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A No Trump but smaller

The Mini Notrump is a skimpy affair, much like the skirt: just 10-12 points, barely above the average quota. Yet it is popular amongst some experienced partnerships for its destructive effect.


East Deals
None Vul
K 10 7 3
A 10 6 5 4
K Q 4 2
9 6 2
7 2
K Q 9 8 5 4
9 3
W   E
A J 5 4
K Q 9
10 7 6 3
10 5
Q 8
J 8 3
A J 2
A J 8 7 6
West North East South
    1 N1 Pass2
3 3 Dbl4 Pass 3 N5
Pass Pass Pass
  1. The destructive Mini.
  2. Stymied - would have opened 1 NT.
  3. Preemptive - as are many responses facing a Mini.
  4. Correctly refusing to be talked out, North makes a take-out double.
  5. Hoping the jack of diamonds will provide a second stopper.

On this deal from my Club, a pass from East as dealer would see South open 1 NT and North conduct a Stayman auction to 4  (1 NT-2 ♣-2 -3 -4 ). The Mini made life much tougher for NorthSouth and they alighted in 3 NT.

West led the king of diamonds and declarer correctly ducked, the Bath Coup, to preserve his  AJ, discarding a heart from dummy. East gave a discouraging low diamond signal so West knew he would be presenting declarer with a cheap trick if he led a second diamond. At trick two he correctly switched to the seven of hearts.

Declarer could not afford to play a low heart from dummy at trick two or East would win and lead a second diamond through  AJ before the ace of spades was removed. He correctly rose with dummy’s ace of hearts. Declarer held just seven top tricks and spades would have to provide the two more necessary. Normal play in spades is low to the queen and low back to the ten, hoping West holds the jack. Declarer counted the missing points. Aside from  KQ – marked with West – there were just ten.  KQ and ♠ AJ. With East certain therefore to have both ♠ AJ, declarer had to play spades in an unusual way. Can you see how?

At trick three declarer led dummy’s ten of spades (key play). If East had covered with the jack, he would have won the queen and passed the eight, a backwards finesse, hoping (as here) West held the nine. In fact East played low on the ten so declarer ran the card and led a second spade to his queen (East ducking again). Five clubs plus the ace of diamonds meant nine tricks and game made.Well played South for a... near bottom. Almost all other NorthSouths were making 4  for 20 more points. That wretched Mini had struck again.

[PS If you’re thinking of playing the Mini, only do so when non-vulnerable. Otherwise it’ll be your side that comes unstuck, not the opponents].

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