3NT vs 5 of a minor continued

May 22, 2009 at 8:57 am 31 comments

Board 6
Dealer East
EW Vul









If you hate the 1NT opening, I can’t see that opening 1S gets EW to to game:

2C…..Surely this is a routine pass. With a singleton in partner’s suit, only 4 trumps of indifferent quality, nothing in the side suits to get excited about – if I’m raising this to 3C I’ll be failing there for no good reason on lots of hands and maybe inciting partner to bid on when he shouldn’t.

And, indeed, in the other room, after a Precision spade opening, responder passed. North balanced with a double and South’s 2H ended proceedings. Yes, opener could have competed in passout, but that was hardly going to get them to 5C. Admittedly the opener was at the top of his range, which is why his partner didn’t bother bidding on….but that’s the whole point isn’t it? If you open 1S on this hand and rebid 2C, you are STILL approximately at the top of your range, aren’t you? We certainly are, though it is true we play more sound responses to opening bids than most people do.

Both Ben and Khokan in comments yesterday complained about the opening bid and yet the fact is, on the auction as given, everybody reached the correct contract because they had the relevant information to do so…information you are never getting after a 1S opening.

Could it really be true? That I’ve won an argument on my blog? I’m feeling pretty comfy about it right now….

On Monday a dramatic example of a rule we all know….but do we always believe in it? You will now….


Entry filed under: Cayne matches.

3NT vs 5 of a minor Deciding at the six level.

31 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  May 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I have to say I agree with Khokan’s first comment here – I would routinely pass opposite a 15-17 NT with that hand. What makes 5C a reasonable shot is that opener has a magical fit in all 4 suits, including a singleton opposite the three losing hearts. If West expects that sort of hand opposite every time he picks up a random 7-count, he is going to be disappointed almost all the time, and whatever contract you get to will be failing.

  • 2. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:52 am

    5C is a poor contract, even vulnerable at imps -it can’t make if the oppents lead trumps and, even if they don’t, you need to guess the CJ.

    As for passing 2C after 1S – 1NT, 2C, I wouldn’t do it although I can understand it. The minor honour in partner’s suit, coupled with a outside ace point towards raising. BTW, I play that 3C here shows a good club raise with a singleton spade, while 2NT shows a good raise with a doubleton spade.

    I would pass a 15-17 1NT with the west hand – the whole bidding sequence Cathy described has a surreal feel about it, as the west hand doesn’t look like a game force to me.

    If I was playing transfers (which I now do), I would pass 1NT, rather than show clubs at the 3-level.

    • 3. Ben Thompson  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:50 am

      Not so sure about the trump lead. Say it’s CA and another. I win cheaply, SA, S ruff, DK, S ruff with the Q. North can’t pitch both his remaining diamonds, so I can cross back to DQ, draw the last trump and cash up the diamond winners.

      If they lead a club but let me take the 1st round, I can’t just go around ruffing spades because they can get in, draw a 2nd trump and cash spade winners. So instead I lead a heart, cutting their communication so they can’t draw the 3rd round of trumps.

      Diamonds is your communication suit for all of this, so maybe they can do some damage by attacking that.

      I agree on game-forcing with the West hand over 1NT. At the very least, if you’re going to GF over 1NT, surely you’re going to raise 1S-1NT-2C. How is finding your fit at the 2-level and making a non-forcing raise less attractive than game-forcing in the hope of a fit?

      • 4. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 12:11 pm


        You’re right – poor analysis of the play by me.

        However, that doesn’t change the fact that 5C is a low-percentage contract that could well fail, even with both clubs and diamonds splitting.

  • 5. phil markey  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

    in my system its auto to courtesy raise to 3 clubs after 1s – 1nt – 2c and from there we get to game

    this relieves pressure to find a game forcing 3 of a suit rebid and in any event stops your opponents playing hearts which you know is likely to be a good option for them

    • 6. cathychua  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:52 am

      If it is auto, how can you possible get to game???? You mean it is compulsory for opener to bid again on an unattractive 15 highs???

      • 7. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:28 am

        I agree with you, Cathy, in that I don’t think this is a “courtesy raise” situation ie I wouldn’t automatically raise with 4-card support – you’ll reach too many bad games playing this way. However, as i said earlier, the hand is a little better than a minimum with club support for the reasons I gave – I would certainly not crime a pass. Hold the CJ would make a raise automatic and making the DA into the KJ would make a pass automatic – it’s that close, to me.

      • 8. phil markey  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm

        “If it is auto, how can you possible get to game???? You mean it is compulsory for opener to bid again on an unattractive 15 highs???”

        its auto to bid 3 clubs this hand – the rule is if you have 4 card support and something that isnt a sub minimum or very close then you courtesy raise – put another way any hand where game is still reasonably possible given that pard will have the goods to game force you courtesy raise

        after a courtesy raise i think opener is definately worth a shot – plenty of 6-7 counts where game is cold – 3 diamonds is a normal choice

        so my downside is getting to a dodgy kind of game ?? – i’m terrified

      • 9. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

        My view over 3C is that, with a 5-4-3-1, opener only moves with a “good” 15-count eg replace the HK with the SK. On that basis, I would pass 3C.

        I’m with Phil in that getting to a dodgy game isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, if you examine the actual hand where partner has a source of tricks, a ftting club honour and a singleton opposite your ace – 5C is a poor spot (around 25% by my estimation). There are going to be lots of hands where even 4C isn’t a likely make. On that basis, I pass 3C.

      • 10. andrew  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm

        Khokan, partner has absolute minimum; 3C could easily conceal a 5th C, or the CJ, or possibly even the SK. With that minimum you still have a 25% shot at game.

        How can it be right to pass?

      • 11. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm


        Don’t forget that partner’s fifth diamond is what gives the hand any remote play for game. Even then, it’s pretty bad. How about a hand that everyone would raise to 3C?


        Does anyone fancy going higher than 3C?

      • 12. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:30 pm

        Furthermore, if partner has the hand that makes 5C a good spot eg


        That’s a 4C bid, not 3C.

      • 13. Chris Mulley  |  May 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

        On many of the auctions (and hands) being suggested, I would be trying to angle towards 3NT rather than 5C. I need a good reason to decide on “not 3NT”. Here, following the 3D “trial” bid it is the lack of heart stopper together with the trick source in diamonds that makes it a 5C bid.

        The “angling for 3NT argument is why I think some move towards 3NT is indicated with good 15-counts. The upside when partner has a good 8-9 count offsets the times when you go down in 4C.

      • 14. khokan  |  May 22, 2009 at 3:49 pm

        Given that the 15-count doesn’t have a readily identified source of tricks, it’s hard to construct a 8-9 point hand that makes 3NT a good proposition, or a good way to get there. The trouble with bidding 3D is that partner won’t appreciate that your singleton is a king, so you’ll probably miss 3NT when it’s right..

      • 15. Chris Mulley  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

        I agree with much of that. 3D is certainly not perfect on the hand, but the alternative would presumably be to just shoot 3NT myself, which seems very committal to strain and level. What I really want to do is bid 2NT over partner’s 3C bid – suggest NT, invite game and then respect partner’s next decision about where to play.

        As for tricks, on these auctions I have hopes that clubs provides tricks. I am often left disappointed.

    • 16. andrew webb  |  May 26, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      If responder holds:

      as suggested by Khokan – other than the fact that he holds my HK – this looks more like a 2NT bid than a 3C bid to me. Since I obviously now have a different hand, I’m not sure what I will do. But probably bid game if I’ve got 15-ish.

      And the other hand Khokan gives:

      I would also be trying 2NT. And OK, it may go down if they lead a H, but it make make if they lead a D, either way, I’m not particularly planning to stay out of game with 15 opposite 10. I don’t think I can design a system to deal with all these nuances.

      Actually, one idea is NOT to rebid 2C on a rubbish 54. So the 2C bid is either 5-5 if minimum or 15+ if 54. That gives responder more of an idea what to do. it’s not without it’s own problems though.

      • 17. Khokan Bagchi  |  May 26, 2009 at 9:33 pm

        Firstly, I find the discussion about the continuations after 1S – 1NT, 2C much more illuminating than discussing what to open with the hand. It’s interesting to see what the expectations of panelists are for continuing over the 2C rebid, and what their continuations are.

        Andrew, while what you say re minimum 5-4s sounds intriguing, it sounds wrong to me to pass with this these hands unless there’s a chance to make 3NT. The downside of passing, especially with 5431s seems much greater than any additional clarity you might get when you do rebid 2C to show 15+. It could, potentially, lead to going off in 1NT when you might make a slam!

        As to suppressing club support on my example hands (I presume your 2NT rebid doesn’t promise clubs), IMO it’s almost always better to support a suit first and, if there’s a later opportunity, bid NT if appropriate.

  • 18. Ben Thompson  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Everybody should be allowed to have a little win every now and then. Not so much on this hand, but every now and then πŸ™‚

    Forcing 1NTers will feel queasy raising 1S-1NT-2C, because 2C is so often a 3 card suit.

    For most others, 3C is easy. You have a source of tricks in diamonds, and another source of tricks in spade ruffs.

    Actually, Bill & I have a small problem. We play transfers here, so we bid 1S-1NT-2S showing clubs. West bids 3C and we lose the “didn’t pass 2C” inference. We don’t have to (2NT is available) but we would here I think.

    Now this is a little tough, but I don’t mean it meanly. You got lucky that opening 1NT gave you a shot at bidding an awkward game. How would your auction go opposite KQxx xxx xxx QJx? Annoying to go down in 1NT when 4S is very good. If you’re convinced you would bid over 1NT with that hand weaken it a little and make game merely good.

    My point is that if you open 1S, you’re still in the hunt to bid essentially all of the marginal games. If you open 1NT, you rule yourself out of bidding a meaningful chunk of them.

    • 19. cathychua  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:57 am

      How is ace empty fifth a source of tricks….oh, because it is opposite KQx??? I think all of you who think you are going to sail into 5C after a 1S opening are doing so because you’ve noticed you have Axxxx opposite KQx, information I expect you would not be privy to at the table.

      Yes, it is true on the other point re missing games, that we need to stayman much more than others would, but that isn’t necessarily so bad. A messy 2 level partscore isn’t always worse than a 1NT that may be messy too….But, I’m not suggesting we doubledummy everything. I am suggesting that knowing what sits opposite your shortages is really important and maybe we get to find out more about than the 1S openers do.

      • 20. Ben Thompson  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:57 am

        I should have stuck “potential” in front of diamonds as a source of tricks. What I mean is that you have several potential ways to generate the tricks you need for game.

        By contrast, xx Jxx A10xx Q9xx is a completely terrible hand and I would pass 1S-1NT-2C in a flash.

        Even x Jxxx A10xx Q9xx and xx Jx A10xxx Q9xx are marginal in my view. I guess with these ones I would raise vul and not raise not vul.

      • 21. Chris Mulley  |  May 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm

        Here is a sensible (natural) auction to 5C on the cards.

        1S – 1NT
        2C – 3C
        3D – 5C

        I agree with all that Khokan has said regarding the 3C raise, but concede that playing these nautral(ish) methods here does risk getting to ridiculous contracts (including part-scores).

        I disagree slightly with Cathy’s suggestion that forcing NTers will be a bit queasy when raising clubs. Most of these people play 1NT as “semi-forcing”, so many (most?) weak NT hands will pass the 1NT response.

        In general, all of the auctions discussed provide a fair argument in favour of playing Gazilli (or something else artificial) to alleviate some of the pressure on these auctions. It might not help much on this hand, but if the 1S opener is a bit stronger and the responder is a bit weaker in playing strength for clubs, game becomes practically impossible to bid using natural methods, because responder will routinely pass 2C and opener will not have anything like enough for a GF rebid.

        Miss a few of those games, and you start doing crazy things like opening 1NT with singletons. πŸ™‚

        • 22. cathychua  |  May 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm

          I didn’t say anything about forcing NTers…that was somebody else!

          That’s great, the auction you give for getting to 5C. But what about all the times where it is a disaster, just bidding 3D!!! At least my partnership, making up for the sins of our NT opening, when we bid that 3D we do have a meaningful shortage in hearts, not some bare honour that is never getting mentioned!

          • 23. Chris Mulley  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

            Sorry about the mis-attribution, Cathy. Mea culpa.

            I agree that sometimes 4C is going to be an ugly spot if that is where we end up and I have this collection as opener for my 3D bid. It could be as I think you suggested (see – now you have me using lawyer-speak!) that if I didn’t have my bidding gadgets in these auctions, I couldn’t afford to both be bidding 3C on hands like responders as well as making a game try with hands like openers. If I were not playing a forcing NT response, a 2NT bid be responder can take up the slack in these auctions (3C = courtesy raise; 2NT = better raise to 3C).

            I do also take your point about the bare heart honour – that is one of the factors that makes this hand difficult to bid. I’m not sure that opening 1NT solves the problem, though. It just meant that when I was deciding between 3NT and 5C in the auction you presented, I had a suit other than partner’s singleton to be seriously worried about.

            • 24. Tony  |  May 23, 2009 at 9:00 pm

              Well I would not open 1NT on this hand, but I understand the reasons for doing so.
              The king of hearts only has any real value in a NT contract, more so when it is in declarers hand.

              If the auction on this hand were to go
              1S – 1NT
              2C – 3C

              I would pass. I wouldn’t even think about it πŸ™‚

              • 25. Khokan Bagchi  |  May 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm

                Yes, this action is much closer to the mark than 3D. Give partner a super maximum, such as:


                and 3NT figures to fail.

                • 26. Khokan Bagchi  |  May 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm

                  I’m betting that the punchline to this hand is that south led the H10, which north ducked, because he couldn’t credit declarer with the stiff HK. Maybe there is something to opening 1NT on that hand!

                  • 27. cathychua  |  May 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

                    ….except that it is still a couple off, of course! But yes, that is certainly part of the idea of opening NT on those singleton honours….

      • 28. andrew  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm

        Surely Axxxx is a “source of tricks” in exactly the same way when deciding to GF on your 7 count opposite partner’s 15-17 NT as it is when deciding to raise 2C to 3C?

      • 29. Ben Thompson  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:11 pm

        Well, yeah, A10xxx is more or less the same potential source of tricks. The difference is in how much you overbid it.

        I think a gentle (ie non-invitational) raise to 3C is in the zone, while game-forcing opposite a 15-17 1NT is not. If you have a bid over 1NT that says invitational with both minors, it’s pushy but plausible. What should we give up to have that bid?

      • 30. David Morgan  |  May 30, 2009 at 4:51 pm

        Surely hoping that ATxxx is a source of tricks when partner has shown 9+cards in S and C is optimistic. Some of the time it might be but, more often, we’ll be looking to cross-ruff, in which case it’s a long way to 11 tricks.


        • 31. cathychua  |  May 31, 2009 at 1:44 am

          In total agreement, David…much as everybody hated the auction my partnership had, we knew we were bidding to the right spot. Game’s not exactly solid, but, then we had only 7 HCP opposite a dodgy 15 HCP. My 3S bid is an overbid, but my feeling is that the more descriptive the call, the more forgivable it is to be just short.


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