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The “Rule of Nineteen”

Because the maximum number of points for a one-level opener is nineteen, partner must respond with at least six points (in case the twenty-five points required for a game contract are present). So if you have opened the bidding and really do have nineteen points, you must ensure that the bidding reaches game, once partner has responded.

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


North opened 1  - higher ranking of equal length suits - and as soon as he heard his partner respond 1 ♠ he knew that at least a Game contract had to be reached. He jumped to 3 ♣ and then repeated his ♣s over his partner's preference to 3 , showing two five card minors. His 4 ♠ bid over 4  implied that he held two ♠s - not more or he would have supported earlier. South's ♠ suit was so rich - and he had so little outside - that he was delighted to pass 4 ♠ and play the five-two fit.

West led  K and, when that held, switched to  10. Declarer covered with  Q and East won  K. Unable to continue s, East switched to ♣ J (a crucial error - can you see what should East have played?). After winning dummy's ♣ Q, declarer cashed ♠ A, crossed to ♠ J and drew West's remaining trumps with ♠ KQ, discarding  63 from dummy. He crossed to ♣ K, cashed ♣ A discarding  7, trumped ♣ 2, crossed to  A, and cashed the established ♣ 7. East won the last trick with  J but ten tricks had been made.

East could have defeated the contract by leading a second when in with  K. After trumping with dummy's ♠ 5 and cashing ♠ A, declarer would have been unable to return to hand to draw West's remaining trumps.

THE RULE OF NINETEEN: If you have opened the bidding with nineteen points, you must ensure that at least a Game contract is reached once partner has responded to you.

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