Unusual No Trump
The Unusual No Trump term refers to No Trump jumps where the bidder is showing a two-suited hand, usually the minors or the two lower unbid suits. The standard requirement is at least 5-5 in two suits. This collection of hands gives examples of where the Unusual No Trump is appropriate, and also how the other side might combat the bid, via such gadgets as "Unusual vs Unusual".
7th April, 2010 E-W Vul
What are your methods against the Unusual 2NT? We have two cue-bids at our disposal … 3♣ and 3♦. There’s a variety of methods out there, different schemes to use these two cue-bids effectively. This is the so-called “Unusual vs Unusual”. Perhaps the simplest of these is “Lower for Lower”, so-called because the lower-ranking cue-bid is for the lower-ranking major, and the higher-ranking is for the higher.
3♣ Invitational values (or better) in Hearts … as this is the unbid major, we should be showing a 6-card suit (a really good 5 might be acceptable).
3♦ Shows invitational values (or better) in Spades … at least 3-card support.
3♥ Competing in Hearts … 6-card suit, 6-9 HCP.
3♠ Competing in Spades … same sort of hand strength as for 3♥, with 3-card support
Dbl Shows values, invites Partner’s cooperation in competing or doubling their minor suit contract … creates a force, such that either we will play the hand, or they will play the hand doubled.
Pass This could just be a crummy hand, of course … another possibility is a hand which intends to double at least one of their minors, but which does not want to encourage Partner to compete. Passing 2NT, and then doubling them in one of their suits, is very much for penalty.
Using that method West will bid 3♦. “Is the West hand invitational or game-going?”, that’s the next question. We’d say that it was invitational, being prepared to deduct a point for that square shape. But if you were more optimistic and bid the game then you did better than us, as 4♠ is likely to make with careful play.
4th May, 2011 E-W Vul
First, what would be your rebid if South had passed? Obviously that hand is way too good for 2♠, and is a top-of-the-line 3♠ bid, or maybe even a stretch to 4♠. But after the Unusual No Trump by West, what are the choices?
- 3♠? That’s the weakest way to raise Spades and this hand is way too good for that.
- 4♠? A bit aggressive (though tempting).
- Cue-bid? Yes, that’s another possibility and there are two such bids available. It’s that Unusual vs Unusual situation. There are various implementations of this convention, our own preference being “Lower for lower”, whereby the lower cue-bid is a game-try in the lower suit (so here 3♣ for Hearts and 3♦ for Spades).
7th September, 2011 E-W Vul
What is your bidding plan? You could open 1♦ with those 9 HCP (it does pass the Rule of 20), or you could wait a round, in order to see what Partner has to say. The vulnerability suggests that N-S may well have a good save if E-W get to 4♥ or 4♠, but that save might be hard to take if North opens and South starts doubling. On the other hand, North does have two potential defensive tricks. It’s hard to say where this one is headed, and perhaps that is good enough reason for North to pass in first seat, awaiting developments. So, let’s say that North adopts that plan and the bidding develops as follows:
North East South West
Pass 1♠ Pass 2NT
West has bid the Jacoby 2NT, showing a game-forcing raise of East’s Spades. Now it is quite clear what you should do. You leap to 4NT! It’s “Unusual”, of course, applying maximum pressure to the opponents. They’ll have a tough choice, whether to Double or whether to push on to the 5-level. Sometimes they will guess wrong!
4th November, 2009 E-W Vul
A Double here would be for take-out, of course, but it would show more in the way of HCP. A better bid is 2NT, which after that strong start by E-W, can hardly be a natural bid. Surely, in this case, 2NT is for the two unbid suits, at least 5-5, and another manifestation of the Unusual No Trump. The vulnerability is well-suited to a N-S sacrifice, and that is exactly what South’s 2NT suggests. Not that the South hand is perfect for a 2NT bid, it would be so much nicer if that ♣K were a red King, that would give N-S less defense (a good thing when sacrificing) and more offense (another good thing!).
3rd September, 2008 E-W Vul
North’s 2NT was the Unusual No Trump, showing, in this case, Hearts and Diamonds, after which East must decide how to raise Spades. What are your methods here? Many partnerships play “Unusual vs Unusual”, utilizing the cue-bids in the two enemy suits to show different hand-types. But different partnerships use the cue-bids in different ways, are you and Partner on the same wave-length? Our own Unusual vs Unusual preference is “Lower for Lower”, primarily for its simplicity:
- 3♣ is a minimum hand with long Clubs
- 3♦ (the lower cue-bid) is a better hand with the lower of the two E-W suits (long Clubs)
- 3♥ (the higher cue-bid) is a better-than-minimum hand with the higher of the two E-W suits (Spade support)
- 3♠ is a minimum hand with Spade support.
- Pass is none of the above.
Based on that, East has a 3♠ bid, we would say … Spade support but not enough extras for a 3♥ cue-bid.
14th June, 2007 Board 26 Both Vul
After 1♦, South could bid the Unusual 2NT, showing the two lower unbid suits. But that hardly seems right here, the Hearts are longer, and so much stronger. Our own choice is 3♥, something of a stab in the dark, it won’t always work out well, but it’s a reasonable shot. However, if your partner is of a nervous disposition, consider bidding just 2♥.
23rd August, 2006 Board 5 N-S Vul
West doesn’t have much in the way of high cards but he does have a yummy 6-5 distribution, and is White versus Red. Such hands cry out for vigorous preemption, and the best way into the auction here is with a bid of 2NT, the Unusual No Trump, showing the two lower unbid suits (in this case, the only two unbid suits). The objective of this bid is twofold … first, it crowds the opponents’ constructive auction (and maybe Partner can crowd it further) … and, second, it gives the partnership a chance to find a profitable sacrifice, if they have one.
21st February, 2007 Board 23 Both Vul
West’s 2NT showed the minors, giving us two different cue-bids with which to show a good hand. There are various methods in use in this situation, we don’t advocate any one in particular, we merely recommend that your partnership is clear on the meaning of 3♣ and 3♦ here. Follow our link to one schema of “Unusual vs Unusual”, as it is called. But, if you already have a method in place, one which your Partner can remember on a regular basis, then by all means stick with it.
Anyway, to answer the original question, our bid here is whichever of 3♣ and 3♦ shows Spade support and some values. We can always make a slam move later on, for now the first order of business has to be to set the trump suit.
24th May, 2007 Board 14 None Vul
After West’s “Unusual 2NT” (showing the minors), as North, would you support Spades or introduce Hearts? We’d mention that 6-card Heart suit first, and then support Spades later … but we would be nervous that by the time the bidding got back to us, things would be at the 5-level.
Having decided to show our Hearts, the next question is “How?” One popular gadget in this situation is “Unusual vs Unusual”, of which there are different flavors … we favor the one which seems simplest to us … the 3♣ cue-bid always shows Hearts, the 3♦ cue-bid always shows Spades, and both cue-bids show at least invitational values. In this schema, we’d bid 3♣, of course (bidding 3♥ directly would show a weaker hand).
27th September, 2006 Board 14 None Vul
South’s 2NT showed the minors which means that both 3♣ and 3♦ are available as cue-bids. There are various methods for using these, and they come under the collective heading of Unusual vs Unusual. We happen to use the variation known as “Lower for Lower”, which simply means that, regardless of which major was opened by Partner, our lower cue-bid shows the lower major, and the higher one shows Spades, of course.
Armed with this weapon, we’d bid 3♦ here, showing at least an invitational raise in Spades. With a lesser, purely competitive hand with Spades, we’d bid 3♠ directly over 2NT.
20th December, 2006 Board 32 E-W Vul
North’s 2NT is the Unusual No Trump, showing the lower unbid suits, in this case Clubs and Hearts. In this situation it is common to play Unusual vs Unusual, whereby the cue-bids of 3♣ and 3♥ have pre-defined meanings. One commonly used method (there are other equally good approaches) is:
- 3♣ is a good hand with Diamonds (lower of their suits for the lower of ours)
- 3♥ is the same but with Spades (higher for higher)
In this case, the problem with those responses is that we have both support for Partner’s Diamonds and a substantial Spade suit of our own so neither bid quite fits. In the circumstances, our suggestion would be to double, keeping all options open and creating a forcing auction for us (we play it in game or they play it doubled).
16th May, 2007 Board 1 None Vul
Anyone for the Unusual 2NT here? This bid conventionally shows the two lower unbid suits, and South certainly has that. But is it the right bid? No, we don’t think so, we’d prefer a hand with less defense, and our own choice would be 1♥, planning to compete later in Diamonds if it seems appropriate. So, what would be an appropriate 2NT bid here? Something like:
That’s more like it! Some stuffing in the long suits and not much in the way of defense.
17th October, 2007 Board 4 Both Vul
East could try the Unusual No Trump here, bidding 2NT to show the two lower unbid suits. A perfect description of the hand, wouldn’t you say? Yes, we do have those two suits, but, as we’ll likely end up defending this one, surely it would be better to get those Clubs into the auction. That’s our whole hand and the suit that we want led, so we’d bid 2♣ and forget about those miserable Hearts.
2♣ is very much the winning call on the actual hand, because South is destined to play this one in 4♠. If Partner leads a Club against that contract, it’s 11 tricks for Declarer, any other lead and it will be 12 tricks.
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