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How many cards does opener rate to have in their first bid suit?

One of the advantages of playing a “Weak Notrump” - whereby a 1NT opener shows 12-14 points - is that a partner who opens One of a Suit cannot have a minimum, balanced hand. Either he has extra points (15+) or a distributional hand with five(+) cards in the suit he opened (exceptionally a 4-4-4-1 shape).

The corollary is that if partner’s bidding implies he is minimum for his opening bid, you should assume he has at least five cards in the suit he opened. 


South Deals
N-S Vul
♠ K 9 4 2
8 4 3
K J 4
♣ Q 10 4
♠ A J 7
K 10 7 6 2
A 9
♣ 9 5 2
W   E
♠ 10 8 5 3
8 5 3 2
♣ 6 3
  ♠ Q 6
9 5
Q 10 7 6
♣ A K J 8 7
West North East South
      1 ♣
1 1 ♠ 2 Pass
Pass 3 ♣ Pass Pass


The reason North felt safe in supporting his partner’s ♣s with only three cards was that South had passed over East’s 2♥ bid implying a minimum opener, and was thus almost certain to hold five ♣s.
West led ♥6 and the defence played three rounds of ♥s, declarer trumping the third. If he had drawn all the opposing trumps at this point he would have gone down - with only one trump remaining and two aces to dislodge. Instead he led ♠Q at trick 4. West won ♠A but, with dummy trumping ♥s, played a second ♠. Winning dummy’s ♠K, declarer drew all the trumps, then forced out ♦A. He made his contract - as would 2♥ by the opposition.

ANDREW’S TIP: Play a minimum opener to have five + cards in the suit opened. (Assuming a Weak Notrump is being played.)


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