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The Rule of Twenty

In the early days of bridge a full thirteen point hand was required in order to open the bidding. Now standards have dropped to twelve. In addition there is a very useful rule - taking distribution into account - that sometimes allows you to open the bidding with even less. Add your total points to the number of cards in your two longest suits; if the total is twenty or more then it is winning bridge to open the bidding. Using The Rule of Twenty, an eleven point hand with a five-four shape or with a six card suit will be opened; as will a ten point hand with a five-five or six-four shape.

This week's South must have been a trifle nervous - having opened the bidding with just nine points he heard his partner had put him into Slam. How did he fare?

South Deals
None Vul
Q 4
K Q 10 9
A J 8 6
J 6 4
A 8
Q 9 4 3
A K 10 8 7 3
W   E
10 9 2
4 3 2
K 10 7
Q 9 5 2
K J 7 6 5 3
A J 8 6 5
5 2
West North East South
      1 ♠
2 ♣ 2  3 ♣ 3 
5 ♣ 6  Pass Pass


East-West's vigorous ♣ bidding convinced North - correctly - that his partner was almost certainly void of the suit. So his 6  bid over 5 ♣ was not quite the wild leap it first appears.

West led ♣ A and declarer trumped. He crossed to  Q, cashed  K and led to  A, drawing the four opposing trumps. He then led ♠ 3 to ♠ Q and ♠ 4 to ♠ J and West's ♠ A. West switched to  3 - too late. Declarer won dummy's  A, trumped ♣ 6, cashed ♠ K and his three remaining ♠s and took the last trick with dummy's remaining trump.

West can hardly be blamed for his ♣ A lead but the opening lead of a would have established a trick for the defence, which they would have been able to cash when in with ♠ A.

THE RULE OF TWENTY: Open the bidding when your total points added to the number of cards in your two longest suits equal twenty or more.

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