TWO-OVER-ONE GAME FORCING (2/1GF)
PART 4 (When is 2/1 in effect?)
In the first month of this series, we introduced the reason for playing responder's 2-level bids (in a new lower suit) as game-forcing.
Now, let's go back into more detail and discuss all the responses.
First, let's make sure we are in an auction that calls for 2/1 GF.
Here is a checklist of what is NOT a 2/1 GF auction:
1) 1 Opening. The opening bid can't be 1. After a 1 opening, use what you already use. A 1NT response is natural and presumably 6-10 or maybe 8-11. Your choice. A response on the 1-level is natural and of course forcing 1-round. A raise to 2 is natural (you can use inverted minors if you like--but that has nothing to do with 2/1 GF). Any other responses to 1 are jumps and must be defined by your partnership as either WEAK or STRONG. Your choice. Make sure you know what a 2NT response is (11-12...or maybe 13+, forcing). Discuss 3-level responses, too.
2) A response to 1 other than 2. If the opening bid is 1, the only Game-Forcing Response is 2. I recommend to play 1-2 as 100% GF. In a future month we will discuss this auction explicitly. A 1NT response to 1 is simply 6-10. It is not a forcing (or semi-forcing) notrump. I recommend a 2NT response to show 11-12 balanced, invitational (no 4-card major). Any 2-level response to 1 in a major is not a 2/1 GF. It is a jump-shift. Make sure you know if your partnership treats it as WEAK or STRONG (if you don't know, expect catastrophic results!).
3) The opponents interfere. If the opening is 1 or 1 and the next player PASSES, then a 2-level response in a lower-ranking suit is indeed 2/1 GF. If the next player after the opening bid Doubles or Overcalls, we do not use 2/1 GF.
Note: If you play any conventional responses to 1 or 1, those still apply. You can play 2/1 GF with or without any artificial raises. If you like Jacoby 2NT, fine. If you like Bergen Raises, fine.
4) We pass as the dealer (or in 2nd position). The 2/1 GF system applies only when we opened the bidding as the dealer or in 2nd position. It is never used after our 3rd or 4th seat opener.
Now that we've reviewed WHEN 2/1 GF applies, let's also make sure we discuss a 1-level response. Does anything change with the auction, for example, 1-Pass-1?
No. Absolutely not. A 1-level response is what it always meant. It is natural and 6+. It is forcing 1 round. It could be made with a 6-count. It could be made with a 20-count. I'd respond 1 to any opening bid with, say: A Q J 7 2
A 3 2
Q 4 2.
Responding on the 1-level doesn't deny 13+. It doesn't mean there is no game.
What if you have a choice? For example, partner opens 1 and you hold: A Q 3 2
7 6 5
K Q 10 8
. Surely you want to be in game or higher. You have enough strength for a 2/1 GF response. Should you respond 1 or 2? There is no official answer to this. If you had a fifth club and made the hand: A Q 3 2
K Q 10 8 3
, almost all experts would respond 2. They would plan to bid spades next to complete the picture. With the first (4-4) hand, personally I prefer to respond 2 (still planning to show spades later if need be). I find that a 2-over-1 auction is much more comfortable than a 1-over-1 auction. If I respond 1, the auction could get uncomfortable later (I will often have to go through the artificial 4th suit to create a force--and this takes up lots of space). I'd rather respond 2 and comfortably and naturally continue the auction without having to create a force. That said, I'm not going to completely distort my hand; if my only suit is spades (I have no 4-card or longer minor), then I will reluctantly have to respond 1.
Summary of this installment:
1) Make sure you know when a 2/1 GF auction occurs (after a 1st or 2nd seat opening with no interference). Be aware of minor-suit openings (the only minor-suit opening 2/1 GF is 1-2).
2) Be aware of 1NT responses (they are "normal" after a minor-suit opening or by a passed hand).
3) Conventional responses to your opening bids are not changed. Use what you always use (or don't use).
4) One-level suit responses say nothing about game prospects. They mean what they always mean. Unlimited.
5) Sometimes you will have a choice of responding on the 1-level in a major or on the 2-level in a (four-card or longer) minor to create a GF right away. If in doubt, I recommend the latter approach.
Next month we will delve further into 2/1 GF.
If you would like to learn more about 2/1 Game Force, you'll find it in Larry's book:
Larry covers many topics on his cruises, including 2/1. For more information:
Larry's 64-page 2/1 GF workbook
Larry's audio presentation to the ABTA on 2/1 GF in New Orleans, 2010