# Mike’s Bridge Lesson

Last week we started a discussion of the so-called rule of 20 for deciding whether to open the bidding.

In general, I do not approve of this or any other rule as a substitute for thinking.

Some “rules”are very useful. The rule of 11 is a good example. Applying that rule to a fourth-best opening lead can tell an alert declarer a lot about how to make the contract he is playing. Of course, it also works for the defenders.

The rule of 15 can help you decide whether to open in fourth seat after three passes.

One rule that I consider misguided is the so-called rule of 20, which dictates that you should open the bidding if the number of your high-card points and the cards in your two longest suits total 20. I find using examples to be very helpful in making my points. Consider these six hands. You are in first seat with no one vulnerable. Do you open?

1.♠2   A J 7 6 5   K J 10 7 6 5   ♣ 8

Pass. You have 9 HCP plus 11 red cards, giving you the magic 20. If you open 1, you will bid diamonds for awhile and may end up in hearts when diamonds would have been better. If you open 1, you may never get to show the hearts. Better is to pass and then come in with some kind of takeout bid. For instance, after Pass – 1♠ – Pass – 1; you can bid 2NT, which will not overstate your values (you are a passed hand) and will show your shape.

2.♠ 3   A Q 7 6 5 3   K 9 8 7 3   ♣ 10

This is a 6–5 hand that you can open if you have an understanding partner. Most auctions will get you to the right red suit. If your partner insists on a black suit or notrump, you will be lucky to survive, but getting support for one of your suits is a possible result. Opening 1 could work. Be aware that if your partner bids and rebids spades, you should pass.

3.♠ 2   K Q 7 4   Q 7  ♣ K 8 7 5 4 2

Pass. Please. This hand is trouble. If your partner bids 1♠, you won’t be happy. If the opponents bid 1♠, you won’t be happy. Why invite problems?

4.♠ 7 3   K   A Q 5 3   ♣ J 8 7 6 5 3