Which Game?

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 03/08/2002
Level: Intermediate

You open 1NT. You hold:

?K 9 3
?K J 2
?A Q 3 2
?Q 9 2

Partner bids 2?, and you accept the transfer by bidding 2?.

Now, partner bids 3NT, offering you a choice of games. Which game?

Should you pass, or correct to 4?? Does it depend on whether it is IMPs or Matchpoints?

These are often difficult decisions. I'd probably opt for 4? with this hand (at either form of scoring), but it is very close. Change the clubs to ?QJx, or maybe even ?Q10x, and I'd pass. With a side doubleton, I'd "always" go back to the major. With a doubleton in partner's suit, I'd almost always play 3NT. With 4-3-3-3, I'd often choose notrump.

Keep in mind that this is an auction where partner transferred and bid 3NT. In this case, responder won't have any singletons. If he was offshape he could have easily bid his second suit. On this auction, opener will often choose notrump if he is 4-3-3-3.

Consider this, subtly different auction:

1NT 2?
2? 2NT


Let's say the 1NT opener has a minimum. He has 3-card trump support and a flat hand (say, 4-3-3-3). Should he pass 2NT, or correct to 3??

My advice: "Always" correct to the suit with three of them. Why? Use the same logic as the main article above. The responder might not be 5-3-3-2. He might have a singleton. Consider this hand for the responder:

?J 8 6 5 2
?A 3 2
?Q 5 3 2

He transfers and wants to invite game. He can't bid 3? next, because that would be forcing to game. His only choice is to transfer to hearts and then bid 2NT invitational.

Because the 2NT-bidder in these auctions will sometimes have a singleton, the opener should always correct to 3 of the major. 

But, here is my special tip. Everything changes when you face this same dilemma after a two notrump opener. You hold:

?A K J
?K Q 10
?A Q 3 2
?Q 9 2

You open 2NT and partner transfers to 3?, then bids 3NT. Your call?

This is now an easy removal to 4?. In fact, whenever partner transfers to a major after your 2NT and then bids 3NT, I recommend playing in the major every time you have 3 card support.


Because after 2NT, partner doesn't have room. When he transfers and bids 3NT he can be offshape. Don't assume he has a nice balanced 5-3-3-2 shape. He could have a singleton. Consider this hand:


?A 4 3
?Q 10 5 4 3
?8 7 6 4

After partner's 2NT, what else could you do but transfer to hearts and then bid 3NT? This would be the right contract opposite, say: ?K J 2
?A 2
?A K Q 3 2
?K 10 2

After a one notrump opener, when responder transfers and then bids 3NT, he is balanced. He can't have a singleton (he would have bid out his shape). But, after a two notrump opener, responder will often have a side singleton. He has no room to show his shape--he is forced into showing his major and then bidding 3NT with numerous 5-4-3-1 patterns. He could even be 5-5, something like:

?K J 6 4 2
?10 8 4 3 2
?10 2

Opposite my partner's 2NT, I see no other option but to transfer to hearts and then bid 3NT, offering a choice of games between 3NT and 4?. This hand is not good enough (or strange enough) to transfer to hearts and then persist with 4?, maybe bypassing a laydown 3NT.

So, as the 2NT opener, I am always aware that my partner's transfer-then-3NT sequence does not guarantee a balanced hand.

This is why my tip for the month is :

When partner offers you a choice after your 2NT opener, "never" leave it in 3NT when you have 3 card support.

(For a related article see: "Should I Transfer" )

Updated: November 2020