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The modern, strong 1NT opening shows a balanced hand with 15-17 HCP. In the old days, 1NT showed 16-18 HCP, which has fallen out of favor due to its lower frequency.

Examples of hands suitable for a 1NT opening:



1NT promises balanced suit distribution without any singletons or voids, namely:

  • 4-4-3-2
  • 4-3-3-3
  • 5-3-3-2

However, 1NT may also be opened on semi-balanced distribution:

  • 2-2-3-6 (a long minor)
  • 2-2-4-5 (excluding length in both majors)

In "Commonsense Bidding", Bill Root cites the following semi-balanced hand as an example of distributed strength suitable for 1NT:


With a 5-Card Major

The SAYC bidding system states that 1NT "can be made with a five-card major". This is up to partnership agreement.

The advantages of opening 1NT with a 5-card major:

  • It's slightly more preemptive. It's riskier for the opponents to overcall 2S over 1NT than to overcall 1S over 1H.

  • It's more descriptive. Your point range and balanced shape are immediately shown, whereas a 1H/S opening bid may be made on all kinds of hand patterns and strengths.

The disadvantage of opening 1NT is the danger of missing a major-suit fit. This can happen whenever partner holds 3- or 4-card support:

  • She passes 1NT with a weak hand.

  • She passes a 2-level overcall. Now you must decide whether to introduce your major at the 2-level.

  • She makes a Jacoby Transfer when you only have doubleton support.

Consequently, partnerships may have special agreements with a 5-card major (up for discussion):

  • Opening 1NT with 3 cards in the other major, in case partner makes a transfer bid.

  • Opening 1NT with evenly distributed high-card strength.

  • Opening 1NT with 5 hearts. With 5 spades, consider opening 1S.


The following responses are consistent with the SAYC bidding system, which is comparable to any generic 5-card major system. However, variations always apply and these responses should not be considered universal for all bidding systems.

Response Meaning
Pass0-7 points, no 5-card major (use a Jacoby Transfer instead) and no 6-card minor (bid 2S to relay to your minor suit).
2CStayman, showing 8+ points and at least one 4-card major. However, it typically excludes hands with 4-3-3-3 shape.
2DA Jacoby Transfer, showing 5+ hearts.
2HA Jacoby Transfer, showing 5+ spades.
2SArtificial, showing a weak 6+ card minor suit. Opener is required to bid 3C. Responder will pass or correct to 3D.

Minor-Suit Stayman is a popular non-SAYC alternative to this approach.

2NTInvitational to 3NT. Shows 8-9 HCP and balanced shape. Denies a 4-card major unless holding 4-3-3-3 shape.
3C6+ clubs, 7-8 HCP. Invitational to 3NT.

As an alternative approach, it may simply be a weak sign-off bid. This method is espoused by expert Richard Pavlicek, among others.

3D6+ diamonds, 7-8 HCP. Same comments as 3C, above.
3H 6+ hearts with slam interest. However, this agreement rarely comes up. Many players would simply start with a Jacoby Transfer.
3S6+ spades with slam interest. Same comments as 3H, above.
3NTNatural, 10-13 HCP.
4CGerber, an artificial ace-asking bid.
4NTQuantitative, inviting 6NT.

In Competition

As a non-SAYC alternative, the Lebensohl convention can be used to show a variety of hand types if the opponents double or overcall through 2S.

See also

  • 1NT Calculator
    Evaluates a hand for a potential 1NT opening bid.

  • Gerber
    An ace-asking convention in no-trumps slam auctions.

  • Jacoby Transfers
    Transfer bids after partner opens the bidding in no-trumps.

  • Stayman
    A convention for responding to 1NT to find a 4-4 major-suit fit.