Playing a better 1NT Strong Opening will certainly give you advantages right from your core bidding system. Some people may still play the same version of simpler 1NT opening when they first learn to play Bridge. However, that’s not optimised for a better result. As your skill is improving, the bidding system should be improving as well.
Of course, to be fair, it is entirely your choice and decision. Nevertheless, some bidding structures do indeed better than the others.
Especially with 1NT Strong Opening, it covers for balance/semi balance hand namely 5332, 4432, and 4432 hands. Thus, it covers a massive 47.6% of the entire possibility of hands in Bridge (see this for more info). And when combined with the possibility of having 15-17 HCP range, it still contains around 4.9% of all possible hands. That’s about 1 every 20 boards you play.
Some characteristics of a better system:
So, some of the characteristics of a better 1NT Strong structure::
- Able to sign off in any of the 1 suiter hands that responder has. Since 1NT opener guarantee at least a doubleton in any suit, if a responder has at least 5 cards in a suit, that’s already a fit. This feature is very handy when the responder is so weak and 1NT contract is a certain defeat.
- The responder should able to show a 2-suiter hand and make the opener choose the best fit.
- Then the responder also should able to show 3-suiter hand in direct and non-complicated manner. After that respond, then opener can choose the best fit on the way to a better final contract.
- And finally, in the event of having a balanced hand, the responder should be able to investigate what the opener has in a more detail manner. Especially possession of major suits.
Let us see below one example of a better 1NT opening.
|–||2♦||:||Transfer to ♥|
|–||2♥||:||Transfer to ♠|
|–||2♠||:||Minor Suit Inquiry|
|–||3♣||:||4441 – 3-suiter short Club|
|–||3♦||:||4414 – 3-suiter short Diamond|
|–||3♥||:||4144 – 3-suiter short Heart|
|–||3♠||:||1444 – 3-suiter short Spade|
|–||3NT||:||Sign off. To play.|
|–||4♣||:||Gerber Ace Asking|
|–||4♦||:||Texas Transfer – Puppet to 4♥|
|–||4♥||:||Texas Transfer – Puppet to ♠|
|–||4♠||:||High Level Minor suit inquiry|
|–||5♣||:||Sign off. To play.|
|–||5♦||:||Sign off. To play.|
|–||5NT||:||Grand Slam Quantitative|
Visualisation Aid: Typical 1NT hand:
|16-HCP, ~7 losers – (4432)|
Included in the response of a better 1NT Strong Opening:
- Puppet Stayman: in order to find out if opener has a 5-cards major suit, 4-cards major suit(s) or no major
- Major -suit Transfer: 2♦ to show ♥ suit, and 2♥ to show ♠ suit.
- Minor Suit inquiry: to handle minor suit: 1-suiter and 2-suiter minors.
- Three Suiter on level-3: direct bid for all three suiter distribution at level 3 (bid the short)
- Texas Transfer: level-4 transfer
- Direct Ace asking using Gerber
- Quantitative: for balance on balance hand.
How to remember? (Responder line of thinking)
In general, when the partner makes a 1NT opening bid, the responder has 3 choices: do nothing (pass), show responder’s hand or investigate opener’s hand.
First and foremost, know your “target”. Say the game point is 25-HCP. And as described in the “visualisation” section above, imagine that the opener has 16-HCP and 7-losers.
Therefore, with 9-HCP on your hand, your target is to bid a game.
If you have 7-8 HCP, your target is to find if opener has a maximum hand. In other words, the target is how to invite the opener to bid game, but only if the opener has a maximum hand.
Then, if you have 6 or less, your target is to set the contract as low as safely possible. In this context, refer to the projected point that you have. For example, partner opens 1NT and you have zero points with 6-cards of H. Passing will give you maybe -300 points (if vulnerable, because there would be no trick or entry to be made from your hand and
opener perhaps may make 4-tricks on their own. Hence, 1NT-3 = -300). But if you bid 2♦ (for a partner to bid 2♥ – transfer) and settle there, you probably made the contract. Or maybe -100 or -200, but not -300.
On the other side of the spectrum, if responder has the same or stronger hand than the opener (16+ HCP) then the target is to find the slam (or grand slam)
And finally, “target” can be achieved or cannot be achieved. If your target is a game because your partnership has a total of 27 points but you can see a 3NT is a sure defeat while there is no feasible suit contract, then do not bid 3NT.
The thinking process
Now that you have your “target”, you can follow the guidance below:
- For super flat (4333) or even uninteresting (4432) hand, just follow the quantitative structure according to your point:
- Weak 0-6: pass.
- Invitational 7-8: bid 2NT.
- Game 9-15: bid 3NT.
- Slam Try 16-17: bid 4NT (quantitative). The opener then can correct to 6NT if maximum.
- Slam 18-19: bid direct 6NT.
- Grand Slam Try 19-20 HCP: bid 5NT. The opener then can correct to 7NT if maximum.
- Grand Slam 20+ HCP: bid direct 7NT.
- For semi balance (5332), if the long suit is a minor, treat it like 4333 as above. This is because, usually in a minor suit, even with 5-3 fit it is better to play in NT than in minor contract.As for a major suit (5332), you can show the 5-cards suit and bid a no-trump according to the quantitative structure as well. For example, with 3-5-3-2 (5 cards in Heart):
- Weak 0-6: bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then pass
- Invitational. 7-8: bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then bid 2NT. Opener then can correct to 3NT (max), 3♥(minimum but fit in ♥), 4♥(max with ♥ support)
or pass (minimum with no ♥ support).
- Game 9-15: bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then bid 3NT.
Opener can correct to 4♥ if the opener has good Heart support.
- Slam Try 16-17: bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then bid 4NT (quantitative). The opener then can correct to 5H, 6H, 6NT or Pass.
- Slam 18-19: bid direct 6NT as the opener cannot show support preference anyway.
- Grand Slam Try 19-20: bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then bid 5NT. The opener then can correct to 6♥, 7♥, 6NT or 7NT.
- Grand Slam 20+: bid direct 7NT as the opener cannot show support preference anyway
- If responder has a one suiter, two-suiter or 3-suiter hand it is usually better for the responder to show the hand to opener (via bidding, of course) and let opener help to decide.
- One suiter in Major: bid transfer 2♦ or 2♥
- One suiter in minor and 2-suiter in minor: bid 2♠
- Two suiter that involve major: bid transfer the major then bid naturally the second suit
- Bid the short suit of a 3-suiter hand at level-3
- Then, if you still cannot bid any of the above, it is time to bid 2♣ Puppet
Stayman. Follow the subsequent bid here: Puppet Stayman: a better Stayman convention.
When Gerber is used?
Gerber is used when responder has a running suit. Not necessarily high in HCP, but enough trick to make a slam contract. Visualise opener point and count possible trick. Therefore, the responder just needs to have information about control (Aces and or King). Using quantitative structure is more HCP_oriented where if declarer and dummy are balanced, the only trick possible is by having a high card.
How to use Texas Transfer?
- Texas transfer is needed because we have 4NT as quantitative (they work together as a “package”)
- With 6-cards or more in major (hence, guarantee at least 2-cards support from
opener) and just want to play in a game only (no interest in slam): bid direct 4♦/4♥ for Texas Transfer. This is
especially effective when responder has a weak hand with long major – preventing the opponent to
overcall at level 2 or 3
- But with the same 6-cards or more in major and responder has an interest in slam
(wants to invite opener to bid slam if opener has a good fit and good point): bid transfer
2♦/2♥ then rebid 4♥/4♠. If interested, opener can
continue with 4NT = RKC or start cue bidding. (maintain good communication)
- Remember that bid transfer 2♦/2♥ then a re-bid of 4NT is a quantitative (not RKC)
Opener’s Rebid for 1NT Strong opening:
1NT – 2♣ (Puppet Stayman) 2♦ : Have 4-cards Major: either Heart, Spade or both 2♥ : Have 5 cards ♥ 2♠ : Have 5 cards ♠ 2NT : No 4-cards or 5-cards Major (Majors are then basically at least 3-2, and minors
are at least 4-3)
1NT – 2♦ (Transfer to 2♥) 2♥ : Accept transfer 2♠ : Super Accept: fit 4♥ card, max point, doubleton ♠ – Responder bid and play final contract 2NT : Super Accept: fit 4♥ card, max point, (4333) –
Responder bid and play final contract
3♣ : Super Accept: fit 4♥ card, max point, doubleton ♣ – Responder bid and play final contract 3♦ : Super Accept: fit 4♥ card, max point, doubleton ♦ – Responder bid and play final contract 3♥ : Super Accept: fit 4♥ card. Slam Interest. Like to play
the hand as closed hand. Responder start cuebid if slam is on!
1NT – 2♥ (Transfer to 2♠) 2♠ : Accept transfer 2NT : Super Accept: fit 4♠ card, max point, (4333) –
Responder bid and play final contract
3♣ : Super Accept: fit 4♠ card, max point, doubleton ♣ – Responder bid and play final contract 3♦ : Super Accept: fit 4♠ card, max point, doubleton ♦ – Responder bid and play final contract 3♥ : Super Accept: fit 4♠ card, max point, doubleton ♥ – Responder bid and play final contract 3♠ : Super Accept: fit 4♠ card. Slam Interest. Like to play
the hand as closed hand. Responder start cuebid if slam is on!
Minor Suit Inquiry
1NT – 2♠ (Minor inquiry: responder has 1-suiter or 2-suiter in minor suit) 2NT : have equal cards in both minor -or- Diamond is longer 3♣ : Club has longer support
High Level Minor Inquiry
1NT – 4♠ (High level Minor inquiry: responder has 2-suiter in minor suits) 4NT : have equal cards in both minor -or- Diamond is longer 5♣ : Club has longer support
Opener’s rebid notes:
- After “Super Accept” opener distribution is known, therefore it is better to let the responder play with a closed hand
- It is very important that the “Super Accept” sequence does not exceed the bid of 3-Major because responder could have zero points.
- The answer of “Minor inquiry” cannot exceed 3♣ because responder may have the type of 1-suiter Club where responder can sign of in either 3♣ or 3♦.
- After responder showed a three suiter hand, bid 3NT if have a good high card in the short suit. Otherwise bid the best game (suit with 4-card support), Any other suit bid below game is slam interest, starting cuebidding.
- After “high level minor inquiry”, any new suit is cue bid.
- For Puppet Stayman: Please read: this for the complete sequence of Puppet Stayman
- After Minor inquiry: sign of at 3♣ or 3♦ is weak (sign off). Any level-3 major bid is cuebid
- Post Super Accept: bid the major to play any other suit is a cuebid, 4NT= RKCB
- The rest just need to decide the final contract
- Upon opponent’s double: all system on (i.e ignore the Double) – Exception: if the double is PENALTY, then the “Escape from 1NT doubled” structure is active.
- Upon opponent’s overcall: DBL= Penalty, Other following Lebensohl structure.
Otherwise, Pass usually implies the weak or waiting opener’s take out double,
Note: double from responder is penalty, but double from opener is a takeout.
Competitive bidding for 1NT strong opening
As for competitiveness, if the opponent is using this opening, use these below as your competitive means:
- Before responder bid, use “Disturbing 1NT” convention such as Cappelleti, D.O.N.T, , etc
- In general, any bid that is artificial (transfer, Stayman, minor inquiry, bid the short suit), a double is a lead directing in that suit. Be consistent, so that lack of double when you are able to dbl implies you do not want that suit to be led.
- Against Stayman: use DOUBLE as lead directing of Club suit. Do nothing if have majors as the opponent still have a chance to land in the bad suit contract that you have. Any other bid is natural
- If opponents do a Transfer Bid (level-2 transfer): use DOUBLE as lead directing of the bid suit. Bid the transferred suit for take out in that suit (i.e: opponent bid 2♦ (transfer to ♥), then overcall in 2♥ means short Heart and have 3 other suits. 2NT=2-suiter in minor
- For 2♠ (Minor inquiry): DOUBLE = lead directing in Spade, 2NT=unusual NT (both majors) bid any other suit is natural (including bidding a minor suit)
- Against Texas Transfer Bid (level-4 transfer): use DOUBLE as lead directing of the bid suit. Bid the transferred suit for take out in that suit (i.e: opponent bid 4♦ (transfer to ♥), then overcall in 4♥ means short Heart and have 3 other suits. 4NT=2-suiter in minor
- All Double of a natural suit overcall after 1NT Strong direct bid from responder is a penalty. But Double in passed hand (i.e.: 1NT-Pass-Pass): all system on for “disturbing 1NT opening”
So, as a conclusion, we have seen an example above of a better 1NT Strong opening that includes all the required characteristic. Hope you can play this system and feel that it is quite simple, complete yet powerful. Happy Bridging….