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October 2019 English Bridge

www.ebu.co.uk

Extra length or strength: Making high-level

contracts needs lots of points, or lots of shape. In

a weak no trump system, opening 1® guarantees

either an unbalanced hand, or 15+ points. Either

way, later in the auction, particularly pre-emptive

auctions, you will be better placed to make a

contract. If it starts 1®-(3™)-Dble, opener is

much more likely to be able to make a contract,

as they cannot have a weak no trump. Holding a

weak no trump, it might start 1NT-(3™), and

then responder, knowing what partner has, is

much better placed to pass if game is not on, or

take some action if it is.

I am dismayed by the number of IMPs I have lost

because teammates at the other table have

opened 1® and then not competed because

partner 'obviously has a weak no trump'. If you

are so worried about partner having a weak no

trump, why not play a weak no trump? It saves on

a later guess.

Avoids distortions: If you are considering

emulating many of the better players in the

country by playing a strong no trump, be aware

that you also need to distort many hand-types

into a strong no trump. For example, I saw a

player with

´54 ™AQ63 tA5 ®AQ962

bid 1®-1´-2® (which I would describe as a brave

bid - brave in the sense Sir Humphrey might have

used in Yes Prime Minister all those years ago).

The player was reluctant to force the bidding up

to the three-level by reversing into 2™, and

couldn't rebid 1NT as this was weak. Their

partner patiently explained that 'playing strong

NT, it has to be opened 1NT'. Note the fact there is

no choice here - it just has to be that way.

You get a hand that looks like a club opener, feels

like a club opener, and indeed smells like a club

opener, and for some reason you are not allowed

to open it a club. Playing a weak no trump makes

it easy. You open 1® as your heart tells you to do,

and bid hearts over a 1t or 1™ response, or rebid

1NT after a 1´ response.

WHAT HANDS OPEN 1NT?

Point count: We open some 11 and 15 counts 1NT,

partly for tactical reasons (as it is such a good

pre-emptive manoeuvre), and partly just because

of the value of the hand (for example, hands with

AK and A we would open, as we consider this to

be a good hand). Non-vulnerable we open more

11 counts, but by no means do we routinely open

11 counts. Third in hand we pass more 12 counts

as we are unlikely to miss game, particularly

vulnerable when we might get doubled. My

partner is more likely to open one of a suit third

in hand on a weak no trump than I am. But all

round, we don't obsess about getting doubled,

and we don't worry overly about point count

(good players on the whole are too keen to

upgrade and downgrade, almost to establish their

credentials).

What shapes: All 4·3·3·3, 4·4·3·2 shapes open 1NT

if within range, and likewise balanced with a 5-

card minor. With a five card major we open the

suit more often than 1NT, and when we do open

1NT it will depend more on the look of the whole

hand rather than simply the quality of the major

suit. With 5·4·2·2 we virtually never open 1NT

with a five card major unless specifically 4·5·2·2

with a no trump look; we are most likely to open

1NT with 2·2·4·5 or 2·4·5·2 shapes, but rarely

open 1NT with 4·2·2·5 shape (these hands simply

open 1® and rebid 1´). With a balanced hand

and a six card minor we also sometimes open

1NT, but not often.

Opening 1NT with a singleton: Rare to almost

never and, if we did, it would most likely be a

1·4·4·4 or 4·4·4·1 shape with a singleton king. My

memory isn't as good as it used to be, but I don't

remember us opening 1NT with a singleton.

DRAWBACKS

Opening light: The weak no trump is undoubtedly

better when non-vulnerable than it is when

vulnerable. Some good players want to be able to

open a balanced 11-count when vulnerable, and

find that it is easier to do so playing a strong no

trump system where they can open 1®.

For this reason people opted for the old

fashioned variable no trump. It has some

theoretical merit but very little practical merit.

You need two systems, the ability to remember

both, and the nous to open the right one at the

right time. This makes it much, much harder.

Even if you never get it wrong, you will go down

in contracts because of the extra strain it has put

you under.

Getting doubled: The first time I played a strong

no trump I went for a huge penalty, so this

argument has never held that much sway with

me. Yes, you will sometimes go for a large penalty.

Cont/. . .p25

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