The development of this conventional defense method was devised by Mr. Alvin Roth and Mr. Tobias Stone. According to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, published in the year 1964 by Crown Publishers, Inc., page 470, and also to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, published in the year 1971 by Crown Publishers, Inc., page 532, this conventional defense method was originally devised by Mr. Alvin Roth in the year 1948 and developed by him with Mr. Tobias Stone.
The Unusual No Trump is a conventional defense method designed to show two suited hands in competitive situations with one bid. The logic and reasoning behind the convention is to consume bidding space and to describe to your partner the distribution of your hand as quickly and as accurately as possible. This can be done with one bid.
In order to understand the Unusual No Trump convention, both players must first achieve a partnership understanding of the definition of terms required before implementing this bid. The Unusual No Trump is an effective convention and should be used according to established guidelines, but not indiscriminately, which only serves to undermine not only the conventional method but also the partnership trust.
Please compare this convention with Michaels Cuebid, which cuebids the bid suit of the opener, because there are some similarities in that both conventions show two-suited hands. The Unusual No Trump convention is used after an opening bid in the Major suits, and also in other bidding circumstances which will become clear, and this is very important to remember. Since the two conventional defense methods are, practically speaking, first cousins, it is imperative that the visitor first of all, distinguish between Michaels Cuebid and The Unusual No Trump.
Both conventions are used as overcalls:
South employs the Michaels Cuebid to show a two-suited holding, where one suit is the other Major suit, in this example Spades, and an unspecified Minor suit.
By employing the Unusual No Trump convention, South is showing a two-suited holding, both of which are the Minor Suits.
By bidding 2 No Trump, employing the Unusual No Trump convention, North is showing a two-suited holding, both of which are the Minor suits.
The attempt is made in this presentation to establish the intended meanings to the various calls possible after the bidding is opened by the opponents. It depends very much on the Seat and the Call, and whether the bid is an immediate overcall, a bid made after passing, or whether the bid is Fourth Seat after the opponents have bid twice. Review the following examples carefully:
1 NT West has a legitimate 1 No Trump holding, promising 15-18 high card points, and also a stopper(s) in Spades, and a balanced distribution.
1 2 NT West holds a minimum of 5-5 distribution in both Minor suits by unfavorable vulnerability, or West holds a minimum of 5-4 distribution in both Minor suits by favorable vulnerability.
1 Double West shows a 4-card Heart suit, at least 3-card support in both Minor suits, and approximately 10 plus points by favorable vulnerability and at least an opening by unfavorable vulnerability.
East is in the balancing seat and has decided to re-open the bidding of balance. The 1 No Trump bid signifies 10-12 high card points and a stopper(s) in Spades. (Note: Some partnerships agree that a Balancing No Trump is limited to a range of 12-14 high card points and a stopper in the opponent’s suit. When holding a balanced distribution with a range of 15-17/18 high card points the general agreement is to first double and then rebid No Trump.)
East holds a 5-5 distribution in both Minor suits by unfavorable vulnerability, or East holds a minimum 5-4 distribution in both Minor suits by favorable vulnerability.
East has an actual 1 No Trump opening with 15-17/18 high card points, a stopper(s) in Spades and a balanced holding, or an actual 2 No Trump opening with 20-21/22 high card points, a stopper(s) in Spade and a balanced hand. But East cannot show it at this time. East will do so on his next bid because East is forcing West to bid.
Note: Any 2 No Trump bid immediately after an opening of a Major suit by the opponents signifies that the 2 No Trump bidder holds at least a 5-5 distribution by unfavorable vulnerability in both Minor suits, or at least a 5-4 distribution by favorable vulnerability in both Minor Suits. The point range should be 6 high card points plus, and should be mainly in the suits indicated. Remember that the distribution will be your main weapon. Also, the number of Losing Tricks may be the determining factor.
Note: The number of values, by partnership agreement, has been altered by many bridge players to be based on the number of Losing Tricks instead of high card points. This means that a holding such as: QJxxx – J109xx may be appropriate for the employment of this defense method. This is not, however, an individual partnership agreement.
Unusual No Trump Overcalls by a Passed Hand
What is the meaning of the bid by South after first passing? South cannot have a genuine opening of 1 No Trump, but he knows that his opponent West is weak. South sees a good chance to enter the bidding auction showing a two-suited holding. South could have something similar to the holding shown in the above diagram.
Note: The number of Losing Tricks in Example 1 equals 6 Losing Tricks, whereas in Example 2 below, the number of Losing Tricks equals 5 Losing Tricks. The number of Losing Tricks may be the determining factor in deciding whether to employ this conventional defense method.
South does not hold opening values, but South has a good distributional holding. However, with one bid, as a direct overcall after passing first, South can communicate to partner a distributional two-suited holding in Diamonds and Clubs, with distribution of at least 5-5, since both teams are vulnerable.
Note: In such bidding sequences the auction remains on the one level, which has certain advantages in competitive circumstances. However, see the example below when South decides to jump directly to 2 No Trump.
South does not have opening values, but South has a good distributional holding. With one bid, as a direct overcall after passing first, South communicates to partner a distributional two-suited holding in Diamonds and Clubs, with distribution of at least 5-5, since both teams are vulnerable. However, South could have simply bid 1 No Trump showing both Minor Suits as in Example 1. Why did South bid 2 No Trump?
The Unusual No Trump bid is a conventional defense method, and like all concepts, bridge players have been trying to improve, alter and modify them.
It must be noted that the 1 No Trump and 2 No Trump bids are used by some bridge players to show a two-suited holding in other suits. Instead of the lower two unbid suits, the bid is used to denote the two higher-ranking unbid suits.
Mr. Alvin Roth also made additions to the concept in his published pamphlet titled The Unusual No Trump, first published by the Devyn Press in 1981 as part of the Championship Bridge Series, that the inclusion of the bid of 2 No Trump directly over an opening bid by the opponent is unusual.
He includes topics such as:
- 1. When is No Trump Overcall Unusual?;
- 2. Which Suits are shown by an Unusual No Trump;
- 3. Requirements;
- 4. Responding to an Unusual No Trump;
- 5. Other uses for the Unusual No Trump;
- 6. Defending against Unusual No Trump.
The visitor should remember, however, that this variation is not part of the original version. This variation is presented in .pdf file format for future reference.
What if South passes and then makes a direct overcall of 1NT or 2NT over a Minor?
If South were two-suited in the Major suits, South would use the Michaels Cuebid of 2 Diamonds. But with the bid of 1 No Trump South is showing the two lower-ranking unbid suits, namely Hearts and Clubs.
If East had opened the auction with 1 Club and South were two-suited in the Major suits, South would use the Michaels Cuebid of 2 Clubs. But with the bid of 1 No Trump South is showing the two lower-ranking unbid suits, namely Hearts and Diamonds.
Remember: if South bids 2 No Trump, as a direct overcall, South is showing even more distribution and playing strength.
A direct overcall of 1 No Trump or 2 No Trump by a passed hand has been considered. The question is what, exactly, constitutes a direct overcall?
This agreement is valid only if the opening is on the one level.
Any direct overcall of 1 No Trump or 2 No Trump by a passed hand is unusual, and shows the two lower-ranking unbid suits and 5-5 distribution.
Any non-direct overcall by a passed hand of 1 No Trump is not unusual but rather is a balancing bid.
Any non-direct overcall by a passed hand of 2 No Trump is unusual and shows the two lower-ranking unbid suits.
Explanation: if a bridge player has passed once and finds himself in the Pass-Out position, the player must make a decision. He must either pass or balance
South has the opportunity to pass, knowing that the opponents have most likely reached a poor contract. South should balance only if South realizes that there is a good chance of balancing with an immediate and very descriptive bid. South must also be quite aware of the fact that he could be pushing the opponents towards a makeable contract, and that he and partner will most likely end on the three level.
Therefore, the bridge player in the Pass-Out position must take a serious second look at his hand and decide whether his hand is more suited for defense or offense.
The bridge player in the Pass-Out position must also assume that the opener could have a hand with strength of about 19 high card points maximum, and must make this fact a consideration of his decision to pass or balance.
It seems probable that West may have scraped all distributional points together in order to answer his partner. At favorable vulnerability, it might be profitable for South to reopen the bidding with a most descriptive bid. Are the opponents willing to take their suit to the three level?
It should be apparent to think of a distributional holding as being stronger than a hand which has only power in high card points. With such favorable distributional hands it has been proven that a 5 Diamonds contract can be made with as little as 10 high card points!
These are the basic guidelines for the Unusual No Trump defense method, which become very useful in bidding contracts as well as providing partner with unusually fast and descriptive information, and putting obstacles in the path of the opponents. The bridge player should realize that there are several factors involved such as:
1. State of vulnerability.
2. Location of values.
3. Whether the Unusual No Trump is be a Passed or Non-Passed Hand.
4. Whether the Unusual No Trump is a direct overcall or balancing and/or reopening call.
5. Whether the opponents have bid and raised the same suit.
6. Whether or not the opponents have bid two different suits,
7. Number of Losing Tricks.
All of these guidelines may determine the employment of the Unusual No Trump and in deciding whether the No Trump overcall reflects which partnership agreement in the auction.
Once again, it must be repeated that the vulnerability must be regarded at all times and the Unusual No Trump conventional defense method must not be used indiscriminately for any two-suited holdings. The requirements should be observed by the player, since the partner will otherwise slowly lose trust.
As stated in the introduction, Mr. Alvin Roth and Mr. Tobias Stone put a lot of effort into making this method comprehensible, understandable, and underscored its effectiveness. The difficulty is to master it together with your partner. Each bid must be communicated in such a fashion that it be readily understood. Each partner must visualize the auction, especially the passes, and then make the correct decision and the correct bid.
Please Note: We have attempted to present the basic concept of the Unusual No Trump convention defense method to the reader, encourage the reader to question the material when studying the content we present, and also to encourage the reader to continue his/her study of the convention by purchasing those bridge books, which deal with the subject. It is impossible for us to present each and every case with examples and explain whether or not the Unusual No Trump convention may or may not be effective, employed, and/or is applicable. We have attempted to reflect the different considerations necessary to determine whether or not such a call meets most of the necessary requirements, and which determine the advisability of such a call or overcall and/or balancing reopening call.