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Quick summary

Generally, reply in NT, 'cos you're balanced. Use the right level.

NT replies are not forcing. With strong hands - do bid a new suit, to force your partner to keep bidding.

The 1NT reply can be a kind of "nothing bid", to keep the bidding going.

Beware of 1NT if you have singletons or voids, or weak doubletons.

You can support a Major opening with only 3-cards if you also have a doubleton.

If opponents have overcalled, experienced players can consider the alternative "negative double".

Beware the 2NT bid: For advanced players, the "Jacoby 2NT" reply to 1spade or heart shows 4-card support to game, with no shortages.


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
spade K Q 7 5
heart A Q 3
diamond K 10 3
club Q 10 9
Example Deal
You: North
Dealer: East
Vuln: N-S

Can you and partner get to game ??
Go to quiz (& full page) of deal # 126012

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«  0042  »

Responder 1st bids. After 1 Suit, no fit, no new suit, probably balanced

Tell your partner you're balanced, and something about how many points. Here's how:

42. Reply to 1 Suit. No fit, no new suit, probably balanced
points 6-9 10 11-12 13+ 16+ 21+
bid 1 NT not NT 2NT 3NT new suit 6NT
note “I can't support your suit, I can't play at the 2 level…. but I've got 6-9 points!" 2NT a bit risky, perhaps, unless it's “good”. Could try a 4-card minor Advanced players use Jacoby 2NT when replying to a Major suit bid.      
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10 points

If you bid 1NT, you are understating your strength. However, bidding 2NT will be taken as 11 points, balanced, and an invitation to game if partner has 14 points.

Oh dear.

The least misleading bid is probably a 4-card minor, or a "good" 2NT hand if you have a "good 10" point hand. A good 10-point NT hand will have things like: a long minor suit with 5 cards; combined honours so that the suit can be established; no singletons or voids; lots of "10"s; stoppers in at least 2 suits, preferably 3.

2NT reply - beginners

Simple. A very precise point count, 11-12 points, an "invitation to game" bid to allow partner to decide what to do. You need to be balanced and preferrably have stoppers in 3 suits. He will probably leave it there unless he is on his maximum.

2NT reply - advanced

If your partner opened with a minor, there is no change from the above note for beginners.

But if he opened with a Major, then an advanced player would use the 2NT bid to indicate something completely different, see Jacoby 2NT. If you use this advanced convention, and you really do have 11-12 HCP with a balanced hand, then you'll have to bid a suit in reply to your partner's Major opening.

13+ HCP

Easy. You've got Game-going points between you, so tell your partner. Bid 3NT as long as you've got stoppers in all suits.

(If you're not using Jacoby 2NT, you can use 3NT to show, balanced, 12-15 HCP, 4-card support to game. But you need to agree this 4-card support aspect with your partner !)

16+ HCP

You can't bid 3NT, since that's not forcing.

Slam is on, but you shouldn't usually "jump-shift" because that usually promises 6 cards, see very strong responses.

You can't bid 4NT if your partner is going to interpret this as Blackwood "I like your suit, Slam on, how many Aces ?".

If all these limitiations apply, bid a new suit (which is forcing), and then change your bid later.

19+ HCP

Similar considerations as above with 16+. Again, unless you have 4-card support, you can't bid 4NT to say balanced 19+, for the same reasons as above. . . it sounds like Blackwood.

21+ HCP

You could bid 5 or 6 or 7 NT, since 33+ HCP are assured.

Oh groan, 6 points, no match - surely a waste of time ? Let's goulash. . ..

You have three choices actually, not four:

  1. bid 1NT
  2. raise your partner's Major with only 3-card support
  3. negative double (for more experienced players, and only if enemy has overcalled)
  4. there is no fourth choice. You must not pass !

1. The 1NT route

Don't miss game!
The 1NT reply to a 1 suit opening is usually made when you can't find a suit to bid, but you do have a handy 6+ points. So, you really don't want to pass, because your partner might have up to 19 points and you could end up missing a Game bonus!

Why can't you find a suit ?
A typical reason is because your partner has opened in a Major, and your only suit is a minor. You can't bid your minor, because bidding at the 2 level promises 10 points andd a 4-card suit, or 9 points and a 5-card suit.

For example, suppose you have a nice 5-card suit in diamond (AJ1096), a 3 card suit in club to the Jack, and then heart (54) and spade (Qxx) .

Your partner opens 1heart. When you reply 1NT, you partner will have a very good idea of what you have. You didn't support his Hearts, which you might have done with as few as 3 cards since it's a Major, see lower down. You also denied having Spades, since with 6-9 points you could have bid Spades with 4 cards. He will quickly figure out that your strength must be in clubs or diamonds, which you couldn't bid because you lacked the requisite HCP strength to bid at the 2 level. A quick look at his own hand might even suggest whether it's clubs or diamonds you are more likely to have.

You need to watch it though; your partner might pass and leave it at 1NT. That might lead to trouble if for example you have a singleton in an unbid suit. Doubled and vulnerable? Oops. Sometimes you might choose one of the other two options. Or even pass if there really is no other option.

Opener's subsequent bids

You partner will now assess your information, and with his rebid either pass, put it back into a suit if he's worried about holes, or try for game if he's strong.

2. Raise your partner's Major to the 2-level with only 3-card support

But only if you have a shortage

What if you can't find a suit to bid? And what if a 1NT reply is dangerous because you have a dreaded shortage somewhere and your partner might decide to pass your 1NT?

Instead, with only 3-card support, you can raise your partner's Major bid to the 2-level if:

  • you have only 6 – 9 points
  • you have a shortage (a doubleton or shorter)


  • your shortage and the three trumps should give partner the chance to ruff a loser, maybe twice
  • it completely stops the 4th bidder from overcalling with two of a minor
  • if the auction becomes competitive, partner might be able to compete to the 3-level with 6 cards and minimum points, knowing you have some support
  • a 1NT bid is dangerous (especially if the shortage in one of the Majors).

Can it go wrong ?

Not really. Actually it's reasonable to assume a 5-card Major from opener. With 12-14 HCP he would have opened 1NT if his longest suit was a 4-card Major. With 15-19, if he only has 4, then his next bid will most frequently be to bid NT anyway, having a 15-19 balanced hand. So you're going to find out.

Consequence? In practice, 90% of Acol 1spade openings, depending on style, can safely be assumed to have a 5-card suit.

Remember also, for example, that with a 4441 hand you never open with a Spade, so that only leaves 4333 and 4432 shapes. The percentage is slightly less for heart.

3. What if opponents have overcalled ?

In that case you have two very useful options in addition to the 1NT reply:

  1. the negative double, for more experienced players
  2. raising with 3-card support is particularly useful if there has been an overcall at the two level
S Q 9 3  

North starts the bidding, and East overcalls:
1spade - 2diamond - 2spade

H 4 3
D 10 8 3
C K Q 8 5 4

Now try the quiz

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(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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