Minor Openings

Opening one of a minor is different than opening one of a major. We are still hoping to find a fit for a major, if possible, but more often our game goal is 3NT. Only in the presence of affirmative evidence that a suit is unstopped do we abandon ship at 4 of a minor or press on to 5 of a minor. Also, we don’t necessarily have a five-card suit – we could even have a three-card suit.

In a possible slam exploration, the point at which we go past 3N is a point of no return, and we should be thinking of the alternative to 3N as 6 of our minor. Especially in matchpoints, five of a minor when 3N is making is a recipe for a bottom score.

Responses To One Of A Minor

The minimum points to respond are the same as for the major, 6 HCP. Responder with a five card major always bids that suit, and bids spades if 5-5 in the majors.

With a four card major, the question arises after a 1♣ opening whether to bypass 1♦ with a four card or longer diamond suit. One guideline that seems to work fairly well is to ask yourself this question: If the opener rebids 1N after my bid, will I pass?

If you would pass, then this is perhaps your one chance to mention that major, and you should bid it. On the other hand, if you are going to be able to take another bid, you can bid the diamonds.

The suit responses at the one level are unlimited by an unpassed hand. Opener must not pass them. Many players will bid a major with five good points such as having an ace or a KQ in a long suit.

Responses to 1m with a minimum:

  • 1♦ Four card or longer diamond suit, 6+ points
  • 1♥ Four card or longer heart suit, 6+ points
  • 1♠ Four card or longer spade suit, 6+ points
  • 2m Six to nine points, usually 5+ cards in m.
  • 1N Six to ten points, any shape. (Some play 8-10)

With more points:

  • 2♣ over 1♦: Ten plus points, 4+ clubs.
  • 3m is a limit raise, almost always 5+ cards. If there is a game it is going to be 3N so next we will bid stoppers up the line.
  • 2N Balanced hand, 10-12 HCP
  • 3N Balanced hand, 13-15 HCP

Note

The original Standard American has higher ranges for the 2N and 3N bids, but few people play these now.

The standard is that a jump shift response shows a 19+ point hand. Many find it more useful to make these bids weak, on the grounds that weak hands are more frequent. So a response like 1♣ - 2♠ is 19 or more HCP with five or more spades; or it is less than seven HCP with six or more spades, by agreement, and should be alerted.

Absent values for a strong jump shift, there is no standard game-forcing minor raise. To force to game, responder has to keep making bids that cannot be passed, which in practice means bidding new suits or going past 3N.

The inverted minors convention solves this problem.

Interference

The same ideas hold as with major raises – bids above the overcall mean what they would have meant, except that the limit raise or better is shown with a cue bid. If playing Inverted Minors, the two-level bid is now a simple raise, not a strong raise.

A cue bid at the three level after partner’s 1m opener is overcalled is Western Cue, asking partner to bid 3N with a stopper in their suit. You’re saying, we have the points for game, partner, but I do not have a stopper. I probably have something to help though.

Opener’s Rebid

If responder has bid a major and we have four of them, or three and a singleton, we can raise the major. If the bidding has gone 1m – 1♥, and we have four spades, we must bid 1♠ (or 2♠, a reverse, if we have 17+ HCP.)

It takes 17+ HCP to raise partner’s suit to the 3 level.

Otherwise, an opener with a balanced hand and 12-14 points will rebid 1N over responder’s one of a suit bid. With 18-19 he can rebid 2N. Note that the 2N rebid does not deny any major you may skip over.

  • 1♦ - 1♥ - 2N does not deny having four spades
  • 1♦ - 1♠ - 2N does not deny having four hearts

The New Minor Forcing convention helps find 3-5 and 4-4 fits in such situations. The no-trump opener system is not used.

With an unbalanced hand opener can show a second suit, but to go to the 3 level requires extras, perhaps 15+ points, and a reverse requires 17+. Rebidding one’s minor, or the other minor, at the 2 level shows a minimum opener and a real suit.

Subsequent Bidding

If the opener has rebid 1N over responder’s major, a responder with a five card major has a problem. The opener has denied having four of the major, but may have three. With invitational or better values, responder can use New Minor Forcing to look for a fit. The responder can also rebid his major, showing minimal values and five+ cards.

Inverted Minors

The inverted minors convention reverses the meanings of the raises of a minor, so that the single raise is strong and the double raise is weak (preemptive). Inverted Minors require partnership agreement.

The requirements to raise from 1m to 2m!(inverted) are:

  • 10+ points
  • 5+ cards in the minor, or four really good ones if it is diamonds.
  • No four card major

The 2m bid must be alerted. It is forcing for one round. In competition, 2m reverts to its standard meaning.

After a strong raise, the partners bid stoppers up-the-line. While some do not look to confirm a club stopper when diamonds are the suit, we do. The first party that knows we have stoppers bids 2N, or a responder with a game-forcing hand can go directly to 3N. “He who knows, goes”, as Marty Bergen says. If 3N or 6m is not possible we will head for 4m or 5m.

The 1m – 3m!(preemptive) raise becomes weak, typically less than 7 points, with 5+ trump. The idea is to shut out the opponents.

Inverted minors can be freely added to standard bidding without ill consequence. I include them here because half the people you play against will be using inverted minors.