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You should always open the bidding with 12+ high-card points. You can open the bidding with slightly fewer than 12 points when you have a shapely hand. Use the Rule of 20 – which states that you can open the bidding when your high-card point-count added to the number of cards in your two longest suits gets to 20.
Exercise:Which of these hands should open the bidding?
|Hand A||Hand B||Hand C||Hand D|
♠ A Q 7 4
♥ K 4 3
♣ Q 10 9 6 3
♠ Q 3 2
♥ K J 7 4 2
♦ A J 7
♣ 9 8
♥ Q 9 7 4
♦ 7 5
♣ AK J 10 6 2
♠ J 8 5 3
♦ Q 9 6 3
♣ A K J 5
(a) You should open 1 ♣ (satisfying the Rule of 20), planning to rebid 1 ♠ over a 1 ♦ / ♥ response.
(b) You should pass. Balanced hands with fewer than 12 points should not open – they will never satisfy the Rule of 20.
(c) 1 ♣ (satisfying the Rule of 20), planning to rebid 1 ♥ over 1♦ but 2 ♣ over 1 ♠.
(d) Pass. 4441s are notoriously awkward shapes, in fact when I began “you should always open 12 point hands” there is something to be said for passing a 12-point 4441: so difficult to describe in the bidding and so often disappointing in the play.