1NT Opening

Your bidding system is currently Standard: Opening 1 or 1 shows 5 cards – Click to edit.

An opening bid of 1NT is different from any other opening bid in that it shows 15-17 HCP and not 13+ HCP. It also promises a balanced hand.

  • 15-17 HCP
  • no 5-card major
  • no singleton (1-card suit) or void (0 cards)
  • at most one doubleton (2-card suit)

Opening 1NT


Your hand is just right for a 1NT opening. Anytime you have 15-17 HCP and a balanced hand you should always open 1NT in preference to 1 of a suit. You describe your shape and your strength in just one bid.

You should still open 1NT with a 5-card minor, but not with a 5-card major. This hand also has two small spades and that’s ok – there’s two of them!

Responses to 1NT

It is usually responder’s job to choose the final contract after a 1NT opening. Responding to 1NT is easy because opener is limited to 15-17 which makes it easy for responder to calculate the combined total.


7 HCP is not enough for game as partner’s maximum is 17. You should pass as you are happy to play in notrumps.

With 11 HCP you are strong enough to bid game.

This time you have enough HCP for game. The opening 1NT promises at least 2 hearts so you have a fit.

Weakness Takeout

With a weak hand and a 5 card suit it’s probably safer to play in a suit contract rather than leaving your partner in 1NT. A new suit at the 2 level after a 1NT opening asks your partner to pass. This bid is called a ‘weakness takeout’.


Even though your hand is weak, it will take more tricks if hearts are trumps. A weak hand with a long suit is better played in the long suit. Bid 2. Remember that you choose the final contract. Partner will pass.

Opening 1NT

Your bidding system is currently Acol: Opening 1 or 1 shows 4 cards – Click to edit.

An opening bid of 1NT is different from any other opening bid in that it shows 12-14 HCP and not 12-19 HCP like other 1-level openings. It also promises a balanced hand.

  • 12-14 HCP
  • no 5-card major
  • no singleton (1-card suit) or void (0 cards)
  • at most one doubleton (2-card suit)

Opening 1NT


Your hand is just right for a 1NT opening. Anytime you have 12-14 HCP and a balanced hand you should always open 1NT in preference to 1 of a suit. You describe your shape and your strength in just one bid.

You should still open 1NT with a 5-card minor, but not with a 5-card major. This hand also has two small spades and that’s ok – there’s two of them!

Responses to 1NT

It is usually responder’s job to choose the final contract after a 1NT opening. Responding to 1NT is easy because opener is limited to 12-14 which makes it easy for responder to calculate the combined total.


7 HCP is not enough for game as partner’s maximum is 14. You should pass as you are happy to play in notrumps.

With 13 HCP you are strong enough to bid game.

This time you have enough HCP for game. The opening 1NT promises at least 2 hearts so you have a fit.

Weakness Takeout

With a weak hand and a 5 card suit it’s probably safer to play in a suit contract rather than leaving your partner in 1NT. A new suit at the 2 level after a 1NT opening asks your partner to pass. This bid is called a ‘weakness takeout’.


Even though your hand is weak, it will take more tricks if hearts are trumps. A weak hand with a long suit is better played in the long suit. Bid 2. Remember that you choose the final contract. Partner will pass.

Previous: Overcalls

13 Comments

  1. Profile photo of pasanaa pasanaa says:

    Three of the answers for 0-7 5+card suit, 2C, 2D and 2H are used as conventions for Stayman and transfers. I was told that Stayman means at least 8 HCP and shows one or two 4 card major suits . How do I , as opener, know that 2C means Stayman or 0-7 points and a 5+ card suit? Or that 2D means transfer to hearts and not simply 5+ diamonds?

    • Profile photo of graeme graeme says:

      Good question. It’s something that you have to agree on with your partner. If you are playing with someone new, before you start playing you might have a system discussion.
      You: Shall we play Stayman?
      Partner: Yes
      OK, so now you both know that if the auction starts 1NT 2CLUB then that’s Stayman.
      Maybe you decide next time that you don’t want to play Stayman.
      You: Partner, this Stayman thing is silly and I don’t like it.
      Partner: Yeah! – too confusing, let’s play natural.
      Now when that sequence comes up again you both know that 2CLUB shows a club suit.

      But you can’t have it both ways. You have to agree one way or the other before you start playing.

      Incidentally, this is the source of endless trouble for many players. When systems get too complicated it’s easy to forget what you agreed! Some of these conventions are really helpful in certain situations but you have to be comfortable with all your gadgets and conventions. Keep it simple.

      One good thing about playing bridge online against the computer is that if you mess up the computer won’t get upset and you get a chance to experiment.

  2. […] opening bid of 1NT shows a specific point count depending on what system you are playing. For Standard players […]

  3. Profile photo of graybill graybill says:

    Hi Graeme
    In the last two hands on this lesson, opener has more than 14 points. How can they open 1NT?

    • Profile photo of graeme graeme says:

      Depends on your bidding settings. Click the bidding settings button on the left of this page and make sure your 1NT opening is set the way you want it. If it is and you still see strange bids then please let me know. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I’ve goofed up!

  4. Profile photo of graybill graybill says:

    Thanks for your answer to pasanaa about telling the difference between the two 2C responses. Seems you are in a bit of a dilemma if you are playing Staymen, have a weak hand, no 4 card major and want to do a weakness takeout in clubs. Should you just pass?

  5. […] Check out the notrump lessons for more information on the weakness takeout […]

  6. Profile photo of fertsie fertsie says:

    Is this not a touch too much info for newcomers.Do we need to bring in StYman here?

  7. Profile photo of sbc24983524 sbc24983524 says:

    With the weakness take out could the 2H response mean transfers. How do you know if it is a weakness take out or a transfer?

  8. Profile photo of dcatjones dcatjones says:

    Could you tell me Graeme, when would you NOT open 1 NT if you have 15-17 HCP and your hand is a 5-3-3-2 shape with 5 in the majors?
    I ask this because there was a HAND that I put into my create a hand and this is what I held as East:

    spades – AJ
    Hearts: AQ872
    Diamonds: A63
    Clubs: 1085

    The system “hint” was to open bid 1 heart…and if I played the hand I created as South – then the computer does have East (dealer) open with 1 heart.
    Just wondering if what circumstances it is better to open in a suit.

    thanks

    • Profile photo of graeme graeme says:

      It’s really a matter of style. Opening 1NT with a 5 card major is great in that it’s one bid to pretty accurately describe the our hand. The downside is that it hides that all important major. Some players never do it, some players always do it and some players open 1NT when their 5 card major is weak. The computer never opens 1NT with a 5 card major but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘right’.
      I’m enjoying your comments and contributions, @dcatjones, glad to have you with us on Sky Bridge Club.
      What does your instinct tell you to do with those hands?

  9. Profile photo of sleepyfox sleepyfox says:

    Graeme, please tell me about a responses with a 5332 hand with 9 HCP that holds 5Diamonds, after partners 1NT (12-14) opening. I pass, but partner is telling me to take out to 2D. Why?

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