Using Five-Card Majors

Neither side vulnerable
The bidding has gone:


Opening suit bids in Bridge World Standard are based on five-card majors. In one sense, this makes the choice of suit for the opening easier--a rigid set of relatively simple rules points to the "correct" suit. In minors, standard expert practice requires opening the longer suit (except perhaps with five diamonds and six clubs, or with four strong diamonds and five weak clubs). In case of ties, open diamonds with four-four, but clubs with three-three (to prepare for possible rebid problems).

In another sense, five-card majors makes the choice of suit for the opening bid harder, because the rigid rules can lead to unnatural openings. Opener must sometimes make a difficult choice: follow his bridge instinct, or follow his system?

As South, what call do you make with each of the following:

(a) K 8 6 4    A Q 8 2    8 6 5    A 2

(b) A Q J 9    K J 6 4    8 6 5    K 2

(c) A Q 9 4    K J 6 4    8 6 5    A J

(d) A Q 9 4    K J 6 4    8 6 5    Q 2

(e) K 8 5    K J 8 4    A K 7    6 5 3

(f) J    K 6 5 4    6 4 3 2    A K J 9


K 8 6 4    A Q 8 2    8 6 5    A 2

(a) One diamond. Unpleasant, yes. But it is not as though there were any sensible altemative. Bidding one spade risks playing in a weak suit opposite short support. One heart is a little better, but what will you do if partner answers one notrump? One club leads to an endless losing post-mortem, regardless of result. And one diamond is not an automatic disaster--partner may have the decency to bid a major.

A Q J 9    K J 6 4    8 6 5    K 2

(b) One spade. Here there is a decent alternative--making believe spades are five-long. That is acceptable, because the spades are easily playable opposite three, perhaps even opposite two. One diamond is, of course, also acceptable, if unpalatable.

A Q 9 4    K J 6 4    8 6 5    A J

(c) One notrump. This is certainly not a good 15-count, thus it is short of the requirements for a BWS one-notrump opening. Unfortunately, if you don't open one notrump you must open something else. As between owing half-a-point for one notrump and opening one diamond on a non-suit, we prefer to owe the half-point. If partner doesn't like our bidding, we can tell him we bid a little extra because he plays the dummy with such great skill.

A Q 9 4    K J 6 4    8 6 5    Q 2

(d) Pass. We don't like passing with more than our share of both high-card points and major-suit cards--especially not at matchpoints. But the risks of opening are greater. To open a balanced hand in this position requires a good 12 points, which, with the unprotected queen, we do not have. And we already owe half a point from (c). If we don't pass we have to open, and we find selecting a suit uncomfortable.

K 8 5    K J 8 4    A K 7    6 5 3

(e) One club. Opening one diamond with three-three in the minors (in first or second position) is asking for trouble. We know there is a school that believes in selecting diamonds when the strength disparity is great, but the bidding is so awkward after one diamond--two clubs, and so comfortable after one club, that the three-three rule should never be violated.

J    K 6 5 4    6 4 3 2    A K J 9

(f) One club. Here, a little poetic license is acceptable. This hand can sensibly be treated as either a club-heart two-suiter or a balanced hand, depending on how the auction develops. If partner negative doubles one spade, we make believe we were dealt 1=4=3=5; if partner responds one spade, we make believe we were dealt 2=4=3=4. This won't always work smoothly, but it usually won't hurt. Meanwhile, we get to bid what we really have. which often makes a big difference.

(Adapted from "Rate Your Own Game" in The Bridge World.)


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