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Notrump openings and responses

In most bidding systems, opening 1NT shows a balanced hand. The point range differs between systems. For Standard players it's 15-17. For those playing Acol it's 12-14.

Bridge Card Game

I'm playing Standard today so this hand is perfect for 1NT. Balanced with 15 points.

Balanced means no 5 card suit, no singleton. It doesn't matter that I've got two small clubs, I'm not promising stoppers in every suit.

A 5 card minor is also fine for a 1NT opening. Some players also open 1NT with a 5 card major. It's something you'll need to chat about with your partner.

1NT is a limit bid. It shows my shape and a narrow range of points so partner is often in a good position to choose the final contract immediately.

Back to our hand. We open 1NT, partner passes and West leads a heart.

Bridge Card Game

1NT is a perfectly reasonable contract. Notice that North had 7 points and yet didn't bid. If I'd opened with 1 of a suit then North would certainly have responded. But because I've made a limit bid, in this case showing 15-17 points, North can calculate that we only have 22-24 points between the two hands. Not enough for game so no point going any higher.

After the heart lead we've got 6 tricks. Where will we get the seventh?

Two good possibilities. First idea is to attack the club suit. We could play three rounds of clubs, losing the third round but if the clubs break 3-3 the opposition would have no clubs left and our last two clubs would be winners. Great! Only we have no entries to the North hand to enjoy those extra tricks. Can you see how we can deal with that problem?

The solution is to duck the first round of clubs completely. We have to lose a club sometime anyway, so why not now? That way, when we get the lead back, we still have a club left to cross over to the table.

The other way we might go about playing the hand is to attack the spade suit. We lose one spade but, just like clubs, if the suit breaks 3-3 we can establish an extra trick.

So what shall we do? Set up clubs or spades? The club suit looks tempting because if the suit does break 3-3 we end up getting two extra club tricks. That would be nice!

But the spade might be better because it offers an extra chance. If spades are 3-3 we're fine but we'll also be ok if the spades are 4-2 but the the honours are split. If an honour falls on the ♠A or ♠K then our ♠T and ♠9 are big enough to force the third trick in the suit.

How would you play the hand? Spades looks to give the best chance of an extra trick but I have to confess that I'm a greedy boy and I'm tempted to go for the two extra club tricks.

Basic Responding to 1NT

Here's a basic method with no conventions and simple weakness takeouts.

- suit at 2 level = Weakness takeout
- 2N = INV
- suit at 3 level = 5 card suit, F
- 3N = to play

Advanced Responding to 1NT

There are many methods you can use when responding to 1NT. Stayman and transfers are two popular conventions. Here are some more ideas.

- 2♣ = Stayman
- 2 = TRF
- 2 = TRF
- 2♠ = RF ; SS m, weak or GF
- 2N = mm, weak or GF
- 3♣ = 5 Card Major Stayman
- 3 = Anti-Lemming
- 3 = 6 slam try ( PRE over mini NT )
- 3♠ = 6♠ slam try ( PRE over mini NT )
- 3N = to play
- 4♣ = South African Texas
- 4 = South African Texas

See Crawling Stayman.

Conventional responses to 1NT

RF or ss m

- 2♠
-- 2N = MIN
-- 3♣ = MAX

Responder can bid 3M with 6 cards in tied m
Puppet Stayman

- 3♣
-- 3 = 4, 4♠ or both
-- 3 = 5
-- 3♠ = 5♠
-- 3N = no M

- 3 = GF, short in M but responder may stop in 4m
-- 3M = stopper
-- 3N = stopper in both M
-- 4,5m = no major stoppers
South African Texas

- 4♣
-- 4
- 4
-- 4♠

Interference - system on or system off?

If the opposition bid after our 1NT opening do you still play your normal system? It's up to you and your partner to decide. Some partnerships prefer to keep things natural bid after interference. It's up to you, just make sure you have an agreement with your partner.

Here are some ideas.

Interference over 1NT

- (X = over weak 1NT or 15+HCP or 1NT ocall)
-- P happy ; 4333 and not treating as !s and another ; 44 without !s
--- XX for rescue to lowest of 2 suits 
--- bid a 5-card suit of your own.
-- XX = 4♠ + 4 another but 4333 possible
-- bid = NAT
-- 2NT Vul GF 2suits or both minors, Not Vul 55 without spades

- (X = L/T15HCP)
-- System on
-- XX = to play. Roll the dice.
-- pass = Suggests T/O to a minor if possible.
--- P
---- P
----- XX = 44m   

- (bid) 
-- X = TO, subsequent X PEN
-- 2N = Lebensohl

2NT opening

Most players also use an opening bid of 2NT to show a balanced hand but, of course, it needs to be stronger than a 1NT opening.

There are a number of ways to respond to a 2NT opening. The following is just one idea.

- 3♣ = Puppet Stayman
- 3 = TRF
- 3 = TRF
- 3♠ = (a) Minor suit Stayman
       (b) 5♠ + 4
- 4♣ = Minorwood
- 4 = Minorwood    

tags: #notrumps

Bidding after an opening 1NT bid by our side requires a lot of partnership agreements!

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