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

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

Answers are below. How did you do?

I hope you will join me and others in polishing your basic bridge skills this winter at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club at Port Royal Plaza. This basic course will be offered Fridays at 10 a.m. and will cover modern bidding techniques and playing tips.

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