Spades Kx
Hearts Axx
Diamonds Axxx
Clubs Axxx

With the above hand and equal or unfavorable vulnerability, (all xs are 7 or lower), I would not be inclined to open 1NT even with 15 hcp, opting instead for one club. The reasons are 1) short major suits, and 2) a lack of "intermediate" values (Ts, 9s, 8s), leading to a possible situation of "aces and spaces."

I would open 1NT if the above hand were upgraded to:

Spades Kx
Hearts Axx
Diamonds A98
Clubs ATxx

Here, I have my "statistical expectation" of one T, one 9, and one 8, well placed, in addition to four face cards. I would value the second hand as at least one point, and maybe half a trick better than the first. Was I right to downgrade the first hand to 14?

Another example:

Spades KQJ9x
Hearts Qxx
Diamonds Qxx
Clubs Ax

I would open 1NT with this, after upgrading the 14 points to 15. My reasons are 1) The fifth card in my strong suit might be worth an extra trick. 2) The KQJ sequence deserves a premium, especially when followed by the 9 (never mind the T). 3) The Ax doubleton is a sure and not a shaky stopper like Kx or worse, Qx. Change the Q of spades to the Q of clubs and I would not open 1NT with 14 because of the broken spade sequence and the flat 4-3-3-3 distribution.

Are these reasonable ideas?

3 Answers 3


You want to open 1NT. You want to keep it limited, but don't look for reasons to not open 1NT. As the other answers are saying, if you don't open a control-rich (aces and kings, rather than queens and jacks) 15 1NT, you're not playing 15-17 (or at least, you're playing "really good 15-okay 18", assuming you're downgrading similar 18-counts).

As Joe said, AAAK balanced is a great strong NT. Sure, if partner is totally bust, you're taking 4, maybe 3 tricks; but if partner has QJ anywhere, or QTxx and a card, you have a good shot at making your 7, with less than half the deck. It doesn't really matter what 9 HCP they are, you have a good shot at 3NT if partner goes on 9. And if partner has a long suit and some cards, you stop all suits once (in ways that QJxx opposite two small doesn't).

Sure, bad spots are bad spots. Maybe you don't accept an invitation with 7 AK controls but nothing between Q and 8, the way you would with a ten or two. But partner will pass 1C-1M; 1NT with a good 9 or average 10 and you will make game. And it will be your fault for overthinking your system.

From a weak NTer's perspective, I'd expect to be taken to task by all three opponents if I decided to open that one a "12-14" 1NT. Especially if partner passed a decent 10 and game was automatic. And they'd be right (although I'd only listen to Centre Hand Opponent).

I agree the second hand is better. But it's not "14 vs 15", it's "is this the 15 I should be accepting a game try with?" 1NT-2D; 2H-2NT, say - or straight up 1NT-2NT? (yes, this last one is susceptible to losing 4 spades-and-a-trick, as it's almost certain they have 8+spades, but still).

If any hand of the three shouldn't be opened 1NT it's the last one. And that's because 5-card majors rule. If you have the tools to find KQJxx in hearts or spades after opening 1NT, then go ahead and do so (you'd get a lot of support for "5M332 is balanced", if only to take them out of 1S openers). But if you don't, you'll hate being in 3NT-1 when 4S is cold (or, at matchpoints, 3NT making vs cold 4S).


AAAK is a fantastic 1NT hand. You have three suits controlled and a fourth nearly so! That’s basically the textbook 1NT hand. If you don’t open that 1NT then you need to put 16 as the bottom of your range.

In general 1NT ranges are strict point count. Don’t adjust them for length because you don’t know how the length will play. Don’t worry about 9s and 8s. Open 1NT so your partner knows your point count and shape, period.

The third hand has 15 HCP, but if you dropped a jack then it would not be a 1NT opener for me. 1S describes that better. But I think a lot of people would disagree and consider that 1NT material. Mostly it depends on if you have good enough systems to deal with a 5 card major in 1NT.


I'd open 1NT regardless. You give a good indication of points, and if partner responds, they'll have some of the honors you're missing. You should have sufficient tools in your 1NT responses to communicate the respective length of Major suits - in fact, the fact that you hold short runs in the major colors is an argument for 1NT as you're going for a better score than 1Minor.

I don't feel there's a significant difference in the hands you describe. As said, if partner responds, they'll have some points too., And if they don't, you're up for an interesting contract anyways (unless opponents enter the fray).

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