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4441 - Singleton Club

edited April 2013 in Anything Else
4441 hands are notoriously difficult to handle. Modern Acol uses the approach that there are two possibilities when you open one of a suit: either (i) you are balanced and too strong to open 1NT – you plan to rebid in No Trumps or (ii) you are unbalanced – you plan to rebid your second suit and will promise five cards in your first suit. The 4441 hand doesn’t quite fit into either category.

This means that you are likely to have to tell your partner a lie:

S AJ93
H KJ75
D AJ98
C 8

Your options are:
1. You open 1D, planning to rebid 2D if partner responds 2C. This is a lie as you have promised a 5-card suit.
2. You open 1D, planning to rebid 2NT if partner responds 2C. This is a lie as you have promised 15+ points, but only have 14.
3. You open 1H, planning to rebid 2D if partner responds 2C. This is a lie as you have promised a 5-card heart suit.

All option have draw-backs. Stephen Cashmore (Bridge 125) argues that you should choose to open 1H (option 3), but doesn’t address the problem of the missing fifth heart.

My choice would be option 1 – you are deceiving partner about your holding in a minor suit not a major suit. This will often turn out ok – maybe partner will bid again, you will be happy to then bid 3NT; maybe partner will have undisclosed 4-card diamond support (even 3-card support may be sufficient at the 2-level); maybe the opponents will choose to enter the bidding because you have signed off at a low level.

My second choice would be option 2. I really do not like pretending to have as 5-card major!


  • edited 8:52AM
    For me, Option 2 is clear-cut. Pd has 9-10hcp minimum. If I have to make 3NT with 24hcp worse things have happened and at least the payoff for making it is good.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Thanks Ned.

    3NT will be against the odds facing a mis-fitting 9-count - but you make a good point that at least it has plenty of "Up Side" if we do make it.
  • edited April 2013
    I use option 3, even with 5-card majors. I am not worried about going down in 3NT when I have 12-14 and partner has a minimum; I am more concerned about partner bidding higher than 3NT on the assumption that I have 15-19. Ned where do you get 24 points? The worst case is 12+9=21.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Surely not Daisy? 5-card Majors is not my system, but it seems axiomatic that if you are opening 1H or 1S in this system you are promising a 5-card suit!

    The worry in Acol is that when you open 1H and rebid 2D you promise a 5-card heart suit and you very likely to play in 4 hearts on a 4-3 fit because partner has been mis-led about your shape. (If you open 1H on a 4-card suit playing 5-card majors this is even more likely!).

    On the actual hand from Stephen Cashmore's article (14 HCPs) I think that 2NT is probably the lesser lie and as Ned says, there is a big up-side if you make 3NT. With 12 HCP it is often wisest to pass initially, but what do you do with 13 HCP?

    I would prefer to open 1D and rebid 2D if necessary rather than open 1H and rebid 2D. You need to give partner an accurate picture of your major suit holdings because partner will look first for a major suit fit.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Daisy: I have 14hcp not 12 (personally I don't open 4441 hands with just 12, preferring to wait). And partner should ideally of course have 10+hcp to bid at the 2-level.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Ned: I don't know what you do with 13 HCP and this shape, but I find the idea that a 12-point hand is not an opening bid but 14 with the same shape is worth an upgrade. very strange.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Daisy: It's not an 'upgrade', it's a compromise. As Tramtickets has pointed out you lie with your rebid whatever happens when you are 4441. Why are there are so many different guidelines ('rules') for this shape, when you play 4-card majors. i.e. Acol? The reason is that no scheme is fully satisfactory.

    Personally I won't compromise a 1NT opening bid so I would never consider opening that with a singleton. Partner will inevitably transfer into it. Nor will I open a major and rebid a minor, for me the 5-card major is inviolable. But if you open one of your 4-card suits and partner bids the off suit then to some extent the flaws in the hand are ameliorated.

    I find that with just 12hcp there is rarely a game unless partner opens. 4441 anyway is a good shape for joining the bidding later. So I don't feel much pressure to open with just 12hcp. 13hcp is marginal but it's tough to pass 13, an empty 13 I just might. 14hcp one just must open the bidding, it would be preverse and against the room not to. But remember that when the singleton is in a minor and you have both majors the chances are pretty good that partner has a 4-card major. I don't know the exact chance, someone else can contribute the maths. With 13hcp and specifically 4414 I will probably open 1C and be forced to rebid 1H, but with 14hcp I do indeed open 1H and if partner doesn't do what I am hoping for then 2NT is a fallback position for the rebid. When the singleton is clubs of course, the choice lies between 1D and 1H: plan your rebid before you open, always assuming partner bids the bad suit.

    In summary I would rather be hung for a point than a card. You will be in the wrong contract more often than not if you promise a 5-card suit you don't have, and while you may end in 3NT occasionally with less than 25hcp, it often does make anyway.
  • edited 8:52AM
    Ned, I agree with 2NT rebid over a 2C response on the hand shown. But it is still possible to open 1D or 1H before rebidding 2NT. Opening 1D allows the possibility of finding a 4-4 fit in either major AND also the possibility of finding a diamond fit.

    If for example partner holds:

    S 1082
    H Q3
    D KQ654
    C 764

    Then a 1D opening leads to you playing a 2 diamond contract when partner simply raises, but a 1H opening will presumably result in partner playing in an awkward 1NT contract with defenders cashing five+ clubs one or more spades and a heart.

    Note that a diamond opening leaves you well placed to pass if partner responds 1NT - partner must be able to supply a club stop.
  • edited 8:52AM
    I play basic Acol. Could we not use the well-known exception to the barrier here and with four hearts and four spades bid one heart, then 2 spades? The exception seems tailor-made for this hand. I expect it's subject to partnership agreement! Regards, Nigel
  • edited 8:52AM

    Sorry Nigel, but I am not sure what you mean by "the well-known exception to the barrier". There is no such exception and I am afraid that it would be very wrong to bid 2S here.

    A 2S bid would be a Reverse, showing longer hearts than spades (at least 5 hearts) and a strong hand (usually at least 16 HCP). The 2S bid would be wrong here as you do not hold five hearts and you do not hold have 16 points. If partner is minimum, they will have to give preference at the three level, possibly taking you too high. Partner will also expect you to hold a five-card heart suit and might give preference by bidding 3H with a three-card heart suit (sometimes even a two-card heart suit).

    What is more, if you open 1H you do not need to bid a four-card spade suit. Partner will respond 1S if holding a four-card suit, so you will not miss any spade fit. [The only exception to this is if partner is strong enough to make two bids, in which case partner will bid spades at their second turn].

  • Traditional Acol advocates 1H on this hand, but this definitely hits the problem that the 2D rebid makes the hearts look like a 5 card suit. The worst case is that partner then jumps to 4H with 3 card support! The snag with a 2NT rebid is that hands with a misfit and no long suit play poorly in NT (or anything else), so the last thing you want to be doing is stretching. So option 1 is maybe the best of a bad lot. If you are playing 5 card majors with a weak NT, option 3 is ruled out so option 1 certainly seems best.

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