Ask the Experts Volume 1, Number 6

A correspondent asks, “Matchpoints.  You hold: A1097   AK103 AK ♣ 652. You are vul and LHO is the dealer. The bidding goes 1-P-1-? What would you do if you play 1NT natural, and what would you do if you play sandwich notrump (moderator: sandwich notrump is an artificial use of 1NT by 4th hand to show the two unbid suits based on shape, typically 5-5, rather than on high card strength). If you pass (whether playing 1NT natural or sandwich notrump), it goes 2S on your left, Pass, Pass to you. Now what would you do?”

Rich Demartino leads off the natural notrumpers.

Most experts play 1NT here is not sandwich. I bid 1NT which in this situation could show up to 18 HCP. I cannot imagine passing so would never be in a position to have to address the second question.


Jeff Goldman continues the theme.

I prefer to play natural 1NT here (by an unpassed hand).

I have a lot of points but how much can partner have? Figure 12+6+18, so maybe 4 points, give or take. The problem is partner is never going to come into the auction on their own, so we might miss a good heart fit.

My choices are pass, 1NT and X.  I don’t like double, because what do I do if partner bids 2D?  Non-vul, I’m less afraid of 1NT because worst case I’ll be -100. Vul, -200 is a disaster (either -2 or -1 doubled). That said, if I pass, we may never get into auction. At the table, I think I’d bid 1NT, partly because I think the field isn’t going to pass with this many points.

If I’m playing sandwich notrump, I think I have to pass. What else can I do?

If it goes 1C P 1S P 2S, P P, I think I have to stay out but we can easily be making a bunch of hearts.

Guess I’m a 1NT bidder, least of the evils.

Linda Green hopes to be able to double back in if forced to pass but recognizes the possibility that double would be interpreted as takeout.

If not playing sandwich notrump, 1NT showing a good 15-18 HCP seems like a no brainer, even lacking a club stopper.


Playing sandwich notrump the hand becomes problematic.  Partner probably has a max of 3 HCP.  A double would most likely bring a 2D response - then what? I would opt to pass and await further developments.


If I pass and lefty raises the spade bid, a penalty double is tempting if pard does not play the double for takeout.  Pard looks to be void in spades and not likely to take a trick, but being on lead with possible winners in the D AK, the H AK and 2 likely S tricks, a 1 trick set looks likely.  I would never double at IMPs but would lean toward a double at matchpoints and hope neither opponent is short in hearts.


Jeff Horowitz is content to double.

I double and hope to figure the rest out later.

Geof Brod will double if not left an alternative but recognizes that there may be no later other than the pass card.

I would bid 1N immediately and pass the opponent’s raise to 2S. If playing sandwich NT, I would X and pass thereafter.

John Stiefel sums up the downsides of sandwich notrump and the unlikelihood of being able to handle a potential spade raise even having overcalled in notrump.

Sandwich NT by UPH is one of the worst - if not the worst - convention to play.


20 years ago, my partner talked me into playing it. Shortly after, I had a good 18 and partner had 8 - enough for 3NT and a bright young pair of opps served this auction up to me (4th seat) - 1C (on 10 points) - Pass (by partner) - 1H on 4 points. I had no bid and we missed a laydown vul game. Besides, who needs this convention when you can bid DOUBLE with 4-4 or 4-5 in Ss and Ds or 2C (Michaels) if you are 5-5 (or better) is Ss and Ds?


So you've figured out now that I'm a 1NT bidder. Should it go 2S - P - P back to me I double for penalties if and only if I've explicitly discussed that double as being penalties with partner. Note - I've never discussed that auction with any partner. It's reasonable to play it for takeout of the red suits. So in the real world I bid 1NT at my first turn and pass it out at my second turn.




This hand is a great example of why the modern trend has been toward playing 1NT natural in this position. Side note: in a poll of a separate panel of experts, more than 80% would consider a balancing double by a natural 1NT overcaller to be for takeout, with the majority voting for 3-suited takeout. Here, one has to hope that the 1NT overcall will be adequate to tell partner what they need to know. If there is a great heart fit, it will not be missed.