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We are often asked is it OK to open a weak two with a side 4 card major?
The short answer is yes, but there are some restrictions. If your suit is very good (AQJXXX) then, by all means, open a weak two even if you have a 4Card major on the side. If your suit is weak (Q10XXXX) and the side suit is stronger, we would advise against opening the weak two. Also, if you are three suited 6-4-3 with a void we would generally not open a weak two with that shape as you have great playability in three suits. With all things bridge, every hand is a little different so you just use your best judgment.
"Is a NT overcall in the balance the same as in the direct seat?"
No, the ranges in the balancing seat are a bit different. With 11-14 and openers suit stopped, you can balance with 1NT. With 15-17, you should double and bid 1NT. With 18-19, you should double and jump to 2NT. Finally, the little known range, with 20-21, jump to 2NT directly in the balancing seat. This is not the unusual no trump as that is a preemptive bid and we don’t preempt in 4th seat when the bid is passed to us.
"Should I learn Drury?"
One of the oldest conventions and one of the best. We all open a little light from time to time in third or even fourth set. The last thing we want to hear from a partner is a jump raise (limit raise) when we do. Drury allows Responder to bid 2C to show a limit raise, this bid is artificial. Opener has the option of rebidding their suit to say they are very weak. They can instead bid 2D to say they have a full opener, but not quite enough to bid the game -- anything else and we are in the game. Again, rebid your suit to say no, 2D to say maybe a game, and anything else guarantees we get to game in our suit. Drury is simple and works very well.
"What is a semi-forcing response to a major suit opening and is it better?"
A semi-forcing response to one of a major suit opening is just like the forcing response, except it can be passed. The difference is the Responder must limit their hand to 11 points or invitational values. The weakness of the Forcing No Trump response is you can't play 1NT. If you switch to Semi-Forcing you can occasionally play 1NT as opener can pass all balanced minimums. As long as the Responder has, at most, an invitational hand, opener can feel free to pass... and yes, it is better.
"Do you ever make a Michaels Cue Bid with 5-4 in the two suits?"
The Michaels Cue Bid is a very useful bid. It can be made with as few as 4 or 5 high card points, or as many as 17-18 high card points. The partner never passes, so we can make this bid with very good hands. You need to have only 1 agreement, you are ALWAYS 5-5, at least in your two suits. Keep that in mind and you won't get in trouble.
"My partner opened one no trump and I have 4 spades and 5 hearts. What is my bid?"
The simple solution is to start with Stayman. If you have a 5-card major without 4 of the other major, you'd just use a transfer sequence.
"I have five spades and five hearts and my partner has opened one club... what should I bid?"
If we're 4/4, we bid a heart so your partner can bid a spade because we're looking for our 8 card fit. But when we're 5/5 we bid a spade first and then hearts so your partner will know we have 5 spades and at least 4 hearts. The idea is to find that 8 card fit.
"Judi Besner asked: With a minimum opening hand and 1-4-4-4 distribution; you open one diamond... pard responds one spade... rebid??"
Great question, Judi! Bid 2 clubs with that. The only exception with the 1-4-4-4 hand is if you have a stiff ace, king or queen of spades, then you can bid 1 no trump.