Sunday, August 27, 2006

Serious or non-serious 3NT

(Tnx to exams I haven't been able to post much, and this will probably be for another two weeks. When this period is over, I'll be back completely with weekly updates.)

When you found a fit in a GF auction, it's usually interesting to stay low. One of the players hasn't shown his real strength and might be interested in slam, so jumping to game is preempting your partner. Usually you should start cuebidding, but your partner doesn't know how strong your slam aspirations really are. An example is probably better to understand:
Suppose you're playing 2/1 GF:
1 - 2
3 - ...
Now responder will start cuebidding. However, none of the players are sure how strong their partner really is! Opener can be both minimum or maximum, responder can have a minimum GF but he's also unlimited. If you start cuebidding, you may have a combined point range from 25 to 40! How can one know what to do?

The solution is to use 3NT (and skipping 3NT) to show the difference between slam interest and not. 3NT is a free bid. Suppose the bidding continues:
1 - 2
3 - 3NT
1 - 2
3 - 4
Now, partner can make a good decision if he knows you're minimum or maximum for your bidding.

There are 2 main 'schools':
- use 3NT to show serious slam interest (serious 3NT)
- use 3NT to show a minimum hand (non-serious or frivolous 3NT)

Serious 3NT is widely spread, and used by many players. But, like most of the time, the reversed way of standard is better. There are several theoretical advantages for non-serious 3NT:
- When you're minimum, you're going to bid more games than slams. If you have to cue with minimum hands, you give opponents more information for the lead. If you can bid 3NT on the other hand, opponents can't double for the lead, and also don't know anything about controls.
- With minor fits, you may want to play 3NT instead of 5m if partner isn't interested in slam. Non-serious 3NT gives you this possibility.
- Perhaps a stupid advantage, but it is one: if your partner forgets the convention and passes, it won't be such a disaster when it's a non-serious 3NT. But when you showed serious slam interest and partner forgets, you'll probably lose a slam!

I see many people playing a standard Jacoby 2NT over their partner's 1M opening, and the bidding goes:
1M - 2NT (2NT = GF with support M)
4M - 4NT (4M = minimum hand)
5X - 6M
They go off because they have 2 quick losers in a side suit.
When playing serious or non-serious 3NT (doesn't really matter) you can easily bid 3M with minimum and maximum hands, and show the strength later (or let partner show his strength). This clearly improves your slam bidding, since you'll always be able to cuebid at 4-level before using the precious 'Blacky'.

It's always clear to the other player if a slam auction is necessary. Examples:
1 - 2NT
3 - 3NT
4 (minimum hand, no cues given away)

1 - 2NT
3 - 3NT
4m (cue with maximum hand)

1 - 2NT
3 - 4m (not a minimum GF)

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