Theory and Conventions



M J Bridge



Why Acol

There are very few rights and wrongs in bidding theory.  The best system is the system which best suits you and your partner.

The methods covered in these pages feature a weak no trump and four-card majors.

There is little to choose between the various ranges of opening no trump bid on offer, and little difference in the continuations apart from an adjustment of the point-ranges.  Any bid which describes a balanced hand and a three-point range (say) defines the hand very closely.  In general partner will be able to assess his options in the light of this information, and will then be able to proceed methodically in search of the optimum contract.

The closer the point-range is to ten the more frequently it will occur, and so the weak no trump has a slight (but very slight) superiority in this respect, taking just a little pressure away from other wider ranging bids.  It also preempts the opposition to some extent when they are likely to hold some values of their own.

There is of course a risk involved but the dangers are overemphasised by those who are accustomed to a strong no trump.  In these days of ‘wriggles’ a loss of 300 in this situation is rare and a loss of 500 or 800 is even rarer - certainly not something to concern yourself about should it make one of its rare appearances at pairs scoring.

When such losses do occur your opponents will frequently have a contract worth at least 400 available their way, and so even at rubber bridge or teams scoring the dangers are greatly over-exaggerated.  You should not be cowed by these arguments.  It should also be remembered that the strong no-trumper encounters almost identical problems when having to rebid 1NT, and sometimes even 2NT on a twelve to fourteen-point hand - the assurance of six points opposite really doesn’t make that much difference.

The main difference, though, lies in the effect on the minor suit opening bids. Those who play a strong no trump will frequently have to open 1 or 1 on hands of twelve or thirteen points, and in many cases on less than a four-card holding in the suit.  Such bids invite the opposition to interfere, and if you happen to be the opposition then you should interfere in this situation as often as is reasonably sensible.  If on the other hand your no trump is weak then the opposition is still likely to interfere over your 1 opening, but this time you have shown a genuine four-card holding so partner is better placed to compete, and as your bid might well contain fifteen or more points your opponents interference carries a greater risk.

Although I believe the weak no trump to be theoretically superior, it is a close call. The counter argument is at least worthy of consideration.  (The counter-argument being that most of the rest of the bridge-playing world play a strong no trump, so that if for example you intend to go hunting for a partner on the Internet - by which I mean a bridge partner for on-line or tournament play - it would be as well to be familiar with strong no trump methods.)

A similar argument applies to five-card majors. The auction can be greatly simplified when a 5-3 major suit fit is unearthed immediately in the auction, and books espousing such methods tend to quote numerous examples of such hands.  They do however tend to overlook the fact that some 5-3 fits play better in no trumps, and that the search for the sometimes superior contract based on a 4-4 fit becomes marginally more difficult.  A clear case of ‘swings and roundabouts’.

I prefer the natural four-card major approach. If you do choose a five-card major approach then your 1 and 1 opening bids will become less well-defined, frequently having to be made on a three-card suit, and they are therefore more open to disruption.  When playing against such methods disrupt them you must.  The counter-argument about the rest of the world still applies.

Having said that, whatever underlying system you choose the analysis of extended and contested bidding sequences as attempted on this site cannot but help to raise your partnership bidding to a higher level (unless you are already well along the road towards expert).

The detail in the extended sequences is far more important than the basic decisions about no trumps and four-card majors.