Notrump or a Five Card Major?

Sent by Judy Haney:

I promised to give the 3 tests to use to decide to open 1NT with a 5 card major

This excerpt is from Max Hardy’s book, STANDARD BRIDGE BIDDING FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. It starts out by talking about opening balanced hands, which he defines as having no void or singleton.
Under the subtitle ‘Notrump? or a five card major?

Sometimes opener’s balanced hand will have a 5332 pattern. When the five card suit is a minor suit opener has no decision to make, and with a hand of the right strength (14-16 HCP plus one point for the five card suit) opener easily bids one notrump. When the five card suit is a major suit, opener must decide whether to open in notrump or by bidding the major. Three factors determine the choice.

  1. If openor is to bid one notrump, the hand should hold three cards in the other major. The reason for this is simple. If opener has only two cards in the other major suit and opens one notrump there is the risk that responder might transfer to that other major and then pass. If responder does this and also has three cards in opener’s major, the contract will be in the two-five major fit rather than the five-three, and will probably take fewer tricks. This is opener’s first test.
  2. If opener has a bad doubleton, the hand will be more oriented to suit play and less to playing in notrump.  Opener should have at least a jack in the doubleton suit in order to conceal the major suit in favor of an opening bid in notrump. This is opener’s second test.
  3. Hands that are ‘toppish’ — mostly aces and kings–play better in suits. Hands that are ‘texturish’ — mostly kings and queens–play better in notrump. This is opener’s third test.

So, if opener has three cards in the other major, no empty doubleton, and a hand that is mostly texture, it is best to conceal the fact that the hand includes a five card major suit and open by bidding one notrump. If the hand fails any of these three test, the opening bid should be in the major suit.

P.S.  This book by Max Hardy is what I am using in addition to the ‘green book’ to teach from in my Tuesday evening beginners’ class at the Dorothy Hart Community Center. There will be a follow-up class in June/July for intermediates.


Notrump or a Five Card Major? — 2 Comments

  1. With all due respect, the modern method is to open 1N even with a five card Major every day of the week, and maybe even twice on Sunday. The three factors listed certainly are valid and meeting all three is great, but it is routine to open
    1N with an empty doubleton and, while tenaces, i.e. texture, is better for NT, any balanced hand that falls into the NT range is opened 1NT. The chief reason for this is it avoids a rebid problem. You hold Ax AJTxx Axx Kxx. If you open 1H what will your rebid be when partner responds 1N (forcing) or 1S? You either have to overbid or underbid. It is true that occasionally you will get to an inferior part score contract in the wrong major, but that is a small price to pay for being able to describe your hand to partner in one bid and letting him/her take captaincy of the auction. Additionally, there are conventional methods available to look for 5-3 fits with game values (ex. Puppet Stayman) so playing in the wrong game is not a risk.

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