Two Club Openers
"Partner, do I have good news for you!"
Sometimes (although never often enough for avid bridge players) you'll be dealt very good cards like these hands:
Hand A) ♠AKQ9765 ♥AK ♦AQJ ♣2
Hand B) ♠AKQ ♥KJ32 ♦AQ4 ♣KT8
Hand A has almost enough for game by itself (very likely to have a minimum of 6 spades tricks, two heart tricks and two diamond tricks). If partner has as little as the ♦K and the 432 of spades, you can make small slam in spades. Hand B is very strong too (22 points) and you'd like to be in a NoTrump game if partner has as few as four points. Or, maybe partner has four hearts and a heart game can be made. Partner is likely to have the few points we need for game. What you'd like to do is get more information so that you can choose the right level and strain for these hands.
What you'll have to do is make a bid that partner cannot PASS (called a "forcing bid"). In Standard American-Yellow Card, there is only one opening which says to partner "you must bid until we get to game or I have limited my strength." That opening bid is 2♣. The opening 2♣ bid says nothing about the club suit (you could even be void in the suit!).
All your partner knows for sure about your hand when you make this bid is that you have a very strong hand and that game or even slam (!) is very likely even if she holds only a few points. If she holds more than a few points, slam should definitely be investigated.
So, when do you decide to open 2♣? Well, it depends on the answer to the question, "Are we looking for a game in notrump or in a suit?"
Opening 2♣ when you have a good notrump hand
When you hold a distributionally flat hand and enough (or nearly enough) points for game, there are two ways to open the hand:
- You open 2♣ to tell partner that you are very strong, then as your next bid you bid the cheapest NT bid (usually 2NT). This shows a hand worth 23-24 points and a flat distribution.
Partner can, after that 2NT bid, use some of the conventions that we've studied before. That is, she can bid
- 3♣ (Stayman asking you to bid a four card major),
- 3♦ (Jacoby transfer to hearts),
- 3♥ (Jacoby transfer to spades),
- 3NT ("let's play in a no trump game"), or
- 4♣ (Gerber, asking for aces).
Partner is also allowed to PASS if she has no reason to bid further (zero points and 4-3-3-3 distribution is one possibility), but she should try to bid again if she has any reason to do so since she only needs about two points to have enough for game.
- You open 2♣ to tell partner that you are very strong, and then bid 4NT (or a jump in notrump [A jump is one more than you have to bid]). This shows a tremendous hand (usually 28-30 points) and flat distribution.
Stayman and Jacoby transfers are not usually used after the 4NT bid. Responder should raise to 6NT with 5-7 points and a flat hand because the partnership has 33-37 points.
If responder has a suit to play in, she should bid game or slam in the suit depending on her points and distribution. Unfortunately the bidding here can sometimes have guesses associated with them, but the responder knows they need to be in slam and should do her best to choose what's likely to be a good strain and level. [Experts often use other, more complicated conventions to help prevent these problems, but just how much do you want to remember right now?]
- In SA-YC, opening 3NT shows a hand with 25-27 points.
Responder can PASS this bid, since you didn't make a forcing bid. However, we're at game with 3NT, so if she's really "broke" [0 points] then she can PASS and feel confident that you'll take oodles of tricks with all those aces and kings and queens and jacks (oh my!).
She can also use Stayman (4C response asking you to bid a four card major) and Jacoby transfers (a 4D or 4H response) after your 3NT opener.
Opening 2♣ on a hand with a good suit
This one's a bit tougher, but not terribly so. [Take a deep breath... relax...] According to the Standard American-Yellow Card pamphlet, it shows "at least 22+ points or the playing equivalent". Points we've already discussed, but what in the world does "or the playing equivalent" mean? Well, in order to do that we have to take a side trip into what makes a suit a strong suit. I'll tell you about something called the "Losing Trick Count".
Losing Trick Count
Since you're interested in getting to game you should have about nine tricks to take in your hand. But, how do you count your trick-taking potential? One common way is to use the Losing Trick Count (LTC).
Look at each suit in your hand, one at a time, and look at the top cards that you have in that suit.
It may sound complicated, but don't worry. Once you get used to it, it's pretty easy.
- If you are void in the suit, you have zero losers;
- If you have a singleton and it is not the ace, you have one loser;
- If you have a doubleton, each card that is not the ace or king is another loser; and,
- If you have a three-card or longer suit, each card in the top three cards only that is not the ace, king or queen is a loser. HOWEVER, if you hold the Q without either the A, K, J or T, we have one more loser than we counted at first. [The Q is not "backed up" by another honor.]
Let's just look at a few examples. We're only going to look at one suit for this practice, but remember that you have to do it for each of the four suits when you count up the whole hand.
||The top three cards are A, J and T. We don't have the K and Q, so we have two losers.
||With a doubleton suit, we count each non-ace or non-king card as a loser so we have one loser.
||We don't have the K in the top 3, so we have one loser (Note that the Q is backed up by the A.)
||We have a singleton and it is the ace. Therefore, we have no/zero losers!
|We're missing the A and Q of spades, so we have two losers.
||We're missing the A and K of spades, so we initially count two losers. However, the Q is not backed up with another honor, so we have an extra loser. Thus, we have three losers.
|Now that you know how to count losers (by LTC) you subtract the total number of losers from 13 (the number of cards you hold). The idea is that we'd wish every card in our hand would win a trick (13 winners), so we subtract the number of "losers" in our hand from those 13 winners and we'll be left with cards that have the best potential to take tricks: the "real" winners.
The resulting number of "winners" gives you an idea of the "trick taking potential" of your hand. Thus with Hand A shown at the beginning of the lesson, we'd determine its trick taking potential in this way.
A) ♠AKQ9765 ♥AK ♦AQJ ♣2 [26 points with length]
♠ AKQ9765 has no losers,
♥AK has no losers,
♦AQJ has one loser and
♣2 has one loser.
This totals to two losers. Subtract 2 from 13 and we get 11 playing tricks. WOW!!
Let's try one more full hand for LTC:
♠AJT5 ♥AQJT873 ♦K ♣K [21 points with length]
♠AJT5 has two losers,
♥AQJT873 has one loser,
♦K has one loser, and
♣K has one loser.
This totals to five losers. Subtract 5 from 13 and we get 8 playing tricks.
LTC is just another way to assess the strength of the hand. You can use it along with counting points to give you an idea of how good your hand is. It is most commonly used with distributional hands (not flat hands). It isn't quite as helpful if the hand is flat and I'd recommend just sticking with point count for the flat hands.
Now, if you have a distributional hand with 9 playing tricks (possibly 8 if we have Js, Ts, 9s, and 8s in our long suits) we can open 2♣ and then at our next turn bid our long suit. This tells partner that we have a "strong hand" (2♣, remember?) but it's not necessarily in high card points (since we didn't bid NT ). Most players will expect that you hold at least 17 HCP if you open 2♣ and then bid a suit. Your partner is expected to bid until the bidding has gone past 3 of your major suit (or 4 of your minor suit).
RESPONDING TO A 2♣ OPENING BID: 2♣-?
If partner opens 2♣, you have a major duty: DO NOT PASS. Opener has told you that you must bid because she holds either a flat hand with lots of points or a good playing hand with a good suit.
What do you need to tell opener? You need to tell her if:
This is for your first response only:
- you hold 8-10 points and a relatively flat hand;
- you hold more than 8 points (or so) with a five-card major suit, or;
- you don't hold either of these.
The 2♦ bid is often referred to as a "waiting" bid even if you have a "pointless" hand. Opener does not know which kind of hand you have. You can tell her more after she's told you more about her hand.
- 2♥- "I hold 8 or more points and at least five good hearts. We must keep bidding until we reach a game of some sort and we should be interested in seeing if a slam can be bid."
- 2♠ - "I hold 8 or more points and at least five good spades. We must keep bidding until we reach a game of some sort and we should be interested in seeing if a slam can be bid."
- 2NT - "I hold 8-10 points and a relatively flat hand (no singletons)."
- 3♣ - "I hold 8 or more points and at least five good clubs. We must keep bidding until we reach a game of some sort and we should be interested in seeing if a slam can be bid."
- 2♦ - "I hold none of the above. I might have 8 or more points with an unbalanced hand or no long major suit and I'm waiting for you to tell me more about your hand. or I might hold zero points and am just 'doing my duty' to bid."
Generally, any non-2♦ response shows a "good hand" (8+ points). If the bid is in a suit, then it shows a long suit. With a good hand, you don't need to jump a level. Opener won't PASS with good cards, so you'll get a chance to bid again.
If you have a long, decent minor suit, you might either:
(NOTE: It is probably best to treat long suits with no honors as weak suits initially. Once partner has told you what kind of good hand she has, you can then make a better evaluation of what the long suit is worth.)
- bid it at the 3-level with 10 or more points (higher level = more points), or;
- make a waiting bid and then bid the suit after you've heard what kind of hand partner has.
OPENER'S REBID AFTER RESPONDER MAKES A
If you have a long, strong suit of your own, bid it at the lowest level you can.
Why? Partner has shown that you easily have enough points for game and should start looking for slam. However, you haven't told partner that what you have is a long strong suit of your own. Thus, you need to tell her that.
You don't need to jump (which, as we'll see in a later lesson, usually needed to show a strong hand after you open something different than 2♠). You've already shown strength with the 2♣ opener and partner has shown some points with the non-2♦ bid.
With hand A above, after you open 2♣ and partner responds 2♥, you would bid 2♠.
If you have a strong, but flat hand, bid NT . If you hold 22-24 points, bid NT at the cheapest level. If you hold 28-30 points, jump two levels of NT . If you hold 31-33 points, ... uh...Pass the smelling salts please!!! Well, you get the idea.
Thus with hand B above, you opened 2♣ and partner responded 2♠, you then bid 2NT. Partner will NOT PASS this. Remember, you've shown 22-24 points and responder has shown AT LEAST 8 points. This is MORE than enough for game. If you have three card support for partner's suit, you can bid them at your next turn.
If you have a strong, flat hand and partner responds 2NT, you should evaluate your hand and bid accordingly. If you have 22 points, bid 3NT. It doesn't seem likely that partner's 10 points will be enough to ensure that 6NT will make. If you hold 23-24 points, bid 4NT (yes, it's a jump bid). This asks partner to bid 6NT if she hold 9 (good) or 10 points. If you hold 25-28 points, the partnership total points are 33-36 points: enough for small slam, but not enough for grand slam. Just bid 6NT. Finally, if you hold 29-32 points (if partner's honest, you can't hold more than 32 since she holds 8 points), bid 7NT.
OPENER'S REBID AFTER RESPONDER MAKES A "WAITING" RESPONSE:
Opener's rebids will be similar to the ones above: either bid your long, strong suit, or bid the correct level of NT to show your points. You've now told partner just about everything about your hand, so it's up to partner to decide what to do. Partner, with any justification at all, should try to bid to some sort of game based on what she knows about your hand. If you've bid 2NT, partner may PASS, bid 3♣ Stayman or use Jacoby transfers, Gerber (4♣), or 4NT (inviting you to bid 6NT if you have the top of your declared range (24 or a really good 23 in this case)).
RESPONDER'S REBID AFTER A WAITING RESPONSE:
Responder's rebid depends a bit on what opener has said about her hand:
- Opener has said she has a 22-24 NT -type hand (2♣-2♦; 2N- ?)
Responder can use almost all of the conventions that she could use after a 1NT or 2NT opener. Stayman, Jacoby transfers, and Gerber (you need a good hand for this though: 11+ points) can all be used. The minor-suit bust transfer (3♠) and the invitational-minor-suit bids (4♣ -- beware: this won't work anyway since this is Gerber! -- or 4♦) are probably best not used when partner has shown this strong a hand.
If you don't have enough for game but two or more points you can bid 3NT (game in NT ). If you hold a long minor suit and very few points (1 or less), you can PASS since the partnership doesn't hold enough points for game.
If you hold a long minor suit and a Ax or Kx (maybe even Qxx) in another suit, you should bid 3NT. You hope that partner will be able to use up opponent's high cards in your long suit quickly, and then use your "outside" high card to get to the rest of your "length" cards to take tricks. Honors (A, K, Q, J, T) in the suit itself are good, but it's also good if you have an honor in an outside suit.
If you have a really long minor suit (seven cards in the suit at least) and a very weak hand, you can try bidding game in the minor suit. Opener will most likely PASS (unless she has a "perfect" hand for your bidding).
- Opener has a strong hand with a strong suit [2C♣-2D♦;(opener rebids in a suit)- ?]: In this case, you should assume that opener has five cards in that suit and make some judgement about what strain and level the hand should be played in. However, in this bidding, you cannot PASS until opener has bid more than 3 of her major suit or 4 of her minor suit. You must make some sort of bid. If you have few or no points, bid 2NT. (Opener will know you don't have 8-10 and a flat hand since you didn't bid 2NT the first time.) If opener rebids the same suit, you are permitted to PASS if you have no reason to bid further.
If responder has any support for the suit and a few points (should have no more than 10 losers by LTC), show the support. For example, Whew!!!! Caught your breath?? Yes, there's a lot here and it will take some practice to get it all "stuffed in your head", but the practice is worth it when you or your partner gets one of these terrific hands.
|Your hand, bidding and what you're saying
||Partner's hand, bidding and what she's saying
|♠AK ♥AKQJT ♦32 ♣A65
||♠QJ83 ♥872 ♦KJ54 ♣T7
|2♣ ("Partner, do I have good news for you!")
||2♦ ("That's nice. Tell me a little more about it!")
|2♥("I have a long strong, heart suit too")
||3♥("How nice, partner! I have at least three cards in hearts myself. I do have a few points or 10 or fewer losers. Wanna think about slam?")
|4♥("Well, I have a great hand but you're going to need a bit extra if we want to think about slam.")
||PASS. ("Ok. I don't really have all that much, but just wanted to let you know.")
If you can't support opener's suit and have a long suit in your hand, you can (with a few points or 10 or fewer losers) bid your own suit. Opener may rebid her suit to show an even longer suit. In this case, you should NOT PASS (you didn't bid 2NT to show "next to nothing"). Find another bid that describes your hand to opener: raise the suit with only two cards, but another long suit, rebid your long suit, etc. Since you have something in your hand, you should not stop short of game.
These bidding sequences require good listening. "What has partner told me? Do I know enough to know where and how high to play the hand?" If you don't know the answers, what more do you need to tell partner so that maybe she can make this decision?