Breakin’ the Rules: Opening 1NT with a Singleton

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One tenet of standard bidding drilled into beginning players is that opening 1NT promises a balanced hand.

Joshua Donn
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Breakin’ the Rules: Joshua Donn discusses various situations where an expert might decide to deviate from the “normal” action and break the rules, for BridgeWinners

“Advanced players know the rules. Experts know when to break the rules.” – Anonymous

One tenet of standard bidding drilled into beginning players is that opening 1NT promises a balanced hand. Indeed, auctions that start with 1NT tend to go smoothly and lead to good results precisely because of this promise. When responder knows opener has at least 2 cards in every suit, responder can count on opener’s help in supporting and stopping every suit.

But of course there may be exceptions. Sometimes opening 1NT with a singleton is likely to lead to a better result than another opening bid, and not just because of the element of surprise to the opponents. There are many factors to consider that influence this decision, so here are my opinions on the most important constructive issues involved.

 Potential rebid problems

Rebid problems after opening a suit at the 1-level and getting a response in your singleton are based on both the strength and shape of your hand. The most difficult shapes are 1444, 1345, 1453, 1435, and 3145. These shapes have two important factors in common: they have no 4-card suit above the singleton to rebid, and they don’t have the desired ‘5 in a higher suit, 4 in a lower suit’ shape for comfortably rebidding two of a lower suit. Thus, these are the shapes where you should be most willing to open 1NT, thereby avoiding the rebid problem. By comparison, any shape with the singleton immediately above the opened suit, such as 4144 or 3415, will allow for a comfortable rebid in a second suit at either the 1- or 2-level. You should be more reluctant to open 1NT with such shapes.

Regarding hand strength, having exactly 16 HCP creates the biggest problem. With 17 you can usually reverse into a new suit, or perhaps upgrade a bit and rebid 2NT. With 15 it’s generally reasonable to rebid either 1NT or two of your minor, especially considering that having partner respond in your singleton doesn’t help your hand. However, holding 16 HCP makes all of those options relatively uncomfortable.

Furthermore, having…Click Here to Continue reading

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