ACBL
District 6
Shawn Stringer, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Oct/NovArticle by Steve RobinsonFeb/Mar
ArticlesOpening Bids in 3rd or 4th Chair (Dec/Jan 2009-10)
I asked my expert panel the following: You're playing five-card majors and two-over-one. This means that in first seat you open xxAKQxKxxxxxx 1, or would you? What are your thoughts about opening four-card majors in third or fourth chair?

In third seat most experts open the example hand 1. You definitely want a heart lead and have no interest in having a constructive auction. Add another honor and most of the experts would make the same opening bid that they would make in first seat. In fourth seat, since you’re not opening light, experts make the normal opening and probably would not go out of their way to open a four-card major.


Eric Greco---I would certainly open 1 in first or second seat, as diamonds is my longest suit. I am not so worried about suit quality but I feel length is more important. In third and fourth seat it is different. I would often open four-card majors in third seat with minimum or sub-minimum openings with good suits because the lead can be very important. Also, one-of-a-major opening is more preemptive than a one-of-a-minor opening. I would not open a four-card major with a solid third seat opener say 14+ points as it can end up giving you tough bidding problems. The caution is you have to be aware that partner may raise to game on certain hands, so you have to take into account the vulnerability and your shape when opening a four-card major. For example, if I had a 4-3-3-3 hand with a 12-count and AKQx of a major, I would only open the major in third seat at favorable vulnerability. Even that is questionable though, because partner may well bid too much. In fourth seat there is no reason I see to open a four-card major. Just bid normal.

Ralph Katz---There are so many variables here: matchpoints or IMPs, who my partner is, how good is the game, and others. With that said, in third seat almost no matter what, I would open 1. In third seat, opening a four-card major is ok if the suit is strong enough, but with a decent hand I would normally open the minor. At matchpoints, getting in the lead director is a big part of it. With AKxxxxQJxxxxx, I would open 1 in third seat.

If you’re a hand hog, then you should open more four-card majors.

Jeff Rubens---I would open 1 in first seat, but with a similar slightly weaker hand I would pass, following the general principle of making a close decision in the most comfortable direction. Assuming we’re playing strong notrump, I would rebid 1NT over a 1 response. In third seat, it is necessary to be prepared for common occurrences. It is inappropriate to pass a one-level response with a doubleton fit, so if you open 1 you must rebid 2 over 1.

Jill Myers---I would definitely open 1 in first seat because, although arguments for 1 are admirable, I don't want to shake partnership confidence by deviating from our understandings. In third or fourth chair I have no problem with 1.

If you open 1 holding AKQx in first chair, just tell your partner that you had a diamond in with your hearts.

Kerri Sanborn---I have no problem with opening this hand 1. A less than perfect 1NT rebid suffices when partner bids 1, and I rebid 2 over 2. I will open a four-card major in third seat more frequently than in fourth seat. I will normally only do it for a lead and always plan to pass partner's response. This pass should be a warning not to compete too high when the opponents enter the auction.

The big problem occurs when the opponents preempt and partner hangs you by bidding too high. On the good side, you might get the opponents if your partner shows four-card support and an opponent with three hearts assumes that his partner is short. You might also get them when their heart holding is xxx opposite xxx and they stay out of a cold 3NT.

Zeke Jabbour---In first seat I would, in fact, open 1. I would rely on bidding tools, if needed, to try to get to the right spot. In third or fourth chair, I would open 1. I usually would want hearts led should we fail to buy the auction, and the suit is good enough that if partner raises me with three it's still playable. The texture of the suit, the strength and distribution of the hand and directing the lead, all help govern my decision. With two four-card majors, I will usually open a minor, keeping both majors in play. With strong hands, of course, I do not distort the distribution.

Danny Gerstman---In first or second seat, everyone has methods such as forcing raises or fourth suit forcing, where in several rounds of the bidding from now you would be forced to rebid the diamonds, and partner would make an obvious deduction that you have three cards in the blacks and might bid a slam thinking his Ace-King Ace cover them. Also if you are playing forcing notrumps, he will take the preference to 2 on a doubleton.

In fourth seat, the same applies, unless you can pass his response, which you can’t if he bids 1 over 1. Also when you open in fourth seat, you are claiming ownership of the hand and I’m sure that some will say throw it in at fourth seat with only 14 Pearson points. Third seat, however, allows for stepping out where the best suit is frequently opened. Here partner will allow for a possible four-card heart suit. If the auction starts 1 - 1 and you bid 2, partner is never going back to 2 with two hearts and three diamonds. However, he will with 2-2, but those are the breaks.

Pearson points -- you add your high cards to the number of spades in your hands, and if the total is 15 or higher, you should open. With 14 Pearson points you may open. However, you don’t pass sound opening bids just because you only have 14 Pearson points. xAKJ10xxAJxxxx contains 14 Pearson points but is a clear-cut opener.

George Jacobs---There are times when it is right to open a four-card major, but not here. I could never recover from a 1 response. I open this hand 1and rebid 1NT.

Jacobs sees the problem with opening 1 in third seat when you hold a doubleton spade. The way you tell partner that you’ve opened light in third chair is that you pass partner’s non-forcing response. If partner bids 1NT, you can pass it even if it is forcing in theory. You could also pass a natural 2 bid. If partner bids Drury showing heart support and a maximum passed hand, you can rebid 2 to show that you’re not interested in game opposite a passed hand. However, what do you do if partner responds 1? Passing partner’s response promises at least three-card support. You wouldn’t want partner to play in a 4-2 fit. If the opponents compete, partner will assume that you have three-card spade support and could over compete. So over a 1 response, you just have to bite the bullet and rebid 2.

I bet there are some experts who would open 1 in third seat holding xAKQxxxxxxxxx. (I probably would.)

Adam Wildavsky---Yes, I'd open 1. I don't mind opening a good four-card major in third or fourth seat, though I don't do it as often as most. I opened one in second seat in Sao Paulo, but it was AKQJ. I would open the example hand with 1 in third or fourth seat. It only has 14 Pearson points, but passing risks missing a game, especially since I do not open aggressively in first seat.

Marinesa Letizia---Yes, I would open 1 in first or second seat. In third or fourth seat I would open 1 100% of the time as I certainly want a heart lead not a diamond. 

Bobby Lipsitz---I have no problem with opening a four-card major in third seat for tactical reasons depending on vulnerability. I would be unlikely to open a four-card major in fourth chair. Sample hand is right on the edge. Holding xxAKQxQxxxxxx, I would definitely open 1 in third position, while with xxAKQxAxxxxxx, I would clearly bid 1.

Kit Woolsey---Of course I would open 1 on xxAKQxKxxxx xx in first seat. Opening 1 is just asking for trouble. In third and fourth seat, opening a four-card major is ok, particularly if minimal. If partner has support he will Drury and nothing bad will happen as you can sign off. If he doesn't have support, that is also fine. The danger is opponents are in there and partner competes too high, but if the major is strong you can live with that. So, if it looks like the right sort of hand to open a four-card major, one that figures to play well in a 4-3 fit, why not open in third/fourth seat.

Dan Morse---I usually open the suit I want led on any 10-13 point third seat hand and often that is a four-card major.

John Carruthers---I'd open normally, i.e., 1 in first, second or fourth seat, but 1 in third. I try not to distort in fourth seat, but in third seat anything goes (well almost anything).

Mike Lawrence--- I would open 1 in first or second chair. Yes, 1 makes perfect sense but it puts pressure on partner in the future when he wonders whether you are up to something. Also, if you bid 1, are you prepared to rebid 2 and then play in 2? You did not note if you are using semi-forcing 1NT responses. In third seat, bidding 1 makes additional sense, although I am not thrilled at bidding 1 and passing 1. My partners will expect a tolerance for spades, which I do not have. I suspect if partner bid 1, I would rebid a flawed 1NT.

Larry Mori---I am forced by system to open 1 in early position but would open 1 in third or fourth. In third seat, I think is crucial to get the lead director in, as we are not missing game. In fourth seat, I live with 1 and rebid 2, although I may pay the consequences.

Joe Kivel---I have no problem opening 1in first seat. If partner bids 1, I'll rebid 1NT. If partner bids 2, I rebid 2. Shouldn't be too much of a problem if opponents intervene either. In third or fourth seat, I would open one-of-a-major rather than one-of-a-minor if I have a sub-minimum to minimum opener and can stand the lead, e.g. holding AxKJ10xQ10xxJxx, I'd open 1 in third or fourth seat.

In my view KJ10x is not strong enough to treat as a five-card suit.

Frank Stewart---I would open 1, intending to rebid 1NT over a 1 response. My feeling is that if you adopt a system, you don't violate it -- except in an extreme case, which this is not. To open 1 and rebid 2 not only distorts the distribution, it fails to limit the strength -- a dangerous parlay. This hand is worth opening, with two and a half quick tricks and a working queen. With QxAKJxQxxxxxx, I would solve the rebid problems by not opening. I might be inclined to open 1 in third seat. Opening a strong four-card major with a light hand in third (or fourth) seat, intending to pass any non-forcing responses, can be a winning tactic. For instance, it may have lead-directing and obstructive value or may discourage the opponents from bidding a makeable 3NT.

Roger Bates---In third seat I open all sub-minimums with a good four-card major. Rarely a bad suit such as AT9x and not at all with ATxx. Paul Soloway once told me on minimums in third seat he would take his one shot at game by opening liberally four-card majors looking for a five-card fit and shortness. With a solid opener that could make 3NT opposite passed hand, I would very rarely open a four-card major. In fourth seat I would play as if in first chair: limp in with one-of-a-minor with a solid hand, when we are likely to own the deck, and open with one-of-a-major to try to steal the pot if it might actually be their hand.

Eddie Wold---I play with a lot of partners who would understand a 1 opening in first seat with the given hand. My old buddy Paul Soloway was very big on opening strong four-card majors in third seat with a minimum hand or a sub-minimum looking for the lead. I very much am in agreement with him about opening a chunky four-card major in third seat. For example, with a hand like KJ10xAxQxxxxxx at favorable vulnerability in third seat, I think a 1 opening is mandatory.

Steve Bloom---There are certain hands that cry out for a four-three fit, hands without intermediates in your second suit. Consider these two double-suit layouts:

AKJ10A432 opposite Q98J2 versus
AKJ2A1098 opposite Q54J2

In the first layout, you can't build any tricks in diamonds playing in notrump, but the four-three spade fit will generate at least one more trick. Notrump will usually be better on the second layout. So, it is reasonable to open 1 on AKJ10xxxAxxxxx. But, I much prefer opening 1 with AKJxxxxA1098xx. That said I am not a big fan of four-card major suit openings. If you open light, in third seat, the auction will certainly get competitive, and partner, overestimating the total trumps, will often go wrong. Still, lead-direction and space consumption can outweigh the negatives. I consider a 1 opening on AKQxxxxxxxxxx automatic in third seat.

Nick Nickell---I would open this hand, for sure. However, it is the type of hand that is good with a fit and poor without one. For example, if partner responds 1, you raise to 2, and he makes a game try, you would happily accept with your 12 HCP. However, if he responds 1, you bid 1NT, and he now invites in notrump, you would pass and expect to go down, perhaps several tricks, a substantial percentage of the time. To me, this is a good candidate for opening 1 in third or fourth position. It is what you want led, and if partner bids a lot because of a fit, you are quite happy.

Mel Colchamiro---I usually open a four-card major in third or fourth seat for the lead when I have a minimum hand and my suit is good, such as AKxx, AQJx or KQ10x. If I have a little or a lot extra, I tend not to open a four-card major. I would open the hand shown with 1 in first seat. In third seat I would open 1.

Kathie Wei---I would always open 1 in first seat. In third seat I would consider opening 1.

John Wittes---I would definitely open 1 in third or fourth seat. I would open 1 in first seat, but would not fault a 1 opener. I will open a four-card major in third or fourth seat when my suit is good, especially when my alternative minor suit opening is a bad suit.

The following experts would open xxAKQxKxxxxxx 1 in any seat. You definitely want a heart lead if the opponents buy the hand. When your convention card says five-card majors and you open 1 holding AKQx, even the best defenders probably will not find the best defense. I’m not suggesting that you start opening four-card majors, but I can see a good reason to open 1 holding AKQJQxxJxxxxx.

Dave Berkowitz---To me, not to open 1 in any seat any vulnerability is to say that one cannot think at bridge. What are you going to rebid? 1 - 1 - 1NT is a silly auction. I would 100 times prefer it to go 1 - 1 - 2. If we play in a 4-2 fit, so be it. They never get the defense right anyway, and we will surely play notrump from the correct side.

Ron Gerard---I don't "have" to do anything that my judgment tells me is wrong. Suppose partner has Jxx of hearts. Would you rather have your hand or the one with reversed red suits, the one that produces at least two more trump losers? Opening 1 generates more of a distortion over a 1 response than 1 would have. Suppose partner has Qx JxAQxxAxxxx. Can you get to 4 after opening 1? If you shifted the suits to diamonds (AKQx) and clubs (Kxxxx), the earth would open 1 without even thinking about it. Why is a major, where you have a better chance for game, such a world apart? Bob Hamman always said that a weakness of "Eastern" methods was the notion of the 5-3 major suit fit forever, which may motivate many of the 1 bidders. If you tread cautiously you don't have to be a slave to the 5-3 fit or the 4-3 fit that looks like a 5-3 fit. Opening 1 is blindly following distributional rules instead of using common sense. Would you still open 1 holding xxAKQJQxxxxxx? I favor third or fourth seat four-card majors on less than full opening bids, but I require a minimum of Q10xx to do so. If I expect to bid again I would open normally, including opening a three-card minor. Playing weak notrump, many of the third and fourth chair issues go away. Some would say that applies to your poll hand also.

Drew Casen---If you are playing semi-forcing NT, then it is ok to open 1 in first seat so you can pass 1NT. If you are playing forcing NT, you should open 1 and rebid 1NT over 1. Otherwise you might find yourself in a not very good 4-2 contract. I would only open a four-card major in fourth seat or third chair vulnerable if I would have opened it in first or second seat. In third chair white (doesn't matter what color they are), I would always open a four-card major if I thought it was their hand and was desperate for the lead or wanted to disturb their auction.

Michael Kamil---I would open 1 on that one. Could it work out poorly? Sure it could, but then so could opening 1 and rebidding 1NT (or horrors, 2). At least if I open 1 and rebid 2, I'll have bid "where I live", as well as nine of my thirteen cards. My experience says that using one's judgment, rather than playing by rote is a much more efficient approach to bidding. As for third or fourth chair, I'm a big proponent of four-card majors, especially on one-bid hands. I'm happy to get in and get out while taking up as much space as possible. As long as the partnership is aware of these tendencies everything should work out fine.

Barry Rigal---I would open 1 if 1NT is non-forcing in response in first or second seat, particularly at pairs or playing with a client. In third or fourth chair I hope our panel would say it was automatic. If partner was a passed hand and I had10-13 HCP and a one-bid hand I might open a good major.

Billy Pollack---If my four hearts are really robust, and I have potentially serious rebid problems, I would not hesitate to open 1, even playing five-card majors. In practice, that problem hand very rarely comes up, so partner can assume I always have five or more hearts. In third seat, with non-game going hands, I have no problem opening a chunky four-card major for the lead. It can be AQTx or so, doesn't have to be AKQx. In fourth seat, I very rarely open a four-bagger. I would only do so when I would pass any non-Drury response.

Marty Bergen---I would open 1 sometimes, especially with a strong suit. I open with a very strong suit in any seat.

Ivar Stakgold---AKQx is a better “five-card” major than Jxxxx, so I do not hesitate to open my hand with 1 in any seat! Moreover, it is clearly the right bid for defensive purposes, as you would much prefer a heart lead from partner.

Richie Schwartz---I would always open 1 in any seat. Maybe at favorable vulnerability, I’d pass and bid 1 or 2 at my first opportunity.

Ronnie Rubin---I would open 1 with this hand. I do open four-card majors in third seat when the suit is good. I’m less likely to open in fourth seat.

Bobby Wolff---I would open 1 on: xxAKQxKxxxx xx regardless of whatever system I am playing since, at least to me, it is a distortion to open 1 and then over 1 to either bid 1NT or 2, which is as bad as it can get. Again, although playing a five-card major system, in the third or fourth chair and with either a sub-minimum or just a minimum, I would tend to open the bidding with a four-card suit I could stand the lead of – for example: holding AJ9xKxQxxxJxx, I would open 1 and second choice, if not playing weak NT, I would pass.

Billy Eisenberg---With no rebid after a 1 - 1 opening, 1 becomes very reasonable. In third or fourth seat, with a good suit, and a minimum hand, four-card majors seem clear.

Mark Lair---Yes, I would open 1 and rebid 1NT. Holding KxAKQ10xxxxx xx, maybe I would open 1 and pass the semi-forcing 1NT. In third chair I would open a four-card major with non-opening bids and sometimes very light. Opening 1  is automatic to me on a hand such as xAQ10xJxxxxxxx at favorable vulnerability.

In third seat experts will open the bidding with a strong four-card major as a lead director. You need to be able to pass partner’s non-forcing response. If you can make game opposite a maximum passed hand, you should make your normal opening bid.

Don Berman, Web Master.