The ACOL system of bidding is the most frequently used one in Britain today, so that is why I am teaching it in this programme. One of the features of the ACOL system that sets it apart from other bidding systems is the use of the WEAK NO TRUMP bid. As you will probably remember from what I mentioned before, No Trump is both the highest ranking bid, and the highest scoring bid, which should make it quite an attractive option to be in. However, I think most people would agree, that it is also harder to do well in No Trump than in a suit bid, and that is why it is given the extra values.  But be that as it may, it is a very important part of the game, and you should learn to use it as soon as possible, and use it as often as possible when you play.

One No Trump describes an opening hand quite specifically. It is what is called a LIMIT BID because the values are strictly limited.  It must contain no less than 12 points and no more than 14 points. It will not contain a 5 card Major (Hearts or Spades) and not a good 5 card minor (Clubs or Diamonds) or else those suits would have been bid in preference to it. However, it is better than a weak 5 card minor, or any 4 card suit. Usually the distribution is even and it is called a FLAT hand. You might have a poor 5 card minor suit, but usually not. The hand will not have any voids or singletons, and one doubleton at the most, although it would be much nicer not to have any of those either. Preferably there will at least one Honour card for each of the suits.

The advantage of bidding One No Trump are that it describes your hand very well - and therefore your partner has a pretty good idea of what you have. On the other hand, a call of 1 Club (or any other suit)  might have anything from 13 to 22 points, so that is a much more open-ended sort of bid. Another advantage is that it forces the opposition, if they choose to bid, to go to the 2 level straight away. While if you had opened with 1 Club, they would have the whole rest of the range of suits to bid from on the 1 level.

Let's take this hand, and analyse it. If you would find it easier to visualise, take a pack of cards and sort out the set hand, and then you can play along with the commentary.

Spades         A,9,5,2
Hearts          Q,9,2
Diamonds     K,7,3
Clubs           A,8,7

You have 13 points, a flat hand, each suit with an honour in it, no singletons or voids or doubletons. This is a perfect 1 No Trump opening hand.

Now let us look at your partner's hand.

Spades        Q,6,4
Hearts         K,10,7,4
Diamonds    Q,J,6
Clubs           K,J,2

He has 12 points, and also has a flat hand which looks very no-trumpy with a good card in each of the suits.

The rules for responding to a No Trump opening bid are different from those when you respond to a bid in a suit. If you do not like being in No Trump and have a good 5 card suit of your own, you can bid 2 of your suit on 6 points, and that is called a WEAKNESS TAKEOUT. (If you had over 10 points you would jump in your suit.) If you bid 2 of your suit, you have told your partner that you think it would better not to be in No Trump, but in a suit, and that it would be a good idea not to take the bidding any higher, and your partner should leave you in your suit bid. However, if you like No Trump, as we do in the example above, you have to have more points to respond. This is because, as I said before, No Trump bids are hard to make especially when both partners have flat hands. So to respond with 2 No Trump, you need to have 11 or 12 points, and if you had 13 points, you would jump to 3 No Trump. If you have a flat hand and 6-10 points, you do not bid.

15. What will your partner bid on the hand above?

a. 2 Hearts
b. 2 No Trump
c. 3 No Trump