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Shawn Stringer, President
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Feb/MarArticle by Steve RobinsonJun/Jul
ArticlesResponses to Strong 2 Opening Bid (Apr/May 2011)
You're playing 2-opener is strong and artificial with no other understandings other than cheapest minor is second negative. What is the weakest hand/suit that you would have to respond 2? What is the weakest hand/suit that you would have to respond 3?

If Opener opens 2 and then rebids 2 over a forced 2 bid, he has no idea whether he can make a partscore, game, slam or grand slam. This means that Responder, who has the weaker of the two hands, has to make the final decision on how high to go. My thoughts are that if Responder tells Opener right away that he has a positive response, Opener can better help with the final level decision.

It’s true that if partner is going to rebid 2NT, you want to bid 2 on all hands, because Responder will have complete control of the auction. However, if Opener has a balanced 24 or more HCP, he has to jump to 3NT to show his hand, which would mess up the Stayman/Transfer auction. If he has more than 27 HCP, he has to jump to 4NT. Try asking for a four-card major over 4NT.

The Kokish convention was invented to avoid the jump to 3NT or higher. After 2 - Pass- 2, Opener bids 2, which is a two-way bid. Responder must bid 2 to ask why Opener bid 2. If Opener then bids 2NT, he shows a game-forcing balanced hand anywhere from a very good 24 HCP to a bad 32 HCP. Over the forcing 2NT, Responder can then bid Stayman, transfers, or any other convention to explore. If Opener has a natural 2 opener, he makes any bid other than 2NT. If Opener has AKxAKQJAKxQxx he opens 2. Over 2, he rebids 2, which forces Responder to bid 2. Opener now bids 2NT, which is game forcing. Suppose Responder holds xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Responder can bid Stayman over 2NT, find the 4-4 heart fit and play in 4 which will usually make. If Opener has AAKJ10xAKJxxxx, he rebids 2. Over the forced 2, Opener bids 3 which makes the 2 bid natural. Opener is showing hearts and diamonds. Opener could also have AQAKxxxxKxxAx. After 2 -- 2 --2-- 2 Opener jumps to 3NT, which shows a heart suit and gives Responder a choice between 4 and 3NT. Only a 2NT rebid shows the balanced game-forcing hand.

Opener could have a suited hand for instance, AKQJxAQxAQJxx. The auction starts 2 -- 2 -- 2 assuming Responder always bids 2. If Responder now bids 3, does he have xx98xxxxxxKxx where 4 is in danger or does he have xxKJ10xxKxxxxx where 6 is cold? By bidding 2 directly over 2 with the second hand, Opener knows right away that this could be a slam hand. If Responder always bids 2, Responder will have to make the final decision on how high to go.

Suppose Responder has a positive response with a minor suit, xxxxAKxQJ10xxx for instance. After 2 -- 2 -- 2, most play 3 is the second negative. So you have to bid 3 with xxxxxxxxQxxxx and the above hand. So if you have a club suit, you’re up the creek without a paddle. Best is to be able to bid 3 directly over 2.

There are some experts who always respond 2.

Henry Bethe---In general I do not respond anything other than 2 as I find it is a bad idea to get in opener's way in describing the strong hand. This is particularly true playing Kokish, as I do. I also play that the cheapest BID, not the cheaper minor, is negative; again it is to leave opener maximum room for description. It is far more efficient for the auction to go 2 -- 2 -- 2 -- 2 -- 3 than for responder to bid 3 over 2 and opener raises to 4. Another reason for this is that 2NT rebids constitute, in my experience, about 50% of all 2 openers, and responding two-of-a-major prevents transferring with the advantages that provides. Having said that, it is my belief that responding two-of-a-major should show a slam playable suit opposite high honor doubleton with at least one outside high card that may need protection or a sufficiently freakish hand that you want to start describing it right away.

If 2NT rebids constitute 50% of all 2 openers, if my arithmetic is correct, then non-2NT rebids constitute 50% of all 2 openers.

Mike Lawrence---I am really unhappy with making any bid other than 2 for the reason that whenever I define 2/2/3, something happens to make me hate it.

Drew Casen---There is no hand. I never want to wrong side. Many years ago my partner responded a positive 2 with AKJ109x and we played 6 from the wrong side, and it cost us winning the Cavendish Teams. I prefer control responses. Second choice is transfer responses. Playing transfer responses, my minimum suit would be QJxxxx.

Dan Gerstman---First of all, I’m not a fan of the concept of bidding natural as you would respond to an opening one bid. The main reason: most 2 openers are followed with 2NT. The entire notrump structure, which is so well defined and well-constructed, is rendered useless. How can it possibly make more sense to bid a crummy suit and end all carefully defined auctions? It can't! Therefore, a positive bid should be a clearly defined bid that would be difficult to define otherwise. That old concept of Responder bidding a suit with two of the top three honors makes lots of sense. You have a Goren two bid in some other suit and all of a sudden you hear a source of tricks on the side. The heart suit can be a lot weaker to bid 2 than the club suit needs to be to bid 3 as partner can still rebid 2NT, and all you've successfully done is to possibly wrongside the contract; whereas bidding 3 ruins everything. So that had better be one great suit to bid 3.

There are some experts who require Responder to have two of the top three honors in the suit they bid if they don’t respond 2.

Jill Meyers---I would respond 2 with KQJ10x or AQJxx. I would respond 3 with AQJxxx or KQJ9xx.

Chuck Berger---I would respond 2 with a five-card suit with two of the top three honors. I would respond 3 with a five-card suit with three or four top honors or six-plus cards in the suit with two of the top three honors.

Bill Pollack---I would respond 2 with AQTxx in a hand with some other feature. I play Precision, so I don't worry about this, but super rigid requirements for a non-2 bid seem wrong, they are too infrequent. I would bid 3 over 2with AQ10xxx -- the tradeoff is that 3 takes up so much space vs. the fact there's no other way to bid them.

Billy Eisenberg---If I played that way, I would respond in a suit where I held two of the top three honors, or three of the top five with at least five cards in length.

Richard Schwartz---I’d respond 2 with two of the top three honors and five or more hearts, or AJ10xx or KJ10xx, but not QJ10xx. I’d respond 3 with a six-card suit headed by ace or king, along with Q, J, or 10, e.g. AQxxxx or AJxxxx.

Alan Sontag---I think I would respond in a suit when I hold two of the top three honors with five or more cards at the two-level. At the three-level I need two of the top three honors with at least six cards in the suit. That is suit quality plus some additional outside values like an outside King.

Kerri Sanborn---I like to promise a trick and a half plus a good suit for a positive response. So AQJxx would qualify. In clubs, however, the looming second negative gets in the way of showing this suit, so there needs to be some way to show a positive with a club suit. I play that 2NT is a club positive with no suit guarantees, and 3 is the equivalent of KQxxxx and a "thing" on the side, as little as a side Queen.

David Berkowitz---I’d respond 2 with KQJxx in hearts and a queen, or AQJxx and out. I think a decent six-card suit, perhaps KQ10xxx and out would be a minimum.

Jon Wittes---I would bid 2 with KQxxx, 3 with KQxxxx.

Rose Meltzer---I’d bid 2 with xKQxxxxQxxxxx. I’d bid 3 with xxxxxxxKQJxxx. I almost always bid 2 (waiting) over 2, so if I bid a suit I’m usually heading to slam. John Carruthers---I would respond 2 with KQxxx and respond 3 with KQxxxx.

There are some experts who agree with me and as long as you have a positive response, which is an ace and a king or eight HCP, most five-card or longer suits are biddable. Maybe you should treat 65432 as a four-card suit.

Karen Allison---I would respond 2 with xxKQxxxxxxxxx. I would respond 3 with xxxxxxxKQxxxx. I believe the only reason to get in the way of partner's prepared auction is a hand with a suit good for trumps, and I think anything less than KQ at the top of the suit can wait for the next round of bidding. For a minor I prefer to be showing a six-card suit, although I would not object to KQxxx as an agreement.

Frank Stewart---I would respond 2 with xxxQJ10xxAxxxx and would respond 3 with xxxxxxAxQJ10xx. My feeling is that in borderline cases, it's better to go ahead and issue a positive response and then keep a foot on the brake. As an aside, I do not like the cheaper minor as a second negative. I think it's better to be able to bid the suit naturally. I know that responder may have to bid notrump, perhaps wrong-siding 3NT, but I feel that is the lesser evil.

Larry Cohen---I like to have about eight HCP and a decent five-card suit for 2. Minimum might be something like: KJxKJ1087xxxxx. For 3, I'd prefer the same parameters but a better suit -- either a better five cards or a decent six cards.

Alan Siebert---I would respond 2 with AJ109x or AJxxxx and 3 with AJ10xxx or AQxxxx, if playing cheaper minor as a second negative, which I don't like. I suppose when bidding five-card suits would be necessary, the worst it would be is AJ10xx.

Eric Greco---I would bid 2 with a suit as little as QJ10xx or K109xx and typically eight or more HCP. I may have fewer than eight HCP with a better suit, such as KQJxxx, which is enough on its own. For 3, since I am preempting partner out of the two-level, I must have a good six-card or longer suit. I would say KJ10xxx is the worst suit I would have and here I would tend to have seven or more points or so.

Jeff Rubens---I would bid 2 with xxxQJxxxxxAxx and 3 with xxxAxxxxQJxxx.

John Mohan---My weakest 2 response is KQxxx with a side King. My weakest 3 response is Kxxxxx with a side King.

Marty Bergen---I would respond 2 with AxQJ109xxxxxxx and would respond 3 with KxxxxxxxKQ10xx.

There are a few experts who make a positive response if they had a good suit with nothing outside.

Bobby Wolff---I would respond a positive 2 with KQJxx or KQxxxx and nothing else and would respond 3 with KQJxxx or KQ10xxx and a side queen but nothing else.

Kit Woolsey---I would bid 2 or 3 if I had at least a five-card suit with two of the top three honors. Strength is not an issue.

Nick Nickell---I would bid 2 on KQxxx and 5-3-3-2 with nothing outside hearts. I play that 3 could be as weak. I play that 2NT shows a positive in clubs, without two of the top three honors.

Eddie Kantar---I would respond 2 with xxKQxxxxxxxxx and would respond 3 with xxxxxxxxKQJxx andxxAxxxxJ10xxxx

It’s true that if Opener rebids 2NT, you should always bid 2. However, at least half the time Opener rebids a suit. Telling Opener that you’re in slam range makes the auction easier. Therefore, if you have a five-card or longer suit with some points make a positive response.

Don Berman, Web Master.