Defense Vs Notrump

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 12/01/2014
Level: Intermediate

This is the 18th in a series of articles taking the reader through the ACBL Convention Card.

When the opponents open 1NT, there are many options. Only the newest and natural bidders would go without a convention here. I'm the last one to push conventions, but this is an area high on my list where I recommend playing "something."
There are numerous conventions available; even if you go alphabetically you can list: ASTRO, BROZEL, CAPPELLETTI,  DONT. That's just the start of the list. You can click here to read about my favorite method: DONT. I prefer DONT because it allows you to show all 1- and 2-suiters without reaching the 3-level. Space doesn't allow a detailed description here of all the methods. More important than which convention you play, are the following partnership issues:


1) Are you playing the same methods against all notrump ranges (weak and strong)?

      It is hard to memorize two different systems, but if your defense against a strong notrump doesn't employ a strong double, you do need that option available against a weaker notrump.

2) Does anything change if you are in balancing seat (1NT P P ??)  ?

      I suggest playing the same methods, but allowing lighter actions in balancing seat.

3) Are you prepared for the follow-ups?  (What if the opponents compete after your interference)?

      For example, suppose you overcall with 2? to show ?and either major, and the next player doubles. What do "advancer's" actions mean? What is Pass? What is Redouble?  In such a situation, I'd suggest: Pass="diamonds -- to play."  XX="pick-your major"  2?= "my own heart suit--I don't care if you have spades -- don't correct"  2?= "my own spade suit--I don't care if you have hearts -- don't correct"

4) Is your philosophy to act in the direct seat aggressively? How important is suit quality or vulnerability?

       I suggest that direct seat actions show either a good hand (like an opening bid) or very good/long suits. It is too perilous to get involved with, say, king-empty fifth in one suit and queen-jack-fourth in the other. Exercise caution when vulnerable.

5) In balancing seat are you likely to be very aggressive?

        My experience says that you should be very aggressive in this position. Don't let them play 1NT. Balance! Accordingly, if your partner dutifully balances over 1NT, don't hang him. Let him out in a partial. Don't Blackwood him into a grand slam.

6) How important is it to use double for penalty?
        These days, there is a big debate as to whether or not you need a PENALTY (or "card-showing") double of 1NT.  I am not a big believer in penalty doubles. I prefer to have the double available as artificial. However, against weak notrumps, I need penalty doubles. if you do play penalty doubles, remember to discuss what it means if your partner pulls. I recommend: "Front of Card." In other words, if you make a penalty double and partner bids 2?, treat it as Stayman. If he pulls your double to 2? or 2?, treat is as a Jacoby transfer. For more on defending against a weak notrump, see the end of this article.


Regardless of the method you use, be sure to discuss and agree with your partner on items #1-6 above. Interfering with the opponents' notrump is an important area that occurs frequently. As a side note: Be prepared for their interference over your 1NT!




Larry's Audio Tour of the Convention Card