Source:    Perhaps you w’d like to read also :[ilink url=»″] Defending a Conventional 3NT Opening[/ilink]

 The «standard» use for a 3NT opening bid is balanced with 25-27 HCP’s, but that’s a hand that can equally well be described via a 2 opening.  For this reason, a common use of an opening 3NT is the so-called «Gambling 3NT», showing a solid minor suit and not much else.

 Board 18     N-S Vul






West    North   East     South

                          Pass    Pass



  What does your opening 3NT bid show?  Some play that it is 25-27 HCP’s or thereabouts, but we would recommend that hands like that are best described by going via a 2 opening.  If so, then 3NT can be used as the Gambling 3NT, a bid which shows a running minor suit, usually a 7-card suit.  It’s customary, in first or second seat, for the Gambling 3NT to deny any stoppers in the other suits, but in 3rd or 4th seat a stopper is permissible.  So, if we were playing the Gambling 3NT, that would be our choice here, and on the actual deal that is the winner … Partner has the perfect hand and 9 or 10 tricks are possible on a combined 22 HCP’s.

 Suppose that we did not have the Gambling 3NT at our disposal?  1 is obviously quite reasonable, but in third seat, White versus Red, it’s awfully tempting to preempt with 3 or 4 and neither of these bids will work nearly as well a 3NT opening.

Board 29       Both Vul






South   West    North   East

                        3NT     Pass


 North’s opening was the so-called Gambling 3NT, showing a solid minor suit and very little outside.  With a hand that is unsuitable for 3NT, South can now bid 4, which instructs Partner to pass if Clubs is his long suit, and to bid 4 if that is his suit.  Note that South cannot bid 4 over 3NT, even though South knows for sure what is North’s suit, that 4 is conventional (the most common treatment is for it to be asking for shortness).

On this hand, South certainly does not want to be in 3NT, not with Spades wide open.  But, signing off in 4 (via 4, see below) is rather feeble … surely it’s worth a shot at game, so we would try 5.

Board 18      N-S Vul






South   West    North   East


Pass    3NT     Dbl      4


  West’s 3NT was the Gambling 3NT, showing a solid minor.  The way that this convention is generally played, West shows little or nothing outside the solid minor in first or second seat, but in third seat he may have a smattering of outside values.  North’s Double was value-showing, and East’s 4 bid said “Let’s play it in your minor, Partner”.  At this point, East may or may not know for sure which is West’s minor, but, either way he bids 4, knowing that East will correct to Diamonds if that is his suit.  South’s own hand tells her that the solid suit is Clubs, of course.  What next?

First, let us suppose that the auction had gone:

            South   West    North   East


            Pass    3       Dbl           4


We’d say that this sequence is essentially the same as the actual auction … West has preempted, our partner has shown some values, and East has furthered the preempt.  In this situation the Double is played by some pairs as Responsive, and that would be our suggestion in both of the auctions above.

If you do play Responsive Doubles, then how high?  We’d suggest up to 4, and the next question is what to do in the above situation if we don’t play Responsive Doubles that high (or not at all).  We cannot just sit there and do nothing when we have an Ace and a King opposite a good hand, so we would double anyway, and let Partner interpret it as she will.  At least she won’t place us with trump tricks, West has proclaimed a solid suit.

 Board 13      Both Vul






West    North   East     South

            Pass    Pass    Pass


Let us assume that you play the Gambling 3NT, whereby in 1st and 2nd seat an opening bid of 3NT shows a 7-card (occasionally 8) running minor and precious little else.  That’s fine, probably a more useful treatment than “25-26 balanced”.  But what about 3rd and 4th seat?  Opposite a passed hand it’s somewhat unlikely (though not impossible) that 7 solid Clubs and out will be enough to produce a 3NT game.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to have something on the outside in these positions.  How much outside stuff is permissible?  Not so much that a slam is possible, but, apart from that restraint, we’d say that anything goes.

West’s actual hand has an outside Ace and King, but it’s highly unlikely that his side can make 6 except opposite the most miraculous of dummies.  So we would trot out the Gambling 3NT as the most uninformative route to the most likely contract.

It turns out that the opening leader must lead a Spade to hold the contract to 9 tricks, anything else and it will be 10 tricks.  So much better to give the opponents an uninformative auction and a blind lead, don’t you think?