If you can remember the basics for opening and replying at the one level as summarised below, you are well on your way. 80% of hands you pick up fall in to one of these categories or simply merit a PASS. To count your points: ACE = 4; King = 3; Queen = 2; Jack = 1
TO OPEN THE BIDDING: You need a minimum of 12 points. But you must open if you have 12 points. i.e. you cannot pass.
With 12 to 19 points you open one of a suit = one club, diamond, heart, spade or one no trump BUT...
----To open one heart or one spade, you must have at least five of that suit;
----To open one no trump you must NOT have five or more hearts / spades and you must have 15-17 points. No more, no less.
If your hand does not fit one of the above categories, open the longer of the minor suits. If you have the same number of clubs as diamonds, open one club.
TO REPLY to your partner who has opened one club, diamond, heart or one spade...
You need only minimum six points.
You can reply one heart or one spade with only four of that suit. If you have 4 hearts or spades, you must bid that suit first even if you also have 5 or 6 clubs or diamonds
There is no maximum limit to the number of points you hold to reply at the one level. i.e. when you reply one heart to your partner's opening bid of one diamond, you might have 6 or 19 points.
If you do not have four hearts or spades when your partner has opened one club or one diamond AND if you do not have 3 cards°° in your partner's suit if he opens one heart or spade AND you have 6 to maximum TEN points, then you reply one no trump.
If you have 3 or 4 cards in your partner's heart or spade suit AND you have 6 to ten points, you reply two hearts or spades.
I said that 80% of opening bids will be at the one level. The point count will be between 12 and 19. The remaining 20% fall
into one of two categories:
WEAK hands (6 to 10 points):
(a) Open at the TWO level when you hold 6 to 10 points and 6 cards in a MAJOR suit (hearts or spades) AND provided at least
two of that 6 card suit are honours. The honours are A,K,Q,J AND the TEN of the suit.
(b) Open at the THREE level in both major or minor when you hold 6 to 10 points and SEVEN cards in that suit. There is no requirement to hold honour cards this time because, when you hold seven, the high cards in the other hands will normally fall in the first two rounds when you play a low trump.
(c) Open at the FOUR level when you have 6 to 10 points in a major or minor suit if you hold eight cards in that suit.
Note: Do NOT forget to place the STOP card on the table before making any of the above opeing bids.
STRONG hands (20+):
(a) Open TWO NO TRUMPS with 20 or 21 points and a fairly balanced hand but note:
- you can open 2NT with a five card minor suit but NOT with a five card major
- a "balanced" hand can, exceptionally, be one which contains five cards in a minor suit and two doubletons
- the 20/21 is a strict limit. With one point less you normally bid one of the suit, and with one point more it is....
(b) TWO CLUBS = 22+ honour points OR 8 playing tricks. (There is no upper limit)
The big difference between the weak / strong bids above is that they require a totally different response from partner compared with the responses already learnt when partner opens one of a suit. Finding the right opening bid is generally simply a question of counting the points and bidding accordingly.
In other words, opening the bidding is the easy part!!! Next lesson = how partner should respond. Not so easy.
NO TRUMP Opening bids and partner's RESPONSE
1NT = 15 to 17 HONOUR points.
Must have at least two cards in each suit. Only exception is for a singleton ACE
Can NOT open 1NT if you have a five card major, but OK (and often advisable) to bid 1NT with five card minor.
2NT = 20 or 21 HONOUR points. No more, no less.
Same rules re 5 card major and singletons etc as for 1NT
Responding to 1NT
Ask yourself simply these two questions and in this order:
1. Do I have five or more cards in a major suit. If so - whether you hold ZERO points or 19 points - you must immediately tell you partner via a TRANSFER bid. i.e. the stayman convention below is NOT an option. For the transfer, you bid 2 Diamonds if you hold 5 or more hearts, and 2 Hearts if you want partner to bid 2S. Opener (your partner who bid 1NT) then bids 2H or 2S as 'instructed'.
Remember that you (NOT opener) are boss and decide what level you then play at:
If you have five of the major and less than 7 points, you normally pass and play in 2H or 2S.
If you have 7 or 8 points, you bid 3. Partner then raises to 4H or 4S if he has the maximum 17 points.
If you have six cards in the major, you need less points to go to game or slam etc.
2. If you haven't got a five card major, next question to ask yourself is do you have a 4 card Major AND at least EIGHT points? If yes, you say two clubs (The "Stayman" convention) asking your partner to declare whether he has a four card major. But, if you have 7 points or less, you must pass. Even with four hearts or spades. Even with 6 clubs or diamonds.
Responses by opener to your staymen 2 club bid are as follows:
2D = neither four hearts or spades
2H = four hearts
2S = four spades
2NT = both four hearts and four spades
Once you know, you then must decide what level to go to. If only 8 or 9 points and no fit (opener does not have 4 cards in your major suit), you say 2NT - partner raises to 3NT if he has the max 17 points.
Responding to 2NT
Exactly same principle as for 1NT re 5 card major and staymen except that you need less points (only 4) to use staymen 3C. And only 5 points to go to game using the transfer system.
BLACKWOOD asking for ACES.
When anyone bids 4NT, they are almost always asking partner how many ACES they holds. Replies are as follows:
5C = 0 or 3 Aces
5D = 4 or 1 Ace
5H = 2 Aces
if you are happy to go on and ask for kings, you then bid 5NT. Responses again under the 30 / 41 formula.
LESSON 4 - Quantitative no trunp bids
Quantitative bids are the names given to responses to 1NT and 2NT only. They enable you to find slam contracts from number of points held rather than by asking for aces. Here are the circumstances where you use them:
Replying to ONE NO TRUMP (15 to 17 points):
Responder says 4NT if he has PRECISELY 16 points and no 5 card major. Opener then goes direct to 6NT if holds max 17 points. But PASSES if holding 15 or 16.
After partner opens 1NT, responder says 6NT direct with 18 or 19 points and no 5 card suit. Opener PASSES.
After partner opens 1NT, responder says 5NT with precisely 20 points. Opener MUST NOT PASS but goes 6NT if only 15 or 16 points and 7NT if maximum 17.
Replying to TWO NO TRUMP
Rresponder says 4NT with 12 points PRECISELY. Opener goes 6NT if max 21, otherwise passes with 20
Responder says 6NT with 13 to 15 points and no 5 card suit. Opener MUST PASS
Responder says 5NT with 16 points precisely and opener MUST NOT PASS. Says 6NT with 20 points and 7NT with 21 points.
Quantitative bids are based on the principle you need 33 points between you for 6NT and 37 for 7NT - IF you do not have a five card suit. In the latter case of five or more cards in one suit, you need fewer points as a rule. You therefore go through a slow process of declaring the long suit and asking for aces in normal way (Blackwood)
Warning: Some people responding to a bid of 4NT (asking how many Aces) include the king of agreed trumps when it is obvious what suit they will play. They call this the key card system.