General Approach; 2C Opening (Part 2)

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 07/02/2014
Level: Intermediate

Previously, we discussed our general system approach and the parameters for a strong 2 opening. This month, we explore the follow-ups after the 2 opening.

I frequently get asked about this. I give my usual answer: "There are many methods--all with good and bad attributes. Just pick one and live with it. It is not too important which method--as long as your partner knows it and is playing the same way!" I do, however, have a strong preference for one method over the other.

Some people use control (or "step") responses. I've never been a big fan. Others use 2 as "negative." This strikes me as a poor approach. I prefer to use 2 as "waiting." It could be a zero-count, but it also could be quite a good hand. More on this in a moment. Another method is to use 2 as negative (0-3) and 2 as an artificial positive game-force. This is okay, but not what I recommend.

Let's examine the most common (by far) method (and the one I do recommend):

2-2 Waiting

Using 2-2 waiting, you will find that on almost all hands the response is 2. When would you not respond 2? With a good hand and a good 5 card suit, you can respond in the suit. What is "good?" At least 8 HCP and usually 2 of the top 4 honors. I would not respond in a suit of Axxxx or K10xxx. I would not make a positive response with only 6 HCP even if the suit were good enough. If I don't have a good 5+ card suit and 8 HCP, I respond 2--waiting. (I would never respond 2NT even with notrump shape/stoppers/points--risking playing notrump from the wrong side and also taking away opener's room).

So, a 2 response shows "any hand that lacks 8 HCP and a good 5+ card suit." It can be a balanced 14-count! It can be a 0-count.

Examples of 2 responses to 2 (using 2 as "waiting:)

A Q 4 2
K Q 3
J 3 2
5 4 3
: BID 2 (no 5-card suit)

A 5 4 3 2
6 5 4
7 6 4 2
3
: BID 2 (no good 5-card suit and no 8 HCP)

5 4 3 2
4 3 2
4 3 2
4 3 2
: BID 2 (no person should ever hold this hand!)

Example of non 2 responses to 2:

A Q J 8 7
K 4 3 2
2
5 4 2
: BID 2

32
32
A2
KJ109873
: BID 3

OPENER'S REBID

With a balanced hand, this is easy. 2-2-2NT shows 22-24 balanced (assuming a 2NT opener would have 20-21). With 25-27, rebid 3NT. (After these notrump rebids, Stayman and transfers are on.)

With an unbalanced hand, opener names his long suit. This is FORCING, but NOT GAME FORCING

It is important to study that last sentence. A 2 opener is not a game force. For one, 2-2-2NT can end the auction. Also,
2-2-ANY SUIT ... will usually lead to game, but not 100% of the time. More on this later.

If the auction begins 2--NOT 2 (in other words, any response other than 2), then all bids are natural and at least game must be reached.

If the auction begins 2-2-- and opener names a suit, what happens next?

RESPONDER'S REBID

If responder's first bid was something other than 2, then all bidding is natural. The partnership must reach at least a game.

If responder's first bid was 2, he can pass a 2NT rebid by opener. What if opener bids a suit?

2-2

2:

After opener bids a suit, the most popular approach is to use "cheaper minor second negative." The terminology is a little dated since there was never a "first" negative. Anyway, here are the auctions we are discussing:

OpenerResponder
2      2
2      3
OpenerResponder
2     2
2     3
OpenerResponder
2     2
3     3
OpenerResponder
2      2
3      3

In each case, responder has bid the cheaper minor (but note the exception is the use of 3 over 3 so as to not zoom past 3NT).

When responder bids the cheaper minor he is typically showing a very bad hand. He is saying: "Partner, if you repeat your suit, you might not hear from me again--we can stop short of game."

So, any of these auctions could occur:

OPENERRESPONDER
2      2
2      3
3      Pass
openerresponder
2      2
2      3
3      Pass
OPENERRESPONDER
2      2
3      3
4      Pass
OPENERRESPONDER
2      2
3      3
4      Pass

None of this is very likely. Usually when opener rebids something other than 2NT, game is reached. After the "double negative," if opener bids a new suit, that is forcing.

What if responder doesn't use a double negative?

Fast Arrival

Let's say the auction begins:

2-2

2-2

Once responder eschews a double negative, all bids are natural and game-forcing.

What if responder raises the opener:

2-2

2-3

or

2-2

2-4

Both of these are game-forcing (especially since one of the bids is game!). But, which shows more?

Have you heard of "fast arrival?" This principle says: "Once you are forced to game, jumping to the game is actually weaker." The "fast arrival" into game (4) says: "Partner, I am dead minimum, interested only in game. If you bid again, do so because you have extras." Accordingly, the slower bid of raising to 3 shows extras and slam interest. The logic is that with slam interest you should leave the most room for exploration.

Summary

Know what you play after a 2 opener. I recommend 2 waiting. Remember that 2 is not 100% forcing to game. The approach listed here is not complete, but more than sufficient for any players not competing in National Championships. If you want to load up your brain with tons of additional agreements, be my guest, but I believe that "less is more."

Next month, we move on to opening 1-suit bids with my (un)conventional thoughts.

Larry's Audio Tour of the Convention Card