Main     Lesson 3A by Richard Pavlicek    

Notrump Auctions

This lesson is about auctions after your side has opened the bidding 1 NT (15-17 or 16-18 HCP). It is assumed that you already know the basic responses, including the Stayman convention to locate a major-suit fit.

The emphasis is on areas which cause problems for many players. Each of the topics is appropriate whether you use standard responses or Jacoby transfer bids.

Showing Two Suits

When the responder to 1 NT has a two-suited hand (at least 5-4 shape) it may be important to show both suits if interested in game or slam. Regardless of your methods, one principle is universal:

If your hand contains a four-card major, begin with Stayman.

1.
S K 5
H A 8 3
D A 9 6 2
C K Q 8 2
TableS A Q J 8 4
H K 10 6 2
D 4
C 5 4 3

West
1 NT
2 D
3 NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
3 S
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

Responder first bids 2 C to inquire about a four-card major, then he jumps to 3 S (forcing) to indicate five cards. Opener lacks three spades so he returns to 3 NT.

2.
S 10 6 3
H K Q 9 5
D A Q 9
C A J 10
TableS A Q 8 4
H 2
D K J 7 5 3
C 8 6 4

West
1 NT
2 H
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
3 NT
South
Pass

Just because you have two suits does not mean you must show them. Once opener indicates hearts, responder is content with notrump. Note that if opener also held four spades, he should correct 3 NT to 4 S.

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Showing a Minor Suit

One of the controversial areas is the method of showing a minor suit in response to a 1 NT opening. In my opinion there is only one practical solution:

A direct jump to 3 C or 3 D is a sign-off bid (weak).
Stayman followed by 3 C or 3 D is forcing to game.

3.
S A 7 5
H A 8 5
D A 3
C K J 8 5 2
TableS 2
H J 6 4 2
D 10 8 7 6 5 4
C 4 3

West
1 NT
Pass
North
Pass
East
3 D
South
Pass

Responder’s hand is hopeless in notrump (Opener may win only 3 tricks) but useful in diamonds. Going down 1 or 2 tricks in 3 D might be a top score since the opponents can make 3 S (maybe 4 S).

4.
S A K 6 4
H K Q 10
D 9 7 3
C K J 4
TableS Q 2
H 4 2
D K Q 8
C A Q 9 8 6 5

West
1 NT
2 S
3 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
3 C
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass

Responder uses Stayman (even without major interest) to show a good hand with clubs. Opener’s 3 H shows a stopper (with both majors he would bid 2 H over 2 C) and implies club support. Responder, with diamond strength, wisely stops in 3 NT.

5.
S A Q 2
H A 8 7
D K Q 7 3
C Q 7 4
TableS K 9 6 4
H Q J 4
D A J 10 8 6 4
C

West
1 NT
2 D
3 S
4 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
3 D
4 C
6 D
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Opener likes diamonds so he shows his spade stopper (he has denied a major suit). Responder indicates club control, opener shows heart control — a laydown slam.

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Coping with a Double

Many players are unaware that an enemy double of a 1 NT opening changes your responding method. The basic difference is:

After a double, Stayman does not apply (neither does Jacoby); all two-bids are natural.
Redouble with 7 HCP or more; this is for penalty and indicates the deal belongs to your side.

6.
S A 8 7 4
H K Q 7 2
D A 9 4
C Q 4
TableS 5 3
H 6 3
D 8 7 5 2
C J 10 9 6 2

West
1 NT
Pass
North
Dbl
East
2 C
South
Pass

This shows why it is impractical to use Stayman over a double. To avert disaster, responder must rescue his side to clubs. I wonder how many players would show a four-card major as opener.

7.
S K Q 9 5
H A 7 2
D Q 8 2
C A J 2
TableS A J 8 4
H 9 4
D K J 10 3
C 10 7 3

West
1 NT
Pass
2 S
North
Dbl
2 H
Pass
East
Rdbl
Pass
4 S
South
Pass
Pass

Stayman may be off but a good partnership can still locate its 4-4 fit. Responder’s pass of 2 H is forcing (opener might be able to double for penalty). Opener shows four spades and game is easily reached.

8.
S A 10 9 4
H K J 2
D J 4
C A K 9 5
TableS Q 2
H A 7 4 3
D Q 10 9 7
C 8 6 2

West
1 NT
Pass
North
Dbl
Pass
East
Rdbl
Dbl
South
2 D

One of the main advantages of the redouble is to catch the opponents in the runout. Note that opener does not act over 2 D, thus allowing responder to double for penalty. This is a source of many top boards.

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Coping with Overcalls

After a natural suit overcall by an opponent, responder is the captain and must decide whether his side should compete. (Opener has told his story and should not compete on his own.) The basic strategy is summarized below:

A double is for penalty.
A nonjump suit bid is competitive; opener should usually pass.
A jump suit bid below game is forcing.
A cue-bid of the enemy suit asks opener to bid a four-card major suit (like Stayman).

9.
S A 8 5 4
H A K 3
D K J 4
C Q 8 5
TableS 2
H 9 5 2
D Q 7 3 2
C K J 10 9 4

West
1 NT
Pass
North
2 S
East
3 C
South
Pass

Responder is simply competing in clubs, not looking for game. Opener should not continue to 3 NT.

10.
S A 9 7 2
H A J 8 5
D K 7 3
C K 4
TableS 5
H K 9 6 3
D A Q 8 6 4
C 8 6 2

West
1 NT
4 H
North
2 S
Pass
East
3 S
Pass
South
Pass

The 3 S cue-bid asks opener to bid a four-card heart suit. If opener did not have four hearts, he should bid 3 NT.

11.
S A K 5 3
H 10 5 2
D K 7
C A Q 4 3
TableS 7 2
H A K 4 3
D 8 2
C K 9 8 7 2

West
1 NT
3 S
North
2 D
Pass
East
3 D
3 NT
South
Pass

Here responder might be looking for one or both majors. When opener shows spades, responder bids 3 NT to imply his interest was in hearts. Note that responder does not need a diamond stopper.

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Artificial Overcalls

It is common today to come across a wide variety of artificial overcalls after a 1 NT opening by your side. Popular conventions like Landy, Astro, DONT, and Cappelletti allow the defensive side to compete with different kinds of hand patterns — usually two-suiters.

Coping with these artificial bids is not difficult. First, it is essential to know which suit or suits (if any) the enemy has definitely shown. Once you know the meaning of their bid, follow these guidelines:

A double is for penalty. Since the enemy will often run, this means the deal belongs to your side.
A bid in a suit in which the overcaller showed at least four cards is a cue-bid.
A bid in any other suit is natural and nonforcing (this includes the suit actually bid if artificial).

12.
S 10 4
H A 8 5 2
D A Q J 6
C K J 9
TableS K Q 9 2
H 4 3
D 9 7 5 4
C A 8 2

West
1 NT
Dbl
North
2 C*
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
2 H
*Landy (both majors)

Responder doubles to say, “This is our hand,” then opener is able to double 2 H for penalty. Defensive tip: Opener should lead a low trump against 2 H doubled.

About Alerts
At duplicate bridge your opponents are required to alert specialized bids such as Landy or Astro, after which you may ask for an explanation. However, if you intend to pass regardless, wait until the auction is over to ask for a description of all alerted bids. If you ask during the auction it may help the opponents clear up a misunderstanding.

13.
S Q 10 7 3
H A 3
D A Q J 5
C K 7 3
TableS K J 8 4
H 6 2
D 10 7 4
C A J 10 4

West
1 NT
Dbl
2 S
North
2 C*
2 H
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
4 S
South
2 D
Pass
*DONT (clubs + another suit)

The opponents were in trouble, but they found a home. The pass of 2 H is forcing; opener cannot double so he bids his spade suit which leads to the best contract.

What does your partner’s 2 C bid show?
It’s Astro of course. Anyone with half a brain knows that.
Then I double! Now it’s DisAstro.

14.
S A 5 3
H K 10 5
D A 9 7 4
C A 9 8
TableS Q 10 8 2
H 4 2
D K Q 8 6 2
C 7 5

West
1 NT
2 NT
North
2 C*
Pass
East
2 H
Pass
South
Pass
*Astro (hearts + unknown minor)

Since 2 C shows at least four hearts, 2 H is a cue-bid to search for a 4-4 spade fit. Less strength is required since the cue-bid is only at the 2 level and the bidding can stop below game.

15.
S A 10 5 2
H K Q 7
D Q 2
C A 10 7 3
TableS 4
H 8 6 3
D K J 9 8 5 4
C J 9 2

West
1 NT
Pass
North
2 D*
East
3 D
South
Pass
*Cappelletti (both majors)

Responder’s bid is natural because 2 D did not show diamonds, and competitive against the anticipated 2 S. Compare this with Example 11 to see why it is essential to know the meaning of the enemy bid.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek