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No Trumps

Balanced hands are the shapes you’ll pick up most. That’s 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2. They don’t have any long suits (i.e. six or more cards) or contain shortage (i.e. more than one doubleton, or any singletons or voids).

You don’t need high cards in each suit to call a hand “balanced”,  but it’s ideal if you do. All systems have a meaning for 1NT openings. In Standard, it’s 15 -17 points (balanced).

Opening 1NT is very popular because it stops the other side from bidding at the one-level, and partner knows a lot about your hand from the first bid. If they assume you have 16 points, they can’t be wrong by more than one point. 

After you’ve opened 1NT, responder will decide how high and where to play the hand.  For this reason, opener is often called the “describer” and responder the “decider”. If responder’s hand is also balanced, stay in no trumps. If not, bid your long suit, and try to make that trumps. After all, partner will have at least two cards in that suit. 

Balanced Responses to 1NT
0 – 7 points, pass
8 – 9 points, raise to 2NT, invitational, (1NT p 2NT)
 10+  points, raise to 3NT (1NT p 3NT)Unbalanced Responses
0 – 7 points, bid 2 of a long suit (1NT p 2♦/♥/♠)
8 – 9 points (* best handled with transfers)
 10+  points, jump to game with six+ cards, or to 3 of your suit with five (1NT p 4 ♥/♠ OR 1NT p 3 ♥/♠)

NB: More experienced players use transfers in these sequences but leave that until you are comfortable with natural responses.

Conventions for 1NT & 2NT Openings

If your side has a 4-4 major (♥ or ♠) fit, the hand might play better with that suit as trumps after partner has opened 1NT or 2NT. Why? A trump suit often provides extra tricks by trumping in both hands, and allows you to maintain control if you have shortage (doubleton, singleton, void) somewhere. Stayman will help you discover such fits. These days, 1NT & 2NT may well be opened with a five card ♥ or ♠ suit, and to check this, you need to use five-card major Stayman. 

While Stayman is used when responder has four cards, transfers apply with five or more cards. They allow us to sign off in partscore, invite, or bid game or even slam.

Describing Balanced Opening Hands

12-14         Open 1 of a suit & rebid 1NT (1♣ p 1♥ p 1NT)
15-17         Open 1NT
18-19         Open 1 of a suit & jump to 2NT (1♣ p 1♥ p 2NT)
20-21        Open 2NT
22-24        Open 2♣ (Game Force) and rebid 2NT
25 +           Open 2♣ (Game Force) and rebid 3NT

Playing in No Trumps  
There are three ways to develop extra tricks in no trumps: Promotion, Length and the Finesse. The order of play is important.  You may need entries from one hand to the other, as well as retaining winners (stoppers) in other suits to stop the opponents taking too many tricks while developing your extra tricks. 


Novice player Bajir joins Joan Butts for a lesson on No Trumps.