CAUTION: bid this with care

November 06, 1967

If anybody were to ask me to name the most undesirable feature of the unusual no trump, I would have to say that it is not unusual enough. Like the weak two-bid, it is optional equipment in the Goren method. But, having this shiny gadget in your arsenal, the temptation to use it becomes so great that you use it when you should not.

To recapitulate briefly, the unusual no trump is a bid invented on the spur of the moment by Alvin Roth. A no trump is unusual when it is made in circumstances where it cannot logically-mean what it ordinarily would. For example, the bidding goes:

SOUTH

PASS
3 N.T.

WEST
1 [Heart]

NORTH
PASS

EAST
3 [Heart]

South cannot have a three-no-trump bid, because he passed originally. Therefore he is asking partner to take out. A double would ask partner to bid his best suit and would particularly encourage him to bid spades—the other major. The unusual no trump almost always asks partner to choose between minors.

This convention is especially valuable when opponents' preemptive tactics might make it difficult to show both minor suits with a strong two suiter. For example:

[2 of Spades]

[Ace of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]

[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

Your right-hand opponent bids one spade. If you double for takeout, there is the danger that your left-hand opponent will bid four spades and that your partner will be encouraged to bid five hearts, expecting you to furnish good support for that suit. Or there is a chance, if partner passes, that you will guess the wrong suit if you bid one of your minors, or he will bid hearts if you again ask him to bid a suit by repeating your takeout request with a four-no-trump call. In addition, you will be dangerously overboard no matter what you do should partner hold a bust with support for neither minor. The solution is an immediate bid of two no trump—unusual—enabling partner to act over any preemptive bid, according to his hand.

The major trouble with this minor-suit no trump is its use when you cannot reasonably expect to buy the hand. All you do in this case is alert your opponents to the possible potholes on their road to success. For example:

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[— of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
6 [Spade]

WEST

2 N.T.
PASS

NORTH

4 [Spade]
PASS

EAST

4 N.T.
PASS

Opening lead: jack of diamonds

West's two-no-trump bid was unusual—and unwarranted. North's jump to four spades was preemptive. East's four-no-trump bid was also unusual, announcing support for both minors. South decided to let the opponents do their guessing at the seven level.

They elected to defend, and declarer won the first trick with the ace of diamonds and drew three rounds of trumps, ending in dummy. With no adverse bidding, declarer would have led a low heart to the queen, playing for a favorable location of the ace and a split of the suit, or the fall of the jack. But since West had trotted out the unusual no trump on two weak suits, the fact that he had followed to three rounds of spades almost guaranteed his void in hearts. So declarer's first lead from dummy was the 10 of hearts. East ducked; South did, too. It didn't matter what East played; his jack and 9 were trapped. With declarer able to get back to dummy twice via diamond ruffs, East could win only one heart trick.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)