Bridge fascinates, amuses and challenges millions of players on every level. I love this game, and I believe the early stages of learning to play are like falling in love for the first time.

Playing bridge is a great way to keep your brain alive and it will help your overall well-being. The game, however, is challenging.

Let’s go over the very basics: You need 13 points to make an opening bid. Open on the one level with a hand ranging from 13 to 21 points, inclusive.

Here are your choices for opening the bidding in order of priority:

Open 1 NT with all balanced hands having 15 to 17 points. A balanced hand contains no singleton or void and at most one doubleton.

Open in a long suit of five or more cards with 13 to 21 points and a hand that is not suitable for a 1NT opening bid. An opening bid of 1 heart or 1 spade guarantees at least five cards in the suit. Open the longer of two suits; that is, open a six-card suit before a five-card suit. Also, if you have two long suits, open the higher-ranking suit first.

The last resort: Open a three- or four-card minor suit when your hand meets neither of the above requirements. Open the longer minor; with four clubs and four diamonds, open 1 diamond; and with three clubs and three diamonds, open 1 club.

Let’s practice a few opening bids. How would you open the bidding with the following hands?

  1. AKJ 432 KJ82 A32
  2. AQ95 J98 K76 K87
  3. 876543 KQJ AK 93
  4. AJ9852 AJ973 5 8
  5. 98765 AK765 AK 2

How did you do?

I hope you will join me and others in learning the rudiments of bridge this winter at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club in Port Royal Plaza. This beginner course will be offered Friday mornings at 10 a.m. and will cover modern bidding techniques and playing tips. You do not need a partner; in fact, you will meet many potential partners at these workshop sessions for either social bridge or duplicate bridge.

If you have played a little bridge, know the basic mechanics, and want to get back into to playing, then you will want to join others in reinforcing your basic bridge skills at these beginner workshops.

Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@roadrunner.com