General Approach; 2C Opening (Part 1)

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 12/17/2013
Level: Intermediate

I'll start with the very first thing on the ACBL convention card: NAMES. If you need help here, you might be in some trouble. Seriously, though, you should write both players' full names--your opponents are entitled to know.

As to "General Approach" ...

###### Opening Bids and General System

In my years of tournament success, I used Precision (discussed at the footnote at the end of this article). I suspect most readers will stick with what is familiar to them and play "Standard American."  "2-over-1 Game Forcing" is becoming more and more popular--and for good reason. "2/1" is a much easier system than "standard." I'd teach beginners that 1-2 shows 13 and enough for game (as opposed to the 10 in the "book.") Eventually, I think, everyone will play 2/1 GF. (Of course, some of my inexperienced students can be found bidding 2-over-1 with 7 or 8 points--a definite no-no in any era with any system.)

While a weak notrump (12-14) is popular in many countries, most of my readers prefer 15-17.

Okay. So, for most of you the general approach will be "Standard"," or "2/1 GF", 15-17 notrump openings. Fine. What about the Strong Opening bid (2)?

2 OPENER (What do you need?)

We'll get to 2, 2 and 2 openings in a later installment of this series. For now, let's presume that 2 (artificial) is the only suit bid to depict a strong hand. (In the old days, all 2-level openings were strong, but sanity has since prevailed.)

What do I mean by "strong?" If your strong hand is balanced, I can tell you an exact point range. Presuming a 2NT opener is 20-21, then when 2 is opened with a balanced hand it shows 22+ HCP.

What if unbalanced? This is a pet peeve of mine. After an opening 2, an opponent asks: "How many points?" Poor question. It has no good answer. (And why ask in the first place--does it matter to you? Will you interfere or not interfere depending on the answer? By the way, if you do interfere, make sure you and your partner know what double shows--typically clubs.)

Anyway, if balanced, the answer (if you are silly enough to ask what 2 shows) is easy: more than a 2NT opener. But what about unbalanced hands? Who is to say which (if any) of these hands are worth 2:

 A K Q J 10 9 8A Q J 254 A A K J 9 6 5 4 2      B   --A K 4 2                      5 K Q J 10 9 8 7 --K Q JK Q JC

The HCP for each hand above are 17, 15, and 18, respectively. Depending on which experts you asked, you'd get votes for opening 2 with A,B,C, none, or all. There is no right answer! That is why it is silly to ask your opponent: "How many points does 2 show?"

What should your HCP requirements be for a 2 opener? Again, with a balanced hand, there is no decision. With unbalanced hands such as A,B,C above, it is a matter of personal preference. Some people count losers or quick tricks. Others insist on having a certain number of aces or HCP. I tend to open 2 more than most people, fearing that my one-level opening could be followed by three passes. I'd probably open 2 with all of these hands. That doesn't make it right; many experts would open 1 with all three hands. All of those hands are much too strong for a 4 opening.

Another consideration is: "How hard will it be to show my hand if I open 2?"

For example, consider this hand: A Q J 2
3 2
A
A K Q 10 8 7

If you open 2, your next call will be 3. It might be hard to find a 4-4 spade fit. Meanwhile, if you open 1 (and survive, i.e., it doesn't go 1--P--P--P), you will get to jump in spades next, getting the hand "off your chest." For such awkward hands, I tend to risk a one-level opening.

So, you've opened 2. What next? We'll explore the follow-ups in a later month.

Larry's Audio Tour of the Convention Card

**Precision. Personally, I think a strong-club system (such as Precision) is best. Good hands (16+) start with 1. That means all other openings are fewer than 16 HCP. This makes bidding so much easier. Any time you open, say 1, partner knows you are limited to 11-15 HCP. This avoids the need for awkward topics such as reverses. If I were to teach beginners, I would forgo "Standard American" and teach Precision. Is it hard to make the switch? Not too hard. Probably 5-6 hours of reading and work would be enough to get started. If anyone cares, by my estimate, 4 of the top 5 American pairs from 2000-2007 used a strong club system. {Precision Today, by Brent Manley and David Berkowitz is a good starting point.}