A hand which you should consider opening at the one level, usually contains 12–20 high-card points.

Adjustments should be made to the hand evaluation as follows:

a)   Points should be added for additional suit lengths – add 1 point for each additional card over five in any suit.

b)   An additional point can also be added for a second suit of five or more cards.

c)   Beware of ‘hanging jacks’ – i.e. jacks in a suit which doesn’t have any other honours. With too many of these in a particular hand you should down-value it (see exercise).

d)   Also as you become more experienced, consider opening ‘third in hand’ with a point less.

Some opening bids within this point range should be opened at a higher level, but these will be identified later.

We shall consider the one level opening bids in the context of a five-card major system, with a weak no-trump.


A ‘balanced’ hand in the 12–14 point range. A balanced hand normally has a 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 distribution, but certain hands with a 5-3-3-2 distribution should also be considered if the five card suit is weak (i.e. you don’t really want to rebid the suit – particularly if it is a minor).

a)♠ A97b)♠ A972c)♠ Q7

K942 K94 K87

A86 A862 KJ3

♣ K87♣ Q8♣ K9532

a)   3-4-3-3 shape, 14 points – ideal 1NT.      

b)   4-3-4-2 shape, 13 points – ideal 1NT.

c)   12 points, not the ideal shape for 1NT, but with the poor five card club suit, best to open 1NT.

Suit Bids

The guidelines summarising these are (in order):

- always open the longest suit.

- if opening a major, it must contain five or more cards.

- with two five card suits, open the higher ranking one, except when clubs and spades, in which case open 1♣ (not universally agreed).

- without a five card major and two four-card minors, and outside the no-trump range, open 1.

- without a five card major and without a four card diamond suit, and outside the no-trump range, always open 1♣. Sometimes known as a ‘short’ club.


a)♠ KJ752b)♠ KQ753c)♠ Q6432d)♠ AK75e)♠ AK82

7 Q4 6 AJ9 AJ95

AQ9632 AQJ84 K7 AJ63 Q8

♣ 4♣ 7♣ AKJ97♣ 97♣ Q74

f)♠ KJ72g)♠ 4h)♠ 4i)♠ 98763j)♠ KQ73

653 A8632 AJ743 AKQ76 7

AK8 KQ752 8 AK9 A952

♣ Q85♣ K6♣ AK7432♣ -♣ KJ94

k)♠ KQ7l)♠ AQ742m)♠ 7n)♠ 8o)♠ J8742

AQ752 J4 73 A7532 J7

AJ6 9 AK98763 K8743 AKQ

♣ K3♣ K8532♣ A86♣ Q8♣ J63

a)   1 - diamonds are the longest suit. Only 10 high-card points, but add points for suit(s) length.

b)   1♠ - two equal length five card suits: spades are higher ranking.

c)   1♣ - two equal length five card suits. Spades and clubs.

d)   1 - no five card major, outside the no-trump range (17 points whereas 1NT is 12–14 points), but a four card diamond suit.

e)   1♣ - no five card major, outside the no-trump range (16 points whereas 1NT is 12–14 points), no four-card diamond suit. If the hand had three diamonds and two clubs you would still open 1♣.

f)    1NT - 4-3-3-3, 13 points.

g)   1 - diamonds and hearts, but hearts higher ranking.

h)   1♣ - even though you have five hearts, the six card club suit takes preference.

i)    1♠ - five hearts and five spades. Even though the hearts are much better, you must open the higher ranking.

j)    1 - not the shape for 1NT. Four diamonds and four clubs, open 1.

k)   1 - 19 points, but still open at the one level.

l)    PASS  - only 10 points, but add one for the extra length. Still out of the prescribed opening range so (for now) PASS. (However, many players would still open 1♣ particularly in third position.)

m)  1 - 11 points, but add for the extra length..

n)   PASS  - only 9 points, and even by adding for the extra length, not quite enough to open.

o)   PASS - 12 points but three ‘hanging jacks’. I would certainly devalue the hand by at least one point.

Note: given the above, playing five-card majors, the difficult hand to bid is a 4-4-4-1 hand (singleton club) and 12-14 points. If you systemically open 1, what do you rebid if partner responds 2♣. So with 12 or (poor)13 points it’s probably best to pass this type of hand (note that the same problem doesn’t arise if playing 4-card majors). With 14 points, I would open 1 preparing to rebid 2NT over responder’s 2.