Brush up your basic bidding – responding 1NT

Not such a rubbish bid!

The 1NT response to partner's opening bid of one of a suit says "I've enough points to respond, but nothing else to say – I don't have enough for a two-level response, and I've no suit I can bid at the one-level."

It's sometimes called the "dustbin bid", because it should only be used when there is no other bid available. However, it often gives a lot of valuable information to your partner. It obviously gives him a good idea of your point count (6 - 9), but its main usefulness lies in what it tells partner you do NOT have!

The least informative sequence is 1 – 1NT, because all that tells him is that you don't have 4 spades.

1 – 1NT and 1 – 1NT both say that you don't have either 4 hearts or 4 spades.

1 – 1NT is the most informative sequence, because it tells partner you do NOT have 4 diamonds, 4 hearts or 4 spades, and must therefore have at least 4 clubs!

If your partner opens 1, 1 or 1 because he has a balanced hand too strong for 1NT, your 1NT response immediately informs him that there's no chance of a major suit fit, which is a very valuable thing to know.

It's even more valuable to know when there IS a major suit fit, so you must resist the temptation to ignore a weak 4 card major. Say your hand is:


Partner opens 1. You don't have 4-card heart support and your four spades are rubbish, so a lot of people would be tempted to respond 1NT rather than 1. However, that would be disastrous if your partner held, say, AKQ9 K742 J103 A2, as you would end up in 3NT going down on the inevitable club lead, whereas 4 would almost certainly make.

Although games and slams are more exciting contracts, you will often come across deals where either side can make a part-score. For example, you are South:

Dealer North J9
AKQ1032 75
J7 843
108 A542
J105 K876

Partner (North) opens 1 and East passes, let's say you ignore your miserable heart suit, the auction is very likely to go:

2All Pass

And 2 might even make, losing two hearts, two clubs and a diamond (North-South need to be quick to get their club-ruff).

However, if you respond 1 to partner's 1, West will still bid his spades, but partner now knows you've a heart fit and will support your hearts, either winning the contract or pushing the opponents too high. North-South can make at least 3 and might even scrape ten tricks, but East-West would be very lucky to make more than 2.

Responding 1NT after an overcall:

If partner opens one of a suit and your right hand opponent overcalls, you must not respond 1NT unless you have at least one good stop in the opponent's suit.

For example 1 – (1) – 1NT tells partner all of the following:

  • You have enough points to respond (probably 6 -10 rather than 6 - 9 here as the opponents have shown some points)
  • You do NOT have 4 spades
  • You definitely DO have at least one good heart stop

Responding 1NT to partner's double:

If your left hand opponent opens one of a suit and your partner doubles, it suggests he has shortage in that suit and the ability to play in any of the unbid suits. If your only 4+ card suit is the opponent's suit, your best response may be 1NT, but to respond 1NT to a double you need about 7 – 10 points and a couple of good stops in the opponent's suit. With fewer points, or a weak suit, it's better to bid one of your 3-card suits.

For example, after (1) - X - (P) with,


Respond 1NT but with,


Respond 1

Doubling an opponent's 1NT 'Dustbin Bid':

Doubles of no-trump bids are normally for penalties, but the 1NT dustbin response does not indicate a genuine desire to play in no-trumps, so it's useful to play a double of it for takeout.

For example (1) - P - (1NT) - X says "please choose between spades, clubs and diamonds".

(Because it sounds as if you're penalty-doubling no-trumps, but you're really take-out doubling hearts, your partner should alert this sort of double.)

Brush up your…

By Celia Jeal

Celia has been a very active and committed bridge teacher in Suffolk for many years. She is a registered EBU Partner-Teacher and has developed a strong following in her West Suffolk base. Currently she runs classes and tutored play at Abbeygate Club. These articles were written for and first published in Table Talk.

If you are interested in learning or improving your game, contact (01284 728350).