Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

To Bid the Major or Not to Bid the Major

Now that Canadian has won the Ice Dancing medal in an incredible display of grace and beauty we have all stopped obsessing about losing that silly hockey game.  Well at least most of us have come out of mourning.

ice dance Figure Skating Ice Dances - Vancouver 2010

Canadian duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

So since you asked Paul, here is what I have been thinking about regarding opener’s rebids with a minimum balanced hand and perhaps we can start a discussion.

The sequences are these

A) 1c_thumb2 – 1Copyofd_thumb2 OR B) 1c_thumb2-1h_thumb2 OR C) 1Copyofd_thumb2-1h_thumb2

The issue is should you opener rebid 1NT or bid a major at the one level.   In example A) opener could have hearts or spades and in B) and C) opener could have spades.  She now has a choice of bidding 1NT or the major suit.   As always part of this decision is based on how it fits into the entire system.  In our case we play strong notrump and responder was bypassing diamonds to bid a major on weak hands with up to five diamonds.   Over 1NT we had no way to checkback for the major on less than an invitational hand.

Still, if responder almost always bypasses diamonds to bid a major suit with less than a major suit you would that does remove example A) as being a problem.  If responder has a major suit then she will either already have bid it or will have a good enough hand to check for it.  That means that only B) and C) are issues and as you point it this revolves around the spade suit.

If opener rebids 1NT now and responder has less than an invitational hand (which over 12-14 would be about 11) you may “lose” the spade suit.  Apart from playing in an inferior part score, you may miss a game when you have a fit and a maximum and you may sometimes have a problem competing effectively when the opponents enter the auction.  So it appears that the simplest solution is to bid 1s_thumb2 on hands B) and C) when opener has spades and bidding 1NT denies four spades.

What is the downside to this?  When partner rebids 1s_thumb2 you have a huge range of hands,  You don’t know whether partner is balanced or not.  Responder is under pressure to bid again in case opener has a good hand.  You may wind up in an inferior partscore, since you will either play 1NT from the weak side or in many cases responder will give preference on a weak hand and wind up in a suit contract when 1NT would have been better.   Unless responder has four spades you may still have trouble competing on some hands.  Since responder doesn’t know if your minor was a real suit or a three card suit she can’t effectively compete in the minor. 

My personal bias is to rebid 1NT on the balanced hands and have a way to checkback for a major fit on any hand where responder is at least 5-4 in the majors, with hands that are not quite invitational but would be good enough for a game try if you find a fit.  But this doesn’t really solve the problem when responder is say 4-4-1-4 with about a ten count.

Playing weak notrump this problem is less acute.  Here when opener rebids 1NT she has 15-17 so responder usually can make a try on a hand that might make game with a spade fit and with a checkback mechanism you can even handle weak hands (less than 8) with 4-4 fits as long when you are 4-4-4-1 with support for partner’s minor, any 5-4 in the majors or 4-4 in the majors with a preference to play the 4-3 rather than play notrump.


No system handles everything.  At imps playing strong notrump you probably should consider rebidding  1s_thumb2 on auctions starting 1 minor-1h_thumb2 or having some way to look for spades over 1NT with a hand in the 9 or 10 point range especially.

We decided radically to never bid 1NT with a major and to stop bypassing diamonds.  I am not sure how this will work out.  We will see.


Blair FedderFebruary 23rd, 2010 at 5:42 pm

At rubber bridge, I have found that the worst opening hand is the 12 or 13 point 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 without two majors. So many times these holdings, especially with no middle strength cards, combinations of 8-9-10, have not enough winners or a rebid of merit . Ergo, AKx,AXXX,xxx,Qxx when passed, will often beat a game as the opponents will never find the Q. If partner opens, game is easy to bid. When you open, you are now subject to minus 800 to 1100 at the one level, which is a doubled contract that is often played at rubber bridge. My teammates ( Bobby and Judy ) do play weak no trumps, but only when not vulnerable. I will ask them about their treatments as per this bid…Thanks

Paul GipsonFebruary 23rd, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Scotland’s U26s were busy winning the junior home internationals at the weekend, presumably having chosen bridge over ice dancing. From what I hear about their celebratory dancing they’d have put up a better fight for the medals than the Kerrs 🙂

My maxim is balanced hands open or rebid notrumps. It makes competitive bidding a whole lot easier and the downside is pretty small. For one thing it keeps the minor suits in the game.

LuiseFebruary 24th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

When we come through tonight’s game on top, then (and only then) will I stop obsessing about losing that “silly” hockey game. If we don’t… well, I guess I will be in mourning for a lot longer — but I don’t want to talk about that right now.


LindaFebruary 25th, 2010 at 3:00 am

Well we won! We beat Russia. Go Canada. But somehow I think we will still be obsessing as we try for a hockey medal.

Paul GipsonFebruary 25th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

“Do not adjust your set. Normal service will be resumed on this blog after the Olympics.” 🙂

MichaelFebruary 26th, 2010 at 7:21 am

I like bidding 1nt on minimum balanced hands. If you play 2-way nmf where 2c is a puppet to 2d you have a pretty complete system to sign off in 2d if you bypassed a long minor and also to show the majors when you are invitational plus. If you are less than invitational and have both majors and want to play in the majors instead of 1nt you can agree that the sequence 1m – 1S – 1nt – 2H shows only 44 or better in the majors and less than invitational strength. This means a 7 point 4=4=4=1 hand might well bid 1S over 1C planning to bid 2H over a likely 1nt response.

I think this way makes the most sense. I’m not that worried about missing a major on the less than invitational hands as I also often play weak nt and those hands would go 1nt float anyways so it isn’t like you end up in a worse place than the weak nt folks.

Paul GipsonFebruary 26th, 2010 at 8:42 am

Do the girls count?

Paul GipsonFebruary 28th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Happy now? 🙂

LindaMarch 2nd, 2010 at 10:53 pm


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