In competitive auctions, many bridge players have made the decision to employ the tactic of a preemptive strike by lowering the high card point range for a No Trump opening. This tactic is known as the Weak No Trump opening. Opening with a No Trump with minimum values has become an integral part of many bidding systems, and has its advantage mainly in the First, Second, and sometimes Third seat after as many passes. Although the range differs from bidding system to bidding system, the general range is between 12-14 high card points and a balanced distribution. Other ranges are between 13-15 high card points and, employing Precision, the range generally lies between 12-15 high card points.
Many partnerships have lowered the point range to 10-12 high card points. To distinguish between this range and a holding of 13-14 high card points and a balanced distribution, the partnership has agreed that the opening should be 1 Club followed by a No Trump rebid. To show 15-17 high card points and a balanced distribution, the opening should be 1 Diamond followed by a No Trump rebid. These bids are called Semi-Artificial Minor-Suit openings.
As a part of other partnership agreements, any balanced holding worth 15-17 high card points is first opened with a 5-card Major suit or at least a 3-card Minor suit, and rebidding No Trump at the cheapest level promises a balanced holding worth 15-17 high card points. This is the base of the Kaplan-Sheinwold system. Using the general practices of any ACOL bidding system, and its variations, the same information is exchanged in the same manner, although the Major suit may contain only 4 cards in length, and the rebid of No Trump at the cheapest level shows a value of 15-16 high card points.
It is important to remember that each or whatever bidding system is used and/or partnership understanding has been agreed, each contains special features in responding, but whichever system of understanding is used, any conventional principle of responses may be used, even those for a strong No Trump opening.
For a generalization of a Weak No Trump opening, the following chart should prove to be helpful in coming to a partnership understanding:
1 NT opening:
12-14 HCPs, balanced
1 NT rebid:
15-16 HCPs, fairly balanced
1 NT overcall:
16-18 HCPs with a stopper in suit opened
1 NT response to 1 opening:
8-10 HCPs, balanced with no Major suit
1 NT response to opening bid of 1 //:
6-9 HCPs, with no suit that can be bid at one-level
1 NT response to an overcall:
9-12 HCPs with a stopper in suit opened
Since the Weak No Trump opening is part of ACOL, the following responses may be used to exchange information between partners. If there is no immediate and direct interference, the responsibility of setting the contract lies with the responder.
Options for the responder are:
1. Weak, planning to pass any rebid by opener.
2. Moderate values and holding a balanced hand with a 4-card Major suit, but no slam interest.
3. Strong values and a 5-card plus Minor suit, the responder can rebid 3 Clubs or 3 Diamonds over the rebid of the opener to show a game-forcing holding.
4. Holding a 6/4 or better distribution in the Major suits and strong values, the responder will explore for slam over the rebid of the opener.
These two responses are Transfer, which the No Trump bidder must accept. Any new suit bid on the Three Level by the responder is game-forcing. Any jump in a new suit on the Four Level is a Splinter bid showing possible distributions of minimum 6-3-3-1 and/or 7-3-2-1. Any jump to the Four Level in a Major suit indicates interest in slam.
A so-called Range Probe
This forcing response asks the No Trump bidder to further explain and describe his holding. If the No Trump bidder has a 4-card Major suit, then this suit should be bid as a further description of the holding. The responder could hold values for a 3 No Trump contract without a 4-card Major suit, a balanced holding with strong values and slam interest, or a distribution of 4-4-4-1 with definite slam interest.
This response forces the No Trump bidder to Relay bid the cheapest Minor suit Clubs. If the responder has length and weak values in Clubs, then the responder will pass. If the responder has length and weak values in Diamonds, then the responder will correct to 3 Diamonds, the final contract.
The second possibility is that the responder, after forcing the Relay to Clubs, holds a one-suited distribution in one of the Major suits and interest in exploring a slam possibility. If this is the case, then the responder rebids his Major suit on the Three Level. The No Trump bidder rebids 3 No Trump as a cuebid, indicating slam interest also. Key Card controls are then cuebid.
6-card Minor in Clubs
6-card Minor in Diamonds
Either of these responses promises a 6-card or better Minor suit. The No Trump bidder can either accept and pass, or, with a specified Minor suit entry, rebid 3 No Trump, since the first response of the responder promises moderate values. The No Trump bidder must make certain that all other suits are stopped with either a King or an Ace.
Fragment bid in Hearts
Fragment bid in Spades
Either of these first responses by the responder promises either a 5/4 or even a 6/4 distribution in both Minor suits, and is game-forcing. If the first response is 3 Hearts, the No Trump bidder can bid 3 Spades to request that the responder bid his 5- or 6-card Minor suit. Since either is these responses is game-forcing, the No Trump bidder can rebid 4 Hearts if the first response of the responder is 3 Spades. If the No Trump bidder raises either Major suit response, then the No Trump bidder is asking whether a Moysian Fit of 7 trump cards in the Major suit is preferable.
Either of these bids is the Texas convention and are Transfer bids to Diamonds and Hearts respectively. The responder holds typically a minimum of 9-13 high card points and an excellent 5-card suit or a 6-card plus suit.
Fragment bid in Hearts
Fragment bid in Spades
Either of these bids by the responder promises a holding, which is worth more than defending a contract by the opponents. Either of these bids is to play and establishes the final contract.
This first response by the responder is only invitational. If the No Trump bidder holds a minimum, then he will pass the invitation. If the No Trump bidder holds maximum values, then the first rebid will indicate the number of Aces held.
In competitive auctions, when employing the Weak No Trump opening, it will be a seldom auction when the opponents do not enter the bidding process. Several partnership understandings contain the agreement that the partner of the No Trump bidder must respond to a No Trump opening, even if the responder holds very weak values. These understandings also include the agreement that, after interference, a pass by the responder may deny a very weak hand and this pass must be alerted.
Defensive Conventional Methods to a Weak No Trump opening include:
There are many concepts in dealing with interference and each concept has its justifications. In general, most partnership agreements are as follows after a Double has been called. It is important to remember that the opponent, who doubles, should have a holding, which is slightly better than the No Trump bidder, and that it is also important to remember that it does not matter whether the double is a direct overcall or occurs in the balancing seat. It is recommended that the Swine Convention be reviewed.
Pass: by the responder after a Double is to play.
Redouble: by the responder after a Double by the opponents is either to play, or to penalize the opponents if the opponents switch suits to remove the redouble. This constitutes a Forcing Pass auction.
Bidding a Suit: If the responder names a suit after a Double of the No Trump bidder, then this suit establishes the denomination and is to play.
In general, most partnership agreements are as follows after the No Trump bidder has been overcalled with a Suit.
1. If the responder doubles the overcall of a suit, then this double is a Takeout double, asking the No Trump bidder to name his best suit. A double promises moderate values, but not game-forcing values.
2. If the overcall is on the Three Level, mostly preemptive on the part of the opponents, then a Double by the responder shows moderate values. The bidding of a Suit on the Three Level by the responder is understood to be natural and one-round forcing. This is only the case, if the overcall of 2 No Trump by the opponents shows a two-suited hand, which are identified and known.
Any double by the responder promises a penalty double of at least one of the suits promised by the conventional overcall of the opponent. This double by the responder initiates a forcing auction. Any double later in the auction by the responder is for penalty. If the responder, however, holds moderate to excellent values and length, he will not employ a double. The responder generally uses Reverse Lebensohl or, second option, passes first and then doubles for Takeout.
If the responder cuebids the suit bid by the opponents, then this cuebid is for Takeout. In the case that the two suits of the opponents are known and identified, then the cuebid strongly suggests length and strength in the higher unbid suit not promised by the opponents.
Double of Stayman or Transfer:
If the opponents decide to double the Stayman or Transfer bid of the responder, then the No Trump bidder has several options. A Pass denies any support after the transfer, denies a 4-card Major after Stayman, or a holding which would have intended to pass a redouble.
The responder, after a double by the opponents and a pass by the No Trump bidder, should Redouble holding penalty double values, but otherwise use natural bids to establish the best contract.
A Redouble by the No Trump bidder promises a holding which agrees with the transfer, and/or shows a 4-card Major after a Stayman bid.
Any Bid by the No Trump bidder accepting the transfer, after a double by the opponents, shows support for the transfer. Any Bid of a Major suit after a Stayman response, and after a double by the opponents, promises a 4-card Major suit. A Bid of 2 Diamonds over a Stayman response, and after a double by the opponents, shows a 5-card Diamond suit.
If the responder has employed the Stayman convention, and the opponents double and the No Trump bidder passes or redoubles, then the responder should bid 2 Diamonds after the pass or redouble of the No Trump bidder, hoping to find a Moysian fit.
There are definitely other partnership agreements containing other, different versions of the responses of the responder and the rebids of the No Trump bidder. The responses and rebids of the partnership are individual and sometimes unique to the partnership. There is not one definite, etched-in-stone rule or guideline for using the Weak No Trump. Whichever version is used, the partnership should be comfortable with the bidding process and should establish a clear line of communication, so as to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.
Claus and Raymond
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