The 4NT Opener

by Chris Jagger

Continuing in my series of "Conventions you don't need to know", I shall discuss one of the rarest openings in the game. In the absence of other agreement, you should assume that if partner opens 4NT then it is SPECIFIC ace-asking. If one merely wanted to know how many aces partner had, one could open 2c and later get out Blackwood. Thus a direct opener asks specifically which ones he has.

The following hand came up in the recent junior Camrose: A - KQJ9xx AKQJxx. With the ace of diamonds in partner's hands you would like to play 7d, but without it, you'd settle for 6c. Note that the ace of hearts is useless to you, so merely knowing how many aces partner has is no use.

The responses to a 4NT opener are:

5c = No ace

5d/h/s = the bid ace

5NT = any two aces

6c = Ace of clubs.

What happens if you have more that two aces? Don't worry - you won't have!

Thus, on our hand, if partner responds 5d or 5NT, bid a grand. If he bids 5c or 5h, sign off in 6c. If he bids anything else, give him a suspicious look!

WARNING: This bid should only be used when all you are interested in is aces!

Finally, for the more serious partnerships: you may feel you are all set to play this convention, but in real life the next hand overcalled 5s! What now? I suggest that pass sounds like no aces, and double should be natural (note that any kings and queens you hold are likely to be useless to partner, but are probably defensive tricks), and cram in the other bids as you can, showing the diamond ace first, all the way to the club ace (but not bothering with two aces). Remember not to go higher than 6d (if partner could underwrite 6c opposite a wrong ace, so with it he should be able to bid higher than 6c). Would you and your regular partner know this if it came up? No - I guess not!