Balancing at the One Level

      2 Comments on Balancing at the One Level

I. Definition of the Word BALANCING

The term balancing means taking a bid other than Pass after two preceding passes. In other words, balancing is an attempt to prevent the opponents from playing the hand. For example,

1 !D Pass Pass        and it is your bid

Saying Pass here would be the final decision of the auction, while bidding means there have to be at least 3 more bids. You’d better be right to pass!


When the auction proceeds one of a suit , two passes to you, what do you know about the hand? Well, that opener has 13+ points and responder has 0-5, so your side could possibly have 26 points. Partner’s failure to bid suggests no five card suit and not a hand suitable for a take-out double or a bid of 1NT. Partner could hold 13 or 14 points when there was no descriptive bid for her hand. For example, when they opened in her best suit. Let?s look at an example hand you might hold in the pass-out seat.

1 !D Pass Pass and you hold:


!S AQ4
!H K6
!D K632
!C J765


This hand has 13 balanced points. We have no suit to bid and do not have support for all unbid suits, so can’t make a take-out double. So do we have to pass? No, that would silly, we could still have a game. Therefore in balancing chair, we use the bid of 1NT to show any balanced hand of less than 16 points (less than a medium hand) that is worth reopening on (roughly 10-15).


Bid Meaning
Double 10+ points supporting all other suits, or 17+ any hand, or 16-18 balanced
1 of a suit 4+ card suit and 8+ points
1NT 10+ – 15 points and a balanced hand
2 of a suit (non-jump) 5+ card suit and 10 – 16 points
cue-bid strong take-out with a void in their suit*
jump in a suit approximately 8 tricks and a 6+ card suit
2NT 19-21 balanced


*Modern players who use Michaels, prefer to use that convention in balancing seat as well.


We can reopen with double whenever we have support for all the unbid suits and 10+ high card points. Finally we can bid one of a suit with a four card suit and a hand worth reopening.

Do we always reopen with 10+ points? Well, the main danger is giving opener a second bid which will put them in a better contract. Look at your major suit holding(s). Reopen actively when they’ve been left in one of a major. Think twice about it when they are in one of a minor (usually not their best spot), and you are not short in their suit.

Exercise 1: What do you do after 1!D Pass Pass with the following hands? And what about after 1!S Pass Pass?

A B. C. D. E.
!S AKJ2 !S KJ3 !S QJ4 !S J107 !S QJ5
!H 65 !H 84 !H QJ2 !H K865 !H Q842
!D 873 !D Q753 !D K9742 !D KQ4 !D 65
!C Q865 !C K824 !C 98 !C J98 !C KJ84
Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______
1 !D ? ______ 1 !D ? ______ 1 !D ? ______ 1 !D ? ______ 1 !D ? ______
1 !S ? ______ 1 !S ? ______ 1 !S ? ______ 1 !S ? ______ 1 !S ? ______

III. Responding when Partner Reopens

Warning, when your partner reopens, 13-14 points are only worth a game invitation !! This means that as responder you would bid your hand naturally, but play partner for a King less than an opener when deciding how high to bid. In other words, subtract 3 points from your hand before deciding if you are minimum, medium, or maximum. Conversely, partner should rebid as if there were a King more in their hand.

Use the cue-bid of the opponent?s suit when you have a very good hand and need to know more about partner’s hand. Bid 2NT with a good 12 to a poor 14 point hand that thinks the most likely game is 3NT. Otherwise respond as if to an opening bid or a normal take out double, after subtracting the three points.

Exercise 2: What do you do after 1!D Pass Pass 1!S and a Pass back to you, when you hold the following hands? And what do you do after partner reopens with 1NT? Finally how about if partner doubles?


A B. C. D. E.
!S Q1092 !S Q97 !S 62 !S K62 !S 432
!H KJ5 !H 652 !H AK872 !H 3 !H 843
!D AQ75 !D AKJ53 !D K974 !D KQ1074 !D 65
!C 42 !C K8 !C 98 !C AJ98 !C AQJ84
Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______
1!S ? ______ 1!S ? ______ 1!S ? ______ 1!S ? ______ 1!S ? ______
1NT? ______ 1NT? ______ 1NT? ______ 1NT? ______ 1NT? ______
Dbl? ______ Dbl? ______ Dbl? ______ Dbl? ______ Dbl? ______


2 thoughts on “Balancing at the One Level

  1. Duncan Cape

    If the bidding has gone N. pass, E. 1(any suit), S. pass, W. pass
    If North now makes a bid is the bid called a reopening bid?
    Do most people consider a 1NT bid here as the unusual NT?

  2. Kitty Cooper Post author

    Yes it is a reopening bid. Most play that 1NT is a balanced hand of 11ish points by a passed hand, with a stopper, unwilling to pass the hand out


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