Planning Ahead

Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 02/22/2019
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

“It’s easy,” My grandmother explained as I watched on. You put oil in a pan on the fire then you use a food processor to shred potatoes and onions and then add a few things, by the time the oil is hot, you’re ready to fry up latkes. Going to school in North Carolina, I was eager to introduce my friends to this Jewish treat. I invited a dozen or so people over. I got all the ingredients, put some oil in a pan on the stove, and then looked around my dorm kitchen for a food processor. Then, I calmly said “Oh. Shit.”

In cooking, and in bridge, it’s important to look to the next step before you commit to a course of action, otherwise you may find yourself with hungry friends and a flaming pan of vegetable oil.

If we’ll have no clue what to rebid after a particular opening we should consider a different starting point.



Consider this hand: ♠KJ4 ♠AQ1094 ♠AQ ♠876. If you are one of those people who doesn’t open NT with five-card majors, the important question is: What is your next bid going to be? With this hand, if you open 1♠ instead of 1NT, it’s hard to know what to do after partner's bid. If partner bids 1♠ or 1NT- do you bid 2NT? Do you raise spades? What if partner raises to 2♠, do you invite? That’s one reason it’s better to open NT.

Opening NT with somewhat unusual hands can resolve lots of problems:
♠Q8 ♠AQ76 ♠AK743 ♠J6- You have two doubletons, so would you describe your hand as balanced? Absolutely! 15-17 points? Yup. Those are our requirements for opening notrump. 1NT will save us an awkward rebid. Imagine 1♠ P 1♠ P ?.

Similarly, ♠K7 ♠AQ ♠J109765 ♠AJ5- Opening NT here avoids having to bid a junky looking diamond suit twice. Having a six-card minor doesn’t disqualify our hand from being balanced (a six-card major or seven-card minor would prevent us from bidding NT).

Aside from saving us rebidding problems and conveying our hand nicely to partner in one go, opening NT allows partner to place the contract most of the time- we have lots of good tools available: Stayman, transfers, etc.


Opening Hands With Extreme Shape

Sometimes we’re dealt weird hands. 5-5, 6-5, 7-5 (These mean five cards in one suit and 5 in another or six of one and five of another). With these types of hands, it’s important that we consider that A) our hands are much stronger than our point count would indicate and B) We may not be able to show both suits naturally. Some tools like Michaels and the Unusual 2NT allow us to show two-suited hands if our opponents bid the right suits, but sometimes we might worry that our opponents get so high that we can’t compete.

If we are worried that our opponents will crowd out the bidding, get started early. With ♠5 ♠AK953 ♠K10986 ♠76- Open 1♠ then bid diamonds when possible, this will show your shape nicely. If you wait, you may never get a chance.

With two five-card suits, you will always start with the higher ranking suit. If you have a six-card minor and a five-card major, make your plan before your first bid. With ♠5 ♠K10843 ♠AQ9854 ♠7, you might open 1♠ to allow yourself a diamond rebid. Or you could open 1♠ then, when partner bids 1♠, you might get stuck repeating diamonds rather than showing your five-card major (which would be a reverse).

If you have a hand that is 6-4 like ♠KQJ954 ♠5 ♠Q1087 ♠62, and you’d like to preempt, you might consider preempting one level HIGHER (3♠) than you would normally. You should only do this if your four-card suit is a minor or a really ugly looking major suit. If you only open two you will be tempted to bid again later on, giving your opponents too much free rein. Try to preempt as high as possible the first time.


The bottom line

Before picking your first bid (or pass), think about the way you will show your hand to your partner. If your "standard" option is going to leave you at a loss for a rebid, consider doing something else.