Lesson 5 -- Minor Suit Openings and Responses

If you have 13-20 HCP and don't have a five card major (or the requirements for a 1NT opening) then you must open a minor suit. Typically, you open your longer minor suit (if you have one). However, what do you do when your minor suits are the same length? This is a hotly debated question and is open to partnership agreement. There are two basic camps: Better Minor and 4 Card Diamonds.

Better Minor

Better Minor simply says that you open whichever of your minor suits is better. Since they both have the same length, whichever has more HCP in it is opened (or better spots if HCP are the same).

4 Card Diamonds

This philosophy is to make 1D opening show 4 in every situation except one (4-4-3-2, with 2 clubs and 3 diamonds). So, responder may safely assume that opener has 4+ diamonds. So, with 4-4 in the minors, opener opens 1D and with 3-3, opener opens one club.

I personally learned the latter method, so it is the method I recommend. I open 1C with 3-3 and 1D with 4-4 (unless I have 17+, see next section).

Some Special Cases About Opening 1 of a Minor

Now that we have covered major suit openings, we can quickly cover a few points about openings in general....

Reversing

When you have at least an ace better than a normal opener (17+ HCP), then you may Reverse. When you reverse, you bid a lower-ranked suit before a higher ranked suit. For example, if I open 1C and then bid 2D over responder's bid, I have reversed. The reason this show's extra strength is that if responder likes clubs better, he has to bid at the 3 Level. If I had bid 1D then 2C he could pass 2C or bid 2D. Note that when I reverse, I am still implying that my first bid suit is longer than my second bid suit.

We'll look more into reversing in the section on Opener's rebids, but it's important to know now. If you are 4-4 in the minors with 17-20 HCP, then you should open 1C, planning to reverse.

Problem Hands

No matter what the bidding system, some hands cause problems. In Standard American with 5 Card Majors, one such hand is 1-3-4-5. One club is the correct opening bid (clubs are the longest suit, diamonds have 4, and the majors are 1-3). However, you can't bid 2D, since that would be a reverse. Some people solve this by opening 1D and bidding 2C, but I prefer the rule Always open your long suit first. This puts me in a tough rebid problem, so that might not be your style.

Opening 1NT

Unlike the major suit openings, I'll often open 1NT with a 5 card minor, presuming I meet all of the other specifications. It only takes 3NT to make a game, but 5 of a minor; so I'm willing to hide the minor.

The 1 and 1/2 NT

If you look back in Lesson 2, it says you should open 19-20 HCP hands with your best minor (if you don't have a 5 card major, of course) then jump to 2NT. This isn't really a problem hand, I'm just reminding you. You might not wind up jumping to 2NT, if partner bids a 4 card major that you have 4 of, though.

Opening a minor with a 5 card major

This is another area of discussion. I Always open my long suit, so if I have a longer minor than a major, I open the minor and rebid the major twice. Other people prefer to say that a minor suit opening always denies a 5 card major. It's a personal choice, but don't worry, it doesn't come up too often.

5-5 Clubs and Spades

For me, I open 1S (it's a five card major). However, there are some theoretical advantages to opening 1C. I prefer system unity, though.

Responding to Minor Suit Openings

Responding to minor suit openings is fairly similiar to major suit openings, but there are a few differences. These differences spring from the fact that minor suit games are a trick higher. So a priority is in finding an 8 card major fit. While this isn't an absolute priority (you should still bid a longer minor before a major) it does lead to a few bidding differences. Also, remember that the minor suit openings don't promise 5 card suits (4 in diamonds and 3 in clubs), so that more is needed to raise these suits. But the main goal is to find an 8 card major fit.

The big similarity is that With 0-5 HCP you pass . Even if opener opens 1C (may be as short as 3) and you have no clubs.

Searching for the 4-4 fit

If opener needs 5 cards to open a major, then If opener doesn't open 1 of a major, 99% of the time he doesn't have 5 of a major , so responder's goal is to find a 4-4 major fit. So, after opening one of a minor, responder should bid his lowest 4 card major. If the opening bid is 1C, skipping a 4 card diamond suit to bid a 4 card major is acceptable. Skipping a longer diamond suit to show a major is a little out of hand, in my opinion (although many experts do play that way). Also, in order to keep the bidding low, if responder has both majors (4-4) then he bids hearts first (giving opener the chance to bid a 4 card spade suit).

(The exception is skipping 1H to show longer spades, planning on bidding hearts in the later rounds.)

Responder doesn't have a fit with opener.

If you have less than 4 diamonds when opener bids diamonds, or less than 5 clubs, you don't have a fit. As stated above, your first priority is to show a 4 card or longer major. If you are 4-4, you bid hearts. If you are 5-5, you bid spades, then plan on rebidding hearts (which shows at least 5 spades and 4 hearts, since you went out of your way to bid spades first).

If opener bid 1C and you have longer diamonds than a major, then by all means bid 1D.

With a balanced hand and no four card major (and rarely, with it) it is probably best to just forget about bidding your suit (unless it is a major) and just bid NT. As before, 1NT shows 6-9, 2NT shows 10-11 and 3NT shows 12-13). Remember that bidding NT tends to deny a four card major.

If your partner opens 1D, then 2C shows 10+ HCP and 5+ clubs. (Remember, bidding a new suit at the two level shows 10+ HCP.) You may hide a 4 card major (you are Bidding your longest suit first .)

If you have a great (17+ HCP) hand, then you can Jump Shift into a suit that is 5+ cards long.

Bidding with a trump fit.

If you have at least 4 Diamonds (or 5 clubs) with partner's opening bid, then you can also raise. Note that you might not raise immeadiately with 4 Diamonds or 5 Clubs (prefering to bid a 4 card major). However, if you have a weak hand, it might be wise to hide the major suit to show the fit. The better the fit you have, the sooner you should show it.

Raising to the 2 level shows the trump support and 6-9 HCP (counting distribution). Raising to the 3 level shows trump support and 13+ HCP and is forcing to at least 3NT or 4 of the minor.

If you have a trump fit but an intermediate hand, it is probably best to temporize by bidding your best suit and then jumping to 3 of the minor (if possible).

SUMMARY

• 1C: 13-20 HCP, 3+ Clubs. Typically no 5 card major.
• 1D: 13-20 HCP, 4+ Diamonds with the exception of a 4-4-3-2 hand. Typically no 5 card major.
• Pass: 0-5 HCP.
• 1D/1C: 6+ HCP, 4+ Diamonds. Either no 4 card major or a 4 card major with longer diamonds.
• 1H: 6+ HCP. 4+ Hearts.
• 1S: 6+ HCP. 4+ Spades. Will not have 4+ Hearts unless has 5+ spades.
• 1NT: 6-9 HCP. No 4 card major. May have mild trump support.
• 2C/1D: 10+ HCP. 5+ Club suit. May have a shorter 4+ Card Major.
• 2m/1m: 6-9 HCP, Trump support (4+ in Diamonds, 5+ in clubs). May have a four card major.
• 2D/1C: 17+ HCP, 5+ Diamonds.
• 2H/2S: 17+ HCP, 5+ in bid suit.
• 2NT: 10-11 HCP, no 4 card major.
• 3C/1D: 17+ HCP, 5+ Clubs.
• 3m/1m: 13+ HCP, Trump support. Forcing to 3NT or 4m.
• 3NT: 12-13 HCP, no four card major.
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