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A Bit of Holiday Reading

Hi all – I hope you’re looking forward to next year’s bridge and don’t forget to keep your questions coming!

Now to continue with our discussion on the 1NT opening and what happens after that. I must set the reader straight on one thing: overcalling when an opponent has opened 1NT is quite a different matter to overcalling when an opponent has opened in a suit.

I will repeat what I have said before: the 1NT opening bid is about as accurate a description of a hand as you can get in ONE bid. When your partner opens 1NT, YOU are in charge. You can decide where you want to go and how to get there. If there is any interference bidding by way of an overcall, you should be able to take the appropriate action, though sometimes it is not easy to do so with any certainty.

The main thing is that you know immediately whether you have the ‘balance of power’ by way of point count, and whether you have sufficient strength to either INVITE game or to FORCE to game. You will invite if you have 11 or 12 HCP and you will force to game, or bid game immediately, if you have 13 or more HCP. That is not particularly difficult if there is no opposition bidding. You have STAYMAN available to look for a major suit fit, and you can also invite or force to game in whichever way you have been taught, i.e. you may have learnt to play transfers, or you can invite via Stayman or by simply raising to 2NT if you have no interest in a major suit fit. And you can force to game by jumping to 3H or 3S, which shows EXACTLY a five card suit and asks opener to raise to game with three or more card support, or to bid 3NT with only a doubleton. Jumping in a minor suit should generally be reserved for times when you have an interest in a slam rather than just game, remember that minor suit games require 11 tricks and at least 28 HCP as a rule.

I have digressed a bit and will talk more later about how to invite and how to force to game, but to return to overcalling when an opponent opens 1NT. That can be fraught with danger if opponents know what they are doing and are capable of either doubling or finding ways to keep bidding if that is more productive. One note of warning if you either overall an opponent’s 1NT or decide to double when an opponent enters the bidding at the two level over your own 1NT your PLAY will need to be up to scratch, whether you end up as declarer, or end up defending.

The deal that we have been discussing provides a very good example, so I will now take another look at it. It will help you with your defence.

Board#13 12/12/2018

This is not a straightforward situation, but let’s say that East is playing the hand in 2H after overcalling North’s 1NT. At the club, two Easts did play in 2H, neither of them were doubled. Clearly, the DOUBLE, either penalty or takeout, is not on a Wednesday agenda as yet, but I hope will be in six month’s time!

One East was down TWO in 2H, but the other one actually made 2H, a huge difference, and a difference that was totally contributable to the DEFENCE that NS produced. In one case, I am guessing, NS simply took all the immediate tricks they could, which was five, and then gave up. That is not what defence is about, so let me now turn to the case where NS defeated declarer by two. South started with the king of spades opening lead, as any teacher would recommend. When the king held, it was not too difficult for an intelligent South to work out what might happen next: with only two spades in dummy, if a second spade was led, that would clear spades from dummy and allow declarer to ruff the third one in dummy. It was thus not difficult for South to immediately switch to a trump. Declarer won this and led a second spade, but the defence led a second trump to clear trumps from dummy and declarer then lost a third spade trick. The defence also played on DIAMONDS as soon as they won the first (or second) club trick, whereas in the other case the defence must have taken their club tricks and thus set up at least one club trick in dummy while declarer still had the ace of diamonds in dummy as an entry. The good defenders realised that it was necessary to prevent a spade ruff in dummy and did just that. They also realised that there was no hurry to take what club tricks they could, and that they would come sooner or later. Grabbing tricks as quickly as possible, especially against low level contracts, almost NEVER works to your advantage. I hope the reader will be persuaded of that and learn from this example.

I intend to write much more on defence in the coming year of Midweek Reviews. And if you’re interested in more reading over the holidays, check out posts on this blog as it includes my earlier articles that may be of interest to you.

Additional content: Midweek Review Introduction 05

This question came from a reader following on from my articles about doubling.

“How can we distinguish between TAKEOUT and PENALTY doubles? In your coverage of the 1NT hand and a 2H overcall, if South doubles, would North not think it is a takeout double?”

Yes, I can understand the issue there, especially if your bridge has advanced to a much higher level, because some of the ‘experts’ would play the double as ’takeout’. Everything really depends on what understanding you have with your partner about when doubles are takeout and when they are penalty. Let me try and give you as simple a guideline as I can.

First, when you open 1NT and an opponent overcalls. Double is PENALTY. That is because you know that opener has at least two cards in the overcalled suit and between 12 and 14 HCP. You should have at least 10 HCP to double an overcall, because that will guarantee that you have the ‘balance of power’ and opponents will need to make at least eight tricks with no more than 18 HCP between them, and the overcall would have been made without any knowledge of what their partner might hold. Take the penalty and hope your defence is on the ball.

Now, for when you and/or partner have bid a suit or suits and opponents have competed: If an opponent overcalls in NO TRUMPS, the double is penalty, e.g. partner opens 1H and R.H.O. overcalls 1NT, which shows 15-18 HCP. Once more, you double if you can be sure of having the ‘balance of power’, say at least 9 or 10 HCP. The 1NT overcaller will be battling on their own with no support from dummy.

If an opponent overcalls in a SUIT, double is TAKEOUT. Decide on a level of bidding to which the double will be takeout and where it will become penalty, the most common cut off point would be 3D but you and partner should have a simple agreement that ‘double is for takeout’ up to 3D, 3H, 3S, whatever. Some of the self styled experts like to think that they play takeout doubles up to 7H, which may be a smart ass comment but can be shown to be true in some extreme examples which I won’t bore you with now.

And, finally, a double of any game (or higher) that opponents have bid is penalty, but a word of caution: don’t double a ‘freely bid ‘ game just because you think it might not make, because it might well tell a good declarer where all the crucial cards are.

In time you will need to learn much more about all sorts of doubles and what they mean, but this should have given you enough to form a basic understanding.

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