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Declaring tricky One Notrump contracts

We all dread declaring a 1NT but here’s the good news (i) the opponents hate defending 1NT (and there are two of them) and (ii) they need to win more tricks than you in order to defeat you.

In a 3NT contract, if you let the opponents in to run a long suit, it’s probably curtains. Not so in 1NT – you have more time as you can afford to lose more tricks. And time is the key. Do not rush; be happy to lose the lead. After seven tricks, an expert will probably be five-two down. But she’s cleared the deck, and can win most of/all of the remainder.

  Rank your desire to play the following three spade suits:

A. B. C
 8 5 4

-1 NT-
7 6 3 2
 K 4

-1 NT-

A 6 3 2
 J 9


10 8 3 2

The worst is B. There is no hope of an extra trick. Play out AK and all you do is set up the opposing spade winners. The only time you’d ever play on B is if you’d already made five tricks and were running for home near the end.

The best is C. You have a lovely four-card sequence. Eventually, you’ll have forced out AKQ and set up 10/8 as a winner. And you’ve not set up any extra tricks for the opponents – they were always entitled to AKQ.

In the middle is A. It’s not bad – the opponents are going to win their spades anyway. And it could be good – if their spades are 3-3, you’ll have a lucky 13th length winner. Experts will often play on this type of weak suit, hoping the opponents will get over-active and present her with extra tricks elsewhere.

Remember, the 1NT contract is a marathon, not a dash. The tortoise wins, the hare loses.

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