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Defending a 3NT Opening

The gambling 3NT opening showing a solid 7-card minor with little outside strength is a popular convention. A typical 3NT opening might show:

North
xx
x
AKQJxxx
J10x
W
N
E
S
3NT

Some players use a variation where the3NT opening shows a long broken minor like this:

North
xx
x
AQJxxxxx
Jx
W
N
E
S
3NT

Both methods use 3NT as a preemptive weapon to interfere with our bidding. How should we handle it?

Unfortunately, because it is such an effective preemptive weapon, bidding options are constrained when we are forced to enter the auction for the first time at the 4-level. Any defense we adopt requirestrade-offs.

For example, suppose we use natural bidding to defend a 3NT opening. We will be well-placed when we hold single-suited hands like:

Hand 1

North
AKxxxxx
Axx
x
xx
W
N
E
S
3NT
4

Hand 2

North
x
AQ109xx
xx
AKxx
W
N
E
S
3NT
4

but poorly placed when we hold a two-suiter:

Hand 3

North
AKxxx
Q10xxx
AQ
x
W
N
E
S
3NT
?

Hand 4

North
Kxxxx
x
AKJxxx
x
W
N
E
S
3NT
?

When bidding options are constrained, we cannot win all the battles, so we must pick which battles we want to win. By using natural bidding, wefocus on bidding single-suited hands, regardless of whether they are majors or minors. But some one-suiters are more important to show than others.

Since game in a minor is a trick higher, it occurs less often than game in a major. Therefore, the ability to show a minor one-suiter at the 4-level is less important than the ability to show major one-suiters.

What if we gave up on bidding minor-suit one-suiters? If we can co-opt the 4 and 4 overcalls into artificial calls, we would have a lot more ways to show two-suited hands. This would allow us to bid more accurately on both one- and two- suited hands that include a major, at the cost of bidding accuracy with one-suited minor hands. With that in mind, here is my suggested defense against a gambling 3NT opening:

W
N
E
S
3NT
?

X = strong and balanced

4 = both majors

4 = one major (6+)

4M = 5-card major and a 5+ card minor

4NT = slam-interested hand with a long minor (Ax, QJx, AKQxxxxx, --)

5m = to play, with a long minor

Pass, then double when opponents run = 3-suited, short in their minor

This treatment may seem familiar to you. When the opponents open 1NT, this defense is known as Multi-Landy.

Follow-up Auctions

W
N
E
S
3NT
4
P
?

When overcaller has both majors, the partnership can reliably get to the best major game.

Advancer's responses:

4 = pick your best major (advancer is normally 2-2 or 3-3 in the majors)

4M = my longest major (advancer has a preference for the bid suit)

W
N
E
S
3NT
4
P
?

When overcaller has both a major and a minor, the partnership can get to 4M whenadvancerfits the major, without risking disaster when he does not.

Advancer's responses:

4 = to play

4NT = RKC

5 = pass-or-correct

W
N
E
S
3NT
4
P
?

When overcaller has a single long major,advancernormally corrects 4 to 4 which asks opener to pass or correct, but there are a few other responses that are useful.

Advancer's responses:

4 = pass-or-correct

4 = short spades and longer hearts. (e.g., if you hold x,KJTxx, xx,Axxxx). Pass if your suit is spades. Explore slam if it is hearts.

4NT = slam try in either major. Overcaller responds by showing key cards.

5m = to play

Theone drawback to this defense is that after opener overcalls 4 holding a heart suit,advancer has no good way to bid a hand with spades, like: KQJTxxx, x, xx, Axx.

South
KQJ10xxx
x
Axx
xx
W
N
E
S
3NT
4
P
?

As we saw above, a 4 call would show short, not long spades.On this hand, advancer's choices would be between playing 4 in partner's suit or 5 in his own. This may not be ideal, but the hand with short spades and good hearts will occur far more often than hands like this one. When that hand comes up, we'd like to be ableto bid 4, so that if partner's suit is hearts, we can find a heart slam.

Other Places to Use This Defense

The same defense can be used after: (1NT) -- P -- (3NT) -- ??

You won't want to bid very often in this auction, but when you do, it willbebecause you have one or both majors.

Conclusion

To succeed at a top level, you need defensive methods to handle anything your opponents might open. The Gambling 3NT is an often overlooked convention for which many are not well prepared.Multi-Landywill handle bidding with two-suited hands far better than natural bidding, and leaves you well placed to defend against the gambling 3NT.

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