In Standard American bidding, an opening bid of 1H or 1S promises at least five cards in that suit. An opening bid of 1NT promises a balanced hand and exactly 15-17 high-card points. If your hand doesn't meet these requirements, you'll often have to open 1C or 1D with only a 3-card suit. With ♠AQ54 ♥Q1043 ♦A3 ♣J54 , for example, the correct opening bid is 1C.
This is often called the "convenient minor" because it starts the bidding at a low level and gives you plenty of room to look for a major-suit fit. When you open 1C or 1D, partner knows you may have only a 3-card suit, so he won't insist on that suit as trumps unless he has length or you make a later bid that tells him your suit is longer than promised.
It's actually quite likely that your 1C or 1D opening bid will be based on a suit that's longer than three cards. Here's the math:
4 clubs – 38 percent
5 clubs – 29 percent
6 or more clubs – 17 percent
♦ A 1D opening bid will be made on a 3-card suit only about 4 percent of the time. It’s more likely to be:
4 diamonds – 43 percent
5 diamonds – 34 percent
6 or more diamonds – 19 percent
In general, when you have a 1C or 1D opening bid:
Always plan your rebid. Decide in advance – before you open – how you’ll continue describing your hand after any of partner’s possible responses.
Rebid notrump with balanced and semi-balanced hands. A 1NT rebid usually simplifies the auction because it limits your hand right away.
Try to avoid rebidding a 5-card minor. If you bid a suit twice, you want to have six or more cards.
Some minor-suit distributions will be almost impossible to describe, especially if you have a minimum opener. If you don't have an accurate, safe way to show the exact length in your suits, consider rebidding 1NT (even if you're unbalanced) or raising partner's 1H or 1S response with good 3-card support (even though this normally shows four cards).
If you’re 3-3 in the minors: Always open 1C, even if your diamonds are stronger.
If you follow this rule, partner will know that when you open 1D, there’s a 96-percent chance that you have 4 or more diamonds. The only time you will open 1D with a 3-card suit is when your distribution is exactly 4 spades, 4 hearts, 3 diamonds and 2 clubs (4-4-3-2).
If you’re 4-4 in the minors: Open 1C with balanced hands. Open 1D if you hold a singleton heart or spade.
If your hand is exactly 3-2-4-4
or 2-3-4-4: Open 1C and plan to show a balanced hand by
1NT (or by jumping to 2NT if you have 18-19 points).
You may want to raise partner’s major if you have strong 3-card support and a weak doubleton. After 1C by you, 1S by partner, consider raising to 2S with ♠KJ7 ♥43 ♦A1032 ♣AQ84.
If your hand is exactly 1-4-4-4: Open 1D. If partner responds 1S or 1NT, rebid 2C to give him a choice of your two suits. If he prefers diamonds, he'll bid 2D. If he prefers clubs, he will pass.
If your hand is exactly 4-1-4-4: Open 1D. If partner responds 1NT, rebid 2C. If partner responds 1H, rebid 1S to show your 4-card suit.
If you’re 5-5 in the minors: Open 1D. Over any 1-level response by partner, rebid 2C to give him a choice of your two suits.
If you hold 4 clubs and 5 diamonds: Open 1D and plan to rebid 2C to give partner a choice of your two suits.
Exception: If your hand is 2-2-5-4 with a stopper in the unbid suit, consider a notrump rebid. After 1C by you, 1H by partner, rebid 1NT with ♠AJ ♥103 ♦AQ965 ♣Q864.
Exception: If your major suits are distributed 3-1 and partner responds your 3-card suit, you may raise his suit.
If you hold 5 clubs and 4 diamonds: This is the most difficult distribution to describe when you have a minimum opening bid. Some players prefer to open 1D and rebid 2C, even though that distorts your suit lengths (it suggests that your diamonds are longer than your clubs). Others prefer to open 1C and tell a small "lie" at their second turn by raising partner's suit with only 3-card support or by rebidding 2C or 1NT .
After you open 1C:
If your majors are 2-2 and partner responds a major, rebid notrump.
If your majors are 3-1 and partner responds your 3-card suit, raise if you have a high honor. After 1C by you - 1H by partner, raise to 2H with ♠4 ♥Q107 ♦KJ53 ♣AK652.
If your majors are 3-1 and partner responds your singleton, rebid notrump or 2C. Notrump is more attractive if your clubs are weak, especially if your singleton is an honor -- after 1C by you, 1S by partner, rebid 1NT with ♠J ♥AK4 ♦Q963 ♣KJ652. Choose a 2C rebid if your clubs are very strong: ♠4 ♥A76 ♦K853 ♣KQJ103.
Do not open 1C and rebid 2D if you have a minimum opener (12 to 15 points). When you bid a second suit that's higher in rank than your first suit (clubs first, then diamonds), for example, it's called a reverse rebid and it requires extra values (16+ points). This extra strength is needed because your auction may force partner up to the 3-level. For example, after the auction 1C - 1H - 2D, partner must bid 3C if he prefers clubs.
© Karen Walker Back to Karen's Bridge Library (http://kwbridge.com)