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The Intermediate Series


Lesson 5

Bidding over a 1NT Opener


In a recent article I talked about how the side that does not open the bidding is at a decided disadvantage in entering the auction and competing accurately. Hands with two suiters have more safety. Now we look at competing against a 1NT opener. First let’s concentrate on 15-17 notrumps, and look at weaker ones later.


Before we start


It is right to be respectful of this opener. We enter the auction at grave risk. However we still need to play bridge. A couple of points to consider:


·       The purpose of interfering is to get in the way of the opponent’s notrump machinery, with conventions that accurately describe various holdings. But sometimes you will discover it is your hand (see below).


·        1NT side has an Achilles heel – they don’t know the suit(s) the strong hand in which the strong hand has length. So it is often difficult to penalize interference, at least initially. It is sometimes helpful to know whether the opponents play penalty or negative at the two and three levels.


·       Vulnerability – we can take advantage of favourable vulnerability and bid with lesser values.



·       Suit length and strength – if single suiter, the expected minimum length is six cards.


·       Solid suits – I rarely bid over a strong notrump opener with a long solid suit! Experience has shown me that often the opponents will play in 1NT or 3NT and collecting my plus is the best score. By bidding your suit the opponents will often compete in their fits, and with no wasted strength in your suit, make lots. But they can only do this if you tell them about your suit!


·       14-16 1NT should be treated the same as 15-17. In the real world players often bid the former when the convention card says the latter.



What conventions to play?


There are many choices: Cappelletti, DONT, Hello, Landy, etc… You have to decide which one you are most comfortable. I have been playing Hello but have recently switched to a system being used by many expert and world class players:


Dbl      4 card major and long minor

2c        Majors

2d       One long major

2h/s    five cards in major, 4 cards plus in other

2S       Minors

2NT    Clubs

3C       Diamonds


Over a weak notrump opener


I like to play a double shows at least 14 HCPs, whether the opener shows 13-15, 12-14 or 10-12. I also strongly recommend that a balancing double show 11+ high card points. In this way you don’t get shut out when potentially holding 23+ HCPS.



Are there Maximum or Minimums to Bidding over 1NT?


Let’s assume you are playing Capelletti. Logic dictates minimums. You don’t want to get doubled and go for more than the opponents can get for bidding game. So I would overcall 2♣with♠AJ10xxx ♥x ♦xxxx ♣xx,not vul vs vul, but not at other vulnerabilities. If two suited, I recommend good intermediates if you have less HCPs. Again I would overcall 2♠with ♠AJ109x ♥x ♦J109x ♣xxx, at favourable vulnerability.


With more than an opening bid there are two ways to go. Over a 15-17 notrump double only when you have excess points or good suits. Partner is expected to pass. They would only bid with a long suit in a weak hand.


I would double a 15-17 1NT withAKQ109 ♥x ♦AJ109 ♣Kxx, or KJ10x ♥AK ♦QJ109 ♣KQJ, but not with A10xx ♥Qxx ♦KJxx ♣AQ. The first hand is too strong to overcall 2♠. This bid should be limited to 14 or less. The last hand is good enough to double a 12-14 1NT.


One advantage of Capelletti or Hello is that double is penalties. That is important to be able to double showing values, especially when the opponents open a weak notrump. So with♠AK10xx ♥Kx ♦K109x ♣Ax double showing equal or strong values. Or a strong hand: ♠AKJ10xx ♥x ♦KQ10xx ♣Ax. With a minimum opening bid, such as ♠AJ10xx ♥x ♦QJxxx ♣Kx, I suggest starting with an overcall of 2♠.


I have introduced one new term, defensive bidding. The 2nd term which may be new to you is the advancer. This is simply the name to designate the responder of the overcaller. So in the above example, West is the opener, partner the overcaller, East the responder and you are the advancer.





Advancer’s job is quite simple. Take a preference, over two suits, double the opponents for penalty, or compete. Once in a while the advancer will have a good hand without a good fit for partner. Usually an opening bid. The bid I use to describe this hand is 2NT. Overcaller can sign off in a suit, pass or bid some game.


Doubling a transfer or Stayman


This is a way for the fourth hand to show his hand when the opponents open 1NT. Some tips to help you decide whether to interfere:

Have length.Usually at least five. I would consider with a very good four card suit, such as AKJ9. I have seen people double on AKx or KQx. My partner simply redouble and make 2 redoubled for a top.


Have values for an overcall. Again, the opponents may choose to redouble with most of the high card points. I have seen the notrump opener side play in 2♣doubled and redoubled on a 3-2 fi, make 3 for a top!


Besides suggesting a lead, this bid is an invitation for partner to compete with a fit and appropriate values.


If you have shortness in responders major, pass the transfer and then double if they rest in two of the major.


Make this bid wisely. If you have a moderate suit with scattered values, you might be better off with partner making his normal lead. For example, I would pass 2♣with ♠AJx ♥Kx ♦Kxx ♣Q98xx.




Intermediate defence


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