M J Bridge
Opening Balanced Hands
Point count is an excellent way of assessing the potential of a balanced hand. (Note that it is not nearly so effective in determining the potential of an unbalanced hand). Simply look at the picture cards in your hand, count four for an ace, three for a king, two for a queen, and one for a jack, and add up the total.
Balanced hands are usually best suited to play in no trumps.
There are exceptions to this generalisation, and there are certainly unbalanced hands which will score best in no trumps, but this thought should not affect your opening bid and your planned rebid if any. Your aim is to describe the balanced shape and the point-
The table below assumes the standard ranges for opening bids of 1NT and 2NT. For other possibilities follow the link ‘other ranges’.
After that it will be up to partner to direct the course of any continuing auction.
Note that the presence or absence of good stops in all four suits is not a consideration at this point. Your opening bid will be determined by strength and shape. Other considerations might come into play in the subsequent auction.
Beginner and above
less than 12 points
12 to 14 points
15 to 19 points
Open one of a suit, and rebid in no trumps
20 to 22 points
23 or more points
Open with a strong artificial bid such as 2♣ and rebid in no trumps
A few general thoughts
Evaluating the hand
Two hands with the same point-
With this thought in mind you might, as you progress, choose to take other factors into account and adjust your point-
The traditional point count allocation given above is far from perfect (who decided that an ace is worth exactly the same as a king and a jack?) but it is still as good a rule of thumb as any. It has the advantages not only that all your partners are already familiar with it, but also that the laws of bidding laid down by national associations are frequently couched in terms of these points. So nothing new there.
The specific ranges shown in the table are not set in stone. They are the standard choices and they are the ones which you will encounter most frequently. As you proceed you may as a partnership wish to modify them so as to fit in with some other aspect of your system, but if you are starting out those above are more than adequate and will serve you well to a high level.
Note that the strength of hands in the fifteen to nineteen point range will be defined further by opener’s rebid.
A brief discussion of other possible ranges is to be found on the page ‘other ranges’.
Position at the table and vulnerability
Even when playing the same range for an opening 1NT in all seats, considerations of vulnerability and position at the table might affect your strategy. In particular there may well be circumstances in which you will decline to open a twelve-
Showing your point count
A common error among beginners is to make a bid in no trumps with the primary purpose of showing a point count. Most commonly this will involve a rebid in no trumps by opener to show a hand of fifteen to nineteen points on a hand which is not balanced.
Your priority should be to show your shape first -
Thus with 5-
Frequently you will finish in the same 3NT contract which may well be the best, but on another day you will miss a superior contract in a suit and possibly even a slam.
(An exception to the above is linked above on some 5-
A similar error is even more frequently committed by responder as he rushes too quickly to 2NT to show his ten to twelve points. First show your hand with a simple natural and forcing change of suit -
The table above relates to balanced hands, and also to any other hands which you have chosen to show as balanced.
All other hands should be bid in a way which initially emphasises their shape.
Acol, and the rest of the world
Most of the world (but not all) plays a strong rather than a weak no trump. This includes most of the world’s top experts.
I believe that this has more to do with national traditions than to any inherent advantages in the method.
The method advocated above assumes that you are playing a weak no trump.
This is part of the ‘Acol’ system which has been the standard in the UK for many years and it will be the assumed method throughout this site.
However, it would be remiss of me not to point out that even in the UK there are many other methods and variations in common use.
The original Acol system recommended a variable no trump -
What has appeared on the scene instead is a range of alternative variable no trumps. These will frequently include different ranges in different seats, and are quite likely to incorporate a mini no trump (say 10 -
I have no experience of playing such methods, but you must be prepared to meet them.
Occasionally you will come across a wider-
If so it will probably be linked to an artificial response such as 2♣ asking for more information about your hand.
For the moment my advice, as ever in such situations, is to stick with your relatively straightforward method but to interfere with such bids by your opponents as quickly as you can and as far as you dare whilst your opponents still have no idea what they hold.
Another popular choice is to play a wide-
Personally, I think that there is a lot to be said for playing a simple twelve to fourteen on all balanced hands at all vulnerabilities, but with just a little reticence on twelve-
Whichever approach you choose you will win some and you will lose some.
This page last revised 30th Aug 2018
|Overcaller's rebid and beyond|
|Responder's rebid and beyond|
|The continuing auction|