Poll #17, 3 Notrump Promotion Play, Rule of 7, 12/22/2010

3 Notrump, Promotion Play, Rule of 7


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Also see hand diagram below for clarity:

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul

♠ 5 4 3 2
Q J 4
K 2
♣ K 5 4 3

♠ K





♠ A 6
A K 3 2
Q J 10 8 3
♣ Q J

Right away South has a difficult bidding decision. With 17 HCP and a 2=4=5=2 shape, should South open 1 Notrump or begin with 1 Diamond? The decision would be much easier if South held another stopper in Clubs, say the CK-CJ. Holding a Queen-Jack “tight” (doubleton), South should consider subtracting 1 HCP. But with the relatively nice Diamond 5 card suit, the South should consider adding 1 distribution point. For those who play reverses, beginning with 1 Diamond and rebidding 2 Hearts after partner’s expected 1 Spade response, breaking the barrier to a higher level in a higher ranking suit (Diamonds first, Hearts second at the 2 level) shows a good 16+ points. So if you and your partner have a good working knowledge of whether the reverse bid is forcing, the meaning of responder’s rebids, and the meaning of partner’s re-rebids, then fine – make a reverse. Yet suffice it to say, while many players have discussed reverses, they haven’t had many discussions on follow-up rebids!

So assuming South settles for a somewhat flawed 1 Notrump opening bid, West should definitely pass regardless of the vulnerability (adverse here). Next North bids 2C Stayman with 9 HCP, back to South who bids 2H “up the line” showing a 4 card major (may have 4 Spades). Next North rebids 2N showing invitational values. Okay South, what now? Well, we know North has 4 Spades and 3 Hearts or less so we didn’t miss that 4 Heart game had we reversed to Hearts earlier. So with about 6-7 cards in the majors, North has 6-7 cards in the minors. With some like honors as well as length in the minors, we should accept a 3 Notrump game and count our questionable Club Queen-Jack for full values. By the way, after bid 2 Clubs and rebid 2 Notrump after our 2 Heart call, if in fact we did have 4 Spades now is when we would rebid 4 Spades. Okay? Great – then it’s off to play the hands.

On lead without hesitation, West smartly plays the top of sequence Spade King with East playing the S10 to show count. Okay South, what is your plan? First we count our quick trick winners: Spades=1, Hearts=4. So just like West, we need to try promoting a long suit with no finesses available here. Once we knock out the Diamond Ace, we are home free cashing 4 Diamonds right? Oops, wrong this time. It is reasonable to expect West holds 5+ Spades since we have a 5 card Diamond suit, right? So if the opponents get 4 Spades and also win the Club Ace, they’ve won the race before we cash our 4 Diamond tricks. So what to do?

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Happy Bridge trails,



  1. tommylee says:

    I vote to open this hand 1NT even if you know revereses. The advantage of bracketing the point count and being able to use NT systems (which are well known by all players) carries the day. There is another reason for not attacking hearts before diamonds. If you run your 4 heart tricks and East holds up for one round with his diamond ace, you need the hearts for trasportation back to the declarer’s hand to continue the diamond run. tommylee

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi TommyLee,
      Yes, that’s certainly a big advantage of Notrump openings. In addition to the rebid issues associated with reverses, as you point out the range is fairly open. Some might actually reverse with 15 HCP and a 6-5-x-x shape while the range might go up to a bad 22 HCP (with a wasted stiff King or Queen). One factor we should strongly consider is the suit QUALITY in our two long suits. So if we held a good 16 or 17 point hand with strong honor concentration in our long suits, then the odds are with us to make a reverse. But with a fair number of secondary honors, Queens and Jacks, we are more inclined to open at the 1 level in our minor suit.
      And its topics like these that provide a good opportunity to improve our hand evaluation, advanced thinking about rebidding strategies, and improved partnership agreements. From my experiences, even most regular duplicate Bridge players have had many discussions about rebids and re-rebids after reverses. For those interested in digging deep, deep, deeper into reverses, please see our BridgeHands Encyclopedia and Intermediate-Advanced Newsletter:
      Enough reverses here Tommy, it’s full speed ahead,
  2. W A Wolff says:

    I am thinking this hand requires some kind of emergency approach since it seems clear, defeat is at hand. Perhaps an extra trick can be “snuck through”. Lead C J and duck. Maybe we have an extra trick AND discouraged opposite hand from another club lead if the C J holds. Then, we can go 4 heart tricks, tossing the D K.

  3. W A Wolff says:

    South’s hand is not good enough for a genuine REVERSE!

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi W A Wolff,
      Yes, South’s hand was designed to be controversial. Some will open 1 Notrump while others will certainly reverse. Unlike most lessons where you’ll only find a few tidbids of instruction, we often design a lesson to cover a wide range of possible topics. This allows our upcoming players to learn several basic concepts while advanced players like yourself can focus on more advanced elements of Bridge hand evaluation, bidding and play. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and another possible line of play.
      Good luck, Michael
  4. BridgeHands says:

    With only a few hours before the first day of polling results are complete, we have a clear majority of 71 percent going with:
    ……Duck the Spade Ace, then promote the Diamond suit
    In second plae with 14 percent of the popular vote, other folks agreed to run the Diamonds but did not want to duck the first trick, instead winning the Spade Ace right away. While it’s often true that we want to win the first trick when playing in a trump suit, there are a few instances where it’s best not to immediately win a trick with a top honor. Let’s try this example to illustrate this point.

    South in 3 Notrump
    ♠ 3 2
    3 2
    3 2
    ♣ K Q J 10 9 8 7
    ♠ Q J 10 9
    8 7 6 4
    Q J 9 7
    ♣ 5
    W E
    ♠ A 7 5
    J 10 9
    A 8 5 4
    ♣ A 3 2
    ♠ K 8 6 4
    A K Q 5
    K 10 6
    ♣ 6 4

    West leads the Spade Queen to South’s Ace. When South plays a Club to the dummy, should East immediately win the first trick? Let’s pause a moment for East to count cards in the suit:
    Dummy = 7
    East = 3
    Declarer = 1 so far
    West = 1 so far
    But East knows that when the declarer South opened 1 Notrump, then South has at least 2 Clubs (a balanced Notrump bid promises 2+ cards in every suit). Therefore:
    Declarer = 2
    West = 1
    That means if East wins the first trick, the declarer will then run off 6 Clubs once they regain the lead.
    So East must hold back one time since South only has one entry to the North dummy hand and only has 2 Clubs. Okay? Do you think the Rule of 7 works for the defenders, too? Let’s see:
    East counts 3 Clubs in hand, 1 for partner West, and 2 for South. This totals 6 Clubs. Subracting 7 – 6 = 1, so East holds back one time. Aha, so the Rule of 7 can work for the defense, too.
    In summary, when the contract is in a Notrump contract we usually want to promote our long suit, defenders first want to promote their long suit, and both sides would just as soon prevent their opponents from letting that happen! No, Bridge players are not inherently a disagreeable bunch, it’s just that we want our opponents to EARN their tricks. Unless, that is, you feel like giving them a holiday gift!
    Happy trails,

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