When you think about it, after 1nt, pass, pass—your side will have about half of the deck. The points will be divided roughly equally. If the opener has a maximum of 17 and his passing partner has a maximum of 7, one side has 24 and the other side 16.
At the other extreme, the notrump opener could have 15 and his partner 0. Now the defending side has 25 points and can probably make a game.
Now look at the average. The notrump opener has 16 and the passer has 5. Now both sides are relatively equal. The opponents of the opener need to get into the bidding! The hand does not “belong” to either side and the part-score battle should begin.
There are various ways to get into the auction. Today I’ll discuss the balancing seat because I think that is the easiest. Once the hand is passed around to 4th seat, quite a bit of information is known. The balancer knows that their side may have as many or more points than the opener’s side. (Pay attention to the action of the responder of the opening bidder…was he thinking about bidding?)
- If you have a decent suit, bid it.
- If you have a convention, use it.
- If you have a good hand, double. (Don’t just sit there!)
- Bear in mind that the hand will play well because you know where most of the points are.
Having written the above, I was waiting for a hand so I could "practice what I preach". The cards obliged and I picked up this hand at matchpoints the other day playing with Bob K. With both vulnerable, LHO opened 1NT and it went pass, pass to me. I held:
Not too impressive, but about what might be expected. I didn’t like my heart suit too well, but felt I needed to get into the auction, so I showed a “one suited hand” and landed in 2H. No one doubled. I liked my chances when I saw the dummy:
As you can see, our side has exactly half the high card points. The spade K lead was overtaken by the Ace and a club returned. (Now I have only 1 spade loser.) The opponents probably could have managed a club ruff to hold me to two, but I ended up making 3 for plus 140 and all of the matchpoints. (Making two would have been the same score.)
I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have made the bid, vulnerable at teams, for fear of going for a big number, but it certainly worked well at matchpoints! Larry Cohen writes about this subject and when I e-mailed him to ask whether it was in one of his online articles he said no, look in his book: To Bid or Not to Bid.
Let me know if you start bidding more against strong notrumps and get good results!
See you at the table!