Source: Ask Jerry

Hi Jerry, In the April Bridge Bulletin, in the review of Adam Parrish’s book, “When To Bid Notrump (And How to Play It),” he states that bidding 1NT is better than opening a five-card major when you are in notrump range. As a Bronze Life Master, I have played with partners of each belief. One Gold Life Master of over 40 years opens a five-card major whenever she has one because she has lost too many games where 3NT was beaten by a major-suit game when there was a 5-3 fit.

Can you discuss your pros and cons on the subject? 

I have yet to read the book, but I’m sure I will, because I tend to agree with what I saw in the review. There is a big difference between when you could open 1NT, as opposed to when you should open 1NT. I don’t know whether my theories align perfectly with those of Adam Parrish, but I will take a shot at giving you my views on less-than-classic 1NT opening bids.

Perhaps my guiding principle is this advice offered by Alvin Roth: ‘Always plan a second bid before you choose a first.”

Spade SuitQJ Heart SuitKQJ43 Diamond SuitK64 Club SuitA73 I would always open 1NT.

A good rule of thumb is often to assume responder will reply in your shortest suit. What would your plan be after opening 1Heart Suit , and receiving a 1Spade Suit reply? A rebid of 1NT, showing 12-14 on your 16? Or 2NT … showing 18-19 on your 16? A redundant 2Heart Suitbid. showing six hearts and minimum values?

Just open 1NT and get over it!

Spade SuitQJ Heart SuitKQJ43 Diamond SuitK4 Club SuitA763

Exactly 16 HP as before, but why distort what you hold by opening 1NT? Open 1Heart Suit, planning to bid your club suit over virtually anything partner says. If responder bids 1Spade Suit, and you bid 2Club Suit, this does not show 16 HP, but most importantly, it does not deny those values. 2Club Suithere is not forcing, but shows values somewhere between a bad 12 up to 18 HP.

If you hold a five-card major with specifically one doubleton and two three-card suits, along with 15 or 16 HP, open 1NT. With 17 HP, use some judgment. If you think it’s a good 17, treat it like 18, planning to open at the one level and jump in notrump. In general, if you hold a five-card major and another four-card suit, do not open 1NT.

However, with: Spade SuitJ5 Heart SuitAQ85 Diamond SuitKQJ43 Club SuitK4, I would open 1NT in anticipation of a probable 1Spade Suit reply from partner over a 1Diamond Suitopening. This hand does not quite qualify as a reverse. It is also time to debunk a myth that a 1NT opening bid does not have two doubletons!

But with: Spade SuitAQ85 Heart SuitJ5 Diamond SuitKQJ43 Club SuitAK4, you could open 1NT, but why? If you open 1Diamond Suit and hear a 1Heart Suitresponse, you have an easy rebid of 1Spade Suit. The ACBL officially sanctioned
notrump opening bids with a singleton, provided it is either an ace, king or queen. Many experienced players have been doing this long before explicit permission had been provided.

Holding: Spade SuitK Heart SuitKQ3 Diamond SuitKQ63 Club SuitQJ872, you could open 1Club Suit, or even 1Diamond Suit , but my choice would be 1NT showing my “balanced” 15-17. Surely the singletonSpade SuitK rates to be as useful for play in a spade contract, if that happens, as two low spades would have been.

However, holding: Spade SuitKQ32 Heart SuitK Diamond SuitKQ63 Club SuitQJ87, you could open 1NT, but again, why? Open 1Diamond Suit and prepare to rebid 1Spade Suit over the anticipated heart response.

Spade SuitQ6 Heart SuitAQ Diamond SuitJ86542 Club SuitAK5 You might open 1Diamond Suit, but what rebid would you plan to reveal your medium-strength hand? 2Diamond Suit, an underbid … 3Club Suit, unthinkable. Just open 1NT.

However, holding: Spade SuitQ6 Heart SuitJ6 Diamond SuitAQ8542 Club SuitAK5, you could open 1NT, but it is perfectly reasonable to open 1Diamond Suitplanning to rebid 3Diamond Suit.

To address your partner’s fears, compare opening 1NT with a five-card major to probabilities in card play. There are card combinations that in a vacuum yield 75% results. Unfortu-nately, this translates into being wrong 250 times out of 1000. You might miss an occasional better fit with an alter-native action, but just go with the odds for the longterm.

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