Defence to 1NT – ASPTRO


I must be mad. The other day I saw Barbara at the bridge club photocopying Ripstra for her partner. I was surprised that she had opted for such a defensive system and volunteered to produce a simple copy of Asptro for her. I found it difficult to find a consensus about the system and have pieced together a description that suits me and my partner. However you may disagree with it and all comments would be welcome. I hope it isn’t grossly incorrect, but if it is I am sure someone will point it out!


To put the issue in context, Ripstra and several other defences are based on 3 suited hands that come up with a very low frequency (in reality they are usually 2 suited hands with a tolerance for the third suit). Whereas 2 suited hands come up with a high frequency and account for just under a third of hands. It therefore makes sense to concentrate on a defence based on having a 2 suited hand.


Although some hate any artificial form of defence, the 1 NT bid takes away a whole level of bidding and most pairs feel the need to contest the auction at duplicate.


So what is Asptro? The basic invention seems to have been Astro, born and bred in the US. But the British couldn’t leave it unmolested and described Aspro in the hope of curing more defensive headaches than Astro. They had an eye to a smart name. Then someone (I am unsure who, perhaps you can supply the answer) decided to mate the 2 systems and came up with son of Astro, Asptro.


First I will describe the essential components of the system (which most of you know). You should hold 2 suits, at least one of which is a major, and the minimum numbers should be 5-4.


2♣ indicates hearts and another suit

2 indicates spades and another suit


What should the strength be? I am not sure. I saw one suggestion that there should be only 7 losers (presumably imagining the possible responses). A point for discussion.


Partner then describes whether he has a fit or does not have a fit for the known suit (sometimes described as the anchor suit, hearts or spades).


2♣ - P - 2  I have less than 3 hearts.

2- P - 2    I have less than 3 spades.


If the instigator’s second suit in the first instance above is diamonds he may pass and similarly if his second suit in the second example is hearts he may pass.


2♣ - P - 2I have 4 hearts or 1 have 3 hearts and values to play at the 2 level

2- P - 2♠ I have 4 spades or only 3 and values to play at the 2 level.   


If the defender has the 2 majors he indicates that he has the shorter (4 card) major first

So with 4 hearts and 5 spades, after 2♣ - P - 2, he bids spades to show his longer suit. And often they will stay there. If the sequence had been 2♣ - P - 2, he has found a heart fit. You can work out what happens with the 2bid when it shows 5 hearts and 4 spades.


If the relay bid had been negative, i.e. had denied 3 hearts or spades, the instigator  shows his 5 card suit


2♣ - P - 2            Pass would show  a 5 card diamond suit

2 5 hearts and a 4 card minor (if responder needs to know which minor he asks with a relay 2NT)

2♠ 5 spades (and 4 hearts)

3♣ 5 clubs (and 4 hearts)


2- P - 2               Pass shows 5 hearts and 4 spades

                        2♠ 5 spades and a 4 card minor (2NT relay for which minor)

                        3♣ 3 clubs (and 4 spades)


So those are the bare bones of the system. Please note that you need to discuss with partner the overall values needed and perhaps what constitutes a positive reply to the anchor suit. There are many other frills  but perhaps they would be too confusing ast this stage. For instance what do you do to invite or force game as responder? I will mention just one sequence


1NT - 2♣ - P - 3♣   Repeating the artificial bid made by the instigator is a game force.                              3would mean 4 hearts and 5 diamonds

                                    35 hearts and a 4 card minor (ask which with 3NT)

                                    3♠ 5 spades and 4 hearts

                                    3NT 4 hearts and 5 clubs


You can make up the sequences after a 2bid.




[a] with 2 5 card majors pretend you have 4 hearts and 5 spades.

[b] discuss with partner what to do with a 4441 hand and values.


All criticisms welcome and expected!


Now you are to work out how to defend against this defence!


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