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Here, for reference, is the entire hand that inspired the question. With only us vulnerable, left hand opponent bid one spade, partner doubled for takeout, right hand opponent passed, and I have (s)943 (h) A52 (d) AQJ (c)8732.

Normally, a bid of 1NT opposite an opening bid (and partner's takeout double suggests this range) would mean a balanced hand, 6-9 points. If the opponents have bid meanwhile, it would also suggest a stopper in opponents' suit.

The columnist (Frank Stewart) suggested a "craven" bid of 2 clubs. I disagree because that could mean (c)8732 with no honors, and seriously mislead partner into thinking that the hand belongs to the opponents when my 11 points means that the balance is in our favor.

My preference is to bid 1NT to alert partner to the fact that I have "real" strength. I assume that since I'm not making a "forced" suit bid, that it suggests the usual 6-9 points, not a bust. I don't have a stopper in the opponents' suit, but I do have a balanced "threesome," and two points over the presumed nine.

Is my 1NT response better than the columnist's suggested response? (With the queen of spades, I'd go to 2NT, but I don't have that.) Is there an even better response? I might cue bid two spades with a singleton or void in spades, but I don't have that either.

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Absolutely not - just bid 2C (in tempo so as to not present partner with an ethical problem).

The hand you are attempting to protect against, a balanced 12-14 count, is explicitly denied by partner's take-out double. If partner has that range then a singleton small Spade is almost guaranteed; a doubleton at most absolutely guaranteed.

Likewise partner does not have a 15-18 point hand with a spade stopper, as that hand has been denied by the failure to overcall 1NT.

Further, the 4333 distribution with an empty 4-card suit is deadly. This hand could easily play two or more full points weaker than its alleged 11 HCP if partner does not have at least 4 diamonds.

Since there is no right call to make with this hand, as all possibilities and the hand itself have significant flaws, follow the Golden Rule: Never overbid a bad hand. Just bid a craven 2C as recommended.

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    If you switched my spade and diamond holdings so that I have AQJ of spades, would it then be OK to bid 1NT? Because I would have the suit double-stopped opposite partner's presumed singleton. – Tom Au Sep 24 '18 at 17:50
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    @TomAu: Either that or 2NT - the hand is right on the cusp. A double stopper is a real plus, the 4333 distribution a minus. Here's a case of bidding the opponents: Bid 2NT against decidedly weak opponents or vulnerable playing IMPS; otherwise bid 1NT. – Forget I was ever here Sep 24 '18 at 18:05
  • Would I still have a 1NT bid with AQJ in spades, (6-9 points) and no heart ace or other side honor? – Tom Au Sep 24 '18 at 18:10
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    @TomAu: No, because you both lack the required 8 HCP and have a distinct minus value in the 4333 distribution. Just bid 2C in tempo again. In competition, all (natural) Notrump bids should be pure, expressing an accurate and precise description of the hand. – Forget I was ever here Sep 24 '18 at 18:11
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    I think I understand now. First, 8 HCPs (not 6-7) is the normal threshold for a "free" bid opposite a takeout double. Second, my earlier hand with 11 hcps wasn't worth "eight" with the 4-3-3-3 distribution and no stopper in the opponent's suit. So treat it like "seven" and "cravenly" bid 2 clubs. – Tom Au Sep 24 '18 at 18:15

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