One No Trump for Takeout (NTO)

The bid all other bids have been centered around. The NTO comes up frequently and creates havoc in the opponents auction while letting us know in what suits we should be competing. The NTO can be described as a light three suited takeout, showing three cards in all the unbid suits, and generally 6 -15 HCP at equal vulnerability. The minimum shape here is 4-4-3-2 up to as shapely as 7-3-3-0. People always ask, would you really overcall a NTO with six spades and a stiff club, 6-3-3-1 shape over a one club opening? We say YES, and tell them about the number of times we have buried the opponents' heart fits. Furthermore, you must bid a NTO on these hands; otherwise, partner gets confused about your shape and will be unable to accurately place or accurately defend the hand.

Responses to a NTO -- Uncontested Auction

  1. Any response in a new suit at the two level is to play. If the NTO bidder raises, expect a shapely max with four card support (in some cases it could be blocking with 5+ card support).

  2. Cue-bidding opener's suit first asks partner for a four card major, but if advancer later bids a new suit, then this reveals an invitational sequence for a major but not necessarily invitational for a minor. A follow-up cue-bid by advancer demonstrates a strong interest in game -- probably in the suit you've bid -- opposite any hand with reasonable cover cards.

  3. Jumping in a suit at the three level is preemptive even if opposite a maximum, unless bid red versus white. This shows any six card suit or a good five card suit with a little shape.

  4. Bidding 2 No Trump over 1 NT tends to show minors, but could be a hand with a minor and a major. This depends on the auction.
All other game or 4 of a minor bids are to play. Here's an interesting example; at imps both vulnerable, you hold:

S Jx H AKTxxx D J9xx C x.

Over a one diamond opening by LHO, partner bids a NTO while RHO follows with 2 clubs. You gamble out a 4 heart bid. It goes down one -- barely -- when partner holds a mere six count, but the opponents are gin for 5 clubs, win 10 imps. Here's another interesting hand from a matchpoint session:

S QJxx H Qxxx D -- C QJxxx.

Your RHO opens 1 diamond; you bid a NTO. Your LHO doubles, and partner leaps to 5 clubs! What does partner have? You pass, happy for now until your LHO chimes in with 5 hearts while partner and RHO pass it around to you. What does partner have? Well, work it out; with any six card suit partner should bid 3 clubs; with a little shape and a good six card suit that would constitute a 4 club bid. So, partner must have 7 clubs and it seems likely partner has one or fewer hearts. Since partner couldn't hammer five hearts, you're going to have to follow the LTT and bid six clubs with a 12 card fit. Score it up. Partner held: S Kxx H -- D Jxx C AKTxxxx; the kind of hand you would expect. It's unlikely standard bidders could possibly draw these inferences from such a short auction, and find a way to preempt the opponents out of their cheap six diamond save.

Responding to a NTO - Contested Auction

  1. The opponents double. We play a runout system that helps us find our eight card fits. Over the double, a direct suit bid by advancer promises a five card suit; a redouble shows exactly four cards in the highest unbid suit. A pass denies either of the above, but advancer could still have a lower four card suit. After advancer's pass, a redouble by overcaller shows possession of a five card or longer suit. Advancer then responds in the lowest suit that would be reasonable to play in opposite a five card suit. If overcaller doesn't redouble, bidding a suit starts a runout looking for 4-4 fits.

  2. The opponents bid a new suit or raise opener's suit. A double is responsive style showing at least one of the unbid suits - - usually the other major -- but not promising both. 2 No Trump in these sequences is minors, or the unbid suits with a weaker hand . It's hard to imagine a hand where bidding 2 NT as natural would be right. Bidding a new suit is non-forcing and usually lead directing. While cue-bidding, then, bidding a new suit shows a good hand.
There will be times when a certain hand will force you to bid a NTO with extra values and the wrong shape to make a Power Double (PD). The PD tends to show a doubleton or greater length in opener's suit because responder will more often convert a PD for penalties. So for example, if holding S AJT9 H AQTx D -- C KQxxx, and your RHO opened 1 Diamond, bid a NTO. Even though you hold considerable extra values, a double on your second turn would communicate these greater values.

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