I asked my expert panel: “Playing five-card majors and strong notrump you open 1,
Your LHO bids 1
and it goes Pass - Pass back to you. Holding
you should pass. However, holding
you should reopen with a double. Where is the middle point below which you should
pass and above which you should reopen?
How strong would you have to be or how distributional
would you have to be to reopen with a singleton heart? What if LHO makes a 2
weak jump overcall?
Most experts always reopen, whatever the strength, when holding a singleton or void
in the suit that is overcalled. The point is that whenever you are short in the
opponent’s suit, you want to be aggressive. Before the negative double was invented,
when you held
and after your partner’s 1
opening bid they overcalled 1,
you doubled for penalties. Playing negative doubles you have to pass and wait for
opener to reopen with a double, which you will pass.
That’s the way you get them.
Reason number one to reopen is to get them. When you hold a singleton or void in
the opponent’s suit and the suit is not raised, there is a good chance that your
partner has the rest of the suit. If you would have passed a penalty double (nobody
plays penalty doubles anymore), you
should reopen with a double. The reopening double is a takeout double.
Chip Martel: With one spade
(or zero), I always reopen (assuming partner
is not a passed hand). With two spades, I reopen on most hands (vulnerability matters
some though, as partner is much more likely to trap non-vulnerable VS vulnerable
than Vulnerable VS non-vulnerable).
Mel Colchamiro: I would almost never reopen with three or more cards in their
suit and would always with zero or one and 90% of the time would with two. It’s
almost entirely based on number cards in their suit (with one exception), which
is with a singleton heart and no negative double from partner I would almost never
reopen, no matter how strong).
Kit Woolsey: I would always reopen with
a singleton spade regardless of the rest of my shape or strength. I would almost
always reopen with a doubleton spade unless I was also short in hearts and had minimal
strength. With three+ spades, I would pass if balanced unless stronger than a strong
notrump. If unbalanced, I would always pass with heart shortness unless I had a
very strong hand. With diamond shortness I would tend to rebid 2
if my clubs were decent, pretty much regardless of strength. Without a decent club
suit and with diamond shortness I would have to pass unless very strong.
If you hold three or four spades however, it is very unlikely that your partner has
a spade stack. Therefore, my reason number one doesn’t apply. Another reason to
reopen is that you can make something. If you hold a balanced hand that is stronger
than a 1NT-opener you should reopen with 1NT. After one-of-any-suit - 1
- P – P, 1NT shows 18-19 balanced. If you have 11-14 points and more than two spades,
you should pass. I held
and opened 1,
LHO overcalled 1
and it went - P – P to me. I passed, and beat 1
two tricks. They were in a 5-0 fit. If I had bid, the opponents would find their
nine-card diamond fit.
I'd pass with hands like:
AQxJxxQJxxAxx (i.e. just below an opening notrump, chunky
in spades (which makes doubling more dangerous) or a more shapely hand, again with
length and strength in spades:
I would virtually never make a reopening
double here with a stiff heart, but could have
AxxKQ10xAQJxxx and bid 2, or
xxxQAKxAKQxxx and try 2. Of course, 2 reopeners can have any shape. After 2, the ante is raised considerably, same general
guideline, just a bit more stuff.
Larry Cohen: If you keep the same honors in the same suits, I'd reopen with
all hands with a small singleton in spades. With a small doubleton in spades, I'd
reopen only with extreme club length, or with 2=4=3=4. With three spades and a minimum
opener, I would always pass.
Reopening with shortness in an unbid suit
can be dangerous. If the unbid short suit is a major, the lack of a negative double
suggests that partner does not have that suit. Holding
KQxxxAxxQJxxx after1 - 1 - P – P, where are the hearts? If partner has
four hearts and some strength he would have made a negative double so passing is
Steve Bloom: Let me start out with a cautionary fable. Opener balanced, rather
innocently with 2,
- Pass – Pass holding
and found the opponents with
and was quickly on defense against 6(!).
The good news, of course, is that the opponents had missed a laydown grand. That
still didn't IMP very well against the 1
contract played at the other table. When you are short in the other major, the risks
of balancing are much higher than the possible gains. I tend to picture partner
with length in that major - if partner is short there, then balancing is clearly
wrong. They are playing in the wrong strain, and quite possibly at the wrong level.
We will certainly beat par defending 1.
Yet partner didn't act over 1,
and so partner has a very poor hand.
So, I plan my auction picturing four or five hearts in partner's hand, and around
a five-count. Given that, do I want to compete?
Keep in mind the risks are high, so I have to have an excellent hand to venture
Thus: I always balance with a singleton
or void in spades. I usually balance with a small doubleton in spades. Holding three
or more spades, I need substantial extra high card values, and short hearts is a
huge negative. It is right to balance with a singleton heart only if game is still
quite possible opposite a fitting five-count.
These considerations still apply after 1
- P - P, but here, partner could be stronger, and the opponents are less likely
to find their heart fit. Thus I tend to balance a little more liberally on these
auctions. After a weak jump overcall, you don’t
have to worry as much about pushing the opponents into game but you do need to be
able to handle any bid partner might make.
Ralph Katz: Unless my
heart holding is weak I would reopen with any hand that has a doubleton spade QJ
or worse. Aces and kings are very important. I would reopen with
xxAKQxxAQxxxx and would reopen with any
hand with a stiff spade. If you have xx of spades then you need some texture or
extras. With three spades and an 18-count I probably would pass unless I have a
source of tricks. Weakest hand with xx of spades is
If you hold two spades, and they are both honors, it makes it less likely that partner
has a penalty pass.
Kerry Sanborn: I would tend to pass
with any minimum hand with three-card length in LHO’s suit. If I can reopen with
a suit, however, I could still be minimum. I would, for example, rebid 2 holding
JxxxxAxAKxxxx. This is not more than a minimum, but
it has some playing strength. I think it is a balance between whether you can make
something, whether they can make theirs, whether you can find another playable contract
and whether you are improving their final contract. Nothing is more frustrating
than reopening only to have the opponents bid a game, either in the same or a different
I would reopen with a stiff heart only when
I have one or two other suits of length, or I have a good expectation of making
game facing a trap or a fit. It is awkward to reopen with a double, then to have
to guess what to do when partner bids some number of hearts. However, if I am strong
enough to bid 2NT or 3NT when partner takes out to 2 or 3, then that is acceptable. The jump to 4 is so unlikely that it is best to not worry
Over 2 this is tough. I will often reopen with 2NT
rather than double when my hand is unsuitable for play in one of the missing suits. Again, though, with a minimum and length, it is easier to pass the hand out and
Points, Shmoints! With zero or one spade, I always reopen.
With two spades I reopen except when I have doubleton honor and minimum, or shortness
in another suit also along with minimum. Holding three spades and balanced hand
I either pass or with 18-19 points rebid 1NT. With three spades and unbalanced hand,
I have to be prepared to take action if they bid another suit; so with 3-1-4-5 or
3-1-3-6, I have to believe that I have at least three defensive tricks against a
heart contract Over a 2 bid, I still reopen with zero
or one spade and also tend to reopen with doubleton spade.
Assuming the distribution is fixed at 4-3-3-3 and that I can only add high cards
and not change their location. At matchpoints I would not bid unless I had an AK in one of the red suits or the club king or queen and a red ace and was not vulnerable.
I would want to be sure of going for 100 or less. At IMPs I would bid with almost
any additional high-cards that got me to an 18-count. Here the potential gain when
partner has a hand unsuitable for a negative double but game values opposite 18
or 19 is too great to pass.
I would reopen with almost all hands with two or fewer spades
and minimum values. With Kx of spades and 4-5 in the minors, I probably wouldn’t.
I consider this a corollary of playing negative doubles. With three or more spades
I would tend to pass unless strong enough to reopen with 1NT (18-19), With a stiff
heart I would need very good playing values and/or defensive cards -- with
AKxxxKxxAQJxx I would reopen with 1NT. I probably would reopen with
AxxKxxxAJxxxx, although it might depend on the minor suit spots. Over
a 2 overcall, my tendencies are similar: with two or fewer spades
my hand would have to be severely flawed not to reopen. With three or more, it would
be unusual to reopen.
Dave Berkowitz: Any hand with zero or one spades
must reopen. When reopening with a void, avoid double without extras. If I held
two spades, I would normally reopen except with Kx, KQ or the like in spades. With
a singleton heart, you need extra playing strength, but not necessarily more than
xxxKQxx AKxxxx would routinely rebid 2. Change one of the minor suit
kings to spades and I would pass. The same parameters apply over a 2 overcall. The middle would be
If you hold a void in their
suit, you want to reopen but the inability to lead trumps from your hand will hurt
the defense. You need a lot of extra values to compensate. With a minimum opener,
reopen with a suit. Also, avoid reopening with a double with a weak distributional hand with poor defensive cards.
xKQxQJxKJ10xxx is a 2-reopener.
Another reason to reopen is
to compete for the plus score. Since your double is a takeout double, you could
find partner with a 3-3-5-2 eight-count, and you would find your diamond fit. If
you have a very strong one-suited hand, you can double first and then bid your suit.
xAxAKxxAKxxxx is a double and then a club
bid. If partner passes the takeout double, the opponents will be hurting.
Marinesa Letizia: If I have the right shape for a takeout double, providing
I don't have two high honor cards in my doubleton in their suit (where it is less
likely that partner trap passed), I reopen. I can't imagine hand I would double
to reopen with singleton heart; but I would reopen in a suit with a big distributional
hand that had a singleton heart. After a 2
overcall, I would need spade shortness, takeout shape, and considerable extra values
as I'm forcing partner to three-level if partner doesn't have a trap-pass. Partner
can double for penalty if I pass, so I don't need to worry about protection as much
raises his partner’s preempt.
Billy Eisenberg: If I have three spades, I need
to be too strong to open 1NT. i.e. 18+. HCP. I would also reopen with a doubleton
spades and sound minimum.
Bobby Wolff: I am less often a reopener than most players. With
I would reopen with a double, but with
I would not (but perhaps rebid 2
instead). Again, because I have always thought that bridge is a partnership game,
the reopener as well as the responder has a responsibility to have a hand partner
would not mind defending against a doubled low-level contract. Holding
and having the bidding go 1
by me 1
- pass -, pass I would bid 2.
and having it go 1-
pass - pass I would pass, but upgrading to
I would reopen with a double.
With spade length, I would only reopen with hand that was worth a 2NT rebid (17+),
even with a singleton heart.
Barry Rigal: If I held a strong NT with the ´wrong´ shape.
I probably would reopen, though switch the red suits and pass is clear. Soften the
and pass is probably right, although I might still bid.
With a singleton heart and 3-½ defensive tricks I might reopen.
is surely a 2
is not so clear (less defense). Even so, I might bid despite believing it to be
wrong. Over a 2
overcall I would reopen with most hands under discussion unless tempo or
had told me not to.
Jeff Rubens: The spade needs to be a singleton (including singleton ace) for me to reopen. With a minimum opener and two spades, I would pass. With a singleton
heart I would need (including revaluation for position and location of honors):
with a three-suiter; or a two-suiter with three spades, strong enough to bid one
notrump (shows more than a strong-notrump opening); with a two-suiter including
four spades, treat as one-suiter; with a two-suiter and at most two spades, strong
enough for an initial reverse as opener; with a one-suiter, either treat as a notrump
hand or with three spades, I’d want
the strength of an initial reverse as opener. My requirements would gradually shade
downwards as the number of spades decreases.
: Reopen all hands with zero or
one spade. Reopen most of the hands with two spades. Need a reason to reopen with
three or more spades. HCP are not as relevant as number of spades. Holding a singleton
heart would suggest not reopening. Against a 2
overcall, reopen all with fewer then two
spades; pass a lot with more than one spade.
Eddie Kantar: Holding four spades, I would need 18-19 balanced to rebid 1NT
or 2NT Holding four spades and a singleton heart, I would need a sixth club or a
fourth diamond with at least 18 HCP to bid against 1
Lynn Deas: I would have to make changes in the length of my spades. My general
policy for reopening is the shorter you are in their suit, the fewer points you
must have to reopen. I would reopen with even a minimum hand if I held only one
spade. I always reopen with two or fewer cards in their suit and generally pass
with three or more unless I have substantially more HCP. If they bid 2
the same rules applies. I would tend to reopen with double unless very distributional.
If you’re in passout seat, and you’re short in the opponent’s suit it usually pays
to reopen. If you’re long in the opponent’s suit with a minimum opener it usually
pays to pass. Remember that if you double, your partner will frequently bid your
shortest suit. Be prepared for it. It’s dangerous to bid with shortness in an unbid
suit Avoid doubling with a void in the opponent’s suit.