Source: by Paul LavingsPaul Lavings

Most play an opening bid of 3NT as gambling, a solid seven-card minor with no ace or king outside. The problem with the method is that it breaks a well-known principle, that the stronger hand should be declarer. Not surprisingly, there is a growing list of alternatives.

This year (2011) the system cards from the playoffs for the Australian Open, Seniors’, and Women’s Teams are on display on the ABF website. There are 62 different cards.

Most popular, with 29, is still the Gambling 3NT. Next, with eight, was Namyats, 3NT as a four-level minor suit preempt, leaving 4 as a strong 4 opening, and 4 as a strong 4 opening. Then, with six, came 3NT as a strong 4 or 4 opening. Equal, on five, was 3NT as any solid suit with no ace or king outside, and Kabel 3NT, asking for specific aces, as recommended by Ron Klinger.

Ron Klinger
Ron Klinger

I emailed Ron, asking for details. Ron replied that although Kabel only crops up around twice a year, it solves a significant problem very well. He considers the Gambling 3NT to be rubbish at top level, with little interest in 4/4 Namyats and 3NT as a four of a minor preempt.

Two pairs each played 3NT as six clubs and five diamonds, or six hearts and five spades, and to play. Both these six-fives are difficult to bid, so opening 3NT makes some sense. In true Australasian style, you could use 3NT as either six clubs, five diamonds or six hearts, five spades, with pass or correct responses. You might miss a few slams, but you’d lump two problem hands into one bid.

In the USA, such openings are not permitted: the opponents must always be allowed an opposition suit they can cuebid to show a good hand. One recent innovation (from Fred Gitelman of BBO fame) is to play 3NT as any six-five in the majors.

Three methods had only one adherent each: 3NT as any eight-card solid suit: 3NT as a good 4 or 4 opening, and one pair chose not to use an opening 3NT bid at all. The point of preempts is to take space away from the opponents, so to open 3NT, 4 or 4 with a 4 or 4 opening gives the opponents extra room, and extra options. Opponents can set up a good lead, or find their own good game or sacrifice. Even pass over 4 or 4 suggests you don’t have a good holding in the suit.

The vulnerability is an important factor against Namyats. Vulnerable versus not, a double of 4 would surely just be lead-directing, while not vulnerable versus vulnerable, a double of 4 would more suggest a sacrifice.

Any transfer bids at the four level, 1NT – 4 and 1NT – 4, as well as artificial 4 and 4 openings, allow the opponents into the bidding cheaply. Beware of employing artificial bid at this level. At the four-level, doubles of artificial bids are much safer than at the two- and three-level.

Try this quiz: 3NT* (Pass) ?


1. 4. Pass, or correct to 4. The expectation is that you will not make 3NT opposite a long running minor (this time it must be clubs) with no ace or king outside. You have no spade stopper, and diamonds could be a problem. Take a demerit if you bid 4. Holding  65,  4,  J83,  AKQJ765, this is the last bid your poor partner wants to hear.

2. 4. Pass, or correct to 4. Though it’s conceivable you might make 5, it’s heavily against the odds. If partner corrects to 4, then continue on to 5, which should be at least an even money chance.

3. 4. This is the forcing bid over 3NT, and asks the Gambling 3NTer to bid a major suit shortage. If partner bids 4 then 6 should be cold (you know opener has clubs because you have A), and you should simply bid 6.

4. Pass You like your chances in 3NT. You have nine tricks if opponents cannot take the first five, and there is no law against Q10x being a diamond stop, or partner holding J.

5. 7NT. You can count 13 tricks, seven clubs, four hearts, and two aces, so you can bid 7NT. This is the Gambling 3NT at its best.