Quick summary

A Strong NT opening

A Weak NT opening

Acol is almost always weak, but can use both: a few players switch to Strong NT when vulnerable. American Standard uses Strong only.

Each has its advantages. Acol is highly preemptive.

Most people stick to what they know, and play the same system as their friends.


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Example Deal

«  0023  »

Opening bid, Strong No Trump method

A Strong NT opening means 15-17 HCP points, balanced hand. It used to mean 16-18 HCP, and to some people it still does. A Weak NTopening means 12-14 balanced.

Why do some people prefer Weak NT ?

  1. With both systems, weak and strong, you closely define both the strength and shape of your hand. It's a very precise description, allowing your partner to judge the correct level and contract, using a whole range of systems (Stayman, Transfers, weakness takeout, Strong 3s). Since 12-14 range hands are more common than 15-17, it's one up to weak NT.
  2. When you have 12-14 points, which is not uncommon, a weak NT bid makes it harder for opponents to enter the bidding than a bid of say 1club. A NT opening is preemptive, taking up the entire level 1 from the opponents, who have to enter the bidding at the 2-level. With the Standard American system, an opening of 1club permits the enemy to enter at the one level. However, there is the danger that the preempting side could preempt themselves, taking up their own bidding space that could be used for constructive bidding.
  3. It's true that with the weak system, you have to open in a suit with 15+ balanced, but this is not much of an issue because the power balance has changed in your favour and because it's rarer. Also, you can open a 4-card Major, knowing that you're strong enough to rebid 2NT over a 2-level response
  4. A drawback of the weak NT arises when your opponent doubles you, e.g. with 17 points. This can be especially painful if you're vulnerable. Even though this combination is quite rare, it can lead to substantial losses. Fortunately, there are ways out of this problem in many cases. Notwithstanding this, some players choose to switch to Strong NT when they are vulnerable.
  5. Four-card Major openings, such as Acol, have additional preemptive characterists when compared with five-card major openings. However, on the flip side, the partner might in some rare cases not support the opened suit with 3 cards; that could sometimes result in missing a partial contract.


In standard Acol, a 1NT overcall is similar to a strong NT opening call (i.e. 4 HCP more than the weak 1NT opening).

Using Strong NT

Decide with your partner beforehand if you want to use this convention, and also think about using it just for when you are vulnerable.

If you use it, opening 1NT is exactly the same as for weak NT (12-14 HCP points), except that you promise 15-17 points. The responses need to be adjusted to take this into account, so for example a Stayman response would only need 8 points if you are using Strong NT, not 11, since you know the opener is 3 points stronger. You'll also need to figure out what you are going to bid with a weak balanced hand (12-14 points), which is a whole new problem.



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