Paul Lavings
Paul Lavings

Source: Australian Bridge Federation Newsletters

Whether to play 1=2+ OR 1=3+ (better minor)

1 showing 2+ clubs has always had a good following, but it fails to stand up under close analysis.

Consider this hand, and focus on the shape 4-4-3-2: A864, A765, J54, K6

This exact shape, four spades, four hearts, three diamonds and two clubs is the only hand where you open 1 with three diamonds, playing better minor. Now look at these sequences when you open 1 in better minor:

1-1 1-1 1-1
1NT 1 1NT

When you open 1 you will have only three diamonds if you are 4-4 in the majors (exactly 4-4-3-2). In these sequences you cannot be 4-4 in the majors or you would raise partner’s major to 2 or 2 at once. Thus the partnership knows after opener’s rebid how many diamonds opener holds, whether it be 3 or 4+. And it can only be three exactly if the bidding proceeds

1-1 1-1
2 2

In which case it doesn’t really matter, since you’ve found your major suit fi t. So opening 1 with 3+ is not so damaging. It is nice to know opener has 4+ diamonds at the point when they open 1, but you can still make a preemptive raise (1 – 3) or raise diamonds in competition with five-card support.

Strangely this exact shape, four spades, four hearts, three diamonds and two clubs is also the only hand where you open 1 with two, playing 1= 2+. However, if you open 1 with 2+, you create all sorts of problems for yourself around the club suit. In many cases, you tie your own hands behind your back; for instance it becomes a risk to raise preemptively to 3 with only fi ve-card support and to bid 3 in this sequence with only fi ve-card support may fi nd you in a seven-card fit:

K2, 86, 8764, AQ874

1: (2); 3

It could also be wrong to respond 2 over a 1 overcall!

1 is a much more frequent opening bid then 1, and you will have many problems in competitive auctions if you open the bidding in your shortest suit. Often you need to fi nd your minor suit fi t quickly in order to compete at the three-level and push opponents one level higher.

I asked Ron Klinger why he preferred better minor and he kindly replied:

[box type=»alert»]“The incidence of 1 as exactly three is so small (below 2%) that one need not worry about it when supporting diamonds. I am not in favour of using 1 as 2+ just to preserve transfers after 1. Those who open 1 with 4-3-4-2, 3-4-4-2, 3-3-4-3, 3-3-5-2 patterns, etc. lose the diamond suit too often in competition, and for the opening lead when the opponents buy the contract.”[/box]

There is a method of playing both 1 = 2+ and 1 = 2+ that is enjoying great success that focusses more on point count than shape. This system is played by Pauline Gumby – Warren Lazer, and a similar method is also played by Griff Ware – Michael Wilkinson, who have made the Australian Open Team in both 2014 and 2015: Gumby Lazer style

  • 1 = 2+ and is either 17-20 balanced (even 5-3-3-2 with five diamonds)
  • OR natural with long clubs. Rebid 1NT with 17-18 and 2NT with 19-20.
  • 1 = 2+ all 11-13 balanced if you rebid 1NT including 5-3-3-2 with five clubs
  • OR unbalanced with 4+ diamonds
  • 1NT = 14-16 balanced

The notrump ranges are much tighter and more accurate, which is a great advantage, but you lose your minor suits. The trade-off seems to be paying dividends – watch this space.