Quick summary

With 8+ points, shut up

With < 8 points, use weakness takeout:

Opener will always pass, unless

If they double, you can wriggle


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
spade K Q J 3
heart 10
diamond A Q 9 4
club A 10 5 2
Example Deal
Dealer: South
Vuln: All

Doubling 1NT and its consequences
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«  0031  »

Responder 1st bids: Weak reply to 1 weak NT

Preferrably: Say nothing! (i.e. "no bid" or "pass").

(or if you're very weak, then bid a 5-card suit if you have one).

With less than 11 points, your combined strength is weak (12-24), so game is not possible, therefore pass (or try to get out of 1NT if it's inappropriate).

31. Weak reply to weak 1NT.   < 11 HCP
Points State of mind Beginners More advanced players
8-10 Relaxed Pass Pass
<8 Worried Dizassssster! Takeout into your 5-card suit, by bidding 2. Opener WILL pass. Takeout with Stayman or Transfers
<8 Panic, they doubled you Takeout if you have a 5-card suit, pass if not. Opener will pass Takeout with 5-card suit, if not "wriggle"
how partner will reply Opener should always pass after hearing a bid of 2 of a suit, because it's weak. For advanced player it's totally different.
related stuff Weak reply to 1 strong NT, 3 fewer points.
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When your partner opens 1NT, in addition to describing a balanced hand with stoppers in 3+ suits, it also gives a very precise point count: 12-14. If you don't have sufficient points to increase the level needed for "game", namely 25, then you are "weak". So with fewer than 11 points in your hand, "game" is pretty well impossible. So you may as well stop right there. Unless, of course, there is a problem. . ...

(a) Base case: All seems OK  

Anything less than 11 points is in effect weak.  If you have 8-10, you're probably OK (20-24 altogether), but you need to say to your partner "we can't get to game", by bidding "no bid / pass".  Unless of course you are a bit worried….

(b) Worried case

If things look grim in NT because you have 0-8 points and/or your shape is bad[1], then you can get out of NT if you have a 5-card suit.

You should say to partner, "Oh my god, we need rescuing out of NT".  This is known as "5-card weakness takeout". Bid 2 of your 5-card suit, which opener MUST pass, if he wants to remain your friend. (Slightly more advanced players using Stayman and Transfers have a different way of rescuing.[2]).

The point is that you're in trouble. For example, you could have 0-8 points. Yes, even zero points. Add this to your partner's 12-14, and you can see that things are bad, so you'll have to hope that the enemy bid something, or failing that you need some trump help. If you switch to your 5-card suit then you know from the opener's bid (which guarantees at least 2 of every suit) that you have at least 7 of them, probably 8, and sometimes 9. Although you'll still probably go down, the damage will be less. Going down two in a suit is better than going down 4 in NT, which is often what happens if you stay in NT. If you're doubled and vulnerable (you will be!), that's going to cost you 1100.

Here's an example: with spadeQJ10842 heart75 diamondJ4 clubJ104, opposite opener's 1NT holding of spade83 heartAK93 diamondK853 clubK82, you'd be much better off in 2spade, which is actually likely to make, rather than staying in 1NT which is likely to go down 3.

If the opponents bid at any stage, great, you're out of jail. Just pass.

Having said that, if they double you, you're now in solitary confinement ! But you do have another way out. . .. see "panic case" below.

Medium or advanced level players: see Stayman and Transfers. It's a bit different. Taking out into club or diamond is a bit more complex when you use these conventions, and requires a 6-card suit[3].

"If you can't even takeout out into a minor without ending up at the 3 level", I can hear you saying, "doesn't this all make the 1NT opening a bit risky?" You're right.  But it happens sufficiently rarely that it's worth it for all the benefits.  However, for this very reason, some people cancel the weak 1NT opening when they are vulnerable, because going down 3 or 4 doubled and vulnerable is so expensive. Instead they use the "strong NT".

(c) Panic case 

If you're really in trouble, because opposition have doubled partner's 1NT, sorry, bad luck, there's no easy way out if you don't have a 5-card suit.   However, with two 4-card suits, advanced players do have a solution, called the"wriggle". They can use this advanced technique to take out into any suit including club,diamond, taking advantage of the fact that the opponents' "double" cancels the coded meanings of Stayman and Transfers.


[1] Bad : 4333 flat distribution.  Good: 10's and 9's, honours together.

[2] if you are using transfers, bid one suit lower than the suit you mean, and your partner will transfer if for you to the suit you meant.

[3] "Weakness takeout" isn't so easy with minors, because unless you're a complete beginner you end up at the 3 level:  That's because the 2club bid is not available if you're using Stayman, and likewise 2diamond is out if you're using Transfers. (However, I urge you to use these systems when you've got past the beginner stage, because they're great). Talking of Stayman, some people with a 6-card minor suit use Stayman 2club for a take-out to a minor suit, following this up by re-bidding 3club if they really meant club, or 3diamond if they want diamonds. This has the advantage on some occasions of taking out at the lower level of only 2diamond if opener denies a 4-card Major.

Oh, and you'll need 6-cards, not 5, to take out at the 3 level. Not ideal, but could be better than staying in 1NT and getting hammered.

An alternative is to transfer bid 2spade to tell partner to transfer to 3club, and 2NT to transfer to 2diamond. Unfortunately, this consumes the useful "balanced 11-12 HCP" 2NT game invitation reply, and is not recommended. Some players like to use the 2spade response to show precisely 11 points and the 2NT response to show 12. This is lazy bridge according to some - these people say you should be evaluating your hand instead - a 'good 12' is worth game whilst a 'bad 12' is only worth an invite. I disagree, because you it allows you to add more precision to a situation often requiring accuracy.




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