(Dec/Jan 2011/12)

I asked my expert panel — What would you open playing two-over-one standard holding xAQxxxAJxxxxx? How much extra strength would you need to open 1?

I expected that many experts would open the above hand 1. I also expected that if the hand was stronger, they would open 1 and reverse into hearts. The question is how much extra would they need?

Most of the experts open 1 with a weak hand. However, make the hand a tad stronger and they would open 1. I’ve had good results opening all hands with five hearts 1 no matter how many diamonds I have.

Jill Meyers—With that hand I would open 1. If you made the diamonds AQJxxx I would open 1 and reverse into hearts.

I’ve seen players open 1 and reverse into 2 holding xAQxxxAQJxxxA. When their partner held JxxxxKxxxxxxx, they were plus 200 in 2.

Karen Allison—I would open 1. With an additional red king or a black ace, I would open 1 intending to reverse and rebid hearts which is not as ‘strong’ in my mind than if I did not rebid hearts.

Bobby Wolff—I would also open 1 and chance partner is not waiting for me with two doubletons in my suits.

Jon Wittes—I would open 1 on the given hand. My partner Ross Grabel and I have the agreement that if we open a longer lower suit and bid and rebid a higher suit, it is not necessarily a true reverse, but shows 5-6 distribution and not a dead minimum.

Barry Rigal—I’d open 1 with your example hand. Move the honors around or make it an additional Queen and 1 is OK.

I wonder how opener differentiates between the 13-point reverse and the 18-point reverse. After 1 – 1 -2-2NT, does 3 show xAQxxxAQJxxxx or xAQJxxAQJxxxA?

Mike Lawrence—Add the queen of diamonds and the ten of hearts and I would open 1.

Alan Sontag—On this example, I would open 1, but if the hand is slightly better xAQxxxAQJxxxx I would start my longest suit and take my chances in the ensuing auction.

Kit Woolsey—Would need, say, the queen of diamonds in addition to open 1.

Eddie Kantar—I would open 1 because the hand is not quite strong enough to reverse. Make those diamonds AKJxxx and I would open 1. Of course if I had AQ10xx or even AQ9xx of hearts I would open 1 with the AQJxxx of diamonds.

Jeff Rubens—With this hand I would open 1. With xAKQxxAQJxxxx I would open 1.

One expert suggests that if the suits were spades and diamonds, you could open 2 and later bid spades assuming that someone bids hearts.

George Jacobs—I cannot think of a way to recover from any but a 1 opening. In the September 2012 Master Solvers, there is a hand like this: KJ1098 xAQ1098x x. It was all Vulnerable at Imps. I opened 2 and planned to rebid spades. You get chunky suits, shape and points all across to partner. In your example, the suits are poor and not placed well + it is an opening hand.

Fred Hamilton—I too would certainly open 1, even though I am a believer in showing my shape whenever I can do so conveniently. This hand is just too weak to bid out my shape, but add the Queen of Diamonds for one of the spots and the 10 of hearts and I think the hand would be strong enough to open 1 and reverse to hearts or bid hearts as high as the three-level in competition.

Chip Martel—I’d open 1. Change a Diamond spot to the Queen and would open 1.

Ralph Katz—I think a red king in one suit would put it on the bubble and add the other red 10, then 1 for sure. Change an ace to a king and I would pass in first and second seat.

Another way of showing 5-6 in the reds is to pass and then show them using a two-suited bid.

Richie Schwartz—I would need jack of hearts and the king of diamonds instead of small cards in those suits.  If I had black ace instead of small card I would still open 1, as we still don’t have to make squat.

Adam Wildavsky—I’d open 1. If I open 1 I’ll rebid 2 over 1. How much I need depends on my partner — some tolerate light reverses better than others. Add the heart Jack or nice spots in the red suits and I’d open 1 and reverse: xAQJxxAJ98xx x or xAQT9xAJTxxxx.

Marty Bergen—I’d open 1. I’d open 1 with xAQxxxAKxxxx x.

Eric Greco—I think it is right to open your longest suit when possible. When your major is spades this is easy. When it is hearts and a minor I would open 1 unless I had enough to reverse. I would need fewer points than usual given my extra shape. Need probably at least a good 13 working points. Something like xAQxxxAKxxxxx would be the absolute minimum. When it becomes apparent I am 5-6 from the subsequent bidding partner should know I may not have full reverse values (points).  One other note, with xAQxxxAxxxxxx it may be right not to open the bidding since you have the wrong shape and can show it later on in the bidding.

John Carruthers—I’d open 1 as you would. Just because you play five-card majors does not have to mean you open one regardless of the rest of your hand. To open 1 with the distribution you gave I’d need the diamond king in addition.

Ron Gerard—1. I would open 1 if you add a king in one of my suits or a side ace. You’re right some of us would open our eight-card diamond suit before our five-card heart suit.

Not me. If I open 1, I can’t have five hearts.

Bob Hamman—I open the weak five-six hand 1.

Steve Weinstein—I would open 1 with that hand. If you change my Q to the K, it would sway me to open 1.

David Berkowitz—I would need the queen of diamonds, and a red 10 (It is funny how those tens and nines make a hand look better), to open 1and get my distribution straight.

Mike Passell—Add the J and 10 and I am there.

Chuck Berger—1. I would need another king and queen in the reds to reverse.

Billy Pollack—I consider this one close. With better red suit texture I would open 1, but with this, I’ll bid 1.

Kerri Sanborn—I would open 1, and would require sufficient high cards in the red suits for probable game in order to reverse the hand. If I were dealt the AKQ in hearts, I would choose to reverse. With xAQJxxAQJxxxx, I would consider opening 1 and would definitely do so with xAQJxxAKJxxx x. This hand could produce game facing a 4333 yarborough.

Rose Meltzer—With hearts and diamonds, I would always open 1 first (big difference if your major is spades). I would have to have a better than average to open 1 and rebid hearts. Also, I would open 1 first with hand like:  AxxxxxAKJ10xxx. If opponents get into auction with spades, I want part to lead a diamond.

If you decide that the hearts looks like a four-card suit you could open 1 and forgot the heart suit.

Gaylor Kasle—I’d open 1. I have an easy rebid.

Pratap Rajadhyaksha—Depends on the methods. If I am playing something which shows 5-4 in the majors over 1 then I would open 1. Otherwise I’d open 1. King of either red suit would convince me to reverse.

Doug Doub—I think that you need to add at least the diamond king and probably a spot card or two (a red ten or nine) in order to have a 1opening.

Frank Stewart—I would open 1. To open 1, I would want a hand such as xAKxxxAKJxxxx. In the style of reverses I prefer, a reverse promises solid high-card values. To reverse with a 1-5-6-1 hand with shaded values may work out okay, but I would be afraid that if I overbid my high cards, partner would go wild and bid 6NT. I am probably in the minority.

Larry Cohen—1.  I would need AQJxxx in diamonds to open 1 and plan on bidding hearts twice.

Billy Eisenberg—I would need another working king or ace to reverse. AQJxxAJ10xxx would be enough.

Bobby Lipsitz—Need concentrated 13-count—diamond queen extra or AKxxxAQxxxx.

Dan Morse—On this hand I would open 1. If I had the King of either Hearts or Diamonds I would reverse.

Mel Colchamiro—I open 1 with almost all hands with five hearts and six-card minor. If my hand is strong enough, I open 1 and jump shift to 3 or whatever level I have to. I have found that I get the best results this way. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s what I do. With five hearts and seven clubs or seven diamonds, I open the minor almost regardless of strength. With five spades and a six-card minor I always open the minor, unless I am playing a club system.

Russ Ekeblad—Admit I usually go with the «open my longest suit school» but would make an exception here. If partner is kind enough to respond with a game-forcing 2, I don’t have a problem whether I open 1 or 1. Alas, I must be prepared for the inevitable 1 response. I would open 1 because it «obeys» my two favorite principles when it comes to treating awkward distributions:
1. If I can «move a deuce» (an «x») and my bid becomes crystal clear, I move it and open accordingly. So…I make the deuce of diamonds the deuce of clubs x55 xx) and open 1.
2. If one treatment gives my partner a much better picture of my distribution with my first rebid than an alternative treatment, I choose the one which best describes the hand. In this problem: If I open 1 and partner bids 1, I MUST rebid 2 as the hand is not remotely worth 2. Partner now knows I have at least six diamonds but little else except I likely don’t have four clubs. If I open 1 and rebid 2, partner knows nine of my cards for sure.
So – The math (six vs. nine) points to opening 1. I would do the same whether matchpoints or IMPS.

Zeke Jabbour—I would open 1. The 5-6 heart-diamond hand poses a problem unique to that combination. I would want to hold a hand that is strong enough to compete to the five-level. I would like an extra three HCP in each suit. The missing black suits suggest that the auction may advance rapidly and spades are high.  I would, of course, bid other two-suited combinations differently, but heart-diamond five-sixes I would almost always open 1.

There are some experts who always open their longest suit.

Dan Gerstman—1. No problem. The question should be how much worse do the diamonds have to be to treat it as a five-card suit? Among the advantages of 1 is that the next hand with the black suits can’t bid Michaels over that whereas 1 allows him to do so.

Drew Cason—Until recently I would open 1 with a weak 5-6. However, I have learned from my own poor results to always open my long suit. Whenever my partner had a good hand, we never seemed to get to right strain and level, and when it was their hand, the bidding got high faster than I could get my second suit in, and fearing a preference back to hearts, I ending up selling out. Ergo…I open my six-bagger no matter how strong my hand is.

You could open 1 with the weak hand and never bid the hearts. So if partner has KxxxxKxxxxxxx, you play in 2.

Carol Simon—I always open my longest suit. One of my primary rules is to never distort suit length, hence I open 1, but I will not reverse over a 1 response.  That is a little too rich for me.  Add the diamond Queen and I would reverse.

Lynn Deas—I think it very important to play my longest combined trump fit with highly distributional hands so I start with 1 a large percentage of the time. I often open 1 with a minimum hand and make a distributional reverse.

Zia—I open 1. My rule is that with 5-6 I can reverse without extras. Exception is with very good five-card suit and minimum such as AQJ10x of hearts and AJxxxx of diamonds I open 1.

Marinesa Letizia—I open 1. When I’ve shown 5-6, reverses don’t have to be powerhouses. This problem would be easy for me to answer. Holding65432AKQJ10987– I would open 1. However, for the rest of the experts, with few exceptions, they open their longest suit. A weak hand with five hearts and six diamonds is an exception.

The bottom line is that if you’re playing with a regular partner who will not overbid when you open 1 and then bid hearts twice holding xAQJxxAJ10xxxx, you can open 1. Otherwise open 1. By opening1 you will find out right away if partner has heart support.