Mike’s Bridge Lesson


Last week we started a discussion of the so-called rule of 20 for deciding whether to open the bidding.

In general, I do not approve of this or any other rule as a substitute for thinking.

Some “rules”are very useful. The rule of 11 is a good example. Applying that rule to a fourth-best opening lead can tell an alert declarer a lot about how to make the contract he is playing. Of course, it also works for the defenders.

The rule of 15 can help you decide whether to open in fourth seat after three passes.

One rule that I consider misguided is the so-called rule of 20, which dictates that you should open the bidding if the number of your high-card points and the cards in your two longest suits total 20. I find using examples to be very helpful in making my points. Consider these six hands. You are in first seat with no one vulnerable. Do you open?

1.♠2   A J 7 6 5   K J 10 7 6 5   ♣ 8

See Mike's Advice

Pass. You have 9 HCP plus 11 red cards, giving you the magic 20. If you open 1, you will bid diamonds for awhile and may end up in hearts when diamonds would have been better. If you open 1, you may never get to show the hearts. Better is to pass and then come in with some kind of takeout bid. For instance, after Pass – 1♠ – Pass – 1; you can bid 2NT, which will not overstate your values (you are a passed hand) and will show your shape.

2.♠ 3   A Q 7 6 5 3   K 9 8 7 3   ♣ 10

See Mike's Advice

This is a 6–5 hand that you can open if you have an understanding partner. Most auctions will get you to the right red suit. If your partner insists on a black suit or notrump, you will be lucky to survive, but getting support for one of your suits is a possible result. Opening 1 could work. Be aware that if your partner bids and rebids spades, you should pass.

3.♠ 2   K Q 7 4   Q 7  ♣ K 8 7 5 4 2
See Mike's Advice

Pass. Please. This hand is trouble. If your partner bids 1♠, you won’t be happy. If the opponents bid 1♠, you won’t be happy. Why invite problems?

4.♠ 7 3   K   A Q 5 3   ♣ J 8 7 6 5 3
See Mike's Advice

Just more bad news. What good can come of opening 1♣? Most likely you will have to rebid clubs, and if your side defends, you do not care for a club lead. Here is a sane guideline: If you open one of a minor, will you be happy if your partner bids 2NT, showing 13–14 HCP? You have to bid again since 2NT (the version I am using here) is forcing to game.

5.♠ J 3   K Q J 7 6 5 3   Q J 3   ♣ 3
See Mike's Advice

This is a horrible hand for 1. Better by far is 3. You have a defensive trick, maybe, but maybe not. If your opponents bid to 7♣ or 7♠, would you expect to beat them?

6.♠ A K Q 10 6 4   J 4   3   ♣ 9 7 5 2
See Mike's Advice

Because you can rebid spades forever and because you can tolerate the thought of playing in 3NT, it is okay to bid 1♠ with this “20-point” hand. Think of the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.” If you are prepared for the most likely auctions, bidding rates to be okay. Note that if you defend, you have a good chance of taking two or three spade tricks, and even if you take no spade tricks, at least your partner’s lead won’t blow a trick.

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