Hand shape is an important concept. We can break up the various shapes into balanced, semi-balanced, three-suited, two-suited, and one-suited. We denote hand shape either by listing the number of cards in each suit (i.e. 4333 - these must clearly sum to 13) or else by picking out one or two suits (i.e. 5-5).

In most cases, notations such as 5431 or 5-4-3-1 do not specify the order of the suits, but 5=4=3=1 specifies that there are 5 s, 4 s, 3 s and 1 .

Almanac of Hand Shapes Edit

Balanced Edit

To be considered balanced, a hand must have no voids, no singletons and no more than one doubleton. Thus, the only three possible shapes are

  • 4333 (also called flat or shapeless)
  • 4432
  • 5332 (mildly one-suited)

Natural notrump openings are restricted to hands of this shape.

Semi-balanced Edit

These hands are slightly less balanced, but do not contain any particularly long suits. These hands includes no voids, no singletons and exactly two doubletons:

  • 5422 (mildly two-suited)
  • 6322 (mildly one-suited)

Semi-balanced hands are good for raising partner's notrump bids, but are often equally happy to play in a suit if a fit is found, since the doubletons often provide good ruffing value.

Three-suited Edit

Three-suited hands are balanced in three suits and short in the fourth. The following are three-suited

  • 4441
  • 5440

These hands are good for minimal-strength takeout doubles when the opponents open the short suit. Additionally, this shape is required for the weakest application of nonforcing Stayman, when the short suit is clubs.

Two-suited Edit

Two-suited hands include two long suits with small difference in length. Thus, two suited distribution includes

  • 5422 (mildly balanced)
  • 5431 (mildly three-suited)
  • 5521
  • 5530
  • 6430
  • 6421
  • 6511
  • 6520
  • 6610
  • 7510
  • 7600

One-suited Edit

One-suited hands include one long suit:

  • 5332 (usually considered as balanced instead)
  • 6322 (mildly)
  • 6331
  • 7222
  • 7321
  • 7330
  • 7411
  • 7420

or anything that contains an 8 card suit or longer.