Responding to 1-Of-a-Minor Opening

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/01/2014
Level: Intermediate

After we open 1-of-a-minor

Last article, we examined the decision to open one of a minor with the focus on "which minor." This month, we explore the responses and other follow ups.

Responses to 1

Because it is simpler, let's start with responses to a 1 opening (and examine 1 openings later).

With a 4-card major, you usually will bid it (an exception would be enough for 2/1 GF, with 4+ clubs, only 4-in-your major; in that case you could respond 2 and later introduce your major).

With both 4-card majors, you respond up the line.

Examples after 1 (Pass):

1. A Q J 2
3 2
A Q 5 4
A 8 7

Respond 1 (there is no rush to do anything else for now)
2. A Q J 2
Q 10 4 2
3 2
9 8 7

Respond 1 (up-the-line; not the better suit first)
3. A Q J 2
3 2
5 4
A K J 8 7

Respond 2 (since you have enough HCP to show both suits, bid the longer one first—besides, I find that 2 makes for an easier time later in the auction)
4. J 9 8 2
3 2
Q 4
A Q 9 8 7

Easy so far. What about responding in notrump?

1NT=6-10 (approximate) with no 4-card or longer major

2NT=11-12 (approximate) with no 4-card or longer major**

3NT=13-15 (approximate) with no 4-card or longer major

**Note: Not everyone agrees with these ranges. Some people prefer to use 2NT as forcing (13+) to game. In that case, a 3NT response is probably 16-18. You have to make sure with your partner whether 2NT is 11-12 (invitational) or forcing. There are arguments in favor of either treatment. I will give my standard answer: Just pick one, make sure both partners remember, and live with it. (Also, be sure to discuss what 2NT means in competition—after an overcall, and after a double.)

Responding 2 to 1 shows at least 10 points in Standard American. In 2/1 Game force, it shows at least an opening bid.

What about raising diamonds? In "Standard," a raise to 2 is 6-9 and a raise to 3 is invitational (10-12). But, most tournament players use inverted minors. So, 1-2 is 10+ while 1-3 is weak (at most about 7 points). In a later artcile, I'll go into my thoughts on inverted minors. Stay tuned. For now, guess what? Yes—just make sure you discuss if you do or don't play inverted. And, if you do, here is a brief checklist for inverted minors:

1. Is it on in competition? (After double? After an overcall? I recommend No, No)
2. Is it on by a Passed Hand? (I recommend Yes)
3. Is a raise to 2 game forcing? (I recommend No)
4. How high is a raise to 2 forcing? (I recommend that if either player bids 3 or 2NT on his second turn, it can be passed)

This leaves us with responses of 2 and 2. You probably know what I will say. These can be played as WEAK (quite popular these days), or as old-fashioned (STRONG). Okay—here it goes…I don't care which way, but PLEASE—play it the same was as your partner. Also, discuss what these bids mean after a double.

Lastly, what is a 3-of-a-major response, such as 1—Pass—3? This can be played as weak in hearts, or as a Splinter bid (0-1 heart with diamond support). …The usual…pick one and try to remember—or you will have an unforgettable disaster. If you aren't sure (or haven't discussed it), don't make such a bid.

After 1-1MAJ, natural bidding is assumed (but see the discussion points at the end of this article).

After 1-2, you need to discuss what shows extras. For example, is 1—2—2 a reverse, promising extra values? I suggest not.

Responses to 1

Responding to 1 introduces one more important topic. First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. All responses of 1 or higher follow the exact same system structure discussed above for responding to 1. The only new bids are 1—Pass—2 – which you must decide on with your partner (weak or strong) and...

That leaves us with the auction 1—Pass—1. Should you respond up the line? Or should you bypass diamonds? For example, what should you respond to 1 with each of these hands?

1. A Q 8 2
3 2
A Q J 5 4
8 7
2. A Q 8 2
3 2
J 9 8 5 4
8 7
3. A Q 8 2
3 2
J 5 4 2
8 7 2

With 2) and 3), bypass the diamonds and show the major—you might get only one chance to bid. This is the modern treatment (some call it "Walsh.") The theory is that with a "one-bid" hand you bypass diamonds so you can show your 4-card major. If you know you will get to bid twice, you can bid your diamonds first (even with 4-4 in diamonds and the major). When using this style, after the partnership starts 1-1, the opener should rebid 1NT with any balanced hand (even with a 4-card major). He can do so safely with the knowledge that a 4-4 major-suit fit won't be missed. For example, opener has:

K J 9 3
K 7 4
7 3
A J 5 3

He opens 1 and hears partner respond 1. He should rebid 1NT. He knows there is no chance of missing a 4-4 spade fit. (If there is one, then partner has a big hand and will bid spades next). The 1 responder can't hold hand 2) or 3) above. Reminder: if you are not using the "Walsh" (bypass ) style, then opener would surely rebid 1 with this hand.

Notice that when using Walsh style, opener's rebid in this auction: 1-1-1MAJ, promises real clubs. Opener won't have a balanced weak notrump (or he'd always rebid 1NT).

After your minor-suit opening and response, there are many other areas of bidding to cover. Among them are: jumpshifts by opener, reverses by opener, new-minor after a 1NT rebid, fourth-suit game forcing—just to name a few that will be covered later in this series. What else? How about if they overcall or double? Another topic for another month.

Here is a summary of what is crucial to discuss with your partner regarding the responses to a 1 or 1 opening:

1. Is Walsh style (bypass diamonds) being used after a 1 opening?
2. What are the ranges of 2NT and 3NT responses?
3. What do jump shifts show?
4. Are you playing inverted minors?
5. What happens in competition (to be covered in a later article).

For more of Larry's Advice on Bidding. Consider purchasing his book on 2 over 1.

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