Last Update:  4th June 2015
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COMPETING OVER 1NT OPENINGS
BOB PATTINSON

1NT openings, whether weak or strong, make life difficult for the opponents by forcing entry to the auction at the two level. The dilemma facing the intervening partnership is twofold:
  • Competing may result in a heavy penalty if the cards lie badly
  • Not competing may lead to a sound part score being missed or a game contract even.
The following hand illustrates the problem:

  QJ92
Q93
K83
J73

   South is the Dealer:



Bidding:
 West
73
65
AQT75
AK53

East
AT85
J872
6
T862

  S          W        N         E

  1NT     P          P          P

  South
K64
AKT4
J942
Q9
   


Declarer should come to 8 tricks in 1NT. However, the opponents can make 2C. The problem is how to reach the minor suit part score. More on this later.

This first hand shows that there are dangers passing 1NT just as there are when risking an overcall.

When to compete over 1NT

There are 4 types of hands worth competing with:

A. Balanced 15+ HCP
B. Single suited

C. Two suited

D. Three suited

 A B
C
D
AT9
KJ9
A97
KJT4
16 HCP's
54
K2
AQJT98
543
10 HCP's
43
KQJ98
7
AQ983
12 HCP's
KQ98
AQ75
KJ54
6
15 HCP's

Partnerships have to make choices when agreeing which convention to play over 1NT, as no convention covers all of the four hand types shown above. One key decision is whether or not to retain the double of 1NT as a strong balanced hand.  Several conventions now use double as showing a single suited hand, especially over weak 1NT.   As defences to 1NT doubled have improved more use is being made of X for other reasons than penalties.

The table below provides a comparison of the key features of four conventions covering a variety of hand holdings:

Landy with Transfers Cappelletti Cansino Uniclub
1 and 2 suiters aimed at  showing  majors 1  and 2  suiters   but  more  suit combinations  2  and  3  suiters  1, 2  and 3 suiters
Retains double for penalties Retains double for penalties Retains double for penalties  Double = single suited hand
Transfers allow intervenor  to bid a second suit to show  shape / values With a strong major/minor  two suiter, can bid 2NT to  invite game 2♣ =  tolerance for clubs  plus  two other suits
2 =  majors
 Overcalls flexible and easy  to  remember

Landy with Transfers

2♣ =
Major two Suiter at least 5 / 4
2 =
Transfer to Hearts
2 =
Transfer to Spades
2♠ =
Transfer to Clubs
2NT
=
Minor two Suiter
3♣ =
Transfer to Diamonds
3 =
Strong Major two suiter at least 5 / 5

Cappelletti

2♣
=
One suiter any suit

Over 2♣, responder may pass with 6 clubs, relay with 2 to ask for the intervenor’s suit, bid a 5 card major, or show a balanced 11 HCP hand with 2NT. 
2
=
Majors
 
Over 2, Pass is an option with 6 diamonds, a major suit bid gives preference, 2NT shows the minors, and 3♣ is natural.
2
=
Hearts and a minor

Over 2
then 2NT asks for the minor suit
2♠
=
Spades and a minor

Over 2♠ then 2NT asks for the minor suit
2NT
=
Minors

Cansino

2♣
=
At least 3 clubs and two other suits, ideally 4441
2
=
Major two suiter
2
=
Single suited hand
2♠
=
Single suited hand

Uniclub

Double =
Single suited hand (2♣ by partner for pass/convert)
2♣
=
Clubs plus another suit 
2
=
Diamonds plus a Major
2
=
Majors
2♠
=
3 suiter with Spades
2NT
=
3 suiter without spades

Uniclub is the only convention of the four outlined here which allows one to enter the auction on hand 1 at the beginning of this article.


Let us examine two more hands to see how all four conventions work in practice.

  North
95432
K3
Q7
J963

  Dealer is South

South opens 1NT (16 HCP's Strong NT 15 -17)

West
AQ86
QT762
AJT
4
  East
T
J954
8543
A852


Landy with Transfers: 2 = Majors, 5-4
Capelletti: 2
= Majors
Cansino: 2
= Majors
Uniclub: 2
= Majors
  South
KJ7
A8
K962
KQT7

 
None of the four conventions have any difficulties in bidding the majors.



  North
J2
K986
532
A876

  Dealer is South

South opens 1NT (13HCP's Weak NT 12 -14)

West
KT85
5
AQT7
KQ53
  East
Q976
QT42
94
J42


Landy with Transfers: Pass can not show 3 suited hand
Capelletti: Pass can not show 3 suited hand, need better distribution to 2 suits

Cansino: 2
= At least 3♣'s plus two other suits
Uniclub: 2
= 3 suits with at least 4♠'s
  South
A43
AJ73
KJ86
T9

 
As expected the two conventions designed to show 3 suited hands have no problem on this hand.

SUMMARY

• Intervening over 1NT can lead to useful part scores
• Need to take account of the vulnerability
• Some conventions limit the opportunities to compete
• Agree with partner which convention best fits your competitive bidding style

Future articles will examine some more conventions for intervening over 1NT, and then the counter measures the opening side may take to compete further.