Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2-Over-1: The Forcing 1 NT…Part One

While you weren’t looking, Standard American became a dinosaur. 4-card major openings were replaced with 
5-cards; 1 NT can now be opened holding a 5-card major and a worthless doubleton; weak 2’s replaced strong 2’s, and on and on. But the loudest crash is the fall of the non-forcing 1 NT response to a major and its kissing cousin, 2-over-1 (2/1) as forcing only one round. Now, 1 NT is forcing and 2/1 is forcing to game.

Why 1 NT Forcing?

West                      East
♠ K J 6 4 3            ♠ void
4 2                      K J 8 7 5 3
A Q 2                  7 5 4 3
♣ K 6 5                 ♣ Q 3 2

Take a look at Standard (old-fashioned) bidding:

West              East
1♠                 1 NT

Yuk! 1 NT is certainly not the best contract. But West can’t be faulted for passing 1 NT. Opener, with a balanced hand, routinely passes a 1 NT response.

Enter: 1 NT Forcing

If you play that a 1 NT response to a major suit opening is forcing for one round, then the responder has a chance to explain his hand. 

With the same hands as above, playing 1 NT Forcing:

West              East
1♠                  1 NT
2♣*                2

* Playing 1 NT Forcing, sometimes opener's second bid will be a 3-card minor. 

Now the contract is comfortable. East was able to describe his low point count (1 NT) and his long suit (5+ cards) and still stop on a dime.
Since the 1 NT responder usually has two or less in opener’s major, 1 NT is usually not a good place to play. 

Tune in next time for Part Two!