Beginners essentials

Balanced - be precise

You must always tell your partner exactly how many points you've got when you open with a balanced hand.

With 12-14 points, you need a single bid - 1NT.

With 15-19 you need two bids. First bid your longest suit; with a choice of 2:

Then bid NT on your second bid, at a level to show exactly where you are in the 15-19 range.

With 20+, again you need one or two bids depending on your strength (but opening with 2 of something)


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Example Deal

«  0621  »

Opening bids. Balanced

If your hand is balanced, you can often play in NT. That's a good thing to do, because you can get to game more easily.

So, you'll need to tell your partner you have a balanced hand.

The thing to keep in mind when playing in NT, to state the obvious, is that you won't have any trumps. That means you are going to have to win all your tricks with sheer power. And excluding the barrels of guns, which are banned in most bridge clubs, power only comes from two places

It's the first of these that matters most, so with no help from being able to trump your opponents winners, you'll need to tell your partner very precisely how many high card points you have. And there is a wonderful system for doing this, using a combination of your first two bids.

621. Balanced hand: Opener's bids
HCP Points Opening bid 2nd bid (rebid) note
12-14 1NT    
15-16 1 suit Next available NT bid, usually 1NT, can be 2 With two 4 card suits, bid heart as your suit bid, if you have them.
17-18 1 suit Next NT bid, usually 2NT, can be 3  
19 1 suit 3NT The re-bid is game forcing: 25 HCP is certain because partner must have 6+ HCP
20-22 2NT   Not forcing, partner might only have 4HCP or fewer
23-24 2club(1) Next NT bid (usually 2) Forcing for one round.
25+ 2club(1) Next NT bid + 1 (usually 3)  
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You have to be precise about HCP with NT bids

With No Trumps, High Card Points (HCP) count is essential and must be precise. That's why you must stick to the 7 bands above, so your partner can accurately assess how far to take the bidding.

For suits, as opposed to NT, HCP count is less important. After all, a mere 10 points from 13spade will win all 13 tricks. But we'll talk about this later.

When choosing the suit to bid (second range of bands, 15-19 points in the chart above),  bid your longest suit. If you have two 4-card suits, bid heart if you have it (you will probably have a Major fit in the back of your mind). Otherswise bid or your lower ranking suit. If you have a 5-card minor clubdiamond, bid that.  If you have a 5-card Major heartspade….read the note below about a poor 5-card Major, but otherwise go elsewhere (you don't have a balanced hand !).

Risks - when to avoid NT

  • where you have no stoppers in a suit
  • with singletons or voids
  • a VERY flat hand (4333 distribution) is sometimes NOT very good for playing in NT

The second consequence of having no trumps is that there is also the risk of enemy attack in any suit where you have no stoppers.

When your hand is unbalanced, with singletons or voids, it's wise to avoid No Trumps:

  • often you'll be unable to lead up to master cards in the other hand
  • if you are short in a suit, the enemy is probably long; so they'll have great fun winning lots of tricks with this long suit, knowing that you have no trumps to stop them

Frankly, it's very dangerous to be in No Trumps if you hold a singleton, and often suicidal if you hold a void. I'm still sometimes tempted to take the risk though, and usually get into deep water!

What if my 5-card Major is full of rubbish ?

What use is spade76532 ? Finding a suit like this in your hand can of course can make it difficult to open in yourspade (Major) suit, as you might normally want to do with a 5-card Major. That's because your partner could have say spade1084 and so will almost certainly support you on the second round. The result wiill be that you could lose the first 3 or 4 trump tricks because the enemy has the spadeAKQJ.

In this case, provided you satisfy all the other conditions for a balanced hand, then it's acceptable to call your hand "balanced". With 12 HCP or more, you should consider opening 1NT.

Opener's rebid (his/her second bid)

For beginners
When you opened 1NT with 12-14 points (a "weak No Trump"), your re-bid is almost always PASS.

That's because you have already described your hand so well with the 1NT opening, that partner was often immediately able to say all that needs to be said.  Your partner has usually already made the choices with some kind of closing bid. Typically these closing bids are 2 of a suit to say "enough and no more", 3 or 4 of a suit with more strength, or NT if balanced.

The table above shows how to re-bid when you have more than 14 HCP, and a balanced hand of course.

See "responses to 1NT".

For better players
The range of responses from your partner to your 1NT opening is very flexible, descriptive and interesting, with several advantages, and it usually requires more bidding from you the opener. These include Stayman, Transfers, and Wriggling out of trouble when doubled. See "responses to 1NT" and "basic conventions" for the full list of options.

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Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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