Major Suit Openings and Responses

YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB1 Ch3 (March 7, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 1 series, Ch. 3 — tells how to open and respond in a major suit ( and ). When you find a fit and sufficient points in a major suit, you declare at 4M. In Ch. 4, we will study openings and responses in a minor suit, where you often prefer to declare at 3NT. You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: ag-bb1-ch3-para
  2. Outline: ag-bb1-ch3-note

Theory of Opening Major Suits as 1M

Opener requires 5c+ and 13-21 points to bid 1M (p. 73). Opener’s rebids will depend on strength in three PVP ranges (Partnership Valuation Points). These ranges are 13-16 PVP (minimum), 17-18 PVP (medium), 18-19 HCP (a 2NT rebid from BB1, Ch. 2), or 19-21 PVP (maximum); see p. 85. None of these natural openings or rebids is forcing on Responder.

On their 2nd bid, Opener may invite a response by showing a medium hand or maximum hand. Opener shows extra strength with a single-jump rebid in a medium hand or a double-jump rebid in a maximum hand. The 2nd and 3rd examples on p. 86 show such jump bids. If Opener insists on a game, rather than just invites game, Opener must jump to game themselves. There are also conventional bids asking about shortages and Aces that are forcing on Responder.

Theory of Responding to an Opening Major Suit

If Responder has trump support, then Responder revalues their hand by replacing any length points with Dummy Points. Each partner adds their HCP to either their length points (eg, Opener) or their dummy points (eg, Responder), but they never add both (p. 77). Dummy Points are a proxy for ruffing values. Dummy can ruff if they have shortage. Short shortage is valued at doubleton = 1, singleton = 3, void = 5 PVP (p. 77).

Note that “Dummy” can be either partner who supports a bid made by the other partner. As we shall see in BB2, a Takeout Doubler who expects their partner to name the suit is in fact the Dummy even though their Advancer has yet to bid.

Responder seeks a fit with Opener. With 0-5 PVP, Responder passes on their 1st bid (not necessarily on their 2nd bid, as by then Opener may have asked Responder to take a preference between two trump suits). Invitational responses that show support (p. 75) include raise with a 3c+ trump fit to 2M (6-10 PVP minimum); change suits with exactly 3 trumps (11-12 PVP medium); raise to 3M with 4+ trumps (11-12 PVP limit bid); and raise to 4M with 5+ trumps coupled with a side-suit void or singleton (Law of Total Tricks, or LoTT).

—Forcing Bids by Responder

Any natural non-jump new-suit bid by Responder is forcing (p. 84). A Responder with a maximum (13+ PVP) must force until game (p. 76). RONF = Raise is Only Non-Force in suit responses. Examples of forcing bids would be a new-suit response of 1M showing 6+ PVP and 4c+, non-jump 2m showing 11+ PVP and 4c+, or non-jump 2M showing 11+ PVP and 5c+ (p. 79).

If Responder has 2 long and equal majors, then Responder Dives with Five; Soars with Four (p. 80).

—Nonforcing 1NT Bid by Responder

A NT bid or response is non-forcing, depending on the partnership agreement (p. 89). A 1NT response means nothing except Responder has less points than needed to bid at the two level (p. 81). The typical range is 6-10 points (one less than the minimum to bid at the 2 level). A 1NT response does not guarantee a NT distribution; it shows 6-10 points, less than a GF, and stoppers in Opponents’ suits.

—Responder Should Not Jump

There was a time when Responder would jump to show their point count. This point count is useless information. Responder is the Captain, so Opener has no need to know. The exception in modern bidding is that Responder may jump with a weak suit (ie, a weak jump shift showing a 6c+ good suit in a weak hand) or with 4c+ support for Opener’s suit. After hearing one of these exceptions, Opener becomes the Captain.

On their 1st bid, Responder should not bid aggressively, other than 4c+ support bids. Responder’s priority is to choose the strain rather than the level. Responder stays low, waiting for Opener’s second bid.

By their 2nd bid, Responder determines the teams’ combined points. Responder bids the contract to the appropriate level (p. 89). If Responder’s bid is a new suit, then it is forcing for one round on Opener. Otherwise Responder’s second bid is a recommendation but not a shutout.

Responder may still be in doubt. Since new suits by Responder are forcing, Responder can seek more information from Opener simply by changing suits. Any artificial response should have strength even it does not have length, as Opener might rely on the response to declare in NT. Once the team has bid all four suits, both partners are forced to continue until game.

Table of Opening Bids and Responses

  1. Bidding Guide: All bids in this lesson are available in Audrey Grant’s 36p Bridge at a Glance: Expanded Version. All bids are also available in Audrey Grant’s books, such as her Better Bridge series or her American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) series.
  2. Partnership Valuation Points: Value your hand mathematically using Partnership Valuation Points (PVP). Call the sum of your additions and subtractions your PVP. Note that with PVP additions and subtractions you can increase (or ruin) your hand’s points by finding your length and strength fit (or don’t fit) with your partner’s bids. Your Partner can do the same by finding a fit with your bids. There are other valuation methods such as HCP only, High Card Tricks (HCT), Quick Tricks (QT), Low Card Tricks (LCT), Losing Trick Count (LTC), and Bergen Points. Each had or has its proponents. We will use PVP to emphasize that our hand is more valued when it has a fit with our partner’s hand.
    1. Additions: Add 4/3/2/1 High Card Points (HCP) for each A/K/Q/J that you hold, and 1 point for each card >4 in a suit.
    2. Subtractions: Subtract 1 point for unsupported and unproven honors, as HCP in bridge need support as much as Kings and Queens in chess need pawns. Unsupported honors would include singleton K, doubleton Q, and tripleton J unless such suits are later “proven” by being bid by your Partner. Subtract 1 point for a difficult to develop 4-3-3-3 flat shape.
  3. Opener’s 1st Bid
    1. Bidding Ladder: Your bids can range from 1 to 7NT. However, the first person at your table to bid (the Opening Bidder) is likely to choose between the 6 lowest choices — 1, 1, 1, 1, 1NT, 2.
    2. Suit: Your preference in decreasing order is to open your own longest suit of 5c+ (ie, five cards or more); with a tie, your highest major of 5c+; with no 5c suit, your highest minor of 4c+; with no 5cM or 4cm, your lowest minor of 3c. With a minimum hand, plan not to reverse. A reverse is a rebid higher in the alphabet than your first bid, causing your Partner to choose between your two suits at a relatively high 3 level. For example, if your first two bids are 1 then 2, your Partner must bid 3 to show a preference for .
    3. Goal: Your partnership seeks an 8c+ trump suit, known as the Golden Fit (GF).
    4. Starting Points
      1. Opener = 0-12 PVP
        1. 5-10 PVP: If you If you have a rebiddable suit with 6c+ (ie, 6 or more cards in your suit), see BB2, Ch. 1, “Preempts.” A suit is rebiddable if the cards in the suit meet the Rule of 8 (number of cards plus the number of honor cards ≥ 8, such as HHHxx or HHxxxx).
        2. Other Exceptions: Open as if you had 13 PVP if your hand meets one of three rules from the Improving Your Judgment (IYJ) series.
          1. Rule of 20: You are the Dealer or the Dealer’s Left Hand Opponent (LHO). The sum of your HCP plus the number of cards in your two longest suits ≥ 20, such as KQxxxAxxxQxxxx.
          2. Rule of 19: You are the Dealer’s Partner. Neither the Dealer nor your Right-Hand Opponent (RHO) has opened. You are 1 point shy of the Rule of 20.
          3. Rule of 15: You are the Dealer’s RHO. No one has opened. The sum of your HCP plus your number of Spades ≥ 15, such as KQxxxxxxAJxxx.
        3. Pass: Without a preempt or “rule” hand, pass. Your Partner may open.
      2. Opener = 13-14 PVP: Bid 1m or 1M (ie, 1 of either minor suit, or 1 of either Major suit).
      3. Opener = 15-17 PVP
        1. Balanced: With NT shape, such as a 4-3-3-3 distribution, and honors in 3+ suits, bid 1NT. See BB1, Ch. 2, Notrump Opening Bids and Responses.
        2. Unbalanced: With a 5c non-rebiddable suit, bid 1NT intending to show your long suit later.
        3. 5c+ Rebiddable Suit: Bid 1m or 1M. With two such suits, dive with five.
      4. Opener = 18+ PVP: See BB3, Ch. 3, Strong Opening Bids. Some of these hands, but not all, are opened with 2NT or 2. If your hand is not suitable for NT, or it has ≤ 21 PVP, open it as 1m or 1M.
  4. Responder’s 1st Bid
    1. Requirements: Any raise by Opener’s Partner (Responder) of a suit requires minimum support ≥ 5c(6c is safer), 4c(5c is safer), 3c, or 3c. Any new suit by Responder requires 4c+ at the 1 level, 5c+ at the 2 level, and 6c+ at the 3 level. If Responder’s only options are to pass or raise, then Responder should count a trump honor as two cards, allowing Hx to qualify as minimal support for a major.
      1. Responder = Bust (0-5 PVP): Pass. However, you must stretch your valuation to 6 PVP if possible. With a GF for Opener, subtract Length Points and replace with Dummy Points where void=5 PVP, singleton=3 PVP, doubleton=1 PVP. For each trump beyond a minimum GF, add 1 point (eg, Partner opened a 5cM, and you hold 4 cards in that major). Boost your Ace to 5 points. Like your hand with high intermediate spot cards such as T-9-8 far more than you would a similar hand with 4-3-2 spots.
      2. Responder = Minimum (6-10 PVP): Responder bids a new suit (1, 1, 1, 1NT) or raises Partner (2m, 2M).
      3. Responder = Medium (11-12 PVP): Responder bids a new suit (1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2) or double raises Partner (3m, 3M) with a 4c+ “limit bid.” Again, Hxx could count as 4c support.
      4. Responder = Maximum (13+ PVP): Responder bids new suit (1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2) or raises Partner in Jacoby NT (2NT w/ 13-15 HCP, 3NT w/ 16-18 HCP). Jacoby is a limit bid, showing 4c+ support. Bergen Raises at the 3 level show preemptive 4c+ support.
    2. Jump Responses: Opener will assume any jump by Responder is a minimum-strength weak jump shift or a medium-strength limit bid. These are not the strong bids they would be if made as rebids by Opener. Responder does best not to jump with strength (this is counterintuitive) unless the jump is part of a convention (ie, limit bid, preempt, splinter, Gerber, etc). What Responder really wants to do is wait at the cheapest level to hear Opener’s 2nd bid; this 2nd bid will reveal if Opener’s suit is rebiddable and whether Opener has a Min, Med, or Max hand.
  5. Opener’s 2nd Bid
    1. Pass: Either Partner will pass whenever they have fully described their hand and have no additional information to give. However, both Opener and Responder may make “forcing” bids, meaning that the Partner cannot pass even with what seems like a worthless, fully described hand. Common forcing bids are the Takeout Double (see BB2, Ch. 3), Negative Doubles (see IYJ2), Cuebids (Partner bids the Opponent’s suit), Strong Openings (see BB3, Ch. 3), and Raise is the only Non-Forcing Bid (RoNF). Whenever the Responder simply bids a new suit at the cheapest level, this is a one-round force of RoNF as Opener must provide Responder with additional information about Opener’s strength and balance. RoNF is a powerful Responder tool that is forcing on Opener. The opposite is not true. A new natural suit by Opener is never forcing on Responder, which is why an Opener who wants to query Responder is more likely to use a Takeout X.
    2. Opener’s 1st Bid = 1NT
      1. Responder = Min (0-7 PVP) or Med (8-9 PVP)
        1. Responder Bids a Suit: Responses of 2, 2, 2, 2 are Stayman or Jacoby Transfer conventions. Opener replies. See BB3, Ch. 1, “Stayman” or Ch. 2, “Jacoby Transfers.”
        2. Responder Bids 2NT: Responses of 2NT are both “invitational” (ie, they invite a strong Opener to continue) and “quantitative” (ie, they define the Responder’s PVP). A weak Opener w/ 16 HCP will pass. A strong Opener w/ ≥ 16 HCP will raise to 3NT.
      2. Responder = Max (10+ PVP): Responder is Captain, and shows their strength by continuing to bid after establishing their initial fit with Stayman or Jacoby Transfers. Opener cannot pass, as these responses are game forcing. Opener bids their cheapest side suit that provides additional descriptive information about their length, stoppers, or both.
    3. Opener’s 1st Bid = 1m/1M
      1. Responder’s 1st Bid = New Suit
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP)
          1. Raise Responder: Requires ≥4c support for Responder’s suit. Opener bids at cheapest level. Opener will be Dummy, so Opener re-values their hand based on Starting Points + Dummy Points (void=5, singleton=3, doubleton=1). The totals are still called PVP.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Do not reverse (ie, you should bid down the alphabet).
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener bids at cheapest level.
          4. Bid NT: Opener bids at cheapest level. [nb: This natural bid shows a NT distribution w/ 12-14 HCP, which was too weak to open 1NT. Examples are 1-P-1-P-1NT or 1-P-2-2NT.]
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP)
          1. Raise Responder: Requires ≥4c support. Opener jumps 1 level. Use Dummy Points.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Reverse is OK.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener jumps 1 level.
          4. Bid NT: Jump 1 level. [nb: This natural bid shows a NT distribution w/ 18-19 HCP, which was too strong to open 1NT. Examples are 1-P-1-P-2NT or 1-P-2-3NT.]
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP)
          1. Raise Responder’s M: Requires ≥4c support. Opener jumps 2 levels. Use Dummy Points.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener jump shifts 1 level. Reverse is OK.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener jumps to game. This is a strength-showing bid. With slam interest, Responder keeps bidding. Responder’s slam interest might include features such as very high honors (AK), runnable sequences (AKQ), shortness (voids and singletons), and definitely no duplication (ie, your high honors are concentrated in Partner’s long suits rather than being wasted in Partner’s voids).
          4. Bid NT: Jump 2 levels. [nb: This natural bid shows a NT distribution w/ 20-21 HCP, which was too weak to open 2 yet contains an excellent suit. An example is 1-P-1-P-3NT. Note that 1-P-2-P-4NT would show the required PVP but would be misconstrued by Responder as Blackwood Ace-Asking in a Diamond slam. With slam interest, sufficient combined HCP, and transportation between the two hands, Responder keeps bidding.
      2. Responder’s 1st Bid = 1NT (6-10 PVP)
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP)
          1. Balanced Hand: Opener passes. Responder doesn’t have a 2nd bid.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Do not reverse.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. The original suit must meet the Rule of 8 (ie, length + HC ≥ 8). Each additional rebid requires Opener to have one additional card in the suit (ie, Opener’s 2nd bid would show 6c+) and Responder to have one less (ie, Responder’s delayed support could be on just Hx).
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP)
          1. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Reverse is OK.
          2. Rebid the original suit: Opener jumps 1 level (3m/3M).
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP)
          1. Balanced Hand: Opener jumps to game (3NT) w/ 18-19 HCP.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener jump shifts 1 level. However, if new suit is a reverse, bid at cheapest level.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener jumps to game. This is a strength-showing bid. With slam interest, Responder keeps bidding (rare, as team has ≤ 30 PVP).
      3. Responder’s 1st Bid = Raise to 2m (6-10 PVP)
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP): Opener passes.
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP): Opener raises to 3m if suit is rebiddable.
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP): Opener jumps to NT game (3NT). This works best if there is transportation between the two hands. Transportation means Dummy’s hand has sufficient HCT entries to allow Declarer to develop Dummy’s longest suit.
      4. Responder’s 1st Bid = Raise to 2M (6-10 PVP)
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP): Opener passes.
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP): Opener raises to 3M if suit is rebiddable.
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP): Opener jump raises to game (4M). This works best if there is transportation between the two hands.
      5. Responder’s 1st Bid = Jump to 2NT (13+ PVP)
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP)
          1. Balanced Hand: Opener raises to 3NT game.
          2. Bid a New Suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Do not reverse.
          3. Rebid the Original Suit: Opener shows a short suit or re-bids at cheapest level. Responder’s bid is the conventional Jacoby 2NT, showing 4c support in trumps and game-going points.
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP)
          1. Balanced Hand: Opener jumps to 4NT game, invitational. This is a quantitative bid, showing a narrow point range. Ace asking would be 4 Gerber. Responder sets the contract based on the team’s combined PVP.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Reverse is OK.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Responder is Captain. Responder may have 4c support for the original suit.
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP)
          1. Balanced Hand: Opener jumps to 6NT slam.
          2. Bid a new suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Reverse is OK.
          3. Rebid the original suit: Opener bids at cheapest level. Opener is Captain. Responder has 4c support for the original suit.
      6. Responder’s 1st Bid = “Limit Raise” to 3m/3M (shows 4c+ trump support like Jacoby 2NT but limits Responder’s strength to 11-12 PVP)
        1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP): Opener passes with 13 PVP. With ≥ 14 PVP, Opener raises to a major game (4M) but not a minor game (5m).
        2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP): Opener raises to game (3NT, 4M). Responder is Captain, and may convert 3NT to 4M/5m.
        3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP): Opener raises to game (3NT+, 4M+, 5m+, Ace Asking). Opener is Captain.
  6. Responder’s 2nd Bid
    1. Opener = Min (13-16 PVP)
      1. Responder = Min (6-10 PVP): Responder passes, bids 1NT, or raises to 2m/2M.
      2. Responder = Med (11-12 PVP): Responder bids 2NT or raises to 3m/3M.
      3. Responder = Max (13+ PVP): Responder bids game or jump shifts to 3m/3M forcing. With 18-19 PVP, Responder invites slam by bidding beyond game (4NT, 5M). With 20+ PVP, Responder bids slam directly.
    2. Opener = Med (17-18 PVP)
      1. Responder = Min (6-10 PVP): With 6-7 PVP, Responder passes or makes the cheapest raise. With 7-8 PVP, Responder bids 2NT or raises a previous suit to 3m/M. With 8-10 PVP, Responder bids game (3NT or 4M) or a new suit forcing (RoNF).
      2. Responder = Med (11-12 PVP): Responder bids game (3NT or 4M) or a new suit forcing (RoNF).
      3. Responder = Max (13+ PVP): Responder forces by bidding a new suit. With 13-14 PVP, Responder bids game (3NT or 4M). With 15-16 PVP, Responder invites slam by bidding beyond game. With 17+ PVP, Responder bids slam directly.
    3. Opener = Max (19-21 PVP)
      1. Responder = Min (6-10 PVP): Responder passes, bids a new suit forcing, or bids game.
      2. Responder = Med (11-12 PVP): Responder passes if at game, otherwise bids a new suit forcing or bids game.
      3. Responder = Max (13+ PVP): Responder bids a game. With 13 PVP, Responder invites slam by bidding beyond game. With 14+ PVP, Responder bids slam directly.

Tests of Comprehension

  1. Major Openings and Responses: For a test on bidding majors, go to Quiz 1 (p. 96).
  2. Opener’s Rebids: For a test on Opener’s rebids with a strong major, go to Quiz 2 (p. 98).
  3. Review: For a test on Responder’s rebids and ruffing powers, go to Quiz 3 (p. 100).

Hands to Play, from BB1, An Introduction (206p)

Note that we have not studied bidding yet, so please accept the bidding recommended in the hints. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for MiniBridge hands (see Hint E).

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB1 P. 102 #9 N N 2 J A
BB1 P. 104 #10 E E 4 A B
BB1 P. 106 #11 S S 4 J C
BB1 P. 108 #12 W W 2 Q D

Hints

    • A: N=14 PVP. S=7 PVP. North (N) opens 1 to show a 5cM. South is a minimum, but has 4c trump support, so raises one level. N with a maximum would go to game, but this N has a minimum. N passes. N has 5 probable losers (3 in if trumps break 3-1, and 2 in ). East leads top of a sequence in a suit not bid by Declarers. At every opportunity, N drives out the high trumps. N does NOT risk playing their own QT. While not relevant for this hand, note that Declarer has perfect trumps for a crossruff (ie, Defenders could not stop a crossruff without playing a higher trump, which Declarer wants them to do). Making the contract.
    • B: E=18 PVP. W=9 PVP. East (E) opens 1 to show a 5cM. West is a minimum, but has 4c trump support, so raises one level. E with a maximum would go to game, but this E has a medium. E invites W to game and W accepts. E has 10 QT (including a ruff in dummy) as soon as E can gain the lead. S with a strong sequence leads the A, asking N to unblock. N has nothing to unblock so signals count by playing their doubleton Hi/Lo. S leads low on the third round, giving N a ruff. N tries to promote a , but it is too late. Declarer wins the lead, draws trumps, and runs the QT. Making the contract.
    • C: N=19 PVP. S=~5-6 PVP. North (N) opens 1 to show a 5cM. S has a horrible hand, but at the one level is close to a minimum response of 1. As so often happens in bridge with aggressive bidding by Responder, this minimum response is enough to excite N, who is a maximum with great trump support. Weak S must bring in the game contract. West leads top of a sequence in a suit not bid by Declarers. S has 10 QT (including a ruff in dummy) as soon as S can gain the lead. S wins the first trick, draws trumps in two rounds, and drives out the high diamonds for a ruff. Note that S would draw the trumps even if trumps broke 3-0, as Declarer only needs one trump in Dummy for the ruff. There is no way for Declarer to make the loser disappear. Making the contract.
    • D: E=8 PVP. W=15 PVP. West (W) opens 1 to show a 5cM, intending to “dive with 5” as a rebid. E has a minimum, 2c trump support, so keeps the bidding low with a 1NT. W does dive with 5 to 2, showing a minimum opening hand. E is happy with a partscore in a 9cM fit, so passes. North leads top of a sequence in a suit not bid by Declarers. West has 4 losers, could have more if Defenders can ruff. West’s only concern is to drive out trumps as fast as possible. West would draw two rounds of trumps before pausing to promote the . With this hand, Defenders have no short suits to ruff, and two rounds of trumps are sufficient to void the Defenders. Plus 1.
    • E MiniBridge: Shuffle and deal a regular bridge hand. Starting with the Dealer, let each player announce their HCP. The team with more than 20 HCP will be Declarers. The Declarer-side player with the least points is the Dummy. The Dummy announces their distribution, in a S-H-D-C format such as 2-5-3-3. Based on Dummy’s HCP and distribution, the Declarer announces the desired contract, such as 3. LHO makes the opening lead. The remainder of the hand is played as regular bridge.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of YMCA@Spr17Ch3 may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

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