The auction goes 1
- pass - pass to you. Assuming you pass with
xJxxx (or do you), what additions
would you need to balance with a double? Assuming you pass with
xxxJxx, how much extra strength
would you need to double? If you were dealt a singleton spade, how much strength
would you need to balance?
What is your preferred strength for a 1NT- balance? Any
other balancing thoughts would be welcome.
In balancing seat you can show various notrump ranges. The weakest range, which
is around 11-14 HCPs is 1NT. As you will see, the experts all play this range or
somewhere close to this. Some play a wider range 10-16. 15-18 balanced HCPs is shown
by doubling and then bidding the cheapest
notrump. 19-21 balanced, is shown by jumping
directly to 2NT. This is different than a direct jump to 2NT over a 1
shows the two lower unbid suits at least 5-5. It’s good for you and your partner
to have a balancing notrump range. However, there are some hands that will fall
outside the range, either
weaker or stronger, where a balancing 1NT will be the
call. If you have a 15 or 16-point hand you might not like the prospect of
doubling and bidding notrump especially if the notrump rebid will be at the two-level.
The jump overcall is another bid which changes its meaning in passout seat. In direct
seat, a jump overcall is usually played as weak. After1, bid 2
xxxxx. In balancing seat a jump is intermediate showing an opening bid and a good
six-card suit. After 1
- Pass – Pass bid 2
In general, I practice what I teach -- which is "in balancing
seat, you can have a king less than in direct seat." So, since I would double 1
with a 4-4-1-4 11-count in direct seat, I'd do so with that shape and an eight-count
in balancing seat. I'd like to balance with less, but I’m afraid partner will bury
me and get us too high. With 3-4-3-3 I would double with a decent 13-count in direct,
so ten in balancing seat. However, I would prefer 1NT if I had a stopper. 1NT has
an even wider range in balancing seat, I'd say about 10-15. All of this is greatly
affected by vulnerability. At favorable, I can have much less than if unfavorable.
After a preempt is passed to me, I strain to double with a singleton. I am reluctant
to do so with voids (makes it hard to defend) even though I know my partner is desperate
for me to double.
In balancing seat, bids promise a king less than bids in direct seat.
4-4-1-4 I need an Ace and a King or at least 8 HCPs. 3-4-3-3 I’d
need a decent 12-count. Knowing the vulnerability would be helpful. But with a singleton
spade I need about 16 working points. My preferred 1NT balancing strength is 12-14
HCPs. There are many thoughts that should go through one's mind. Here are some of
them: Opponents’ systems, how light does partner get in with, vulnerability, quality
of opponents, how aggressive are the opponents, tempo of the opponents, and matchpoints
If your RHO thinks for a long time and then passes, you might go conservative. If
the opponents are playing a forcing club, you won’t have to worry about LHO having
19 HCPs. If the opponents are vulnerable and you’re not, you can opt to try for
100 a trick. +300 will lose very little if you can make a game and will be a big
gain if you can’t make a game. If you’re vulnerable, you can’t afford to miss a
game. If partner overcalls very lightly, you don’t have to protect partner. At IMPs
any plus score is good. At matchpoints the size of the plus score makes a difference.
With perfect distribution (4-4-1-4), I would go out
of my way to reopen with a double with, say, seven or eight points. Of course a
lot of things enter into the decision - matchpoints or IMPs, vulnerability, state
of the match. For example, if I were in a Swiss or KO match, and up by a lot, I
wouldn't reopen with a lot of hands I might under different circumstances. If I
were down a lot, I would stretch to reopen. The more balanced my hand, the more
I would need to have to reopen. If I have three or more of their trumps, chances
are partner was not in a situation where he was unable to bid because of length
in opener's suit. With something like 4-3-3-3 distribution, I probably wouldn't
think about reopening with much less than an opening bid. If I have a stiff spade,
I would be even less likely to reopen, especially if 1-4-4-4. If I had a decent
five- card suit, however, I might balance with that suit on as few as 9 or 10 HCPs,
once again taking vulnerability and other conditions into account. For a balance
of 1NT, I would like somewhere around 10-14 balanced points to reopen. Once again,
if I were in a team match and up a lot, I would tend to pass rather than reopen.
As a general rule, the shorter I am in opener's suit, the more I would stretch to
reopen, to protect partner, who may have a penalty pass or another hand where he
is unable to bid because of length and/or strength in opener's suit.
When you are long in the opponent’s suit, the chances are that partner is short.
If partner is short in the opponent’s suit, chances are he does not have much strength.
4-4-1-4, I would need a king and a queen, preferably
with some spots vulnerable. I would need two queens non-vulnerable. If I were 3-4-3-3
and my diamonds were xxx, I’d need about 10-11 HCPs. With a singleton spade, I would
need lots, and it would depend on my diamonds. With 1-4-4-4, I would probably need
13 HCPs with bad diamonds. With good diamonds I would need more, as I would be more
apt to pass. But if I had five decent hearts, I would bid with most ten-counts
QJxx. My preferred strength
for a 1NT balance is 10+-14. If the opponents were playing precision I would pass
more often. When they are vulnerable, I favor passing over bidding in close situations
A total of 8 HCPs with this ideal 4-4-1-4 shape. I
would not double with this 3-4-3-3-shape. I would prefer to bid 1NT even without
a stopper. For such a 1NT bid I would need around 11-16 points. With a singleton
spade, I would need about three points more than when I held two or three spades
and the same general hand outside... say about 11-12 points to protect with 1
. My preferred strength for a 1NT
balance is 11-16, with 2
Over the balancing notrump, it’s important to know what various bids mean. Simplest
is to play as if opened.
With a singleton diamond I would have to have nine
decent points to double. With 3-4-3-3 I would reopen with a good eleven-count. Over
-opener, I’d need 12-15 to bid 1NT.
With 4-4-1-4 I’d need maybe an ace or so. Conditions,
matchpoints, vulnerability, and table feel would make a big difference here. With
3-4-3-3 I’d need about 7 or 8 HCPs. My 1NT balance is 10-14 against a minor opener,
10-16 against a major opener. You don't win bridge tournaments by defending at the
You don't win bridge tournaments by defending at the one-level undoubled.
With 4-4-1-4 I would double with three kings in my
suits and nothing else, but if one of the kings was a queen I probably wouldn't
since my defense is not good enough to provide for partner's expected penalty pass.
With 3-4-3-3 I would need perhaps two kings and an ace and if all possible I would
prefer 1NT to making a reopening double. I probably am not tied to my spade holding
as much as others e.g. With:
KJxx I would bid 1
not 1NT and would not pass. With four or five diamonds I would pass even with as
much as 18-20 points especially when the opponents are vulnerable. My logic would
be that against competent players we will probably need as much as 28 HCPs to make
game with an opening bid sitting over my hand. Balancing is about 80% art and 20%
science. My 1NT balances range from about 10 points to 16. Sounds unsound, but I
don't remember any disasters, although obviously I've had some. Key factors:
1. Matchpoints or IMPs.
2. How good are my opponents and what are their tendencies.
3. The vulnerability.
4. Their particular systems.
Johnny Gerber and his original teammates (all top level players) used to pass their
partner’s major-suit opener holding 6-8 HCPs (usually queens and jacks and no aces
or at most one king) but a singleton in partner's suit. On top of that four-card
majors were the system of choice. Experience helped determine those tendencies so
the experts of today shouldn't laugh since the players I am talking about (George
Heath, Paul Hodge, Benny Fain, Bobby Nail, Curtis Smith etc) were all terrific card
I would balance with
Kxxx with a double –wouldn’t we
all. Change one of the jacks to a spot and it’s marginal.
4-4-1-4, I'd want at least 8 HCPs to double. 3-4-3-3
with no diamond stopper I’d want at least 10 HCPs to double. A singleton spade would
definitely concern me. I'd want a hand with a reason to bid. My preferred strength
for a 1NT balance is 10-14 against one-of-a-minor.
4-4-1-4 I would need a minimum of about three kings
to balance, possibly two kings and a queen. Partner, with a trap pass or unbiddable
hand, needs to be able to count on a modicum of defense and/or offense from me in
order to make an intelligent decision. With a balanced hand with 4-3-3-3 shape,
double takes on a different light. With minimums, we would usually bid 1NT, often
without a stopper, so double should be a hand which is too good for a balancing
1NT, say 15+ HCPs or a good 14 with all cards outside of opener's suit. The singleton
spade makes little difference, since partner didn’t overcall, and I don’t spend
too much time worrying about balancing the opponents into game when they are passed
out at the one-level. It can be awkward to balance then have to contend with a 1
-bid from partner, so it would be
good to have a rebid. But, in general, a five-card suit and a smattering of high
cards should be enough. It is often our hand for a plus score, and necessary to
push the opponents up to achieve one. I personally like to have 11-14 to balance
4-4-1-4 I’d need at least 8 working HCPs or a little
more with poor defensive cards. With 3-4-3-3 I'd bid 1NT in range, so I'd need at
least 15 HCPs or the equivalent. With a singleton spade, and with spread out values,
I'd pass marginal cases; with strong hearts and clubs I might bid 1
, but normally I'd pass with length in opener's suit
unless I was worried about missing game; even then, might have nothing convenient
to do. My preferred strength for a 1NT balance is 10-14 HCPs, though I'd probably
make adjustments for IMPs, maybe not bidding quite so light.
I would have to have at least ten HCPs with 4-4-1-4
to balance with a double. I would need at least 12 HCPs with 3-4-3-3 to balance,
but I think it is better to balance with 1NT rather a double with that shape, even
with no diamond stopper. I would need to have 10+ HCPs to balance if I had a stiff
My range for a 1NT balance is 12-17, and then we use a 2
gadget over that to find out about strength and majors.
Modern experts don't play a trappers game, so there is just about no hand that won't
act in direct position with 15+ HCPs. So, my thinking is that since there is little
chance for game our way if I have less than ten HCPs in the passout position, I
go quietly. In this year’s semifinals of the team trials, a weak 2
bid was passed around to me and I held
x. I passed. My thinking was
that if I can make 2
, I won't be
allowed to play there. If you balance with 2
partner will bid 3
Q1098765 and go down 800 wherever
we play. I really believe that the only time one should balance light is if one
has already had a chance to open or overcall and already passed the first time around.
My above comments are with respect to playing IMPS. My thoughts at matchpoints are
much more liberal for obvious reasons.
One doesn’t need a stopper in opener’s suit to balance with 1NT, just a balanced
hand. I would balance with 1NT holding
432AKxx after a 1
opener is passed to me. You don’t want to double holding a doubleton spade.
I need enough so that when it goes double - Pass -
Pass I can contribute to the defense: an ace and a king or two kings and a queen.
3-4-3-3 I need a lot: probably too much to balance with 1NT, e.g. around a 15-count
With a singleton spade I would bid 1
if I had a good five-card heart suit, a hand that I would normally overcall 1
in direct seat. With fewer, I might if I could sensibly reopen with 1NT. My preferred
strength for a 1NT balance is about 11-14 but it depends over what: over 1
10-14; over 1
about 11 to 16.
4-4-1-4 I’d need at least 9 HCPs. Same 3-4-3-3.
With a singleton spade I’d need at least 12 HCPs. My preferred strength for a 1NT
balance is 11-14.
Tough question. I guess it's sometimes gut-guided.
Conditions of contest could play at least a minor role. I tend to overcall light
for lead-directing purposes. So, when the animals I partner fail to overcall a minor
opening, I balance cautiously. With good distribution, I like to have a quarter
of the deck, or thereabouts. Examples are
Kxxx. With bad distribution, I
like nearly a third of the deck with good major cards.
QJ10 would be a minimum.
You don't win bridge tournaments by defending at the one-level undoubled. There
are hands where it’s correct not to reopen. Very weak hands and hands where you
have length in the opening bid suit are two reasons to pass. When in doubt reopen.