The Bid Of One No-trump
The Dealer is justified in basing his declaration upon the assumption
that his partner has one-third of the high cards not in his own hand.
He may, therefore, bid one No-trump with any holding better than the
average whenever he has
(a) Four suits stopped.
(b) Three suits stopped and his hand contains an Ace.
(c) Three King suits, all of which contain in addition either
Queen or Knave.
(d) A solid five-card Club or Diamond suit and another Ace.
The first question to determine is what, from the standpoint of the
Declarer, constitutes a guarded or stopped suit.
That an Ace comes under that head is self-evident.
So also must a King, if accompanied by one small, because the lead
comes up to the Declarer, and the King must either be able to win the
trick or be made good.
A Queen and one other manifestly will not stop a suit, and a Queen and
two others is not apt to do so unless the leader hold both Ace and
King. Queen and three others is, however, comparatively safe, and
Queen, Knave, and one other is a most satisfactory guard.
Knave, Ten, and two others surely stops a suit, but Knave and three
small is about as unreliable as Queen and two small. It, therefore,
becomes evident that the Dealer, to count a suit as stopped, must have
in it one of the following holdings:--
King and one other.
Queen and three others.
Queen, Knave, and one other.
Knave and four others.
Knave, Ten, and two others.
Some experts, with three suits stopped, bid No-trump with exactly an
average hand, but experience has shown that this is advisable only when
supported by exceptional skill, and cannot be recommended to most
players. The average holding of high cards is one Ace, one King, one
Queen, and one Knave. From the average standpoint it is immaterial
whether they are all in one suit or divided. Any hand containing a face
card or Ace above this average is a No-trumper, whenever it complies
with the other above-mentioned requirements. When the average is
exceeded by holding two Aces, instead of an Ace and King, a No-trump
should be called, but two Kings, instead of a King and Queen, or even a
King and Knave, is a very slight margin, and the declaration is
doubtful for any but the most expert. A hand with two Queens instead of
one Queen and one Knave, while technically above the average, cannot be
so considered when viewed from a trick-taking standpoint, and does not
warrant a No-trump call.
In bidding No-trump with three guarded suits, it does not matter which
is unprotected. For example, the minimum strength of a No-trumper
composed of one face card more than the average is an Ace in one suit;
King, Knave, in another; and Queen, Knave, in a third. This hand would
be a No-trumper, regardless of whether the suit void of strength
happened to be Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, or Spades.
The above-described method of determining when the hand sizes up to the
No-trump standard is generally known as the "average system," and has
been found more simple and much safer than any of the other tests
suggested. It avoids the necessity of taking the Ten into
consideration, and does not involve the problems in mental arithmetic
which become necessary when each honor is valued at a certain figure
and a total fixed as requisite for a No-trump bid.
The theory upon which a player with possibly only three tricks declares
to take seven, is that a hand containing three sure tricks, benefited
by the advantage derived from having twenty-six cards played in unison,
is apt to produce one more; and until the Dummy refuse to help, he may
be figured on for average assistance. The Dealer is expecting to take
four tricks with his own hand, and if the Dummy take three (one-third
of the remaining nine), he will fulfil his contract. Even if the Dummy
fail to render the amount of aid the doctrine of chances makes
probable, the declaration is not likely to prove disastrous, as one
No-trump is rarely doubled.
It is also conventional to declare one No-trump with a five-card or
longer Club or Diamond suit, headed by Ace, King, Queen, and one
other Ace. This is the only hand containing strength in but two suits
with which a No-trump should be called.
 With a similar suit in either Spades or Hearts, Royals or
Hearts should be the bid.
As a rule a combination of high cards massed into two suits does not
produce a No-trumper, although the same cards, divided into three
suits, may do so. For example, a hand containing Ace, Queen, Knave, in
one suit; King, Queen, Knave, in another, and the two remaining suits
unguarded, should not be bid No-trump, although the high cards are
stronger than the example given above with strength in three suits.
Admitting all the advantage of the original No-trump, even the boldest
bidders do not consider it a sound declaration with two defenseless
suits, unless one of the strong suits be established and the other
headed by an Ace. The reason for this is easily understood. When the
adversaries have a long suit of which they have all the high cards, the
chances are that it will be opened; but if not, it will soon be found
unless the Declarer can at once run a suit of considerable length. When
a suit is established by the adversaries, the Declarer is put in an
embarrassing position, and would probably have been better off playing
a Trump declaration. It is a reasonable risk to trust the partner to
stop one suit, but it is being much too sanguine to expect him to
protect two. Should he fail to have either stopped, the Declarer's loss
is so heavy that only with a long and apparently established suit and
an additional Ace is the risk justified. It is realized that the case
cited, namely, Ace, King, Queen, and two others, may not prove to be an
established (or solid, as it is often called) suit. If however, the
division be at all even, as it is in the vast majority of cases, the
suit can be run, and it is cited as the minimum holding which may be
treated as established.
With the present value of Clubs and Diamonds, either suit presents an
effective original declaration. There is, therefore, much less excuse
than formerly for a reckless No-trump bid, based upon five or six Club
or Diamond tricks and one other suit stopped. When, however, an Ace of
another suit accompanies the unusual Club or Diamond strength, the
advantage of being the first to bid No-trump makes the chance worth
The hands above cited as containing the minimum strength to warrant the
call are all what are known as "weak No-trumpers." This kind of bidding
may not be conservative, but experience has shown it to be effective as
long as it is kept within the specified limits. A No-trump must,
however, justify the partner in acting upon the assumption that the
bidder has at least the stipulated strength, and it merely courts
disaster to venture such a declaration with less than the conventional
A few examples may possibly make the above somewhat more clear, as by
that means the various "minimum-strength" or "border-line" No-trumpers,
and also hands which fall just below the mark, can be accurately shown.
It will be understood that an effort is made to give the weakest
hands which justify the No-trump declaration, and also the hands which
fall short by the smallest possible margin. In other words, the hands
which puzzle the Declarer. With greater strength or greater weakness
the correct bid is plainly indicated.
The suits are numbered, not designated by their respective names, in
order to emphasize that it does not matter where the weakness is
Next: Hands In Which The No-trump Declaration Is Doubtful
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