A hand with 13+ points or 12 HCP is sufficient for an opening. If both hands in a pair are opening hands, they can probably make a game contract. Therefore, with an opening hand, one must open to prevent a pass out.
Moreover, some hands with good distribution but poor values are suitable for an opening as well. These openings are preemptive, which focus on disturbing opponents from bidding a good contract. Criteria for these openings depend on vulnerability and seat, so there is a separate article to describe them.
These conventional openings are unexpected for a random bridge player.
- Game forcing (24+), any distribution. This is standard in France but unexpected outside.
- Gambling 3NT, solid 7+-card minor. The standard meaning is a strong balanced hand.
- 4♣!, 4♦!
- Namyats, preemptive 4♥ and 4♠ with excessive values.
- Unusual notrump, 6+ cards in each minor.
One must bid 1 of a suit with an opening hand uneligible for a strong opening. Opening in a major requires 5+ cards, 1♦ for 4+ cards, 1♣ for 3+ cards. With the special shape 4=4=3=2, one opens 1♦ as a fallback. If opener finds more than one eligible suit, bid the longest suit. If more than one eligible suit is equally long, bid the highest suit.
Do not consider suit quality. In bridge, quantity is more important than quality.
- ♠10 ♥1054 ♦KJ52 ♣AKJ97
- Open 1♣ because clubs is the longer eligible suit.
- ♠J9864 ♥A8654 ♦A ♣KJ
- Open 1♠ because spades is the higher eligible suit.
- ♠AQ73 ♥Q1087 ♦A862 ♣K
- Open 1♦ because diamonds is the only eligible suit.
- ♠AK74 ♥AJ54 ♦J107 ♣72
- Open 1♦ because no suit is eligible.
Strong notrump openings
The strong notrumps alleviate burden of suit openings. Balanced and semibalanced hands with specific strength should be opened in notrump.
- 15~17 HCP, balanced or pattern 5-4-2-2 or 6-3-2-2 lead by a minor.
- 20~21 HCP, 2~4 cards in each major, 2~5 cards in each minor.
With 12~14 or 18~19 HCP, one should always open 1 of a suit. A simple notrump rebid stands for weak notrump; a jump notrump rebid shows a hand between 1NT and 2NT openings.
- ♠54 ♥A863 ♦AQ986 ♣AJ
- Open 1NT. Although this hand is not balanced, it is acceptable.
- ♠K9 ♥AKJ84 ♦KJ92 ♣76
- Open 1♥. Always open the major with a major-dominant non-balanced hand.
- ♠A95 ♥KQ10 ♦AKJ6 ♣K102
- Open 2NT.
- ♠A6 ♥KQ3 ♦K75 ♣AK987
- Open 1♣. This hand is too weak for 2NT but too strong for 1NT.
Strong 2♣ & 2♦ openings
The strong 2♣ shows two kinds of invitational hands. The 2♣ is a limit bid, so the responder becomes the captain.
- 21~23 points or 4-loser hands unsuitable for a 2NT opening.
- 22~23 HCP, 2~4 cards in each major, 2~5 cards in each minor.
The strong 2♦ shows a game-forcing hand, stronger than 2♣.
What to bid with a big hand
There are three openings describing a hand with 21+ points or 20+ HCP, viz. 2NT, 2♣, and 2♦. To better understand this section, it is recommended to revisit this section after understanding continuations after 2NT, 2♣, and 2♦.
The chance to open 2♦ is slim. Actually 2♦ is a dustbin for hands way too strong, clarifying other bids for hands with 21~23 points. With 24+ points, 24+ HCP, or 3− losers, one must open 2♦.
The frequent rebids of 2♣ openings are 2♥ through 3♦. The 2NT rebid describes a notrump hand stronger than 2NT opening. The majors promise 5+ cards, minors 6+. Therefore, hands with 5-card major, 6-card minor, or 2NT distribution are noncontroversial.
The controversial hands are hands with no 5-card major, no 6-card minor, and a singleton or a void. These patterns are 4-4-4-1, 5-4-3-1, and 5-4-4-0.
If the signleton in 4-4-4-1 is an ace or a king, take this hand as notrump distribution. Bid 1 of the minor suit for the other controversial hands. A wrong 1♦ is much easier to play than a wrong 3NT.
- ♠AKQ108 ♥J ♦AK1064 ♣K2
- Open 2♣ and prepare to rebid 2♠.
- ♠K2 ♥A8 ♦AK1092 ♣AQ104
- Open 2♣ and prepare to rebid 2NT.
- ♠K ♥AQ76 ♦AK65 ♣KQ104
- Open 2NT. A partially stopped 4-4-4-1 is deemed as a notrump distribution.
- ♠Q1064 ♥AK6 ♦Q ♣AKQ52
- Open 1♣ because this hand is controversial.
- ♠AKJ6 ♥A93 ♦K ♣AKQJ9
- Open 2♦ with such a blockbuster. There is no controversy for a blockbuster, is there?
Suit openings from 2♥ on
Gambling 3NT shows a 7+-card minor lead by AKQ with no stopper in the side suits. This is a pass-or-correct bid where responder passes with 2 stopped suits.
- ♠642 ♥K ♦AKQ9652 ♣98
- Open 3NT. Singleton king is no stopper.
- ♠642 ♥9 ♦AKQ9652 ♣K8
- Open 1♦. Kx is half stopper.
Unusual 4NT shows 6+ cards in each minor.