Minor Openings

Opening one of a minor is different than opening one of a major. We don’t necessarily have a five-card suit – we could even have a three-card suit.

We are still hoping to find a fit for a major, if possible, but more often our game goal is 3NT. If we are sure a suit is unstopped and we don’t discover it soon enough, we may stop at 4 of a minor or press on to 5 of a minor.

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. Response with 6+ HCP is mandatory.

Responder with a five card major always bids that suit, and bids spades if 5-5 in the majors. Otherwise we bid four-card suits up the line.

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 hand, 6 points to a bad 10:

  • 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.

With 10+ points:

  • 2♣ over 1♦: Ten plus points, usually denies a four-card major.
  • 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 of them and either a singleton or no other good bid, we can raise. Mike Lawrence gives this example:

♠ 52
♥ QJ9
♦ AJ763
♣ KQ4

After 1♦ - 1♥, he recommends 2♥. If you bid 1N expect a spade lead and your goose may be well done. That diamond suit does not merit a rebid.

If the bidding has gone 1m – 1♥, and we cannot support hearts, but we have four spades, we must bid 1♠. Do not skip over 1♠ when you have four; responder could have four hearts and four spades.

It takes 17+ HCP to raise partner’s suit to the 3 level. With more than that, you will be headed for game, but if you can show shortness on the way, you may wish to show slam interest by splintering. For example, 1♦ - 1♠ - 4♣ would show support for spades and shortness in clubs, with slam interest.

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.

A jump-shift, such as 1♣ - 1s - 3♥, is a powerful hand, 19+, with good suits. This is rare. This forces to game since we have at least 19 + 6 = 25 points. With four spades you would just jump to 4♠.

Is opener’s rebid of 1♠ forcing (for example, 1♣ - 1♥ - 1♠)? Not in the standard, but many believe you should play it as forcing. The pros and cons are complicated.

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. In competition it has the same meaning, because you have a cue bid available as a limit raise.

Inverted minors can be freely added to standard bidding without ill consequence. I include this convention here many of the people you play against will be using inverted minors.