Opening One Club

What Hands Do We Open One Club?

We can open 1♣!(16+ HCP, artificial, forcing) with any 16+ HCP. With a 16 HCP flat hand you can downgrade it to 1N. We also use 1♣! to open “good” 15 HCP hands, defined as those with a 6+ card suit playable opposite a singleton, usually containing a singleton or void.

Opening 1♣ is unequivocally forcing. Responder must never pass, even with a club stack and no points.

Dealing with interference is covered later in Interference Over One Club.

Summary of Responses

There is one negative response, 1♦!(0-7, artificial). You will make this bid with less than a good 8 HCP. If you have 8+ HCP, you make a “positive” response, which is game forcing. With 8 HCP, it is ok to downgrade hands such as one that is aceless without a five-card suit.

Major suit two bids are basically preemptive but highly invitational:

  • 2♥!, 2♠! six cards, semi-positive, highly invitational with 4-6 HCP concentrated in the suit. 2N! asks for shortness.

All other responses (“positive responses”) are game forcing.

The positive responses for hands that are balanced or have a five-card suit are:

  • 1♥!, 1N!, 2♣!, 2♦! show 8+ HCP, and five cards in the next higher strain.

    Do not bid a four-card suit even if it is AKQJ.

  • 1♠! shows 8+ HCP, balanced.

    The hand has no five card major but may have a poor five-card minor.

  • 2N! shows 14+ HCP, balanced, denies a five card major; may have a poor 5 card minor. This bid is forcing to 4N.

    3♣! next by opener is the Baron convention, asking for four-card suits up the line.

  • 3♠! shows a solid seven or eight card suit, not necessarily spades. See The Three Spades Response

  • 4N is plain Blackwood.

If a hand is not balanced and does not have a five-card suit, it is a 4441 hand. Such a hand is called a “rattlesnake”, and the suit with the stiff is the “rattler”. The bids showing these hands come in two groups:

  1. Less than 12 HCP or lacking four controls (A=2, K=1):

    • 3♣!(black singleton, less than 4 controls or 12 HCP)
    • 3♦!(red singleton, less than 4 controls or 12 HCP)
  2. 12 or more HCP with 4 or more controls. We bid the strain below the singleton.

    • 3♥!(1=4=4=4, 4+ controls, usually 12+ HCP) Spade rattlesnake, slam interest.
    • 3N!(4=4=4=1, 4+ controls, usually 12+HCP) Club rattlesnake, slam interest.
    • 4♣!(4=4=1=4, 4+ controls, usually 12+HCP) Diamond rattlesnake, slam interet.
    • 4♦!(4=1=4=4, 4+ controls, usually 12+HCP) Heart rattlesnake, slam interest.

    Note that 3♠ shows a solid seven or eight card suit, not a rattlesnake.

No other response to 1♣! is permitted.

The negative response is discussed next in the section The Negative Response.

The positive transfer bids are discussed in the section Transfer Positive Responses.

The rattlesnake bids are discussed in the section Rattlesnake Responses.

Interference after a 1♣! opening is discussed in the next chapter, Interference Over One Club.

The One Diamond Response

After the weak 1♦(0-7 HCP) response, opener makes fairly natural bids designed to show his strength and shape. The Heart Relay allows us to show various strong balanced hands.

After 1♣! - 1♦!(0-7), opener’s rebids are:

  • 1♥! (hearts or 20+ balanced) describes a hand which is usually a heart suit but may also be a 20-21 or 25+ HCP balanced hand; or rarely, is 6-5 in the minors.

    See Heart Relay for the continuations.

  • 1♠, 2♣, and 2♦ show five card suits. These bids are non-forcing. If your hand has 8 tricks, do not make these bids.

  • 1N!(16-19, balanced)

  • 2♥! or 2♠! shows a strong hand with a 5+ card major, like a standard 2♣ opener followed by a 2M rebid.

  • 2N shows a 22-24 HCP balanced hand. Systems are on, 3♣ is Puppet Stayman.

  • 3♣ and 3♦ show very strong, unbalanced hands with a long minor suit.

  • 3♥ and 3♠ set trump and show an extremely strong hand (9 tricks). Trumps are long and solid. Partner should cue-bid.

  • 3N is to play based on a long solid suit.

Responder’s second bid:

  • With 0-4, pass, especially if balanced, unless you have an Ace.
  • Over 1♥, the heart relay is on, see below. If not playing that, treat as with 1♠.
  • Over 1♠, raise with 4-5 support points; jump raise with 6 or 7.
  • Over 1N, systems are on; see Bidding Balanced Hands for details.

Heart Relay

After 1♣! - 1♦!, 1♥! asks responder to bid an artificial 1♠!. The opener will clarify his hand on his next bid. It is usually a positive reply in hearts, but more rarely a strong balanced hand, and even more rarely a hand 6-5 in the minors.

This bid should be explained as, “A five-card heart suit or a strong balanced hand; or rarely, a hand 6-5 in the minors.” The answer to “How strong a balanced hand?” is 20-21 HCP or 25+ HCP.

After 1♣! - 1♦! - 1♥!, responder accepts the relay and bids 1♠!(not weak and distributional) except in these cases:

  • 1N with 5-5 in the majors, very weak.
  • 2-level suit bids with a modest six-card suit, weak hand, no outside Queens.
  • 2N with 5-5 in the minors, very weak.
  • 3-level suit bids with seven-card suits, very weak.

The 1♠! bid can be explained in more detail as not showing one of the above hands.

If the opener is balanced, after 1♣! - 1♦!(0-7):

  • 1N immediately shows 16-18 HCP; with the heart relay first, 19-21 HCP
  • 2N immediately shows 22-24 HCP; with the heart relay first, 25-27 HCP
  • 3N immediately is to play; with the heart relay first, 28+ HCP

After the 1♥! relay is accepted with 1♠!, an unbalanced opener bids as follows, all bids showing a heart suit, and jumps showing extras.

  • 2♣! shows 3+ clubs as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 2♦! shows 3+ diamonds as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 2♥ shows a 6+ heart suit, no extras.
  • 2♠! shows 4+ spades as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 3♣!, 3♦! are forcing, suggestive of 5+ in the minor as well, or extras.
  • 3♥ shows 6+ hearts, invitational.
  • 3♠ shows 4+ spades, 5+ hearts, with extras.
  • 4♥ shows 6+ hearts, to play.
  • 4N is RKC for hearts

Two special bids show 6-5 minor-suited hands:

  • 4♣ forcing, 6+ clubs, 5+ diamonds.
  • 4♦ forcing, 6+ diamonds, 5+ clubs.

Transfer Positive Responses

If responder is balanced with 8+ HCP, he responds 1♠!.

Other bids from 1♥! up to 2♦! show a 8+ HCP hand with a five-card suit in the next higher strain:

  • 1♣! - 1♥!(8+ HCP, 5+ spades)
  • 1♣! - 1N!(8+ HCP, 5+ clubs)
  • 1♣! - 2♣!(8+ HCP, 5+ diamonds)
  • 1♣! - 2♦!(8+ HCP, 5+ hearts)

These bids should be made with any five or more cards in a major suit. For a 5332 hand with a minor, we treat it as a notrump hand unless the suit is good.

This section is about those five “transfer” bids, considering 1♠! as a “transfer to notrump”, the next higher strain. The auction is now game forcing. There are five cases we will need to consider when opener rebids.

When opener rebids notrump, he jumps with exactly 20-21 HCP (shown below with *). With more than 21 HCP, opener waits to show strength, by continuing to force or if necessary bid one past game.

The first two cases are when opener “accepts” responder’s proposal. They are somewhat detailed to support slam bidding.

  • Responder indicated a suit, and opener bids it.
  • Responder indicated notrump and opener bids notrump (*);

The other three cases are when we do not agree. Emphasis turns to finding the right strain and bidding is natural.

  • Responder indicated a suit, but opener bids his own suit;
  • Responder indicated a suit, but opener bids notrump (*);
  • Responder indicated notrump but opener bids his own suit.

Not accepting a minor suit does not definitively deny support. An opener with three-card support and no suit of his own will usually bid notrump first. Or, he may want to show his major suit rather than immediately support the minor.

Transferring to a minor must show a good suit or a two-suited hand.

If opener has a traditional strong-two hand, he will wait to show this. Both opener and responder will consider bidding one past game if needed to show big hands with slam interest.

Case I: Opener Accepts A Suit Transfer

Completing the transfer shows support and asks for controls, Beta(2). Responder replies by steps showing the count of controls, with A=2, K=1, and the first step being zero to two controls. You don’t need to count on your fingers – just subtract one from the number of controls you have and bid that many steps.

Beta can be followed by either:

  • A sign off in game.
  • Bidding trump below the level of game. This is a “trump asking bid”, or TAB.
  • Bidding a side-suit. This is a “Control-Asking Bid” or CAB.

IMPORTANT: opener does NOT “super-accept” with a strong hand. Accepting and following the Beta response with a TAB or CAB shows slam interest even if responder has shown 0-2 controls.

CONVERSELY, opener does not make a TAB or CAB bid without slam interest over an 8 point response. Making these bids shows a traditional strong-two type hand.

Trump-Asking Bid

The Trump-Asking Bid (TAB) occurs IMMEDIATELY after the Beta sequence when opener accepts responder’s suit. TAB should only be bid with a strong hand, the kind of hand that a standard bidder opens 2♣, or an extremely distributional hand.

TAB asks about the quality of the responder’s suit. (A responder can never make a TAB, and opener can only make it if he does so the first chance he gets.)

Step responses indicate the length of the suit, and the number of the top three honors held:

  • first step: zero honors, any length
  • second step: one, five cards
  • third step: two, five cards
  • fourth step: one, six+ cards
  • fifth step: two, six+ cards
  • sixth step: three (AKQ), five+

After a TAB, each rebid short of game is asking about the quality of the trump suit or of a specific side suit.

  • Asking further about the trump suit, Repeat TAB (rTAB), is invoked by another bid in the trump suit below game.
    • If you have shown 0 or 3 of the top three honors, the first step shows a seven-card suit; the second a six-card suit; the third a five-card suit. That’s right: worse is higher!
    • If you have shown one of the top three honors, the steps show Ace, King, Queen. Again, worse is higher.
    • If you have shown two of the top three honors, the steps show AK, AQ, KQ.
  • Asking about control details for a given suit, CAB, is invoked by other suit bids. There can be a sequence of these.

After a TAB or repeat TAB, if you make a bid in a non-trump suit it is a Control-Asking Bid (CAB). So if you want to make an rTAB inquiry, you must do it immediately after the TAB, and once you make a CAB you cannot make any trump-quality inquiry.

Note that this is the ONLY scenario that involves TAB and rTAB, – when it is opener accepting responder’s suit. It is always asking about the responder’s suit.

A TAB can also be made by a simple raise of responder’s suit when he has been forced by interference to bid it directly, e.g., 1♣! - (2♥) - 2♠ - 3♠(TAB).

If a TAB is not called for, opener can show slam interest with one or more CABs.

Control-Asking Bid

A Control-Asking Bid (CAB) is asking about controls in that suit. The replies are in steps:

  1. No control (Jxx or worse)
  2. Third round control (a queen or doubleton)
  3. Second round control (a king or singleton)
  4. First round control (an ace or void)
  5. AK or AQ

For steps 2 through 4, opener can bid the suit again to ask responder to distinguish strength (first step) from length (2nd step).

Any subsequent bid that is not trump is again a CAB.

Once a control-asking bid is at the five level, the replies must be compressed:

  1. Neither first- nor second-round control
  2. Second-round control
  3. First-round control

These points may help avoid confusion due to the ambiguous use of the word “control”:

  • Only the 1♣ opener makes CAB bids. Similar bids by responder are cue bids.
  • Do not confuse the CAB with Beta. It is not the same kind of “controls”.

Case II: Opener Accepts A Transfer To Notrump

The responder has bid 1♠! showing 8+ HCP and a balanced hand. If he has a five-card suit it is a poor minor.

If opener has a balanced hand he bids notrump. He jumps to show 19-21 HCP. With 22+ HCP he waits to show the bigger hand with an unexpected jump or otherwise.

Note that since responder does not have a five-card major or a six-card minor, there are no suit transfers after opener’s notrump bid. However, two-way Stayman is on. A good minor suit would have been bid, so a bid of a minor by responder shows a poor five-card suit but a good hand with slam interest (typically 12+ HCP).

When responder has a four-card major and is not 4=3=3=3:

  • 2♣ is ordinary Stayman, 8-10 HCP.
  • 2♦ is Stayman, 11+ HCP. Opener replies 3N if he does not have a major.

When opener has jumped to 2N, everything is up a level.

With a hand containing neither a four-card major or a poor five-card minor, responder raises notrump. Over 1N!(17-19),

  • 3N is 8-13 HCP;
  • 4N is 14-15 HCP (quantitative);
  • 4♣ is Gerber.

Over 2N!(20-21):

  • 3N is 8-11 HCP;
  • 4N is 12 HCP;
  • 4♣ is Gerber. Hand is not suitable for Stayman.

Case III: Opener Declines Notrump, Bids Own Suit

If opener shows his own suit, a balanced responder replies naturally, with priority of course to raising opener’s suit.

If responder does not raise, opener may:

  • Repeat his six-card or longer suit.
  • Show a second four-card suit;
  • Bid notrump, usually showing a 5332 hand.

Case IV: Opener Declines Suit, Bids Own Suit

If responder suggests a suit but opener bids his own, bidding continues naturally. Responder may raise opener’s suit, rebid his six-card or longer suit, bid a second suit of four cards or longer, or bid notrump.

Responder with support for opener’s suit may also choose a splinter bid if appropriate.

Case V: Opener Declines Suit, Bids Notrump

Opener jumps in notrump to show exactly 20-21 HCP.

Responder may show another four-card suit, bid his own suit with six, or raise in notrump. Note there is no Stayman; responder would bid just bid his four-card major. For example:

    1♣! - 2♣!(diamonds)
    2N!(17-19) - 3♦(six ♦)

    1♣! - 2♣!(diamonds)
    2N!(17-19) - 3♥(4♥ + 5♦)

    1♣! - 1♥!(spades)
    1N!(17-19) - 2♥(5♠ + 4♥)

1♣! - 1N!(clubs)
2N!(17-19) - 3♣(six ♣)

If opener has originally bid 2N as a jump, 4N is quantitative (12 HCP usually), and 4♣ is Gerber.

Other Positive Responses

This section covers other positive responses to a 1♣! opener: long solid suits and 4441 hands.

Positive Hands with Very Long Suits

The 3♠ response to a 1♣! opener shows a long solid (unspecified) suit, at least seven cards headed by the AKQ. Opener then bids:

  • 3N offers to play. Responder can keep going with a great hand.
  • 4♣! implies that opener knows what the long suit is and asks for controls outside the solid suit (Beta(0), that is, 0, 1, 2, ...).
  • 4♦! asks for the suit, 4N = diamonds.
  • 4♥ or 4♠ is to play, at least five trump. Responder should pass with three-card support or a doubleton honor unless he has a great hand.

Positive Hands With 4441 Shape

If responder does not have a five-card suit, and is not balanced, then he has a 4441 shape. (Note that the other version of the rattler, with a five card minor and a void, cannot occur here because if you had a five card suit you would bid it.) Precision players call such a rattlesnake hand with 8+ points an “unusual positive”.

The unusual positives come in two flavors.

Routine Hands

First, the weaker bids showing 8-13 HCP and lacking four controls:

  • 3♣ showing a black rattlesnake, and
  • 3♦ showing a red rattlesnake.

Bidding the next step asks where the rattle is, and in reply, the two steps after that show the lower or higher suit of the specified color.

For example,

1♣! - 3♦!(4441, stiff ♦ or ♥)
3♥!(♦ or ♥?) - 3N!(♥)

Here, 3♠, the first step after 3♥, would show a stiff diamond, while 3N, the second step, showed a singleton heart.

Following the clarification of the location of the stiff, cue-bidding that suit asks for the number of controls (counting A=2, K=1), with replies in steps 0-2, 3, etc.

Routine Hands

Second, the strong rattlesnakes, where with 14+ HCP and at least four controls, you bid the strain below the rattle, skipping over 3♠:

  • 3♥ for a spade rattlesnake (1=4=4=4);
  • 3N for a club rattlesnake (4=4=4=1);
  • 4♣ for a diamond rattlesnake (4=4=1=4); and
  • 4♦ for a heart rattlesnake (4=1=4=4).

A cue bid now asks for controls but the first step is 4 since the responder is known to have four at least.

Remember, 1♣! - 3♠ shows a long solid suit, not a rattler.