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Weak 1NT

#1 User is offline   enigmisto 

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Posted 2022-January-12, 21:56

There seems to be pretty broad consensus on how to handle strong 1NT (Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, Texas Transfers) but weak 1NT systems are all over the place. I haven't yet found any two books describing weak 1NT that have a remotely similar response structure.

Why the higher variance? What's your favorite weak 1NT response structure?
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#2 User is offline   foobar 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 00:11

 enigmisto, on 2022-January-12, 21:56, said:

There seems to be pretty broad consensus on how to handle strong 1NT (Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, Texas Transfers) but weak 1NT systems are all over the place. I haven't yet found any two books describing weak 1NT that have a remotely similar response structure.

Why the higher variance? What's your favorite weak 1NT response structure?

None... having tried 10-12, 12-14, 13-15,etc over the years, I don't really care for the ripple effects on the 1C/1D/1M openings. It either forces opening 1C on 15+, or requires shoehorning the 13-15 hands into 1D. Also, even if you prefer 1M - 1N as NF, you may have to use hacks like 2C with balanced hands in the 14-15 range.
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#3 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 03:17

I'm not sure what you mean foobar, I don't think any of the issues you raise are necessary parts of the system. I've played 10-13 NT ('kamikaze') and 12-14 NT ('weak'), and both are very powerful tools.

I think regular Stayman and Jacoby transfers are best over a weak NT. You can play whatever you please on the 3- and 4-level (Texas is fine, and so is natural, or something else). I've played 2-way Stayman for a while (and, in fact, this is what I play over the kamikaze NT) with 2 invitational and 2 GF Stayman and 2, 2 natural NF. This is useful opposite the wide 4-point range, but not that effective opposite a disciplined 12-14 (or some other weak 3-point range). Also the natural 2/2 bids are slight losers compared to transfers, because you inform both opponents that they are allowed to balance (instead of just the opponent sitting over responder). If you do play a very weak NT having natural 3- and 4-bids is very wise.

If you want to get all scientific, it is possible to play 2 as an artificial GF relay, allowing opener to show their complete shape at or below 3NT. This is probably the best use of 2-way 'Stayman'. But it is too memory consuming for my partnership, so we play simple 2-way.

As an aside, there's been discussion on the best structure over a strong NT on Bridgewinners recently. The consensus seems to be Stayman, Jacoby transfers, 2 range ask and 2NT can be used as Puppet Stayman (you don't need the diamond transfer with a range ask). The downside of this structure is that it would combine best with a system without Crawling Stayman, a treatment that I think is very valuable over a weak NT.
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#4 User is offline   mw64ahw 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 03:24

Terrence Quested in his book NoTrump Bidding (pattayabridge.com) (Page 9) suggests the structures over 1NT can be similar for Weak & Strong 1NT. I assume the Weak NT version of his book is similar although I haven't compared
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#5 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 04:36

The only major difference is that Smolen is not needed over a weak NT as the GF hand will be at least as good as the opener, so you won't be rightsiding.
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#6 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 07:20

I agree with Cyberyeti. In the UK where weak NT is very popular, almost everyone plays Stayman and transfers. Advocates of playing other methods over weak NT mainly seem to come from countries where the strong NT is prevalent and I wonder if perhaps they are over-reacting to the 3-point change in point range. I'd keep the exactly same constructive methods you use now over 15-17 (including Smolen if you like, it's pointless but harmless), and agree how to handle a penalty double. Simplest is system off. I like 4 suit transfers (XX is clubs) but more people play a form of "wriggle".
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#7 User is offline   Tramticket 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 08:38

Stayman is largely unchanged. But you should include weak hands in your Stayman:

4441 - bid Stayman and pass any response from partner.
(54)22 - bid Stayman, then bid the five-card major if partner responds 2.

Jacoby transfers should be standard, whatever NT you are playing.

Texas transfers aren't particularly needed - it can be useful to play 1NT-4 and 1NT-4 as natural and right-side the contract depending on tenace holdings etc.

There are various possible uses for 1NT-2 - including four-suit transfers; range-asking; weak take-out to a minor; etc.

Three-level responses - whatever you currently play probably works for a weak NT.
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#8 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 10:05

View PostTramticket, on 2022-January-13, 08:38, said:

Texas transfers aren't particularly needed - it can be useful to play 1NT-4 and 1NT-4 as natural and right-side the contract depending on tenace holdings etc.

Texas transfers are a useful addition to Jacoby transfers over strong NT, they allow (by inference, both when and when not used) responder to convey more detailed information about shape and slam interest, plus they provide effective preemption and set trumps. Is this less true over weak NT? I would have expected that the preemptive effect was at least as useful. I can see that the opener-siding effect of transfers is less useful, but nor I would think is responder-siding that frequently a winner: in any case you can still do it in spades, so you only lose half that cake. Or you could give up the not particularly needed Gerber and play South African Texas, maintaining both 4M as natural.

Not a weak NT player, just curious.
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#9 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 10:24

In the last 50 years or so, in The World minus GB, 90% of bridge books written have been written with some form of a strong NT (for "effect on system" reasons, I consider a 13-15 NT in Precision "Strong" here). As a result, "progress" on 1NT system has been oriented strongly toward strong NT response. Part of your issue is "finding a weak NT book written in the same decade/same country as the other one, of course 1990 responses under Crowhurst/Acol are going to be different from 1970 responses in K/S".

In the last 50 years or so, in the ACBL, there has been a homogeneity in system, to the point that I could (and have) sit at a table with a player I've never seen before, and play "2/1" and get 80% correction in auction, just from common memory. As part of that "style", changes to "common system" propagate quite quickly as new things take hold.

The combination of those two is what leads to "there is one strong NT system" (2 and higher excluded. Well, 3 Puppet is moving to "standard" these days).

Weak NT players still have a large fraction of "what they learned". Some are in the "what we play in our Strong NT partnerships" because that's easier than playing two systems. Some play a two-way Stayman system, because one of the reasons for transfers (make the strong hand play it) is less powerful, as mentioned above (in a "homogeneous strong NT" world, there's another reason to not play transfers - 1NT-2H matching 1m-1H; 2H to minimize the "othersiding" that anything different will do). Some actually play systems that are designed primarily for a weak NT (I play Keri, for instance) or that work with the rest of the system (EHAA extended Stayman with its 10-12).

In effect, the advantage of system over 1NT is minimal enough that other priorities, like "one less thing to talk about or remember when playing with a new/a different partner" come to the fore.
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#10 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 10:37

Yes the "siding" effects of transfers are less important with weak NT, but the constructive value makes them worthwhile i.m.o.. Take this sequence from a simultaneous pairs on Tuesday where I opened a weak NT including a 5 card heart suit: 1NT-2* - 2-3-3 "I've got five of these pard" -4

Without transfers we'd be in a hopeless 3NT on the natural club lead
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#11 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 10:51

On the Texas Transfers front, the ability to have:
  • 4M as a preempt (note: more important over a weak NT, more important the weaker the NT)
  • 4M as "to play" (and if that pattern is the same as the previous, it makes the preempt harder to deal with; I have my share of 1NT-p-4-(compete); p-(whatever)-X when the 10 points opener's LHO could have had, I in fact had)
  • a way to show a "slam could be on, but only on a 'superaccept'"
  • a way to show "serious slam interest" (if only "partner, keycard!")
is very helpful. Independent of NT range, but of course partner will have slam interest more often with a strong NT than a weak one.

I play SA Texas (but am not wedded to it) because:
  • I get keycard in all 4 suits as part of Keri, so the (dubious) utility of Gerber is even smaller for us
  • there's a small, but tangible benefit, in being able to play 4M from either side. I can play 4M the same way as the field if I want; I can play 4M as responder if I think I have something to hide (perhaps that I didn't bid it "to make" this time!); I can play 4M as responder if I think my hand is the one that needs to be protected from being led through. The weaker the NT, the more useful having this choice is.

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#12 User is offline   enigmisto 

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Posted 2022-January-13, 20:32

Lots of good explanations here. Thinking about it further, I speculate another factor is that weak 1NT is often intended more as a kind of a preempt, and so there's more of a need for an "escape hatch" opposite another weak hand -- a way to scramble to any kind of fit rather than suffer in 1NT. This case requires different techniques than strong 1NT.
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#13 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 03:27

View Postenigmisto, on 2022-January-13, 20:32, said:

Lots of good explanations here. Thinking about it further, I speculate another factor is that weak 1NT is often intended more as a kind of a preempt, and so there's more of a need for an "escape hatch" opposite another weak hand -- a way to scramble to any kind of fit rather than suffer in 1NT. This case requires different techniques than strong 1NT.


I think that's the reaction of many strong NT players to the idea of 12-14. They expect it to be a lot riskier than 15-17, but getting doubled for a bad score is actually very rare. It does have a useful pre-emptive effect, but the minimum standard (particularly vulnerable) is higher than for opening one of a minor on a mangy 11 count and a 3 card suit. My advice would be, don't get so carried away with the the pre-empt effect that you don't give yourself the best opportunity on constructive hands.
I don't play a mini no-trump because 12-14 allows you to use the common 12-14, 15-17, 18-19 hcp brackets, those who open 10-12 might have a different perspective.
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#14 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 04:10

I play the 10-13 NT only at favourable vulnerability, and it is a big winner. We are not at all worried about weak-opposite-weak hands. It is very difficult to punish a mini notrump. If overcaller doubles, for example, advancer has to consider:
  • If their hand is weak, overcaller might be extremely strong. But maybe they just have a 'top-of-their-range' 13 count, and passing is a disaster. On balance, running with a not-great hand is a winner. That means they can only punish us if they have a near-minimum penalty double opposite a reasonable hand.
  • With a reasonable or even strong hand, game might be on. Especially with some shape in the major suits (likely since their RHO, partner of the mini notrump opener, didn't run to a major). That could well pay better than defending 1NTX.
  • If the situation does get muddy and we run to the 2-level, it is only the partner of the 1NT opener that knows the distribution of strength around the table. This gives them a big leg up in deciding how much to compete.

The downside of 10-13 NT is that all our balanced hands with 14-19 HCP open 1, and splitting those ranges is a nightmare in competition. But the 1NT opening itself is wonderful.
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#15 User is offline   Tramticket 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 05:19

View Postpescetom, on 2022-January-13, 10:05, said:

Texas transfers are a useful addition to Jacoby transfers over strong NT, they allow (by inference, both when and when not used) responder to convey more detailed information about shape and slam interest, plus they provide effective preemption and set trumps. Is this less true over weak NT? I would have expected that the preemptive effect was at least as useful. I can see that the opener-siding effect of transfers is less useful, but nor I would think is responder-siding that frequently a winner: in any case you can still do it in spades, so you only lose half that cake. Or you could give up the not particularly needed Gerber and play South African Texas, maintaining both 4M as natural.

Not a weak NT player, just curious.




Standard Acol uses 1NT-3H and 1NT-3S as natural and slam invitational - if playing these methods, you certainly don't need Texas as well. If I have agreed other three-level methods then two-up transfers (South African Texas) is a reasonable option.

Meanwhile, after a weak NT, you are often playing in game with 13 opposite 13 or similar. With the points evenly divided, it can be helpful to choose which hand you want to make declarer.




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#16 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 09:29

A weak NT *is* to an extent a preempt. You're taking away the entire 1-level on hands that are opened 1m by the strong NT players (or, with some of the 10-12 NT hands, passed). Some weak NT response systems lean on that, especially the 2-way Stayman people. They don't play transfers, saying to 4th hand after 1NT-p-2 "speak now, or your next decision is whether you have questions on the opening lead" rather than 1NT-p-2 "you can have one system now and another one when 2 comes back to you". They go through 2 Artificial Game Force to show the "5M GF" (and the "6M slam invitational") hands, so they can preempt with 1NT-p-3x. The opportunities for 1NT-p-4m "preemptive" are significantly higher when opener has less strength.

Those that lean harder into the constructive auctions after 1NT give up some of that push-the-preempt to do so. I can see the utility of each depending on something as small as "how many others in the room are opening 1NT?"

As the others are saying, though, the strong NT people that say the weak NT "goes for numbers" are wrong - or at least are remembering "that one time", and forgetting about "that one time" they went for 800 in 1NT-p-p-X; AP.

Of course, that's not all upside:
  • That relies on the weak NT people learning two systems (and using both effectively, but of course, they have a lot of practise!): their system over 1NT-p, and their system over 1NT-X.
  • -200 in 1NT-AP or 1NT-p-2-AP, or even 1NT-X-successful escape, is the same matchpoint zero as -800 vs a partscore their way, and comes up significantly more often. The "Death Hand" for a weak NT, especially vulnerable, is a flat 4-6, or a 5=1 majors 4-6. You have enough that they don't have game, but not enough that you're making anything.


But I play a 12-14 NT in a K/S structure so that when I bid something *else*, I don't have a minimum balanced hand. The benefits of that are worth the hassle and "20% of auctions are different from the field" of playing a non-standard NT.
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#17 User is offline   pilun 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 15:43

I've always liked Gladiator with a weak notrump.

2 = weak in a major
2/ = invitational

The weak notrump is a tactical attacking weapon. Part of the aim is to put pressure on defenders. With

865 KJ764 AQ62 9

it's good to bid be able to bid 2 to show this. You may benefit in the play from being declarer. Let them see partner's know 12-14 balanced and wonder about your shape.

If you would transfer with this, you won't know what to do over 2 from opener.

So good to bid 2 with hearts and 2 with spades. Transfers give the opponents too many bites at the cherry.
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#18 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 16:36

I’ve posted this structure before but I hope some might find it useful.

I currently play 11-13 nv. It fits very well within a style in which we open virtually all balanced 11 counts, either 1C (unless 3352) or 1N. Vulnerable 1N is 14-16.

This means that, vul, 1C then showing a minimum balanced hand, shows 11-13. The 3 point range issue only exists if 1N were 15-17 AND one opened most balanced 11 counts. If you’re wedded to 15-17 then I recommend passing most balanced 11 counts

Anyway, back to the structure, which is played only opposite a first or second seat 1N, 11-13.

Assuming the opps pass throughout:

2C. Stayman-like but encompasses all invitational hands so really doesn’t say much. Responder can also be weak, intending to pass 2D or bid 2H, scrambling, over 2D


2D. Game force. Completely artificial.

The key is the response structure. Imo normal 2 way stayman is far worse than transfers, etc, but I think our version is actually superior. I’ll detail it below

2M. To play

2N. Both minors, usually seeking to find 3m but can be strong (will bid over 3m by opener). We actually play other strong holdings folded in, essentially gf 5-5 or better hands with clubs as one of the suits, but this is very low frequency, adds significantly to memory load and the method doesn’t need it to be effective

3 any suit. To play. Note that these bids can cause huge problems for the opps since ‘to play covers anything from jxxxxxx and out to a 9 count with AQxxxx in the suit. So it may be very weak or almost invitational.


The 2D structure is the heart of the method. The system is designed to have responder declare as often as possible, unlike transfers. This can right side contracts since in these auctions responder rates to hold the stronger hand. Also, the method sometimes ends up placing the contract without responder having ever made a descriptive bid, making both the opening lead and later defence more difficult than if declarer had described his hand


1N. 2D
2H. Denies 4+ hearts
2S. Shows 4+ hearts, denies spades
2N. 5+ clubs (we very, very rarely open 1N with a 6 card minor)
3C. 5+ diamonds
3D. 4=4 majors
3H. 2=2=4=5
3S. 2=2=5=4 min
3N. 2=2=5=4 max



1N. 2D
2H. 2S. Relay
2N. Denies spades. Responder can relay again with 3C. See below
3C. 4S and 4D
3D. 4S and 4C
3H. 4=3=3=3 max
3S. 5 spades, some 5332 shape
3N. 4=3=3=3 min


If opener has responded 2N, 3C, 3D then responder can set trump if that seems appropriate:

1N. 2D
2N. 3C sets clubs

1N. 2D
3C. 3D. Sets diamonds


1N. 2D
3D. 3M. Sets trump.

Anytime responder sets trump like that, he shows either slam interest (definitely over 3D) or doubt about strain and level. Thus setting clubs with 3C over 2N may lead to exploring for 3N or may lead to exploring a club slam.


1N. 2D
2H. 2S
2N. 3C

3D shows 3=2=4=4
3H. Shows 2=3=4=4
3S. Shows 3=3=3=4
3N. Shows 3=3=4=3


After 1N 2N 3m. 3M by responder is strong, showing shortness in the bid major and looking for at least game.


Returning to 1N 2C

2D. 2H pass or correct
2S. 5+ spades, rarely 6, invitational values
2N. Invitational to 3N but may hold 5 hearts….opener bids 3H along the way if accepting the invite and holding 3 hearts
3m. Invitational, 6 card suit
3M. Invitational, 6 card suit
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#19 User is offline   akwoo 

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Posted 2022-January-14, 20:09

I've played lots of weak NT (12-14), and have always played it with Stayman and transfers. I will play SA Texas if partner is willing.

Opposite 12-14, I don't try to run out any more often than over a strong NT.

I've also played 10-12. I think, there, especially against strong players at the table (who have agreed the difference between a direct bid over a transfer and a balancing bid a round later over a transfer), it does help to give up transfers. However, the system I've played over 10-12 is one where most bids are a relay showing either a weak hand in the next suit up or a game forcing hand in the suit bid, with invitational hands stuck in various sequences. I'll give details if anyone wants it - it's a nice system but I'm not sure it's worth the memory load.
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#20 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2022-January-15, 10:34

I like
2c staym
2d inv+ with 5+ in either major
2M/3m to play
3M slam invite with c/d
Can maybe be improved in various ways but it avoids transfers with weak hands which is the main objective
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