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1NT opening

Sorry, i should have said - would you open 1NT with just 3 Aces i.e. 12 points


  • Same Answer. Yes. I would. Not sure why it is a problem. Better than, for example, KQ Qxx Jxxx Axxx.

  • Almost all bridge players use the point-count method for valuing hands where an ace is 4, king is 3, queen 2 and jack is 1. This is a good method, which has stood the test of time because it is simple enough to be practical and a good approximation to the value of these cards. But most experts would agree that the point-count method slightly under-values aces and aces tend to be worth fractionally more not less than the value assigned.

    I would judge that a 12-count, consisting of three aces is a "good" 12 and would have no qualms about treating the hand as falling within the 1NT range. Yes, the aces only provide three certain tricks, but they provide other less obvious benefits:
    - They help to promote the value of honour cards in partner's hand (imagine that partner holds KQX in a suit - this holding is worth a further two tricks if I hold the ace, but may only be worth one trick if RHO holds the ace).
    - They help to neutralised the opponent's honour cards. (If your ace is sitting over an opposing king, the ace is likely to render the king worthless).
    - They can help establish a suit to generate length winners . (If you hold AXXXX then it is likely that you will only need to lose the lead twice to establish the suit, If you hold 9XXXX then it will be difficult to establish the suit because you will likely need to lose the lead three times).

    Which hand do you prefer: (A) AXXX AXX AXX XXX or (B) QJXX QJX QJX QJX? They are both 12 points, but I would suggest that hand (A) is worth a 1NT (!2-14) opening, whereas hand (B) is not.

  • And yet hand A has far more losers than hand B hasn't it?

  • The Losing Trick Count is not really a suitable evaluation method for no-trump contracts and it is unwise to use the method until an eight-card fit is established.

    Even if you choose to ignore this advice, it is not clear that A has "far more" losers than B. A raw LTC would assess hand A as nine losers (two in each suit and a third in clubs) and would assess hand B as eight losers (two in each suit).

    But it can be easily seen that this raw count under-values aces and over-values queens. It must be wrong to evaluate both AXX and QXX the same for example. Most writers will make adjustments to the raw LTC to account for such differences. Although different authorities use differing adjustment methods, it would be common to add a loser if holding an ace-less hand. It would also be common to deduct losers in hands that contains more aces than queens. So, depending on the exact method used, hand A probably has fewer losers than hand B.

    But my firm recommendation is not to use the LTC for no-trump decisions.

  • Tony Forrester in his Telegraph Column today was warning against opening 1NT on 12 points when vulnerable. To prove his point on the hand shown partner rescued in 2H and lost 1400 points 5 down doubled.

  • Yes, there is always a risk, when opening a weak 1NT, that you might be penalised (although it is pretty difficult to be five-down in 1NT doubled when you have three aces!). This might be particularly expensive if vulnerable (but five-down non-vulnerable loses 1100, which is pretty unpleasant).

    Many choose to play a strong no-trump for this reason - particularly at teams, where a large swing can make a big difference. At pairs, it is the frequency of the gain that is important, not the size and there is a stronger case for playing a weak no trump.

    If I remember correctly, I think that Forrester-Robson play a strong no trump.

  • Bissell Zar value an ace as 6 instead of 4, a king as 4 instead of 3, a queen and jack as the Milton Work count, 2 and1.
    With distributional hands, a lot of tricks can be generated with relatively low HCP, with aces and kings.
    Having said that the value is not so effective with modest, flat hands.

  • There have always been some players who don't like opening the "aces and spaces" hand with 3 Aces and nothing else, because it only gives 3 tricks. But they are guaranteed tricks, and if partner has some points, obviously they are likely to be in KQJs. So I would open with this in the same way as any other 12 point hand. Occasionally partner is very strong and shapely, and then the 3 Aces hand actually makes a slam more likely than with a normal 1NT opening because of the first-round controls.

  • 12 points in the form of 3 aces, the dreaded 4333 shape and no tens either you could find me passing (depending on agreements with partner).

    However, in general, I just don't get this "aces and spaces" argument. For a start off you don't hear strong notrumpers making equivalent complaints about AAAK hands. Nor do you hear weak notrumpers making complaints about KKKK hands - which are decidedly worse.

    It is true, especially 3rd in hand, you can open 1NT with AAA and find partner almost broke and 4th seat with a monster sitting over you only too happy to double your sorry neck. But in the long run I will happily be opening most such hands and I bet I am a long run winner.

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