Opening 1NT with Off-Shape Hands and/or Suits with No Stoppers by Steve Robinson

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asked my experts. You’re playing 15-17 1NT openers. What are your thoughts about opening 1NT on slightly unbalanced hands? Five-card majors? Hands with non-stopped suits such as…

Steve Robinson
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Source: www.districtsix.org

Opening 1NT with Off-Shape Hands and/or Suits with No Stoppers (Feb/Mar 2010)

I asked my experts. You’re playing 15-17 1NT openers. What are your thoughts about opening 1NT on slightly unbalanced hands? Five-card majors? Hands with non-stopped suits such as 432AQ32AKQ232, 4-5-2-2 hands such as 32AQ32AK432Q2 or hands with singleton honors, such as KAQ32AJ432J32? 

Some experts agree with me. If it looks like a strong notrump, smells like a strong notrump, walks like a strong notrump, then open 1NT. 1NT openers are your friends. Opening 1NT allows you to get to the correct level, and find your four-four major suit fits. Also the 1NT opening bid makes it more difficult for the opponents to enter the auction. It’s almost impossible for them to enter on balanced hands. After a 1NT-3NT auction sometimes they have to guess which suit is the killing lead.

Drew Casen—I would open every example hand you have shown here with 1NT. Jim Krekorian and I routinely open 1NT with singletons if we have rebid problems. I think it is OK to rebid 1NT with a bad 15 and a stiff in partner’s suit. Also, we play that reverses virtually guarantee an unbalanced hand. We also open 1NT routinely with five- card majors, but have Puppet Stayman. Also, we will open 1NT anytime we are 4-5-2-2 if the five-card suit is lower than the four-card suit, even with four spades and five hearts, but when we do that, we know that we can huddle after partner bids Puppet Stayman.

An easy way to incorporate Puppet Stayman into your system is to use a jump to 3 over a 1NT opening bid as Puppet. You should use Puppet only when you are choosing between 3NT or four-of-a-major. AxxxxAxxxQxxx is a good hand to check to see if you have a 5-3 spade fit. Over 3, opener responds three-of-his-major with a five-card suit. Opener bids 3 to show a four-card major and bids 3NT to deny a four and a five-card major. Over 3, responder bids 4 to show both four-card majors and bids his shorter major to allow opener to play the hand if his four-card major matches opener’s. If responder is just interested in finding a 5-3 fit, he bids 3NT over 3. I wouldn’t go out of my way to play Puppet. Missing the five-three major suit fit is not the end of the world. Sometimes they lead that suit. Sometimes when there is a killing lead, the wrong player is on lead. Sometimes the opponents have four top tricks against all contracts. And many times you will take the same number of tricks in either contract. If you are 4-3-3-3 with a four-card major often it’s right to just bid 3NT. However, you could use Puppet to make sure you’re not missing a 5-4 fit.

Eric Greco—All of the hands in your examples are hands I would open 1NT. The problem with not opening 1NT on hands with five-card majors and hands in your examples, such as the one with a stiff king, is that you will have major rebid problems if partner does what you would expect him to do. For example with KAQxxAJxxxQxx, If you open 1 and partner bids the likely 1 you may be forced to rebid 2 or make a drastic underbid of 1NT, 2 or 2, all of which are extremely ugly. This way when you do reverse it has some real meaning. The same is true with five-card majors if you are 5-3-3-2 and 15-17 HCP, you have to make up a rebid if partner responds on the one-level. The most controversial would be something like KJxxKJxxxAxKx. I would open 1NT with that because, if partner responds 1NT to my 1 opening, I must rebid a two-card suit or lie some other way. The two key points are: 1. Realize that a lot of good stuff can happen as well when you open 1NT on off-shape hands. Such as with the example hand KJxxKJxxxAxKx, if partner raises to 3NT, the opponents will stretch to lead a major, and as I have often seen these days some people won’t even lead a decent five-card minor such as KJxxx, especially in pairs. Also, when you have a stiff king it is tough for the opponents to figure it out. 2. Your other bids have more meaning so you know when partner reverses he has a hand that looks like a reverse. Also, you know partner won’t be faking rebids of 2 with two and three-card suits on balanced hands.

When you make a bid, you try to be prepared for partner to make the worst response possible. If you open 1NT, you will very rarely have to make a mis-descriptive bid later. If you open 1 with A2AJ1032K32A32, what do you do if partner bids 1? If you open 1 with K5432AKQA5432, what do you do if partner responds 1?

Ralph Katz—Sometimes you have no rebid and you need to open 1NT. I open 1NT with five-card majors with 15-16 HCP quite frequently. Holding hands with non-stopped suits such as 432AQ32AKQ232, 32AQ32AK432Q2 or KAQ32AJ432J32, the least of all evils is to open 1NT.

Ronnie Rubin—I open 1NT with unstopped suits and five-card majors.

Marty Bergen—I sometimes open 1NT with a five-card major. I definitely open 1NT on unbalanced hands, hands with five-card majors, hands with non-stopped suits and hands with four hearts and five diamonds that are not good enough to reverse.

Opening 1 and rebidding 2 over 1 shows four hearts and five or more diamonds and is called a reverse. The question is what is the weakest hand that you would reverse with? Hands with 14 HCP and most 15 HCP are too weak. With 17 or more HCP, you reverse. The question is what do you do with 16 HCP and good 15 HCP hands with 2-4-5-2? With 16 HCP with lots of spots and honors in the reds such as xxAQJ10AKQ109xx, open 1. With K2AQJ2A5432Q2, open 1NT.

Bobby Wolff—My thoughts on opening 1NT are very broad. I accept all flaws, namely singleton kings, concentrated strengths and weaknesses, 5-4-2-2 or 6-3-2-2 distributions (as long as the six-carder is a minor), five-card majors, 14 HCP, but never a good 17 HCP. The reason, quite simply, is that although an opening 1NT bid nowadays is competed more strongly than in the past, somehow the competition is not as exacting, and often the opponents do not land on their feet.

When you have a strong six-card minor, open the minor and jump to three-of-your-minor. It’s when you have a weak six-card minor, that you should consider opening 1NT.

Larry Cohen—I teach players to open 1NT on “all” 15-17 HCP 5-3-3-2 hands, even if the five-card suit is a major. But, for experts, there are exceptions. Small doubletons are a deterrent. If the hand would be awkward to bid by starting with a suit, I opt for 1NT instead. For example, with four spades, two hearts and a five-card minor, I start with the minor since it is easy to bid 1 next. But with two spades, four hearts and a five-card minor, I start with 1NT to avoid the rebid problem if partner responds 1. If it is a very acey hand with no spots, I still prefer 1NT, but I know David Berkowitz is much more apt to eschew 1NT and try to play from the right side. So, I ended up playing more hands than he did!

Just because you have four spades doesn’t mean you can’t have rebid problems. You hold AK3242432AKQ2. You open 1 and then rebid 1 over your partner’s one-of-a red suit and partner rebids 1NT. Do you raise to 2NT and find him with five HCP or do you pass and find him with ten. Opening 1NT solves this problem. If you open 1 holding KJ9xKxxxxAKQx, what do you do if LHO overcalls 1 and partner makes a negative double? If you open 1NT holding AQxxxxJxAKQ10x partner with xxxKQ109xxxKxx would transfer you to 4. If you open 1 there are many auctions where you might not get to game. I was watching online and saw the auction go 1 -1NT (overcall) – 2 – all pass.

Chip Martel—It is normal to open 1NT with a five-card major, though not with decent 17 HCP (too good). Stoppers aren’t an issue. I would open 1NT with two suits unstopped. Holding KAQ32AJ432J32, I would treat the hand like a 14 HCP hand and open 1 and rebid 1NT (since it is not really worth 15 HCP, it is fine to rebid a weak NT).

Mike Lawrence—It is pretty simple. If I have a bid that does not embarrass me on the next round, I bid naturally. If I know I will hate the later bidding, I make my bad bid now and live with the consequences of an easy auction. 432AQ32AKQ232, it’s close but I lean towards 1NT32AQ32AK432Q2 is a clear 1NT. KAQ32AJ432J32 is a 1 opener for the reason that it is not worth a full 15 HCP. I plan to rebid 1NT after 1. Throw in some ten spots and a 1NT opening would be OK.

Bart Bramley—Yes, I open 1NT with all of those. At least you show your point count and come close to showing your hand type. Starting with 1 gives you impossible problems no matter what partner responds. I used to prefer to open 15-17 HCP hands in a five-card major, especially spades, but recently I’ve come around to 1NT on that one too, although not as vehemently as some. A stiff king is a good holding for notrump. I recall that many years ago, in a Vanderbilt match against YOU, my teammate Steve Labins opened 1NT with TWO stiff kings and got a good result. Quoth he: “I couldn’t resist!”

I’ve opened 1NT twice with two singleton kings. I’ve never seen a hand with three, but IF I were dealt KKKQJ109876543, I would open 1NT. When you open 1NT with a singleton honor, partner will be as surprised as the opponents. Partner will transfer and pass, or double the opponents holding three cards in their suit. There is no convention that asks partner if he has a singleton. When my partner opens 1NT, I never even think of his having a singleton.

Lynn Deas—I have found that it is best to open 1NT whenever possible. That limits our hand to a three-point box with one bid instead of opening one-of-a-suit showing 11-21 points balanced or unbalanced.
1. xxxAQxxAKQxxx certainly stoppers are irrelevant as how do you ever show a balanced 15-17 HCP if you don’t open 1NT?
2. xxAQxxAKxxxQx There is not a perfect bid on every hand, so sometimes you make the bid that is the least of all evils. At least 1NT shows the correct point count and your hand is almost balanced. What do you rebid if you start with 1 and partner responds 1? You are not near good enough to reverse, and a 1NT rebid has the same flaw as opening 1NT, almost balanced. Then there is the other huge flaw since you have shown 11-14 HCP where your hand is actually worth 16 HCP. I generally add one point for a five-card suit with my balanced hands. 3. KAQxxAJxxxJxx Here again there is no perfect bid with this hand. You can start with 1NT showing 15-17 HCP balanced or you can start with 1 but once again what is the rebid over partner’s 1 response?

Billy Pollack—Flexibility is key. If it looks like a notrump opener, just close your eyes and open 1NT. That includes “soft” hands with a five-card major, a worthless doubleton and 5-4-2-2 distribution, a six-card minor, or even an awkward hand with a stiff king such as QTxKAKxxKJxxx. But avoid opening 1NT with something like xxAKxxxxAKJxx. As five-card major 1NT openers have become commonplace, more folks are playing Puppet Stayman to get back to the 5-3 fit.

Bobby Lipsitz—Opening 1NT with a five-card major is OK with fewer than 17 HCP; and with a stiff king is OK, but the last example hand is too weak–needs at least two ten spots.

George Jacobs—I open 1NT on hands with four hearts and five diamonds, as rebids are so difficult, but not with a small xx in the unbid suits. With a balanced hand, stoppers are not required. I am normally aggressive, but rarely open 1NT with fewer than 15 HCP. Having a five-card major should be common, but you should know how to discover it. My wife jumps to three-of-the-major with a five-card major and exactly 15 HCP over Stayman. With more she opens the major. Live a little — once in awhile open with a stiff king.

I don’t think anyone would have a problem opening 1NT with AK232AJ102A432. Why wouldn’t you also open 1NT with AK3232AJA5432?

There are experts who find reasons not to open 1NT. They only open 1NT when forced to. They open 1NT with five hearts when holding 16 HCP. With five hearts and 17 HCP, they open 1 and rebid 2NT, treating it like an 18-point hand. With 15 HCP they treat it like a 14-point hand.

Eddie Kantar—With balanced hands (5-3-3-2), I don’t open 1NT with a five-card major if I have 17 HCP (too strong). I’m more apt to open 1NT with five hearts than five spades, which avoids the rebidding problem after a 1 response. Also, if the major is weak, I tend to open 1NT. With a weak partner everything is opened 1NT. I usually open 1NT with 4-4-3-2 distribution and two unstopped suits. With a 2-4-5-2 pattern, the strength concentrated in the reds, and 16+ HCP, I open 1 and reverse into hearts. If the strength is not concentrated, I open 1NT with 15-16 HCP and reverse with more. With that awful hand with the stiff spade king, I open 1 and rebid a loud 1NT if partner responds 1.

Jon Wittes—I open 1NT on most balanced or even slightly unbalanced 15-17 point hands, but rarely with a five-card major. If I do open 1NT with a five-card major, it is more likely to be with five hearts than with five spades, especially when the suit is poor. The rationale for that is if you open 1 with 15-17 points and a five-card heart suit, over partner’s 1 response you may be stuck for a rebid. However, since I only play Puppet Stayman over 2NT openers or 2 followed by 2NT openers, it is difficult to subsequently show a five-card major after Stayman by partner, especially on minimum hands, where you have no bid over partner’s 2NT rebid. I don’t mind opening 1NT with a stiff ace or king, since once again, it is sometimes difficult to describe this strength hand when you open one of a suit.

Barry Rigal—There are hands with no rebid where I will open flawed strong notrumps, but if I can find an intelligent rebid and have 15 HCP, I’ll downgrade. With 17 HCP I’ll upgrade. So, taking your examples: Hands with non-stopped suits, such as 32AQ32AKQ232, I open 1NT because 1-1 leaves me worse off. Switch the hearts and spades and I bid 1-1-1. Holding 32AQ32AK432Q2, no problem with 1-1-1NT. Give me an extra jack and I open 1NT. Give me an extra queen and I reverse over 1. Holding KAQ32AJ432J32, no problem with 1-1-1NT. Give me an extra HCP and I open 1NT. Give me two more and I reverse. I will also open 15-17 counts one-of-a-major with 5-3-3-2 and all my points in two suits such as xxAQxxxJxxAKJ.

Henry Bethe—The only time I even consider opening 5-4-2-2 hands with 1NT is with exactly 16 points and either four hearts and five diamonds or four diamonds and five clubs and positional values in both short suits. Even then I dislike it, as I believe partner is entitled to expect at least one three-plus card fit when 5-5. I have been known to open 1NT with 15-16 HCP and a six-card minor when my majors are 3-2 (not 2-2) and my doubletons are positional, e.g. Kx or AJ or some such. Do I open 1NT with five-card majors? Always. Removing balanced 16 counts from 1 or 1 openers obviates many otherwise intractable rebid problems. I open 1NT with non-stopped suits such as 432AQ32AKQ232, 32AQ32AK432Q2 or KAQ32AJ432J32. Again, 1NT is so descriptive in terms of shape and strength that stopper-less suits do not disturb me.

Jill Myers—I don’t have a problem opening 1NT with four diamonds and five hearts and not enough values to reverse because it is too hard to describe this hand otherwise. I also do not have a problem opening 1NT with concentration in the red suits. However, if my hearts and spades were reversed, I would open 1 and rebid 1 over 1. I would not open the stiff king hand 1NT. I would open 1 and rebid 2 over 1. I think you have to weigh the consequences of your bids. If you have a balanced 15 HCP, and it would be difficult to find a rebid, then I would open 1NT.

Karen Allison—My philosophy is simple: If it is a balanced hand (4-4-3-2, 4-3-3-3, 5-3-3-2 and occasionally 6-3-2-2 with a weak minor suit) and it is in range, then I open it 1NT. I do not ever chisel a point. There are very few exceptions. Holding 432AQ32AKQ232 would be an exception because of the unbalanced nature of the high-card values. I simply never open 1NT with a singleton honor in a suit. If I have a 5-4-2-2 hand that doesn’t have a convenient rebid (KJxxAQxxx KxQx or the like, not strong enough to reverse), I will also make an exception and open 1NT.

There are some 14 HCP hands that should be opened 1NT. When I rebid 1NT, I want my partners to pass 1NT with a bad 11 count. They should not hope that I have a good 14 HCP. Would you open 1NT with A32A32A32K432 and open 1 with A109A109K109K1098?

Danny Gerstman—First of all, the problem is a lot harder if it is 16 HCP instead of 15 HCP. I’ve opened one-of-a-minor with 15 HCP and rebid 1NT but never with 16 HCP — that’s just too much of a stretch. Now before I get to those hands, you said five-card majors, but you didn’t give an example. I assume you mean if your hand held a 15-count with a five-card major? Chris Willenken had a great answer in Bridge World Master Solvers pertaining to that. With 16 HCP open a 1NT, and with 15 HCP open the major and bid two-of-a-minor over a 1NT. With 17 HCP open the major and rebid 2NT. I look at suit qualities as well. Open 1NT if you hold KAQ32AJ432J32. If holding 432AQ32AKQ232, I’ll open 1 and I’ll raise 1 to two and 1 to three. Holding 32AQ32AK432Q2 is a tough hand. I would open 1 and bid 1NT over 1, but with 16 HCP, I would open it 1NT. By the way, if the stiff king had been in clubs instead of spades, I would have opened 1 and raised spades and jump raised hearts. Or if it had been AKQxx of diamonds in either one, I may have rebid 2 rather than stepping out. But the AKQ of diamonds you gave was a four-carder. Obviously, all these problems have four-card heart suits and not four-card spade suits, where one would just open the minor and rebid spades. It leaves room for what partner can expect when you do open 1NT and he bids Stayman and you do show four spades.

David Bird—I would usually open 1NT with a five-card major. The only exception would be something like AKQJx in the major and two bare suits, when I would treat the major as a six-carder. I would always open 1NT with 4-4-3-2 shape and no stoppers in the shorter suits. I would only open 1NT on 5-4-2-2 shapes when the four-card suit could not be conveniently rebid after opening in the five-card suit (for example 2=4=5=2 shape, and the hand is not strong enough for a reverse).

Jeff Rubens—Perhaps it is useful to open 1NT unbalanced hands to avoid rebid problems. Overall, the preemptive effect may balance constructive losses. Which types are useful varies with notrump range. There is little need to open a weak notrump with a six-card suit, but it might help when opening strong notrumps. Opening 1NT with a 2=2=4=5 hand might be a good idea with any range–maximum preemptive effect, potentially maximum rebid unpleasantness. Opening 1NT with five-card majors is playable either way. It’s more likely to be useful when playing strong notrumps. Might want to distinguish 2=5=3=3 from 3=5=2=3 and 3=5=3=2. Might want never to open one-of-a-major with 5-3-3-2. All are playable. Usually can’t afford to worry about that on first round of bidding with a balanced hand; with a special case, maybe reconsider if auction seems controllable. Second round is different, because now there are bid and unbid suits.

Mark Lair—When in doubt, I open 1NT (very seldom with singleton honors), but I overcall 1NT with singletons without a problem. I don’t worry about two un-stopped suits. I usually have three of the other major when I open 1NT with a five-card major. Holding 2-2-5-4 15-17 HCP, I usually open 1NT unless xx, xx in the majors.

Some think that you shouldn’t open 1NT with a five-card major when you have only two cards in the other major. They’re afraid that partner might transfer, and you’ll play your 5-2 fit instead of your 5-3 fit. But sometimes the 5-2 fit plays better than the 5-3 fit. Usually it’s better if the weak hand names trump. That way you win aces and kings in the strong hand and long trumps in the weak hand.

Marinesa Letizia—I have no problem opening 1NT on slightly unbalanced hands, 5-3-3-2 hands with five-card majors, or hands with non-stopped suits. I would open 1NT with a four-card heart suit and a five-card minor. I wouldn’t open 1NT with a hand with four spades and a five-card minor or a singleton.

Zeke Jabbour—I open 1NT with unbalanced hands. It usually revolves around either rebid considerations or whether or not my hand was favorably placed to receive the opening lead. E.G. holding A109K10KQJxxxQx I would open 1NT. It’s a good hand to be led to if partner has anything in the side suits, and it resolves the rebid problems. It also has greater pre-emptive value than 1. I would say that the majority of players open 1NT holding five-card majors. I say that more judgment should be involved than just automatically doing it. Basically, I would open the major, unless I had five hearts and 16 points. Opening 1NT with two suits bereft of even a ten seems anti-percentage. I would treat the hand as a 14- pointer unless I had favorable vulnerability and was looking for a swing. I would open 1NT holding 32AQ32AK432Q2. It might be a favorable hand to receive the lead (unless it’s a spade), and it has a suit that could be a source of tricks. Holding KAQ32AJ432J32 I would tend not to open 1NT. I have two suits with dubious “stoppers” and no clear source of tricks, and my partners would transfer to spades and pass–vulnerable! I would rebid 1NT over a 1 response to allow partner to introduce the heart suit without making a forcing bid.

Larry Mori—Five-card majors on the low side of the point count can be opened 1NT. Sometimes I want to also protect holdings in other suits and the major tends not to be too strong. With 15-16 count, 2-4-5-2 and 2-2-4-5 hands where it’s not reasonable to reverse, opening 1NT might be the only choice. However, with xxAKQJAJxxxxx, then a 1-opening would be better. I do not like two unguarded suits. I would usually open five-card majors with a small doubleton unless I have 15 HCP and have a rebid problem. In IMPs, bidding 2 or 2 over a forcing 1NT with 16-17 HCP and then bidding 2NT is a reasonable option. Speaking of off shape hands, there are some cases where opening 1NT with 5-4-3-1 hands with a stiff king or ace may be the best bid.

Fred Hamilton—I am fairly disciplined opening 1NT. A five-card major is OK, but I like to have all suits stopped and the major not strong. As to off-shape hands, there is a problem of a rebid with 4-5 in the reds or 4-5 in the minors and 15-17 HCP, so some of those hands need to be opened 1NT. I think it is OK to open with a stiff king perhaps at matchpoints, but at IMPs probably not.

I see no difference between IMPs and matchpoints.

Joe Kivel—I remember that Kit Woolsey once wrote something like “it’s OK to open 1NT with one flaw, but not two”. I’ve followed that advice and found it useful. So, I open with a five-card major if: a) I have three cards in the other major, and b) I have no worthless doubleton. I would open 1NT with some 2-4-5-2 hands because of possible rebid problems, but generally not with 4-2-5-2 unless I hold an honor, especially the king, doubleton in the short suits. I don’t consider non-stopped suits a flaw, so it’s OK to open on those. A singleton king or queen is OK without other flaws in order to prevent rebid problems if the hand is not opened 1NT.

Kit Woolsey—I avoid opening 1NT with a five-card major unless the hand has notrump written on it or opening one-of-a-major would create a distortion in my rebid that would be too great. With a 4-4-3-2 hand in the notrump range I would always open 1NT regardless of stoppers, as that would be impossible to rebid accurately. With a 5-4-2-2 or 5-4-3-1 hand, it would depend mainly on the rebid considerations. If the rebid would be comfortable (e.g. strong enough to reverse, or 1 followed by 2), I would open the minor. If the rebid figured to be distorted, I would open 1NT.

John Carruthers—I prefer to open all hands in the 15-17 range that even resemble a balanced hand with 1NT. That means six-card minors, five-card majors, some 5-4s, and some 4-4-4-1s or 1-3-4-5s. I draw the line at five of a major and four of a minor, however. If I feel a hand with a four-card major and a five-card minor is good enough to reverse, I’d open one-of-the-minor; otherwise I’d consider 1NT. The same considerations apply when rebidding 1NT. The reason I prefer opening 1NT is two-fold: constructive bidding is easier than trying to play catch-up with better than a minimum. 1NT is more preemptive than one-of-a-minor.

Frank Stewart—I would be willing to open 1NT with a five-card major in some circumstances. If playing transfers, I would open 1 with JxAQxxxKQxAxx because a 1NT opening might land me in a 5-2 spade fit and miss a 5-3 heart fit. I would open 1 with KxJ10xxxAQxAQx because the hearts would take time to set up, which might not be available in a notrump contract. But many experts might look at the hand in the opposite way and open 1NT because the hearts are poor. I would be willing to open 1NT with certain semi-balanced 2-4-5-2 or 2-2-4-5 hands, with strength concentrated in the doubletons, but I wouldn’t enjoy it. With a hand such as xxAQxxAKQxxxx, I would open 1and rebid 1NT over a 1 response. That is an underbid in high cards but preferable, in my opinion, to opening 1NT with no strength in either black suit. I expect I am in the minority. I would never never break discipline by opening 1NT with an unbalanced hand, such as a hand with a singleton king.

Kerri Sanborn—I have no problem opening with slightly unbalanced hands, but I don’t go out of my way to do so if the hand can be bid fairly otherwise. I believe in strong reverses, but those who can reverse on lesser values should do that instead of opening 1NT with a singleton when that is an option. For example – QAJxxAKxxxQxx. if you can reverse with this hand, then do that. If that would show a better hand, then this is an acceptable 1NT opening. Unstopped suits are no deterrent to a 1NT opening, but I disagree with an overcall when RHO’s suit is unstopped. An exception can be made when the opening bid is a Precision style 1. I will open 1NT with five-card majors and six-card minors both. Again, being able to bid a hand comfortably makes a difference. I would open 1NT with AJxKQxxxKxKxx, but would open 1holding AJKQxxxKxKxxx.

Carol Simon—With 432AQ32AKQ232, I would be hard-pressed to define the range of this hand if I open anything but 1NT. If partner responds 1, I would be unhappy raising spades or rebidding 1NT. Opening 1 is a possible alternative intending to rebid 2, but when I later support partner’s spades, he will think I have a singleton club. With 32AQ32AK432Q2, 1NT is fine and normal. With KAQ32AJ432J32, it would be fine opening 1 and rebidding 1NT over a 1 response. This seven-loser hand is minimum and the spade king is of dubious value. I have no hesitation opening 1NT with a five-card major if the rest of the hand is suitable. I will not have 5-4 unless the five- or four-card suit is five small or four small.

Kathie Wei-Sender—I open 1NT with a five-card major often when not to do so presents a rebid problem.

If you always get to 3NT when you have two balanced hands with at least 25 HCP between you, you will do well. Obviously, not all will make. However, you will make them more often than not. This means that if you have 15-17 HCP, and you can possibly open 1NT, you should.

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