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
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)
- 5332 (mildly one-suited)
Natural notrump openings are restricted to hands of this shape.
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 hands are balanced in three suits and short in the fourth. The following are three-suited
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 hands include two long suits with small difference in length. Thus, two suited distribution includes
- 5422 (mildly balanced)
- 5431 (mildly three-suited)
One-suited hands include one long suit:
- 5332 (usually considered as balanced instead)
- 6322 (mildly)
or anything that contains an 8 card suit or longer.