In Lesson 6 we review basic NT bids and responses. Here we will explore the topic in more detail. The opening bid (or overcall) of 1 NT is a powerful weapon. It promises a range of 16 to 18 HCP (some pairs prefer the 15 to 17 HCP range). There are a series of responses by partner which describe suit features and point requirements.
OPENING BID OF 1 NT
The hand must have 16 to 18 HCP, no five-card major suit and no singletons. At least three suits must be "stopped" and there should be no worthless doubleton (2 small cards in the same suit). A five-card minor suit contained in the NT call is acceptable and said suit should have at least two honor cards.
NO TRUMP NUMBERS (Partners' Combined Hands)
26 HCP between both hands will usually make game (25 HCP works on some occasions and usually features a "running" five-card suit).
33 HCP between both hands will usually make Small Slam (6 NT) 37 HCP between both hands will usually make Grand Slam (7 NT)
RESPONSES TO PARTNER'S 1 NT OPENING BID
a. Raise to 2 NT with 8 or 9 HCP b. Raise to 3 NT with 10 to 14 HCP c. Raise to 6 NT with 17 or 18 HCP
Note: If using the 15 to 17 HCP range, then increase by 1 point the HCP scale above.
RESPONSE IN A MAJOR SUIT (By Partner)
The bids of 2 H or 2 S promise a 5-card major suit and a weak hand of less than 8 HCP. Partner should pass unless he has good three-card support in the bid major suit and 18 points. A bid of 2 D by partner is a "drop dead" bid and partner should pass, unless he has a weak diamond suit doubleton (then he bids 2 NT).
The responding hand must take into consideration distributional features. Any six-card suit, preferably a major, will play much better as a trump bid than in NT. Minor suit (Clubs, Diamonds) contracts are usually inferior choices and will score badly in competitive events.
THE STAYMAN CONVENTION (2 Clubs)
Created by Bridge pioneer, Samuel Stayman, this is a Convention, asking the NT opener to bid a 4-card major suit if he has one. If the NT has a four-card major, he will be 2 H or 2 S. Now the responder, who must have at least 8 HCP, can "lock in" on that suit if he holds four cards in the same suit. If the NT does not hold either 4-card major, then he bids 2 D. (Now the responder corrects the hand back to 2 NT.)
OPENING BID OF 2NT (22 to 24 HCP)
This is a powerhouse and promises 22 to 24 HCP. Partner may pass with less than 3 HCP. He must raise to 3 NT with a range of 4 to 8 HCP. If he holds 11 or 12 HCP, he can go to 6 NT. Opening bids of 3 NT are rare and require 25 to 27 HCP.
Note - We will cover in an upcoming segment, the "Gerber (4 Club) convention over NT bids, which explores Slams.
DISTRIBUTIONAL HANDS OPPOSITE 2 NT/3 NT OPENERS
Unbalanced hands create a different scenario. Any 6-card major suit may be raised to the 3 level. (You know you will have at least eight trump between the hands.) A five-card major may be bid with at least 3 HCP in the responding hand. The opening bidder will decide the final contract for the hand.