The Most Successful Openings

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 08/01/2010
Level: All Levels

In this series, we are analyzing 1,000,000 deals which were played on-line. These deals cover a wide range of level of play and were provided by Stephen Pickett with Bridge Browser.

What opening bid on the 1- or 2-level would you imagine leads to the most success?  I have a feeling many readers will guess correctly.

First, let me say that for the 1,000,000 deals, the records show the opening bid on every deal, and how many IMPs (or matchpoints) went to the opener's side.

The most successful low-level opening was 1NT*.  When the opening bid was 1NT, the side that opened gained an average of .20 IMPs per board.  At matchpoints, a 1NT opening led to an average result of 51.73%.  I think this is because 1NT is not only descriptive, but also preemptive.

Surprisingly, the most successful opening of all was 3♠. This was worth an average of almost 1/4 imp per board and a whopping 60% of the matchpoints. This seems like an aberration to me, but this is based on 8,201 3♠ opening bids -- not exactly a small sample.

The most remarkable information I gleaned from the data was that every opening bid from 1♠ to 3♠ showed a profit at IMPs. The first "losing" opening bid was 3NT. My conclusion is something most good bridge players already know: It pays to open the bidding. Obviously, opener's side has a huge advantage--which is why experts are willing to open the bidding on the light side. Without a chart showing the success/failure of the lightish openings, it isn't statistically accurate to conclude that opening light results in great results, but I'll take my chances in making that assumption.

*The 1NT range is unknown, but I'd guess in 90% of the 1,000,000 deals it was 15-17. In my experience, even though I don't use it, a weak notrump (maybe 12-14) is also very effective. I would like to see the breakdown for the success of each notrump range, but that data is not available.

updated: Dec, 2016