Quick summary

Use the 1NT bid when you can't find a suit to bid at the one level.

The 1NT bid is a kind of "nothing bid", to keep the bidding going, in case your partner has a good hand and you can get to game.

But it also speaks loudly about what you don't have, from which your partner can deduce quite a lot.

Be careful about bidding 1NT if you have a hole in a Major, especially if you are vulnerable. In this case you can support partner's Major with

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


Print cribsheet

Bridge Venue

Example Deal
spade K Q 5
heart K J 10 7 5 2
diamond A 9
club J 5
Example Deal
You: East
Dealer: South
Vuln: E-W

Opening 1 of a suit with limit responses in NT
Go to quiz (& full page) of deal # 126017

Click the + buttons to peep

Click the + buttons to peep

Click the + buttons to peep

Click the + buttons to peep
#1+<-- click the + to show/hide one possible Bidding Sequence
- - - p
p p ???

#2+<-- click the + for explanation of relevant Bidding Techniques

#3+<-- click the + for ideas on the Opening Lead

«  0043  »

After 1 Suit, 6 points, nothing to bid

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

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



About us   Contact us     Terms & conditions of use      Log in      Comment on current page

© Bid and Made. Nothing on this website may be reproduced without written permission from Bid and Made. Just drop us a line, and we'll almost certainly say yes.