Minor Suit Openings and Responses

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 1 series, Ch. 4 —  tells how to open and respond in a minor suit (♣ and ♦). Even when we have a fit and sufficient points in a minor suit, we prefer to declare at 4M or 3NT. What we try to do when our partner opens a minor suit is to find a GF in a major suit, failing that to find sufficient controls for 3NT, and failing that to find partscore or game in a minor suit. You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB1 Ch4 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB1 Ch4 Note.docx
Minor Suit Openings (p. 111)

Opening Suit: An Opener starting with a 1m bid promises 13-21 PVP1 and the absence of either a 5cM or a balanced NT distribution. Opener bids their longer minor if 4c+, their higher if two minors are the same 4c+ length, their lower if two minors are the same 3c length, or their only 3c minor.

Table of Opener’s 1st Bids

  1. Two 5c+ Suits: Open the longer suit. If tied in length, open the highest.
  2. One 5c+ Major: Open it. (nb: This bid does not apply to BB1 Ch.4.)
  3. Two Minors: If 4-4, open 1♦. If 3-3, open 1♣.
  4. One 4c+ Minor: Open it.
  5. 5-4 Clubs-Diamonds: If a minimum hand (13-16 points), open 1♦ to avoid reversing; if a high minimum hand (15-16 points), consider 1 NT (see BB1 Ch. 2); otherwise (17-21 points), open 1C and reverse.

Complementary Sources: There are excellent books on bidding that would complement our BB1 Ch 2-4. See the list of resources at the end of this lesson.

Responder’s 1st Bid (p. 113)

Hand Valuation: Responder values their hand based on the suit they intend to declare. That is, a Responder who shifts to 1M after a 1m opening might seem to be a potential Declarer in a major suit, but if their intent is to seek a NT fit, then Responder should value their hand with HCP only. This HCP-only valuation will give Opener the most accurate reading of Responder’s points for the ultimate contract. If Responder really wants to play in a major, such as holding a strong 5cM, then Responder does value on HCP plus length points. If Responder is satisfied with Opener’s minor, then Responder values on HCP plus dummy points.

Fit before Level: Responder’s first goal is to find a major fit (ie, spades or hearts) with Opener. Invitational responses with a 4c+ major include: 0-5 points pass; 6+ points bid 1M; 6-10 HCP bid 1NT non-forcing with no 4-card major; 6-10 points raise to 2m with a fit (ie, 5 clubs or 4 diamonds); 11-12 points bid new minor without jumping; 11-12 HCP raise to 2NT with all suits covered; 11-12 points raise to 3m with a “limit bid” fit; 13-15 HCP raise to 3NT with all suits covered; 13+ points get to 5m game or beyond.

Table of Responder’s 1st Bids

  1. Opener bid 1m. Responder is a Minimum (6-10 points)
    1. New 1M: With one or more 5c+ suit, your longest major and then your highest major. With one or more 4cM, your lowest major.
    2. Raise: With a minimum fit (5c+ in minors), bid 2m.
    3. 1NT: See BB1 Ch. 2.
    4. 1/1: With no major, no fit, no NT, but 4c+ ♦, bid 1♦ over a 1♣ opening.
  2. Opener bid 1m. Responder is a Medium (11-12 points)
    1. New M: With one or more 5c+ suit, your longest major and then your highest major. Bid at cheapest level. Forcing. With a choice of major responses, “Dive with 5, Soar with 4.”
    2. Raise: With a fit (5c+ in minor), jump to 3m as a “limit bid.”
    3. 2NT: Requires a balanced hand, no 4cM, stoppers in any overcall, 2c+ in Opener’s suit. A 2NT response to a minor is not Jacoby NT. The bid does not show as many points or the strong 4c+ support that it would in response to a major opening.
    4. 2/1: With no major, no fit, no NT, but 4c+ ♣, bid 2♣.
  3. Opener bid 1m. Responder is a Maximum (13+ points)
    1. New Suit: With one or more 5c+ suit, your longest major and then your highest major. Bid at cheapest level. Forcing. At your next bid, you will force again or bid a game.
    2. Raise: With a fit (5c+ in minor), bid 2m, waiting. With 16+ HCP, bid a new suit rather than raise.
    3. 3NT: Requires a balanced hand, no 4cM, stoppers in any overcall, 2c+ in Opener’s suit.

Jumps are Limit Bids: Any jump-shift bid by Responder is weak and conventional, showing length rather than strength. Responder is saying they have only one suit. Opener must have a medium hand or better to respond to a partner’s weak jump-shift. We study these preempt bids in BB2, Ch. 1, Preemptive Opening Bids.

Opener’s 2nd Bids (p. 120)

Opener Continues as Declarer: When Opener raises their own original bid, Opener is showing either extra length and strength in their suit (ie, a 5cm meeting Rule of 8) or inadequate support for Responder’s suit. Opener has a real minor but no 4c+ side suit. Opener will bid cheaply with a minimum, jump with a medium, possibly double jump with a maximum.

Opener Becomes the Dummy: When Opener raises Responder’s suit, Opener switches to Dummy Points. With a minimum (13-16 points), Opener will raise Responder’s suit. With a medium (17-18 points), Opener will jump raise. With a maximum (19-21 points), Opener will raise to game. Opener should be very cautious, as Responder may have bid a very weak 4c+ suit such as 5432.

Table of Opener’s 2nd Bids

  1. Opener is a Minimum (13-16 points)
    1. New Suit: With 4c+, your second longest suit. Bid at cheapest level, up to 2m/2M. Opener is showing inadequate support for any suit bid by Responder.
    2. Raise Responder: Bid at cheapest level.
    3. 1NT: Shows exactly 12-14 HCP, and NT distribution. See BB1 Ch. 2.
  2. Opener is a Medium (17-18 points)
    1. New Suit: With 4c+, your second longest suit. Jump one level.
    2. Raise Responder: Shows a fit in Responder’s suit. Jump one level.
    3. 2NT: Shows exactly 18-19 HCP, and NT distribution. See BB1 Ch. 2.
    4. Reverse: Requires 17+ HCP. Due to the pushy effect of the “reverse,” Responder will show a suit preference at the 3-Level rather than the 2-Level.
  3. Opener is a Maximum (19+ points)
    1. New Suit: With 4c+ cards, your second longest suit. Jump shift one level. [A bigger jump would be a splinter.]
    2. Raise Responder: Shows a fit in Responder’s suit. Jump two levels.
    3. 2NT: Shows exactly 18-19 HCP, and NT distribution. With no interest is suits or slam, bid 3NT directly. See BB1 Ch. 2.
    4. Reverse: Requires 17+ HCP. Due to the pushy effect of the “reverse,” Responder will show a suit preference at the 3-Level rather than the 2-Level.
Responder’s 2nd Bids (p. 128)

Responder Raised Opener’s Suit

Level after Fit: Opener showed their point count on their 2nd bid, by not jumping (minimum), jumping (medium), or double jumping (maximum). Now Responder shows their point count. If Responder is a minimum opposite Opener’s minimum, Responder will pass. If Responder is a medium opposite Opener’s minimum, Responder will invite with another raise. If Responder is a maximum, Responder goes to game. With a maximum and 4 suits stopped (even with doubletons), Responder bids 3NT.

Responder Did Not Raise Opener’s Suit

Shifts and Misfits: Responder remains the Captain. Responder has heard two bids from Opener. Responder places the contract.

Table of Responder’s 2nd Bids

  1. Responder is a Minimum (6-10 points)
    1. New Suit: Bid at lowest level. Forcing.
    2. Raise Opener: Shows a suit preference for one of Opener’s suits. Nonforcing. Opener might pass, leaving the contract in a partscore.
    3. Raise Self: Shows a suit preference, a 5c+ suit, and a willingness for part score. Nonforcing.
    4. 1NT: Shows NT distribution.
  2. Responder is a Medium (11-12 points)
    1. New Suit: Bid at lowest level. Forcing.
    2. Invite Opener to Game: Shows a suit preference for one of Opener’s suits. Jump/bid to the 3-Level. Nonforcing. Opener might pass.
    3. Raise Self: Jump one level. Shows a suit preference, a 6c+ suit, and a willingness to continue. Nonforcing.
    4. 2NT: Shows NT distribution.
  3. Responder is a Maximum (13+ points)
    1. New Suit: Bid at lowest level. Forcing.
    2. Raise Opener to Game: Shows a suit preference and a willingness for game. Nonforcing. [Tends to be a shutout.]
    3. 3NT: Shows NT distribution. Nonforcing. [Tends to be a shutout.]
Differences between Major- and Minor-Suit Openings

List of M/m Differences: This chapter identified the following five differences between major-and minor-suit openings:

  1. Openings require a 5c+ major but only a 3c+ minor.
  2. Game at 4M requires a minimum Opener opposite a medium Responder but at 5m requires both partners to be medium.
  3. A minimum Opener with 5♥-4♠ will open the longer suit but with 5♣-4♦ will open the higher suit.
  4. A 1NT response is a default bid in majors but a balanced bid in minors.
  5. A 2NT response is a maximum in majors but a medium in minors.
Defense
Ch. 1, Choosing a Card (p. 16)

NT vs Suit Leads: For an Opening Lead, Defender must choose the suit and card. The choice depends on whether the opponents are in a NT or suit contract.

  1. NT contract: Lead Partner’s suit. If partner did not bid, choose your own longest suit. If two or more suits are equal length, choose your strongest suit. With a 3c+ honor sequence (solid, broken, or interior) in the selected suit, lead top of the touching honor cards. Otherwise lead 4th best.
  2. Suit contract: Lead Partner’s suit. If partner did not bid, choose your own strongest suit. With a 2c+ honor sequence (solid) in the selected suit, lead top of the touching honor cards. The next choice is top of a doubleton. Otherwise lead 4th best. Don’t lead away from an A.

Guidelines: For later tricks, return Partner’s lead. As second hand, play low if the lead is low, and cover an honor lead with an honor. As third hand, play high to win, but don’t overtake Partner’s ranking card unless you are unblocking.

Ch. 2, Attitude Signals (p. 54)

Types of Signals: When your partner opens a suit, you as 3rd seat can play a Hi-Lo card to signal your desire for continuance. Playing a high card (usually a 987) signals a favorable attitude, while playing a low card (usually a 432) signals a desire to shift suits. A neutral card (usually a 65) signals an indifference to which suit is played. Audrey Grant and Betty Starzec discuss attitude, count, and suit-preference signals in Ch. 5 of ACBL Bridge Series in the 21st Century, Defense (2nd ed., 2006, 404 p.).

Ch. 3, Getting a Ruff (p. 92)

Suit-Preference Signals: Third hand can signal Hi-Lo to show a favorable attitude, so that Partner can lead the suit three times, getting a ruff on the third round. Even though a count signal for a doubleton is also Hi-Lo, this signal is attitude, saying you as 3rd hand want a continuance. When you ruff the 3rd round, you will receive a suit-preference signal, also Hi-Lo, from Partner telling you where Partner has an Ace. You will lead back to Partner’s Ace, hoping for another ruff. Again, see Defense, Ch. 5, “Defensive Signals.”

Ch. 4, Look at Dummy (p. 131)

Through Strength to Weakness: Defenders can listen to the auction, see their hand, see Dummy’s hand, and see Declarer’s choice of play. Don’t give Declarer a ruff and sluff by leading towards a guarded void in Dummy. Lead through strength to weakness so that partner is not finessed.

Resources
  1. ACBL Bridge Series in the 21st Century, Bidding (1990, 340 p.). Available from Baron Barclay. Audrey Grant wrote this book for the ACBL.
  2. Patty Tucker‘s illustrated Bridge is for Kids (2015, 105 p.). Available on Amazon Prime. Patty Tucker is a former president of the American Bridge Teachers’ Association.
  3. Robert Todd‘s bidding basics. Available at advinbridge.com/learn-bidding-basics. Robert Todd is one of Audrey Grant’s professional advisors.
  4. Terence Reese’s Bridge for Bright Beginners (1964, 151 p.). Terence was a world champion and newspaper columnist. While his bidding is out-of-date, his play remains excellent. This reprinted book has sold recently on Amazon Prime for $2 with free delivery.
Tests of Comprehension
  1. Minor Openings and Responses: For a test on bidding minors, go to Quiz 1 (p. 136).
  2. Opener’s Rebids: For a test on Opener’s rebids with a strong minor, go to Quiz 2 (p. 138).
  3. Review: For a test on Responder’s rebids; Plan; and Defense, go to Quiz 3 (p. 140).

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

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

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB1 P. 142 #13 S N 4 K A
BB1 P. 144 #14 E E 3 2 B
BB1 P. 146 #15 W S 3 A C
BB1 P. 148 #16 N W 3NT 5 D

Hints

  • A: N=13-14 points. S=14-15 points. North (N) opens 1♦ to show a better minor. South (S) likes ♦ but first shows a 4cm. N with 4c support for partner now switches to Dummy points (14 PVP) and raises one level. S has the trumps and points to bid game, so does. The lead is unfortunate for S, leading to 3 quick losers. Note that a K lead from KQxx is peculiar, and not recommended. S must win the rest of the tricks. Taking the rest requires a successful finesse. Making the contract.
  • B: E=13-14 points. W=11-12 points. East (E) opens 1♣ to show a better minor. West (W) soars with four. Finding a fit, West shows points with a 4cM limit bid to 3♠. E with a minimum then passes. S leads 4th best from an unbid suit. The lead is unfortunate for E, leading to 3 quick losers. S has 8 QT but needs to win 9 tricks. S requires a successful finesse. Making the contract.
  • C: E=6-7 points. W=17-18 points. W opens 1♦, a suit they really have. E has a minimum, no 4cM, and less than 4c trump support, so bids 1NT. W is a medium hand with great diamonds, no continuing interest in NT (E did not bid ♥), so jumps to 3♦. E has nothing more to say. Opponents lead top of AKxx, a 2c sequence. W has 8 QT but needs to win 9 tricks. W requires a successful finesse. Play the A♠ and then finesse the Q♠. Making the contract.
  • D: N=19 points. S=8 points. N opens 1♣ to show a better minor, intending to rebid 2NT to show points and distribution. S starts with their 4cM, then supports partner with a raise to 3NT. E leads 4th best. Declarer should duck until the 3rd round, as Declarer has only one stopper in the lead suit. Once gaining the lead, Declarer has 8 QT needing nine. Declarer has two chances and one entry. On Chance 1, Declarer plays the A♣ hoping for a Q drop. On Chance 2, Declarer unblocks in ♠ and leads to the A♠. Declarer clears the ♠ before taking a ♣ finesse. Making the contract.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB1 Ch4 may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

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