have 17 HCP and high cards in at least three suits, but you may not open one notrump without balanced suit distribution. (19 points; since you are not bidding notrump, keep your Distribution Points.)

4. K Q 8    A K J 7    K Q 10    J 6 2

Open with one of a suit. You may not open one notrump with more than 18 HCP. (19 points)

5. K Q 8    A J 7 6    K Q 10 2    8 6

Open with one of a suit. You may not open one notrump with fewer than 16 HCP. (15 points)

6. A Q 8    7 3    A K Q J    7 6 5 3

Open with one of a suit. You may not open one notrump with high cards in only two suits. (17 points)

7. K J 8 6 2    A Q 8    9 6 3    7 2

Pass. You need 14 points (and 10 HCP) to open. (11 points)

If you can open the bidding with one notrump your side will have a definite advantage because the notrump bid is very limited and is subject to exact requirements. Thus, with just one bid, you are able to convey to your partner a great deal of information about your hand. Because the requirements for the one-notrump opening bid are so stringent, however, you will more frequently open the bidding with one of a suit, a not-strictly-limited bid that covers a wide range of values.

The Opening Bid of One of a Suit

Once you have decided that a one-level opening bid is in order but that you may not open one notrump, simply locate your longest suit. Then, act as follows:

1. If your longest suit is five cards or more, bid it. If a tie should occur, select the higher-ranking suit (for example, with heart and diamond suits each five cards in length, open one heart; with spade and diamond suits each six cards in length, open spade; and so on).

2. If your longest suit contains four cards, bid your longer minor. In case of ties, choose your stronger minor. If the minors are virtually identical, open one club. (For reasons that we cannot discuss in the current context, most experienced players prefer always to open one club with three cards in both minors, and there are several popular algorithms for which minor to choose with four cards in both. You need not worry about such small differences at this stage. For this "first lesson" we give the simplest procedure that is not significantly at variance with standard practice.)

Here are some examples:

1. A Q 8 6 3    A J 7    8 3    K 4 2

Your longest suit has five cards, so bid it. Open one spade. (15 points)

2. A    K J 8 7 6    A Q 8 6 5    6 2

With two five-card suits, bid the higher-ranking. Open one heart. (17 points)

3. A J 9 6 4 3    —    K 10 8 6 4 2    A

With two six-card suits, bid the higher-ranking. Open one spade. (18 points, counting one Length Point for the six-card major suit but no Length Point for the diamonds since the suit is not good.)

4. 8    A J 6    K Q 8 5    A Q 6 3 2

Bid your five-card suit. Open one club. (18 points)

5. A J 6 2    K Q 8 5    K 8 3    7 4

Since your longest suit has only four cards, you must bid your longer minor. Open one diamond. (14 points)

6. 7    K 9 6 2    A J 4 3    Q 5 4 2

Your longest suit has four cards, but your 13 points for an opening bid are conspicuous by their absence. Pass. (12 points)

7. K 6 5    7 2    A K J 6    Q J 3 2

With four cards in your longest suit, you must bid your longer minor. Unfortunately, the minors are equal in length. Resolve this difficulty by selecting the stronger minor. Open one diamond. (15 points)

8. K J 6    A 5    Q 10 3 2    A K 6 4

Your longest suit has four cards, and the minors are of equal length, but you will be making a terrible mistake if you open the stronger minor. With 17 HCP, balanced suit distribution, and high cards in at least three suits, open one notrump. Don't forget to make the one-notrump opening bid instead of one of a suit when your hand meets the necessary requirements. (17 points; do not count any Distribution Points when bidding notrump.)

9. K 6 3    A Q 8 2    K 6 2    K 8 5

Your longest suit has four cards, so you direct your attention to the minors; however, they are equal in both length and strength. Therefore, open club. (15 points)

10. A Q 8 6    A K 7    A Q J 5    7 2

Your longest suit is four cards, so bid your longer minor. Open one diamond. (21 points)

Higher-Level Opening Bids

THE STRONG TWO-CLUB OPENING

On occasion, you will be lucky and will pick up a band so strong that game is a virtual certainty even if partner holds no points at all. When this happy event occurs, a special bid is needed to convey the message to partner. After all, if you should open one spade holding,

A K Q 3 2    A K Q 6 5    A Q 3   

(27 points), partner (as you will learn later on) will quite properly pass with,

9 8 6 4    7 4    10 9 8    9 6 4 2

As a result, you will miss a "cold" game. This unfortunate situation will be resolved if you open the bidding with two clubs any time you have 24 or more points. This bid is artificial. It says nothing about your holding in clubs; it is a legal method of informing partner that you have at least 24 points and that both of you must continue to bid until at least game is reached. Since partner is not permitted to pass two clubs (game has not been reached), you will get another chance to bid and can then bid your longest suit.

Very old-fashioned bidding methods recommend opening with two of your longest suit with game in your own hand. However, it is absurd to reserve four bids—two spades, two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs—for powerhouse hands that rarely occur, and virtually all standard-method players use the artificial two-club opening. By using two clubs to describe any hand of 24 or more points, you free the other opening two-bids to take on different (and much more useful) meanings.

PREEMPTIVE OPENINGS

A hand such as,

K Q J 10 8 6 4 2    7    6 4 2    8

has a great deal of playing strength if spades are trumps, because you are virtually certain of seven tricks. You may not open the bidding with one of a suit, however, because you lack the necessary 14 points and 10 HCP. An ideal action is to open with a preemptive bid (a suit bid at the three-level or higher). This is likely to cause great difficulty to the opponents by preventing them from making their normal bids (for example, they can no longer open with one of a suit), and it also immediately informs partner that your hand is useful only if played in your suit and that you are so weak that your sole objective during the bidding is to hinder the opponents.

To preempt, you must always have a powerful suit and less than 10 HCP. If you are not vulnerable, you should overbid by three tricks; if you are vulnerable, you should overbid by only two tricks. For example, you would open four spades on the above hand if not vulnerable because you have seven sure tricks and would be within three tricks of your bid; if vulnerable, you should open three spades. Once you preempt, do not bid again. You have limited your hand and told the full story; let partner make all future decisions. Also, do not preempt with shaky suits; for example, pass with,

K 10 7 6 5 4 3    7    6 4 2    8 2

Preempts are so frequently effective that many players also use openings of two spades, two hearts and two diamonds as weak preemptive bids, called "weak two-bids." This is the most popular of the "different meanings" that can be gained by using the artificial two-club opening with strong hands.

Capsule Summary: The Opening Bid

Step 1. Count your points.
Step 2. Decide whether to open the bidding or pass.
A. With less than 13 total points or less than 10 HCP, pass.
B. With 24 total points or more, open two clubs (artificial).
C. Otherwise, continue to Step 3.
Step 3. Decide whether to open with one notrump or one of a suit.
A. With 16-18 HCP, balanced suit distribution, and high-card points in at least three suits, open one notrump. (Do not count Distribution Points if you open one notrump.)
B. Otherwise, continue to Step 4 (where you do count Distribution Points).
Step 4. Select the correct suit in which to make your opening bid.
A. If your longest suit has five cards or more, bid it. In case of ties, bid the higher-ranking suit.
B. If your longest suit has four cards, bid your longer minor. In case of ties, bid the stronger minor. If the minors are equal in length and strength, open one club.

Preemptive bids show less than 10 HCP in a hand with a powerful suit:
A. Opening three-bid = six tricks not vulnerable; seven tricks vulnerable
B. Opening four-bid = seven tricks not vulnerable; eight tricks vulnerable
C. Many players also use opening bids of two spades, two hearts and two diamonds as preemptive bids.

Review Quiz on Opening the Bidding

In each case, you are the dealer. How many points do you have? What call do you make?

1.    A K 8 3    Q 9 6 4 2    7 5 3    A

2.    A Q 6    K J 8 5    7 3    A Q 6 2

3.    8 7 4    A Q 6    K J 7    A J 10 2

4.    A 8 6    7    K Q 9 6 5    Q 8 3 2

5.    A 9 8 6 5    7 2    K Q J 6 5 3   

6.    8 2    A J 7 6 3    K Q 8 5    A Q

7.    7 4    A 9 8 6 5 3 2    8 6 3    10 (you are not vulnerable)

8.    K 8 6 3    A 8 6 2    6 5 3    A K

9.    A Q J 6    7 5 3    8 2    A K Q J

10.    A J 8 6 3    7    A Q 8 6 2    6 5

11.    A J 7 6    A Q 6 2    8    K Q 10 7

12.    Q 8 6    7 4 3    A Q 8 2    A K Q

13.    A K    A K J 6 5    A K J 7 6    6

14.    3    2    K 8 7 5 2    A Q 9 7 6 4

15.    Q 8 6 3    A 7 4 2    K Q 9 6 3   

16.    K J 9 7 6 3    A 3 2    K 6 3    8

17.    8 6 5 4 3    A K Q 3 2    A 2    3

18.    A J 8 6    K Q 3    A Q 7    K 10 9

19.    K Q 7    A 10 8    7 3    A K J 6 2

20.    A    8 3    Q J 10 9 7 6 5    7 4 3 (you are not vulnerable)

Solutions

Each solution gives the number of points and the action to take as dealer.

 1)  15; one heart.
 2)  16; one notrump.
 3)  15; one club.
 4)  13; one diamond.
 5)  15; one diamond.
 6)  18; one heart.
 7)  9; pass.
 8)  15; one diamond.
 9)  18; one club.
10)  14; one spade.
11)  18; one club.
12)  17; one notrump.
13)  26; two clubs.
14)  14; pass.
15)  14; one diamond.
16)  14; one spade.
17)  16; one spade.
18)  19; one diamond.
19)  17; one notrump.
20)  10; three diamonds.

This article is an adapted excerpt from "Modern Bridge Bidding Complete" by Alvin Roth and Jeff Rubens.
Copyright 1968. Used by permission.

LEARN BRIDGE

Our learning center web pages are dedicated to teaching the game of bridge. There are lessons for first-time players, as well as for those at the elementary and intermediate levels. You can find the appropriate section, and proceed through the lessons.

BEGINNER: Learn how to play bridge if you have never played before. The beginner lessons here are designed for those who know little or nothing about the game.

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INTERMEDIATE: Here is a collection of intermediate-level problems in bidding, declarer play, and defense for you to practice and improve your game.