~Responses to 1NT Openers #2

When partner opens 1NT, regardless of the point range, there are numerous distributions and at least three ranges of strength to be described–weak, intermediate, and strong. In addition, there seems to be a wide range of expert opinions as to how to describe shape and strength. While there may be disagreement as to methodology, there seems to be no dispute that, to the extent possible, no bid or series of bids by responder should have dual meanings, or, if dual meanings are necessary, the dual meanings should not lead partner into dangerous territory before the ambiguity is clarified. What follows is one complete system of responses gleaned from expert writings that is reliable in almost all situations.
What does each response to 1NT mean?
~2C: Stayman. Asks opener to bid a 4-card major at the lowest possible level, and if holding two 4-card majors, to bid 2H. Responder will not always hold a 4-card major, but opener’s duty is clear–to answer the exact question asked at the two-level. No ad-libbing; responder is in control–opener justs rows the boat; responder will shoot the ducks. Don’t have a 4-card major? Tell partner so by responding to the 2C inquiry with a 2D answer.
~2D: a transfer to 2H
~2H: transfer to 2S
~2S: asks opener to show which minor he prefers or to bid 3C with no preference. Opener bids 2NT if he prefers diamonds. This use of 2S allows responder with one bid to describe a weak 6-card suit, two weak 5-card suits, or two strong 5-card suits with slam interest. Responder’s second bid will describe the exact holding or place the final contract.
~2NT: invitational to game in NT.
~3C: shows a long club suit of 6+ cards with two of the top three honors and no outside As or Ks. If opener has an appropriate suit fit in clubs (A, K, or Q doubleton or any three clubs), 3NT is the favored contract. Without the suit fit, opener passes. Note that if responder had bid 2S and then stopped in 3C, the trump suit would be weaker with little hope of making 3NT.
~3D: Exactly as the above entry except the long suit is diamonds.
~3H: shows 5-5 shape in the major suits and is invitational to game.
~3S: shows 5-5 shape in the majors and is forcing to game. Note that with this bid, the sequence 1NT-2D (Jacoby transfer), 2H-3S can be used to force game and invite slam with 5-5 shape in the majors. The 3S has no other practical meaning.
~3NT: closeout
~4C: Gerber (to check for aces when contemplating a slam based on a long suit vice HCP). 
~4NT: Invitational to a NT slam. Over a 15-17 HCP range for 1NT, 4NT shows 16-17 HCP. Opener passes with 15 HCP, bids 6NT with 17 HCP, and bids 5NT with exactly 16 HCP (responder may have 17 HCP).
~5NT: Grand Slam Try–forcing to 6 NT or 7NT. Shows 20-21 HCP. Open with 15 HCP bids 6NT, bids 6C with 16 (to see if responder has 21 HCP), or bids 7NT with 17 HCP.
~6NT: shows 18-19 HCP.
~7NT: 22+ HCP
Other specialty bids
~Smolen: used when holding game-forcing points and 5-4 shape in the majors. Bid 2C; if opener bids a major, jump to game in that suit. If opener responds with 2D, jump to three in the 4-card major. This sequence will make opener declarer in an 8-card major suit fit at the four-level or at 3NT.
~5-4 in the majors with invitational strength? Transfer to the 5-card major, then bid the 4-card major at the cheapest level.
~5-4 in the majors and weak? The outdated method was to transfer and pass, possibly missing the 8-card fit in the other major. Better to bid 2C and pass the major suit bid or, over 2D, bid the 5-card major. This method is called Drop Dead Stayman and must be passed (no longer invitational).
~Have a long minor (6+) and a slam-oriented hand but reluctant to bid past 3NT? Use this sequence: bid 2C; partner will respond to your Stayman inquiry. Regardless on the response, bid three of your long minor and opener will cooperate in a slam try or in stopping at 3NT. Once responder corrects the Stayman response to 3C or 3D, opener will bid 3NT to deny a fit and extras or bid anything else (up-the-line controls recommended) as a slam try. Four of the minor should be reserved for Keycard Gerber (Minorwood).
Opener        Responder
S AQ6                      S K7
H QJT8                    H K76
D AT8                     D KQ76543
C AT9                     C K
A possible bidding sequence might be 1NT-2C, 2H-3D (slam try in diamonds), 3S-4D (Keycard Gerber–1430), 4S-6NT. The 4S bid shows 0-3 keycards for diamonds and must be three since the 3S bid showed the spade ace, diamond fit, and extras. Granted, other sequences of bids would work with these cards, but 1NT-4C would bypass 3NT when that could be the best contract. Better to check a few things before getting too high.
What to do with this hand? 
S JT76
H QJ65
D JT432
C —
Bid Garbage Stayman, of course. You have nothing but “garbage,” but your garbage is well distributed. Bid 2C and pass whatever opener bids.
What about?
H JT65
D J65
C 54
60% of the time opener will hold a 4-card major, so you can try 2C when holding two 4-card majors and 4-7 HCP. The other 40% of the time you’ll play in a 6-card or 7-card fit, and the results may be worse than at 1NT. With 8-9 HCP, you would play at 2NT or 3NT.
What do you do with this hand?
S 54
H 6
D QJ985
C QJ985
Bid 2S over partner’s 1NT. If partner prefers clubs, pass 3C. If partner prefers diamonds (2NT response), bid 3D and partner will pass. With 8-9 trumps, you should capture more tricks in a minor than in 1NT.
And with this hand?
H —
Use the same 2S inquiry to make a slam try. After opener selects a minor suit, bid your splinter (here, bid 3H to make a slam try in the minor opener prefers). Opener can bid 3NT to deny slam interest or bid anything else as a slam try. Suppose opener bids 3S to show the spade ace. Wouldn’t you want to try a minor-suit slam? The bidding might go 1NT-2S, 2D-3H, 3S-4C, 4H-4NT, and a final contract of 6D or 6NT (maybe even a grand slam if the kings work OK).

One Response to “~Responses to 1NT Openers #2”

  1. Robin Cottmeyer Says:

    How does no trump opener respond to a Stayman response when holding both 4 card majors?

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