Phillip Alder   Phillip Alder
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Balanced-Hand Ranges
     In the old days, these were the ranges for the various sequences that described a balanced hand:

Open One of a Suit, Rebid Minimum Notrump: 13-15 points
Open One Notrump: 16-18 points
Open One of a Suit, Jump-Rebid in Notrump: 19-21 points
Open Two Notrump: 22-24 points
Open Three Notrump: 25-27 points

     These ranges suffered from three drawbacks:

     i. A two-notrump bid should only have an inclusive two-point range, not three-point.
     ii. You had to open one of a suit with a balanced 21 points. If partner passed with four or five points, game had probably been missed.
     iii. You had to pass balanced 12-point hands.

     Let's look at these points in turn.
     If a one-notrump bid has an inclusive three-point range — for example, 15-17 — it is no problem, because the responder can invite game by raising to two notrump. But over a two-notrump bid, there is no way to invite — a bid of two-and-a-half notrump is unfortunately illegal! So, you should maintain a two-point range for a two-notrump bid. Then, partner should be able to decide whether to pass or to raise.
     The second point, having to open one of a suit with (20 and) 21 points, is self-explanatory.
     It pays to open the bidding. I compare it with fighting a duel with pistols at 20 paces. If we were going to do that, and I offered to let you shoot first or to permit me to shoot first, which would you pick? If you're still thinking, it's too late — I've shot you. So, whenever you have a balanced 12-point hand, you will be opening in a decent suit (one you are happy to have partner lead), and you have no rebid problems, open.
     So, let's come up with some new ranges:

Open One of a Suit, Rebid Minimum Notrump: 12-14 points
Open One Notrump: 15-17 points
Open One of a Suit, Jump-Rebid in Notrump: 18-19 points

     That is better! However, it leads one to conclude that a two-notrump opening should show 20-21 points — and I think that that is theoretically wrong! However, I must be honest and point out that that is what the players in the tournament world do today. They open two notrump with 20-21, and open two clubs with 22-plus. This requires an opening of two clubs followed by a rebid of two notrump to promise 22-23 points. So, with 24, one must force to game. The arguments run that one rarely has that good a hand, that partner probably has enough to make game viable, and that the opponents may misdefend.
     It is hard to argue with that, but no-one points out that if a two-notrump opening is passed out, the contract will have (almost) no chance. At least if the opener has an extra point, the contract will have a little more life (although not a lot!).
     I think you should open two notrump with 21-22 points. Then, you open two clubs and rebid two notrump with 23-24, keeping a game-force starting with 25 points.
     However, what do you do with a balanced 20 points?
     You either downgrade to 19 or upgrade to 21, then do the appropriate.
     How do you decide which way to go? Well, if you have a five-card suit, upgrade. If you have two honors doubleton, downgrade. If you have nines and tens — the intermediates — upgrade. If you have a lot of “quacks” — queens and jacks — downgrade.
     Then, once you have this straight, hope that your responding methods are efficient!


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