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A refresher in no-trump bidding

July 27, 1959
July 27, 1959

Table of Contents
July 27, 1959

Cover
Victory With A Smile
  • In a meet noteworthy for unstinting effort, unbelievable courage and unexampled dramatics, the United States whipped the U.S.S.R. handily in the men's events, lost as handily in the women's. It proved the head and the heart of an athlete are at least as important as his legs

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19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

A refresher in no-trump bidding

In travels from one house to another, you may come across variations of no-trump bidding, and you will hear occasional references to the weak opening no trump. While I came face to face with this practice in my youthful days at the bridge table, my first big league exposure to the weak no-trump game was in Bermuda in 1950 at the time of the first world championship. The British team were using the weak no trump and, since my companions had sharpened up their doubling weapons, our European cousins ran into considerable misfortune when the hands broke badly, and on several occasions our team reaped a harvest of 800 and 1,100 points. In this country some players had adopted the practice of employing the weak no trump when not vulnerable, but our stalwart cousins decided that the fear of vulnerability was not becoming to their stoic natures and so they made no distinction. After their first day's unhappy experience, however, their captain approached us at the start of the next session and pointed out that at a meeting of the team it had been decided to increase the requirements for the no-trump opening by one point. This did help them a little but it did not permanently turn the tide.

This is an article from the July 27, 1959 issue Original Layout

It has become the practice to put "no-trump bidding"—which really means the sequences that flow from no-trump openings—in a distinctive category. (Measures that would be normal after an opening bid in a suit are often turned upside down—or at any rate slanted to quite a degree—when the opening bid has been one, two or three no trump.)

In no-trump bidding we do not provide at the outset for distribution, so the deck remains constant at 40 points. It is consoling, therefore, when your side can account for 37 points, to be assured that the opposition cannot have an ace. Similarly, if you have 33 points it is clear that the adversaries cannot have two aces. I do not mean to imply that distributional considerations are lost; on the contrary, while a raise from one no trump to two no trump requires eight high-card points, you may raise with seven points if you have a reasonably good five-card suit.

Opening no-trump bids are made on a limited number of hands, and these should be distributed 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2. In addition to the high-card requirements designated in the table, it is to be pointed out that for an opening bid of one no trump at least three suits must be protected, but for an opening no-trump bid of higher denomination the bidder must have safe protection in all four suits.

While an opening bid of one in a suit is frequently ambiguous and in a sense unlimited, inasmuch as it can vary anywhere from 13 points up to perhaps 21, the opening no-trump bid is never vague and it can be pinpointed at all times within a range of three points. While a series of bids may be necessary to describe the strength of a hand which is opened with one of a suit, any opening no-trump bid practically classifies the hand as to high-card strength.

An accessory to no-trump bidding which has been almost universally adopted is the use of the two-club bid by partner of the no-trump bidder. (This is frequently referred to as the Stayman convention.) When the responder bids two clubs it is the duty of the opening bidder to announce a four-card biddable major suit if he has one. "Biddable" for the purpose of this rule is considered Q x x x or better.

Let us look at a few problems along these lines and, after you have determined your own inclinations, you can turn the page to see how I would advise you to proceed.

THE NO-TRUMP TABLE

26 points will normally produce game.
33 points will normally produce a small slam.

Opening one no trump—16 to 18 points
Opening two no trump—22 to 24 points
Opening three no trump—25 to 27 points

RESPONSES TO OPENING
ONE NO-TRUMP BIDS

Raise to two no trump with eight or nine points (or seven points with a good five-card suit)
Raise to three no trump with 10 to 14 points
Raise to six no trump with 17 or 18 points
Raise to seven no trump with 21 points

A NO-TRUMP BIDDING QUIZ

1 As South you hold :

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]

What is your opening bid?

2 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]

What is your opening bid?

3 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

4 As South you hold:

[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

5 As South you hold:

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

6 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

7 As South you hold:

[7 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

8 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

SOUTH
1 N.T.

NORTH
2[Club]

9 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH
1 N.T.

NORTH
2[Heart]

10 As South you hold:

[Ace of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

SOUTH

1 N.T.
?

NORTH
4 N.T.

11 As South you hold:

[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

NORTH

1 N.T.
2[Spade]

SOUTH

2[Club]
?

12 As South you hold:

[7 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

NORTH
1 N.T.

SOUTH
?

THE ANSWERS

1 One no trump. You have a balanced hand with 17 high-card points and all suits protected. There is very little to be gained by overapproaching with a bid of one diamond. Observe what an awkward situation you would have built up for yourself if partner responds with one spade or one heart. Your hand is much too good for a rebid of one no trump yet not good enough for a jump rebid. This awkward problem should be circumvented by an opening bid of one no trump, a "savior" of most 17-point hands.

2 Two no trump. This hand falls a shade short of the requirements for a demand bid. However, it does contain 22 high-card points with protection in all suits and therefore qualifies as an opening bid of two no trump. You should not be deterred from making the best call merely because you have a five-card major suit.

3 Two clubs. This hand contains the elements of a raise to three no trump. However, since it may play better at a suit contract, the two-club convention should be employed to determine whether partner happens to have reasonably good spades.

4 Three hearts. You have a good major suit and enough to insist on a game contract. You will, of course, pass if partner bids three no trump. There is no reason to employ the two-club convention with this holding.

5 Three diamonds. Your bid is forcing to game. You have the high-card requirements to justify a game effort (10 points), but you should give yourself a chance to play at a suit.

6 In this case you have a choice. A raise to two no trump is entirely acceptable because the hand contains eight high-card points. However, it might be advantageous to respond with the artificial bid of two clubs because it is quite possible that the hand might play better at spades and you should not give up the opportunity to show that suit at the proper time. If over your two-club bid partner's rebid is two diamonds denying a four-card major suit, you will show your spade suit; similarly, if he rebids two hearts you will bid two spades. It should be pointed out that your bid of two spades in this sequence is not forcing. If partner has a rock-bottom minimum he may exercise the option to pass, but he may also raise spades or even go on with no trump.

7 Two hearts, denoting a weak hand and requesting partner to pass. Observe that if you had a better hand and wished to show the hearts you would first resort to the artificial bid of two clubs. A response to the opening no trump of two diamonds, two hearts or two spades is a request to the opening bidder to pass.

8 Two diamonds. This response is automatic when you have no biddable major. If partner now bids a major, you can raise him or rebid no trump.

9 Pass. Any response of two in a suit other than two clubs shows weakness and requests opener to pass. You have a minimum no trump with even distribution and so have no basis for further action.

10 Pass. A four no-trump bid in this sequence is not a request for aces. It is a quantitative raise in no trump. In other words, partner announces that his hand is too good for a raise to three no trump. His bid shows 15 or 16 high-card points and a balanced distribution and requests you to bid a slam if you have a maximum no trump. Actually, you have a 16-point minimum.

11 Four spades. Opposite an opening no-trump bid you have sufficient values to contract for game. Your dummy hand will be worth 11 points in support of partner's suit, and it is to be recalled that he has at least 16 points in high cards. In support of spades the doubleton club becomes worth one point and the queen of spades is promoted to the value of a king by reason of partner's bid in that suit. A mere raise to three spades would be inadequate.

12 Two no trump. While a raise to two no trump requires eight high-card points, it may be given with seven if your hand contains a reasonably good suit. Do not make the weak response of two diamonds.

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