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After the Dustbin 1NT response

Partner opens 1♠. You will have to respond 1NT with a wide assortment of weak (6-9 point) hands (that fail the Rule of 14: the points in the hand plus the cards in the long suit not reaching 14). For example:


Hand a) Hand b) Hand c)
♠  4 2
A Q 6 3
♦ 9 3 2
K 9 6 4
♠ 2
Q J 9 7 4 2
9 7 3
A 6 2
♠ --
 4 3 2
7 4 2
K J 9 8 5 3 2

The aim of the 1NT response is to keep the bidding open for partner in case she has a big hand, but not take the partnership overboard if she has a more normal hand. Say she now rebids 2, to show five spades and four diamonds (at least). What do you bid now with the above hands?


With Hand (a), you may be tempted to bid 2NT. Don’t – such a bid would show 10-12 points. You can’t have a 6-9 point hand and a 10-12 hand simultaneously. Nor should you try 2 – if you go via the dustbin 1NT and bid your own suit, you should (95%) have six cards (and never, ever, four cards). You could pass 2, but there are two good reasons for going back to 2♠. Firstly, A 5-2 (spade) fit is easier to handle than a 4-3 (diamond) fit. 4-3 trump fits are notoriously tricky, because six missing trumps rate to split 4-2 and this will draw all your trumps (whereas you’ll have a spare trump if you have a 5-2 fit). Secondly (and this is the more important reason), bidding (2♠) gives partner another go, should she have a good hand – she could still have as many as 17 or 18 points. Note your 2♠ bid should be regarded not as happy support but reluctant preference, typically with a doubleton spade.

With Hand (b), you should bid 2. This shows (normally) six cards, and a weak hand, about six or seven points, so opener will very likely pass – even with a singleton heart. Note that if you’d have fallen into the trap of responding 2 straight away (not 1NT), the bid would be 100% forcing; opener would perhaps have rebid 3 and you’d likely be overboard. Hence why the dustbin 1NT is such an important slowing-down manoeuvre.

With Hand (c), you may have baulked at bidding 1NT but bid 1NT you must. Don’t think of it as a proper notrump bid; it is merely a slowing-down manoeuvre on a weak 6-9 point hand that fails the Rule of14. Over partner’s 2, you’ll bid 3♣, and by going up to the level of Three, you’ll often have a seventh card, or you’d have preferred one of partner’s suits at the Two level.

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