Ask Jerry: To Open 1NT with a five card Major


Source: ACBL

Dear Jerry, Playing in a club game, I held Q10543 KJ A6 AK102. Despite holding a five-card major, I elected to open 1NT to describe my values and shape. This did not work out too well. Any thoughts? Barb from Tennessee

Dear Barb, Please … I am rarely at a loss for thoughts. For starters, I think it is often best to open 1NT when holding a five card major. I also think that holding two doubletons should not necessarily deter you from opening 1NT. Despite these thoughts, the real issue is identified by the following Jerryism:

[box type=»tick» style=»rounded»]Always plan a second bid before you make your first.[/box]

Playing either Standard American or 2/1, opening 1 is preferable to 1NT with the hand in question if you think ahead. Any spade raise is easy to handle: you can bid game, cuebid or use Blackwood depend-ing on the type of raise. If partner makes a two-level new suit response you are well placed to bid 3, which in any system shows extra values. If instead you hear a 1NT response, whether natural or forcing, bid 2. Although non-forcing, this new suit rebid includes a wide range of values — dead minimum up to just under enough to make a game-forcing jump shift. Standard Ameri-can players encounter a stumbling block, however, if partner responds 2. As a 2/1 advocate, I must point out that a game-forcing 3 raise, if an option, would certainly simplify this problem.

I have both empathy and admiration for your willingness to deviate from «rules» which prohibit opening 1NT with either a five-card major or two doubletons. As a bridge teacher, I advocate the use of words like probably, usually, generally, etc., as better choices than always, never or their equivalent. I strongly believe that having rigid requirements governing any bridge decisions is a major mistake. To be effective at the table, you have to have a little rock ‘n’ roll in your soul.

As dealer, on each of the following hands, loosen up a little bit and plan ahead:

J6 985 AQJ83 AKJ

Q7 KQJ54 A76 KJ3

AQ AQ Q542 Q7542

KQJ KJ 875432 AQ

In my opinionated opinion, each of these hands should be opened 1NT.

On the first, a major suit response leaves you poorly placed to make any rebid that reflects medium values.

On the second, a prob-able 1 response leaves you, once again, high and dry. What would you do? Underbid with 1NT? Over-bid with 2NT?

On the next hand, despite appropriate values, the very thought of reversing by opening 1 then bidding 2 is repulsive with 75% of your values in suits yet to be mentioned.

On the final hand, you have a six-card suit and two doubletons. So? If you open 1 and partner replies in either major, you face an uncomfortable choice. Rebidding any number of diamonds would be either an underbid or a gross overstatement of suit quality. I prefer to take my chances by open-ing 1NT to show medium strength with at least two cards in every suit.

Another Jerryism:

[box type=»tick»]A good bid (or good series of bids) is one that most closely resembles the cards you hold.[/box]