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Creating Mayhem After a 1NT Opening

Competing Against a 1NT Opening: Cappalletti and DONT

Many newer players almost automatically pass when they hear the opponents open 1NT, especially when the opponents play a strong NT system. Let me urge you to consider the advantages of bidding over their 1NT. Why? Because the responses to 1NT almost always place the opponents in precisely the right contract, so competing and going down a little (or even better, making the contract) should get you a good score. The opportunity to compete is especially appealing when you have a distributional hand. For example, let's say you are West holding the following hand:


Your right-hand opponent bids 1NT (strong, 15-17).


1NT – ?

You have a nice two-suited hand, but the two suits are lacking the top honors. That makes it unlikely you are going to win any tricks in either suit against a NT contract unless partner holds at least one or two of the missing honors. Instead of trying to defend NT, you would much rather play this hand in either diamonds or spades! How do you convey this good news to your partner?

There are a BUNCH of conventions designed to interfere against a 1NT opening, but for now, we will limit it to two of the most popular, Cappalletti and DONT.

Cappelletti (aka “Hamilton”)

This convention is known by two names because Mike Cappelletti and Fred Hamilton are both credited for it. For simplicity we are going to refer to it as Cappelletti.

Cappelletti is a defensive bidding convention for use after an opponent has opened 1NT. Over-caller's available conventional calls are as follows.

Responses to the 2C Overcall

The 2C over-call means “I have a long suit”, but it gives no clue what that suit is. Here are your options in response:

Responses to the 2D Overcall

The 2D over-call tells you partner has both majors (could be 5-4). Your job is to show your preference, or offer an alternative:

Responses to the 2H Overcall

Partner is promising you 5+ hearts, and a 5-card minor. Here are your possible responses:

Responses to the 2S Overcall

Partner is promising you 5+ spades, and a 5-card minor suit to go with it. Here are your responses:

Responses to the 2NT Overcall

Partner bid the “unusual NT”, showing 5-5 or better in both minors. Your responses are:

Note the recurrent theme: To bid your OWN suit over partner’s Cappalletti over-call, you must have 6+ cads in that suit.

DONT (Disturbing Opponents' No Trump)

DONT is another conventional defense against an opposing 1NT opening. It sacrifices the natural penalty double in order to show all possible one- and two-suited hands.

After an opposing 1NT:

After hearing a double, partner is expected to bid 2C, which is completely artificial. (Just as we saw in responses to Cappelletti, partner may bypass the 2C relay and bid a very strong 6-card suit of his/her own). The 2C bid allows doubler to then show his suit: he passes with clubs and bids his suit otherwise. A jump bid by either player is strong and invitational, but not forcing. A raise of doubler's suit is also invitational but not forcing.

After hearing a 2C or 2D overcall, partner usually passes with support for the bid suit; otherwise, he can bid the next-highest suit to try correcting the contract. For example:

S W N E   

1NT 2C! Pass 2D!

The 2D bid denies support for clubs and asks for overcaller's other suit. With diamonds, overcaller passes; with a major, overcaller bids it. Note that a 2NT bid by either player is strong and forcing.


Allowing the opponents to proceed with a no-trump bidding sequence is to allow them to find the right contract every time. If you have a hand suitable to play, it is often in your interest to find a way to steal the auction from the opponents. Cappalletti and DONT are two excellent conventions to consider with your partner because both allow you to show both single-suited and two-suited hands with ease.


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