Main     Lesson 5P by Richard Pavlicek    

Defense to One Notrump

The most difficult one-bid to compete against is an opening bid of 1 NT. This should be obvious since any bid must be at the two level, which is dangerous if you don’t locate a good trump fit. Nonetheless, you can’t sit idly by and give the opponents a free ride every time they open 1 NT; certain risks have to be taken.

This lesson explains the strategy of when to double, when to bid and — most important — when to pass after an enemy 1 NT opening. I will also suggest some conventions that are fun to play.

When To Pass

Experience has proved that distribution is more important than high cards when competing after a 1 NT opening. You can learn this the hard way, or you can save all the pain by heeding this advice:

Do not bid with a balanced hand after an enemy 1 NT opening.

Balanced hands (4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 and 5-3-3-2 shapes) are best suited for defense, not offense. Unless you are strong enough to double, you should pass.

Come on, bid two hearts. You chicken!
Maybe so, but I’d rather be a live chicken…

1.
S K J 9 5 2
H 5
D 5 4 3
C K 9 6 3
TableS 4 3
H A K 8 4 2
D J 10 2
C A 7 2

West

Pass
North
1 NT
East
Pass
South
Pass

Those who bid 2 H with the East hand sometimes get lucky, but in the long run they are big losers. West has the shape to warrant bidding but is slightly too weak.

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Double of One Notrump

The double of a 1 NT opening is not a takeout double; nor is it a penalty double. It is best described as “optional” which means it shows a good hand and partner has the option to bid or pass.

A direct double of 1 NT shows 17+ HCP, or 14-16 HCP with a good suit to lead.

Against weak notrumps (12-14 HCP) or kamikaze notrumps (10-12 HCP), you should ignore the above qualification of a good lead. Hence, you may double with any 14+ HCP.

Responses

Partner of the doubler must decide whether to bid or pass, and the most important factor is the shape of his hand. The basic strategy is:

Bid with 0-5 HCP and a 5+ card suit.
Pass with 6+ HCP or any hand without a 5+ card suit.

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

West

2 C
North
1 NT
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass

East doubles with 17 HCP and West takes it out with his 5 card suit. East passes 2 C since he has already shown a strong hand; any further bid would be a blind stab.

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

West

Pass
North
1 NT
East
Dbl
South
Pass

Here East can double with slightly less strength due to his excellent lead (H K). West should pass with his flat hand, even without the D K.

If an Opponent Runs

An opponent (typically opener’s partner) will often bid in an attempt to escape the double. Be alert! With 4+ cards in their suit, you should usually double.

All subsequent doubles by either player are for penalty.

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

West

Dbl
North
1 NT
2 H
East
Dbl
Dbl
South
2 C

The key action is West’s double of 2 C (East could never double clubs). Opener then tries another escape. Ouch!

Balancing Doubles

In passout seat there is no concern about a “good lead” since you will not be the leader. In fact, it is better to have scattered values so you can assist partner’s lead if he passes.

A balancing double of 1 NT shows 14+ HCP.

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

West

Dbl
North
1 NT
Pass
East
Pass
2 S
South
Pass

West doubles with his 14 HCP (note how poor a 2 H bid would be) and East follows the basic strategy to bid his spades.

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

West

Dbl
North
1 NT
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
Pass

After West doubles, East elects to defend with 6 HCP. Note that East is the leader so he can start hearts. Routine defense will usually set 1 NT two tricks.

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Useful Conventions

Many gadgets have been devised to compete against an enemy 1 NT opening. If you like simplicity, you should play Landy. If you want to be adventurous, try Astro (my own favorite) or Cappelletti.

Each convention applies directly over the enemy 1 NT opening or in balancing seat. The typical strength for all bids is 9 to 14 HCP, but this is not a strict rule. All two-suited bids show at least 5-4 shape.

Note that you can play only one of these conventions at any given time and must explicitly agree so with partner before using it. At duplicate bridge, any artificial bid should be alerted to your opponents.

Landy

Only one artificial bid is involved, making this an easy convention to learn and play.

C shows both major suits.
All other suit bids are natural.

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

West

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

East shows hearts and spades, and West takes his choice. The 2 H contract may not be glamorous, but it’s the best available.

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

West

Pass
North
1 NT
East
3 C
South
Pass

With a real club suit you must bid 3 C or pass. Do not make the mistake of bidding 2 C hoping to rebid 3 C; here West would be justified to bid 4 H if East bid 2 C.

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Astro

This convention has two artificial bids: 2 C and 2 D, and each shows a two-suiter with a specified major (called the anchor suit).

C shows hearts and a minor suit (unknown).
D shows spades and another suit (which could be hearts).

After the 2 C or 2 D bid, partner should bid the anchor suit with 3 or more cards. Otherwise, partner will usually bid the cheapest suit (called the relay suit) to begin a search. The only forcing response is 2 NT.

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

West

2 D
North
1 NT
Pass
East
2 C
Pass
South
Pass

The 2 C bid shows hearts and a minor. West does not have 3 hearts so he relays with 2 D, and East happily passes.

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

West

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

The 2 D bid shows spades and any other suit. West relays (2 H denies 3 spades) and East corrects to his second suit.

11.
S A 2
H J 9 7 2
D A K 5
C 9 7 6 2
TableS K J 10 5
H A Q 8 6 4
D 4 3 2
C 3

West

2 NT
4 H
North
1 NT
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

West should not respond 2 H with such a good hand because East might pass. The 2 NT bid forces East to bid his other suit, then West bids game.

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Cappelletti

This gadget uses four specialized overcalls, however the responding structure is generally simpler than with Astro.

C shows a one-suited hand (unknown 6+ card suit).
D shows both major suits.
H shows hearts and a minor suit (unknown).
S shows spades and a minor suit (unknown).

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

West

2 D
North
1 NT
Pass
East
2 C
2 H
South
Pass

With a single suit East bids 2 C and West relays with 2 D. East then bids his real suit (with diamonds East would pass 2 D).

13.
S A 8
H 2
D 8 6 4 2
C Q 9 7 6 4 3
TableS K J 9 6 3
H A Q 8 5 4
D J 3
C 2

West

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

East shows hearts and spades, and West takes a choice. Especially note that 2 S does not show a spade suit; it simply says, “I prefer spades over hearts.”

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

West

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

The 2 S bid shows spades and an unknown minor suit. With spade support (or at least tolerance) West would pass; but here he bids 2 NT to ask for the minor.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek