The Hercock Club uses the following No Trump ladder
- 12-14 : Open 1NT
- 15-18 : Open a suit and rebid NTs at lowest level
- 19-20 : Open a suit and jump in NTs
- 21-22 : Open 2NT
- 23-24 : Open 2 and rebid 2NT
- 25-26 : Open 2 and rebid 3NT
- 27-28 : Open 2 and rebid 4NT
Balanced hands will either open No-Trumps or rebid No-Trumps at the first available opportunity. Informing partner that we have an 8-card major suit fit is more important than rebidding No-Trumps to show a balanced hand. For example, if we were 4-4 in the majors, we would open 1. If partner responded 1 then with our 8-card Spade fit we would raise the Spade in preference to rebidding No-Trumps.
With 15-18 HCPs we use Crowhurst to find out whether we are 15-16 or 17-18, along with investigating any 8-card major suit fit.
With a good 20-count, it is acceptable to upgrade it call it a 21-count and thus open 2NT.
Which shape to bid No-Trumps with
All 5-3-3-2 hands are considered balanced hands and should be bid accordingly. However, with a major suit headed by King-Queen-Ten or better, it is acceptable to open that suit in preference to 1NT.
In the third or fourth seat, it is tactically acceptable to open 1NT with a 6-3-2-2 shape in preference to opening a minor suit.
Which suit to open
When you are in the 15-20 HCP range, you need to open a suit and then bid No-Trumps at the appropriate level. The Hercock Club prefers to open a major where possible with the view that if you are going to only bid one suit then it might as well be a major. Where there is a choice of suits to open the following applies:
With both majors then open the lower. This guarantees finding a fit if partner has the other major.
With a major and a minor, then open the major. This increases the chance that the stronger hand will play the contract. Also if the auction becomes contested, the side with the highest ranking fit will dominate the auction, so you might as well start looking for a fit in your highest ranking suit.
With both minors then open higher. If the opponents have the other minor then it is harder for them to overcall 2 over 1 compared to overcalling 1 over 1. However with hands with 17-20 HCPs where you expect the auction to be uncontested, it can be tactically acceptable to open your worst minor in order to deter the opponents from leading that suit. But there is a risk that if partner has a very weak hand, you might get passed out and have to play 1 of a minor.