Every bridge player enjoys opening with a 1 No Trump bid, but what determines this bid? Believe it or not, the range for opening 1 No Trump can be as little as 10 high card points and can reach 18 high card points. This is a large range. Before a player opens 1 No Trump, there are several things to consider.

The following presentation does not in any way describe all of the elements pertaining to a 1 No Trump opening bid and/or a 1 No Trump overcall of a suit on the one level bid by the opposing side. This presentation also does not include any reference to the so-called balancing No Trump, which may have multiple meanings following the opening of the opposing side followed by two consecutive passes.

It is left to the individual bridge player and to the partnership as how to agree upon the parameters of such an opening bid. Since there are many aspects of the 1 No Trump bid the partnership should devote considerable time and effort on learning the different applications of such a bid depending on position, vulnerability, and bidding system.

ACBL Change of Definition for 1 No Trump

As of August 2, 2016, as published by the American Contract Bridge League, the following is the official description for opening the auction with 1 No Trump.

Opening 1NT with a singleton: It’s officially legal

The ACBL Board of Directors removed a legal gray area surrounding semi-balanced notrump openers when it approved a change to the definition of a notrump opening in the General Convention Chart. The change allows players to open 1NT with hands that include a singleton ace, king or queen, as long as they do not also contain a doubleton.

New Definition, Effective August 1, 2016:

A notrump opening or overcall is natural if, by agreement, it contains no void, at most one singleton, which must be the Ace, King, or Queen and no more than two doubletons. If the hand contains a singleton, it may have no doubleton.

This includes hand patterns such as 5-4-3-1, 6-3-3-1 and 4-4-4-1, in addition to those that were previously allowed, such as 4-3-3-3, 5-3-3-2 and 5-4-2-2.

The change was recommended by the Competitions and Conventions Committee, a group of players appointed by the Board, in an effort to bring regulations in line with popular and expert practice, said ACBL Field Manager Sol Weinstein, who supervises tournament directors.

Before (previously), opening notrump with a singleton was considered a psych. It was legal to do, but players could not have an agreement to open such hands 1NT or 2NT. The lack of clarity was a thorny issue for directors.

Many players were doing it anyway, Sol Weinstein said, particularly when a different opening would create a problematic rebid. They decided it’s not right to have a rule that’s contrary to the way bridge is being played. The idea of expanding the definition has been discussed for years within the committee, but previous proposals have failed because they lacked the simplicity of the new definition.

The Laws do not allow you to limit bridge judgment, Sol Weinstein explained. Regulations have to conform to the Laws.
The new definition prohibits opening notrump with more shapely hands, such as 5-5-2-1, 6-4-2-1 or 7-2-2-2. All of this has to do with your agreements, Sol Weinstein noted. That does not prohibit an out-and-out psych, but you cannot keep doing that or it becomes an agreement, and an illegal one at that.

The change does not impact the one allowable exception of a partnership agreement where 1NT is treated as a 100% forcing opening bid (and not considered natural) with any distribution. The use of such an unbalanced, non-natural 1NT opening must be alerted.

General Guidelines for the Bridge Player

The following must be read with regard to the changed official description of a 1 No Trump opening bid.

1. Strength: In counting the strength, only the high card points are counted. The bridge player should avoid counting distribution before a suit fit has been discovered. Some players count an extra point for a 5-card suit and they also consider strongly the presence of the ten spot.
The term points is employed to refer to the number of high card points. The total of all the high card points allows the bridge player to make the more correct decision as to the better descriptive bid.
Points Definition
16-18: This range for opening 1 No Trump is perhaps the oldest No Trump range. Many partnerships continue to employ this range.
17-20: This range is part of the Roman System.
15-17: This range is basically employed by those players, whose partnership agreement is the Standard 5-card American System.
14-16: This range is preferred by bridge players using a certain style of the Precision bidding system, whereby the 1 Club opening is forcing and shows 16 plus high card points.
13-15: **This range is used by bridge players, who have adopted the Acol bidding system whenever the state of vulnerability is favorable.
12-14: This is generally adopted range for a Weak No Trump opening bid. This range is also used with the Kaplan-Sheinwold system and the Baron System.
9/10-12: This range is used mostly at favorable vulnerability. This range is the foundation of the Woodson Two-Way No Trump. (Note: presently this range is referred to as the Kamikaze No Trump.)
8-10: Originally referred to as the Kamikaze No Trump, which became disallowed at most national tournaments and disallowed at all international bridge tournaments. Following the determination of the American Contract Bridge League the range was changed to 10-12 points.

** In his publication Precision Bidding In Acol, first published in the year 1974 in Great Britain by Pelham Books, Ltd., London, England, ISBN-10: ISBN-10: 0720714885 / ISBN-13: 978-0720714883, Mr. Eric Crowhurst concisely describes as good as possible the No Trump range of bridge players employing the Acol approach and bidding system in the following manner, which is excerpted from this publication, page 24:

The range of the opening bid of 1NT is a matter of personal choice. 12-14 or 13-15 throughout is common amongst tournament players these days (Note: mid-1970s), particularly since the weak no trump fits conveniently into the various artificial club systems. However, there is still strong support for the variable 1NT, that is, 12-14 not vulnerable and 15-17 vulnerable; others favour the so-called Three Quarter No Trump, and a number of very experienced operators still prefer the strong 1NT at any vulnerability and at any form of scoring. The choice is yours ... (namely the bridge player).

End of excerpted description.

Note: the designation Three Quarter No Trump refers to the number of possible mutually agreed No Trump ranges, namely three, which can be employed by the partnership in the Acol approach, two of which are dependent on the state of vulnerability.

Notations of Importance

Note: Although the No Trump range of fewer than 10 high card points may continue to be employed by some partnerships at bridge tournaments, which are not on a national or international level, the American Contract Bridge League has declared that any partnership employing such a range may not under any circumstances use any conventional response methods such as the Stayman conventional method, Jacoby Transfer bids, and other such conventional response methods.

Note: In the ACBL General Convention Chart the wording under the heading of Disallowed states the following:

Conventional Responses, Responses, Rebids and a Conventional Defense to an Opponent's Conventional Defense after natural notrump opening bids or overcalls with a lower limit of fewer than 10 HCP or with a range of greater than 5 HCP (including those that have two non-consecutive ranges) and weak two-bids which by partnership agreement are not within a range of 7 HCP and do not show at least five cards in the suit.

Note: The question arises whether or not there should be an upper limit to a 1 No Trump opening bid. The answer is that if there is no upper limit to an opening 1 No Trump bid by the partnership, then the opponents are entitled know in advance about the innuendos that ensue.

Note: There are some bridge players who alternate their No Trump range depending on the vulnerability and position at the table. Generally speaking, at favorable vulnerability the range is 12-14 high card points and at unfavorable vulnerability the range is 15-17 high card points. Other No Trump ranges may be agreed in advance.

2. Distribution: In most classes instructed by bridge teachers, the teacher will instruct the student of bridge not to open a No Trump with a 5-card Major suit. This means a hand distribution of 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 or 3-3-2-5 (the 5-card suit being a Minor). There should be no more than one Doubleton, absolutely no void and no singleton.
      Note: The science of bridge has changed however, and now hands with a 5-card Major are opened with the point count agreed upon. It is not always a requirement that the No Trump Bidder have a stopper in every suit, since the bidder is relaying with one bid the strength and distribution of his hand. The concept behind this understanding is the sometimes lack of a rebid. If there is no rebid possible, then it has proven effective to open the holding with 1 No Trump.
3. Location of Strength: If the No Trump bidder holds a tenace, which can be an Ace - Queen or King-Jack in the same suit, then the decision to open a No Trump is stronger. Without this tenace, it might prove more prudent to open a suit. Many players disapprove of opening a No Trump with a weak doubleton. But in many cases, without a tenace and with a weak doubleton, a problem arises with the rebid.
      It is wise to consider all these points before bidding 1 No Trump. Count the strength, consider the distribution and location of the values. Each of these elements apply to opening 2 No Trump and 3 No Trump as well. As far as the point range, this is a matter for the partnership to decide.

Note: It is the prudent bridge student to acquaint himself with the restrictions and ranges for opening a 1 No Trump bid, or even overcalling immediately the suit bid by the opposing side. There are several aspects worth exploring such as the Woodson Two-Way No Trump.

This conventional method for opening 1 No Trump, named after Mr. William Woodson, permits an opening bid of 1 No Trump with any balanced holding and may contain according to the partnership agreement either a range of 10-12 high card points or 16-18 high card points.

It is not uncommon that partnerships have concluded that the range for a 1 No Trump bid, either as an opening bid or as an overcall, may have multiple ranges based on the position at the bridge table, based on the state of vulnerability, and also based upon the particular bidding system and/or bidding approach agreed upon by the partnership.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.