1 Of A Suit Opening: Responder’s First Bid

Introduction

Having heard opener make a bid of 1 of a Suit the responder counts their Total Points and with

  • 0-5 TP responder will pass.
  • 6-18 TP responder will bid as described here.
  • 19+ TP responder knows the partnership needs to explore the possibility of a slam for which an entirely different set of bids is appropriate.

So, with 6-18 TP responder must bid: but what should they bid? The first step is for responder to categorise the hand:

  • With 6-9 TP responder has a minimum hand.
    • If opener has a maximum hand (18-21 TP) then bidding at game level is still possible, but
    • If opener has a minimum hand (13-15 TP) then even a contract at the 1 level may be too high.
    • Hence responder should not bid above the 1 level unless it is to confirm a Golden Fit.
  • With 10-11 TP responder has a medium hand.
    • If opener has a medium hand (16-18 TP) or better then game is likely, but
    • If opener has a minimum hand (13-15 TP) the partnership may need to settle for a part score.
    • Hence responder has more latitude in terms of the bids they can make.
  • With 12-18 TP responder has a maximum hand.
    • If opener has a minimum hand (13-15 TP) then game seems certain, but
    • If opener has a medium or maximum hand (16-21 TP) there is still a possibility of a slam.
    • Hence, whilst game is certain and it would be easy to bid and make a game contract, responder should not do so. They need to hold up the bidding and force opener to continue describing their hand until it’s clear whether or not a slam is a possibility.

Responding With A Minimum Hand

Responder’s bid will depend upon whether the opener bid a major or a minor suit.

Major Suit

Responder Can Support Opener

If opener bids a major suit then responder should support with 3+ cards. Even if opener has the minimum 13 TP then the partnership has 19-22 TP and it is probably safe to raise to the 2 level.

♠︎ A 9 8 6 5 3
♥︎ K J 2
♦︎9 7
♣︎ 7 5

If opener bids 1♥︎ responder should raise to 2♥︎. With 6♠︎ there may be a temptation to bid in spades but opener may have a void in that suit. You are guaranteed a Golden Fit so you must support.

With 3+ cards in opener's major suit raise to the 2 level. This is an invitational bid and opener will raise with a medium or a maximum hand.

Responder Can Bid Another Suit

If opener bids a major suit and responder cannot support they should try to bid a new suit. But with the partnership possibly having as few as 19 TP you can only bid at the 1 level: bidding at the 2 level is too dangerous.

♠︎ 10 9 8 6
♥︎ A J
♦︎9 7 2
♣︎ Q 6 5 3

If opener bids 1♥︎ responder cannot support with just 2 cards. But with a higher ranking 4 card suit bid 1♠︎. Opener may have 4 cards and you will have found a Golden Fit in a major; whilst without 4 cards they can still bid 1NT and stay at the 1 level. Don’t worry about being stuck playing in ♠︎ with such weak cards: this is a forcing bid and opener must bid again.

♠︎ 9 8
♥︎ A K 10 9 4 2
♦︎9 7 2
♣︎ 6 5

If opener bids 1♠︎ responder cannot support. But despite holding a good 6 card suit they must resist the temptation to bid 2♥︎. Opener’s ♠︎ suit may be every bit as strong and they may have a void in ♥︎.

With 4+ cards bid a new suit at the 1 level. This is a forcing bid and opener must bid again.

Responder Cannot Bid Another Suit

If opener bids 1 of a Suit then responder should pass with 0-5 TP and should bid with 6+ TP. But what can a responder with a minimum hand do if they can neither support the opener nor bid another suit at the 1 level? There is only one option left: to bid 1NT.

Opener should understand a 1NT response to mean: “I have 6-9 TP and I have to bid because you may have 21 TP – but there’s nothing else I can bid. Do not assume I have a balanced hand.”

♠︎ 9 8
♥︎ A K 10 9 4 2
♦︎9 7 2
♣︎ 6 5

If opener bids 1♠︎ responder must bid 1NT. Opener will know that responder has fewer than 3 ♠︎ and 6-9 TP, but they may or may not have a balanced hand.

As a final option, bid 1NT. This is an invitational bid.

In Summary

Opener’s
Suit
Strength
(TP)
Support
(# Cards)
Choices of bidBid
Type
Major6-93+Raise to the 2 levelInvitational
0-2Bid a new suit at the 1 levelForcing
0-2Bid 1 NTInvitational
Minimum Hand Responses After Opener Bids 1 Of A Major

Responding With A Medium Hand

Major Suit

Responder Can Support Opener

If opener bids a major suit then responder should support with 3+ cards. Even if opener has the minimum 13 TP then the partnership has 23+ TP and it is safe to raise to the 3 level.

♠︎ K J 6 5
♥︎5 3 2
♦︎A 9 7
♣︎ A 8 5

If opener bids 1♥︎ responder should raise to 3♥︎since there is a Golden Fit. The weak cards in ♥︎ will still come in useful and the aces and kings in the other suits will probably win in any case.

With 3+ cards in opener's major suit raise to the 3 level. This is an invitational bid and opener will raise to game level if they have 14+ TP.

Responder Can Bid Another Suit

In Summary

Opener’s
Suit
Strength
(TP)
Support
(# Cards)
Choices of bidBid
Type
Major10-113+Raise to the 3 levelInvitational
0-2Bid a new suit at the 1 level or 2 levelForcing
Medium Hand Responses After Opener Bids 1 Of A Major

Responding With A Maximum Hand

Major Suit

If a responder who can support opener’s major raises to the 2 level with a minimum hand, and raises to the 3 level with a medium hand, it seems logical that they should raise to the 4 level with a maximum hand. Logical? Yes. Correct? No!

If opener is at a maximum a slam is not only possible but likely. But raising to the 4 level immediately would make finding a slam difficult.

Responder must take a different approach: they must either make forcing bids to learn more about opener’s hand – strength and shape – before deciding upon a contract; or with an exceptionally strong and balanced hand (16-18 HCP) they make a bid which tells opener exactly what they hold and pass the ball to opener.

Opener’s
Suit
Strength
(TP)
Support
(# Cards)
Choices of bidBid
Type
Major12-18Bid 2NT with 13-15 HCP and a balanced handForcing
Bid 3NT with 16-18 HCP and a balanced handInvitational
Bid a new suit at the 1 level or 2 levelForcing

Wrapping It Up