John Young starts: Most of us can count points - some say it is the best part of my game. I am amazed at the number of people who can vary their NT openings according to position or vulnerability, so I only play 1NT openings as 12-14.
Here's a quiz to test your partnership. All you have to do is write down a maximum three point range in the following bidding sequences. You try first and then compare with your regular partner.
Q1. 1-P-1-P, 1NT/2NT/3NT
Q2. 1-P-2-P, 2NT/3NT
Q4. 1-X-1-P, 1NT
Q5. 1-1-2-P, 2NT
Q6. 1-1-2-P, 2NT
Q7. 1-1-P-1, 1NT
Q9. 1-P-P-X, P-1NT
Q10. 1-X-P-1, P-1NT
It's amazing how often this apparently simple part of the game can cause us problems. Some resort to the sigh and bid NT at the lowest level to indicate that they are a bit light. But oppo can be very nasty with their interrogation or Spanish inquisition, when they sense an area of weakness.
So my tip is that next time you discuss system, it is more profitable to discuss NT sequences than sliding keycard Gerber or Asptro third level bids. Many of you will have different answers, but the most important thing is that you agree with partner. Below Catherine gives her suggestions, though there is no reason you should obey them!
Catherine Ashment suggests:
A1. 1-P-1-P, 1NT/2NT/3NT. Playing a weak NT, a 1NT rebid shows a strong NT, and vice versa. Assuming a weak NT, standard Acol defines these sequences as 15-16/17-18/19 points. I prefer a 1NT rebid to show 15-17, keeping the bidding slightly lower. A jump to 2NT now shows 18-19, over which partner can check back for a major suit fit. This leaves the jump to 3NT which I play as showing a hand with 8 or so playing tricks based on a long club suit.
A2. 1-P-2-P, 2NT/3NT. In Acol, the 2 bid shows 8+ points and the 2NT 15-16, with 3NT 17-19. This makes it harder to reach perhaps a superior 5-3 heart fit when you have 17 points. Therefore I believe you should have 10+ points to bid 2. and play 2NT as 15-19 balanced, forcing to game. The 3NT rebid as above shows a hand hoping to make 3NT by running a long heart suit.
A3. 1NT-4NT/5NT. 4NT invites partner to bid 6NT with a maximum and pass with a minimum. You need 33 points for 6NT (if you are not a wild overbidder!), so playing a weak NT you should have 19/20 points. 5NT is invitational to the grand, wanting to play in 6NT or 7NT depending on partner's strength. Hence maybe a 23 count would do.
A4. 1-X-1-P, 1NT. You have lost no space when the opponents intervene with a double so this answer should be the same as Q1. Similarly 1-P-2-X, 2NT should mean the same as Q2 (although you could also redouble to show a good misfitting hand that wants to take a penalty).
A5. 1-1-2-P, 2NT. In competitive auctions it is best to retain the normal meaning of NT ranges where the auction still makes sense. No space has been taken away here as clubs can only be shown over 1 by bidding 2, so the auction can proceed undisturbed. This means here for me 2NT would be 15+ and Game Forcing as recommended before.
If however the auction had gone 1-P-1-2, opener has lost the ability to rebid 1NT. Partner has only shown 6 HCP (as opposed to 10 in the previous sequence) so it is dangerous to play 2NT as forcing. Now we revert to old-fashioned strengths, 2NT = 15-16 HCP NF and 3NT 17-19 HCP.
A6. 1-1-2-P, 2NT. Even murkier still, here responder has lost a whole level of the auction as they were pushed into bidding 2 rather than 1 (although they should have the values for a two-level response). This disturbance means opener cannot rebid their suit without going to the three-level. What do you do with a 12 count with 4 spades, 1 or 2 hearts, and 5 clubs? You bid 2NT. 3NT in this sequence would show 15+ HCP.
A7. 1-1-P-1, 1NT. When partner passes your opening bid they either have a weak hand (usually less than 6 HCP) or if you play takeout doubles over 1-1 they could have a penalty pass, very unlikely if you have a stop in the suit (or else why are you considering bidding no-trumps!). So bidding 1NT in this auction should show 18-19 HCP, as with such a weak partner it is dangerous to bid with anything less as you will get doubled and go down.
A8. 1-X-P-1NT. Partner has shown an opening bid with short clubs by their double. With less than about seven points you would pick a suit at the one-level (a three-card suit if necessary!). With 8+ and a good suit you would jump to the two-level (or higher). So bidding no-trumps shows no good suit - quite likely if you have clubs well stopped. 1NT would show 8-10 HCP. Note if the auction had gone 1-X-P-1NT, giving you no space at the one-level, there is more case for widening the range of 1NT to say 6-10, rather than having to bid a three-card suit at the two-level. However, do not bid 1NT with, say, Qxxx xxx xxx xxx. No matter how much you dislike guessing which 4-3 or 3-3 fit to play in, 2 of a suit will play much better than 1NT with a combined 14 count!
A9. 1-P-P-X, P-1NT. When partner bids or doubles in protective position they may not have an opening hand (as you would expect if they had doubled directly after the opener). Do not punish them by looking at your 12 count and thinking, "Ah, partner has entered the bidding - let's bid game". They may have as little as 8HCP and that only comes to 20 - not even enough for 2NT. Generally take about three points away from your hand to compensate for partner's weaker hand, and then bid as you did in the previous question, so 1NT would show 11-13HCP and 2NT would show a good 13 to a poor 15 (any more and you would have overcalled 1NT on the previous round).
A10. 1-X-P-1, P-1NT. You forced partner to bid and they have said they have very few points (probably 7 points or less). If you have 17 points you do not have enough for game, but you should have a few diamonds for your double so just pass. Hence bidding no-trumps in this auction shows a very strong hand, too good to overcall 1NT on the first round. I play a 1NT overcall as 15-18, so I would play 1NT in this auction as 19-21 and 2NT 22-23. Now partner has a genuine option of raising to game if they have any points at all.