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Rebid 1NT More Often
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I almost feel that writing an article about bridge is unimportant with so many current concerns about health. But I’d also like to just keep doing things I enjoy that are consistent with trying to say healthy. So here goes.

There may be quite a few that do not agree with all of the following but hopefully it will be of value to many others.

A few weeks ago I was playing at a local bridge club. On one hand my LHO opened 1 and rebid 2 over his partner’s 1 response holding J AQT Kxxxx Qxxx. Responder had AKxxx xxx Jx Kxx and rebid 3 which it turned out was too high. After the hand was over, responder asked me what he should have done. I replied that he had a tough hand and that any of 2, 2 or 3 could be right. Then I volunteered that opener might have rebid 1NT. They both said they don’t rebid 1NT with a singleton in partner’s suit.

On the way home after the game, I heard a country song from a long time ago that I have always liked. It was Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak” recorded in 1961 and since covered by many artists. There is a line in the song that goes “I am like a lost ship adrift on the sea…” That line seemed to me to be an accurate description of the opponents in the bidding of the above hand. This article is for those that must (or choose to) rebid two-of-a-minor rather than 1NT.

For a very long time, many bridge players have been like a lost ship adrift on the sea after opening the bidding and then rebidding two-of-a-minor over partner’s 1 bid on hands like Q Axxxx Qxxx KJx, x KQxx KQxx Qxxx and x AQT KJxx Qxxxx. Why do many players not rebid 1NT with hands like these? Most likely, it is because some authority in bridge’s infancy said that it is wrong to rebid one notrump with a singleton in partner’s suit. Of course, when we are learning bridge, it never occurs to us to question the rules that we are taught. And although we may question some rules as we become more knowledgeable about the game, this rule has escaped scrutiny sufficiently that it is still followed by many players.

If pressed to consider the wisdom of this rule, I think a lot of players would have serious reservations about it. I expect that, upon reflection, a 1NT rebid showing 12 to 14 HCP and suggesting that 1NT is an adequate place to play would have considerably more appeal than a two-of-a-minor rebid that shows 11 to 18 HCP and distribution that can range from 4-4 when bidding the minor suits to 6-5 when bidding any two suits.

Because bridge players have been told that they can’t rebid 1NT with a singleton in partner’s suit, they have been forever paying the price by being unable to play 1NT when it can easily be their best contract. Opener is thus forced to make a new-suit two-of-a-minor rebid on weak four-card suits even when holding the appropriate strength and type of cards that suggest a 1NT rebid. And though the partnership might already be at or beyond their last makeable contract, responder often continues bidding on over the two-of-a-minor bid because opener could have up to 18 HCP and they might belong in 3NT. This inability to rebid 1NT with a singleton in partner’s suit leads to auctions where there is invariably doubt about the partnership’s combined strength and frequent uncertainty by responder about what bid will work out best over opener’s two-of-a-minor bid. How can this be better than rebidding 1NT with a singleton in partner’s suit?

It is no surprise that these auctions can leave one or both partners feeling like a lost ship adrift on the sea. It is time to use common sense. It is time to realize that it is okay to rebid 1NT with a singleton in partner’s suit.

There are many advantages to opener’s rebid of 1NT. One is that 1NT is now a possible contract (and one that can be difficult to defend). Another is that when holding a game-invitational or better hand, responder has familiar and well-defined methods to ask opener for further description. Responder also can comfortably describe his own hand. However, there are not well-defined methods after opener rebids two-of-a-minor. Additionally, responder can sometimes raise opener’s 1NT rebid to 3NT thus not giving any information to the opponents. But this might not be practical after opener’s two-of-a-minor rebid because opener’s strength and distribution have a wide range and responder may need to find out more before he can determine the right strain and level. And, of course, all the extra information from responder’s investigation is available to the opponents to help with the opening lead and later in the defense.

Not all 5-4-3-1 hands with the proper strength to rebid 1NT should do so. Suit-oriented hands and hands with concentrated values in two suits should rebid the second suit. But when opener has scattered secondary values, it is very likely to be best to rebid 1NT if within range.

Appropriate 5-4-2-2 hands are also better off rebidding 1NT than two-of-a-minor – just consider how you are likely to do if you rebid 2 over 1 on xx Kxxxx Qxxx AK – you are probably headed for a minus score unless partner has a fit and/or a good hand.

Another type of hand that can benefit from a 1NT rebid is something like AT Qx Axxxxx Qxx where 1) it looks right to play notrump from opener’s side and 2) a rebid of opener’s minor (showing six) may cause responder to misevaluate the value of an honor in opener’s long suit. If opener opens 1 and rebids 2, responder will surely bid at least 2NT with Kxxx Kxxx Qx Kxx.

There is little that a partnership must do differently to take advantage of opener’s increased willingness to rebid 1NT. Responder should avoid correcting to his five-card major if his hand looks to be playable in 1NT but that is good advice even if opener is not allowed to have a singleton in responder’s suit.

So, be willing to rebid 1NT with 5-4-3-1 hands with a singleton in partner’s suit and also consider it with some 5-4-2-2 hands and with 6-3-2-2 hands if the minor is weak and 1NT looks right. Your auctions will reach the right contract more often and you will greatly reduce the number of times you are like a lost ship adrift on the sea.

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