Once you have decided that your hand is worth an opening bid, we now turn to what to open. Our first priority is to open 1NT, as that is the most descriptive opening. If we cannot open 1NT we check to see if we can open 1M (1H or 1S).
When responding to a 1M opening bid, the first priority is to show support; otherwise, find a way to describe your hand in other ways.
Requirements of opening 1M
12-21 total points (HCP + length points)
At least 5 cards in the major opened
If you have a choice between two suits of equal length, open the HIGHER RANKING suit
If you have a choice between opening 1 of a major or 1 Notrump, choose Notrump
Open 1♠. We have 10 HCP and 3 length points which add to 13 total points. Therefore we want to open the bidding. We cannot open 1NT because we do not have either the appropriate strength or the appropriate distribution, so we check if we can open 1M.
Open 1♠. We have 13 HCP and 2 length points = 15 total points. We cannot open 1NT with a singleton, but we do have a 5 card major in spades, so open 1♠.
Pass/2♥ (preempts are covered later). Our hand is too weak to open the bidding at the 1-level with only 7 HCP and 2 length points = 9 total points.
Open 1♠ . We have 12 HCP and 2 length points = 14 total points. We cannot open 1NT with a singleton, but we do have 2 five card majors. With two equal length suits, open the higher-ranking one, which is spades in this case. Even though the spades are weaker here, it is important to convey the right message about the lengths of our suits; bidding hearts first then spades will show a longer heart suit than spade suit.
Open 1NT. We have 16 HCP and 1 length point = 17 total points. We always check if we can open 1NT first, and we can and should with 16 HCP and balanced distribution (note that when considering a NT opening bid we ignore length points).
Open 1♥. We have 11 HCP and 2 length points = 13 total points. We cannot open 1NT, but we have a 5 card major in hearts.
Responding to 1M
With 6+ points or good support, responder must bid something over partner’s 1M opening bid. The reasoning here is that partner could have a very good hand (up to 21 points), so if you pass with 6 points, you could very easily miss a game. On the other hand, if you have 5 or less points, chances are that game is not going to make so it is usually better to stay low.
Responder generally has 3 options (in order of priority):
Show trump support with 3+ support
Bid a new suit naturally, either at the 1-level with 6+ points or at the 2-level with 13+ points
Bid 1NT with some points (6-12) but no support
Responding with Support
When supporting partner’s opening bid, responder should count support points.
How much to raise?
1M- P - ?
2M shows at least 3 of the major + 6-9 support points
3M shows at least 3 of the major + 10-12 support points
4M shows at least 3 of the major + 13+ support points
Responding without support
Without support, responder looks to bid a new suit if they have one or bid 1NT.
We are following the 2 over 1 (2/1) game forcing (gf) bidding system, which is widely used and is the basis for the bidding structure outlined in this course. In this system, bidding a new suit at the 2-level over partner’s 1-level opening, is game forcing. By doing so, you will show 4+ cards in the bid suit and 13+ hcp. Additionally, you deny support for your partner because that would have taken priority. This is game forcing (meaning your side cannot stop bidding below game).
You can also bid a new suit at the 1-level. This shows at least 4 cards in the suit and 6+ hcp. This will be forcing one round, meaning that partner cannot pass for at least the next turn. This is because your hand is unlimited in HCP, so partner cannot pass and risk you having a very strong hand.
With no suitable 1-level bid and a hand not good enough for a 2-level game forcing call, bid 1NT, which is an all-purpose kind of bid that gives opener a chance to further describe their hand.
Responding to 1M examples
Your partner opened the bidding 1♥. Decide on how you will respond with each hand.
1♠. This shows 4+ spades and 6+ HCP, a perfect description of your hand. Note that because there is no upper limit to your HCP, you can have a really strong hand and your partner thus cannot pass this 1♠ bid. In other words, your 1♠ is forcing one round.
1NT. You do not have a 3 card heart support, and you do not have the 13 HCP required to make a 2/1 game forcing 2♦ bid. Therefore, you should make the catch-all 1NT bid.
2♦. Unlike the hand above, you do have the necessary strength to bid 2♦. This will show 4+ diamonds and 13+ HCP. This is game forcing, meaning you and your partner cannot stop until you have reached at least game.
1NT. You do not have support for partner, and you are far from the necessary strength to make a 2 over 1 bid.
2♥. You have a 3 card heart fit, so you can count support points. You have 7 HCP and 1 support point from the diamond doubleton for a total of 8 points. This means a raise to the 2 level is appropriate.
3♥. You have 10 HCP and 2 support points for a total of 12. This corresponds to a raise to 3.
4♥. You have 14 HCP and 1 support point. That is enough to bid game.