Bidding Over an Opening of 2 Clubs
Philosophy of Showing Suits
A basic principle of this system is that over a 2 Club opening, responder shows suits and distribution, not points. Therefore, once the responder is in a nonforcing situation, he must take decisive action -- pass, bid the game, invite to slam, bid the slam, etc.
There is little reason for responder to show points. First, the auction is forced. So responder doesn't need to show points to keep the bidding open. Second, responder cannot know the real strength of his hand until he knows if there is a fit. So why should responder try to show the strength of his hand before he knows the strength of his hand? For example, four hearts and a singleton spade is priceless if opener has a long heart suit and worthless if he has a long spade suit.
Therefore, like any other conventional system, the auction is forced until opener has described her hand. Then responder knows the true strength of his hand and can take decisive action.
Conversely, communicating distribution and try to find a fit is very important. The major suits are most important for game bidding, and minor suits can be useful for slams.
Having responder take control is common That's what happens after most NT bids by opener. The 2 Club opener in theory could have 30 points, but in practice he usually has 22 or 23, and he takes extra action with 25, when it is time for him to make a nonforcing bid.
Taking control requies skill by responder. This is a useful skill, and it is the same skill as if declarer opened 2 NT. (How to practice this skill is described below.)
2 Diamonds Waiting
The 2D response is usually played as a negative bid. This is not very useful, because there is no useful dividing line for being negative. A true negative, saying we don't have game and let's stop as soon as we can, requires 3 or less HCP. That doesn't occur often.
The modern notion is that the 2D response can also be waiting. You can play it as waiting even if your partner thinks it is negative. You just bid 2D then let opener describe his hand. When the forcing portion of the auction is over, you take decisive action. This of course is exactly my system. And in my system, 2D is the most common response to 2C.
Every partnership must agree when bids are nonforcing over 2 clubs. To use my system, there is little reason to change conventions about this. My guess at your conventions:
- Any game bid is nonforcing.
- Opener's direct rebid of 2 NT is nonforcing.
- Opener's rebid of the same suit is nonforcing.
- Assuming you want to stop with minimal hands, direct support is nonforcing. For example,
If you want to sacrifice quick stops for cue bidding, you could make this forcing.
- A suit preference by responder is nonforcing.
However, in my system, delayed support of a major should be forcing if the first bid of the major showed just a 4 card suit.
- I suspect
is also nonforcing.
- I suspect a suit rebid by responder is also nonforcing.
- You could let the bid of the second suit by opener be nonforcing. I don't think that would hurt anything. But it doesn't seem to be conventional.
Other Responses: General Philosophy
For beginners, the convention could simply be to always respond a waiting 2D. Experts of course will want to assign meaning to the other responses.
Traditionally, the other responses show points and high cards. This sometimes allows the opener to take control and place the hand. I admit this does not take much skill and is much easier than responder trying to place the hand.
But it isn't easy to make it work. Suppose the 3D response promises 5 diamonds and 2 of the top 3 honors. That's great when it occurs and opener cares, but how often does that occur? (See testing below for how to test your system of bidding over 2C.) And if it shows at least 1 of the top 3 honors, does a rebid show six diamonds or another honor?
This is also more suited for slams. Games are bid on fit and HCP. And games are important to bid correctly.
In my system, the other responses are used to handle the situations that arise somewhat often and cannot be handled well with the waiting 2D. Is this logical or what? These are usually hands that cannot be bid well if opener rebids 2NT, which occurs almost half the time.
Responding 2 of a Major
Roughly, bidding 2 of a major indicates at least 4 of that suit and does not say anything about points.
There are three reasons for bidding 2D instead of showing a major. First, bidding a major place the contract in the weaker hand. Second, the 2S response uses up a full level of bidding when opener has a 5-card heart suit to show. Third, if you respond 2 of a major with only the three types of hands I will describe, opener can make additional inferences about your hand whenever you bid a major immediately or show it later.
There are three types of hands that are not well-suited to waiting. These are the times you respond with 2 of a major.
1. Bid 2H with 4 hearts and a hand too weak for Stayman over partner's 2NT rebid.
If you have a weak hand, so that you will have to pass a 2 NT rebid by partner, and you have 4 hearts, you might miss a 4-4 heart fit. In this situation, 3 hearts is much better than 2NT -- the 4-4 fit produces an extra trick and an extra entry to the weak hand. So respond 2H with 4 hearts and a weak hand. Opener immediately supports with four.
Frankly, this situation does not come up that often. Responder usually has enough points for game. When he doesn't, he doesn't always have a heart suit. When he does, opener doesn't always have the balanced 2NT hand. When he does, he might not have 4 hearts.
In fact, when responder has this hand, opener rarely has the 2NT rebid with 4 hearts. I include this meaning for three reasons. First, when it does happen, it works very well. Second, the auction goes well whenever opener has 4 hearts. He bids 3 hearts, or 4 depending on his strength, because 3 hearts isn't forcing. And then responder knows the combined strength and can take effective action. Finally, 2H does not use any room in the bidding. Partner can still make whatever bid he was going to make, unless he was going to bid hearts, and then he can jump to 4H.
2. Bid 2H or 2S with a two-suiter and at least interest in slam, or with a major 2-suiter.
The logic here is that it takes two bids to show a two-suiter, so responder should start as soon as possible.
The reason for an interest in slam is this. Suppose, just for example, you respond with 2S to show spades, then on your next bid you bid 3D. If partner has support, the only way to show it is for him to bid 4D, and now you are past 3NT. Of course partner can hide his support, but then what was the point of you bidding diamonds? And if you are not looking for slam, why are you working so hard to show a minor suit?
If responder has four of a major and 5 of a minor, which suit does responder bid first? In my system, responder bids the major suit first. Bidding the minor uses too much room. If responder is two-suited in the majors, bid the longest one first.
I should note that my system hence gives preference to finding 4-4 fits. If the response of 2H or 2S shows at least 5, preference is being given to the less valuable 5-3 fit.
3. Bid 2 H or 2 S to show six and a weak hand. The rebid of the suit then shows six.
You will probably not get a good chance to show a six card suit, unless partner bids 2 NT.
This could be loosened to a 5 card suit. But there are usually ways to imply a 5 card suit. Consider this auction
Over the 2 NT rebid
Over NT Rebids by opener, Stayman and Jacoby are on over a waiting 2 Diamond and off otherwise. There is no reason for Stayman or Jacoby once responder has shown a suit, and forgoing them allows responder to show a second suit at the three level.
Response of 3C and 3D
In conventional bidding, the 3C and 3D responses are natural and show a good club or diamond suit. I have not seen any particular need for this. If responder is not interested in slam, there probably isn't a need to show the suit. If responder is interested, then I think (though am not sure) that he has room to show his suit and invite. The response of 3 of a minor also use up a lot of room.
There is one hand that is difficult to bid in almost any system. Suppose responder has a 5 or 6 card major and is close to game. Over 1 NT, Jacoby transfers allow an invitation. But there no room for an invitation over 2 NT. The invitation is very important. It matters whether opener has 22 versus 24 HCP, and it matters even more if he has 2 versus 3 versus 4! spades.
So in my system, 3C and 3D are invitational transfers. Opener accepts the invitation by bidding 4 of the major and declines by bidding 3 of the major. With a suited hand and no support, opener bids his suits. A bid of NT implies a singleton in responder's major.
This bid is also used when responder is invitational to slam. Invitation to slam with a five-card major is very difficult to bid over 2 NT.
These bids even allow a double invitation to slam. If you respond 3C and partner bids 4S, you can now invite to slam by bidding on. Your partner should evaluate his hand a little differently for slam than game. Or supposed your hand is a little stronger. Now you go to slam if partner makes a positive response, but invite if partner is negative. 4 NT would have to be invitational to slam in no trump, because if responder was strong enough to force to slam, he didn't need the 3C/3D sequence.
If you like 3C and 3D as natural, you can make a response of 3H and 3S as the invitations. But you throw away a lot. You can't use these bids to invite to slam, the weak hand is declarer, and they use up more space when opener wants to show his suits.
I suggest using 3H, 3S, 4C, and 4D to show a 4-4-4-1 distribution. Bid the singleton. This hand pattern is hard to describe following a 2C opening. Opener can then bid the suit the fit is in, or if there is no fit he can bid NT. Then responder can place the level.
This doesn't come up often, but it is useful for bidding when it doesn't come up. Once responder shows two suits, opener knows he doesn't have a third 4-card suit. Then, opener wouldn't bother showing a 4th suit unless he had 5. And responder can use the third suit as an artifical bid to stop at 4 NT (to be discussed).
I guess the 5-4-4-0 distribution should be treated like the 4-4-4-1, because with a void, responder wants to be dummy. But I don't know, and it doesn't occur often. Another trouble is wanting 4 NT to be both to play and for Blackwood over 4C and 4D. A raise of the singleton suit could be ace asking, if you want to discuss events that are very unlikely.
I have not thought of any good meaning for the response of 2 NT. This is because there aren't many types of hands that cause problems and come up very often. There are three possible meaning. I suggest using it to show a two-suiter in the minors. These are difficult to show in my system. Another use it as natural and an invitation to 3NT if opener has a balanced hand and is in the top of his range. It could also be the true negative, showing 3 or less points and telling partner to stop as soon as possible.
Rebids by Opener
I would have liked to let opener make his rebids in the conventional way, and I have done that as much as possible. But a few changes are needed.
First, with a 4 card major and a 5-card minor, it works better if opener, like responder, bids the 4 card major first, assuming this can be done on the 2 level. This means that responder needs a four card suit to support directly, and it means he should try to make delayed support with 3. It also means that
should be forcing.
This saves room in the bidding, and it gives preference to finding 4-4 fits.
The disadvantage is untangling whether the spade major bid is 4 or 5, and it also casts more doubt on the length of a rebid minor.
There is another factor. In my investigations, the 4-3 major fit, with 3 in responder's hand, seems to work very well when responder has some roughing value.
With a 5 card minor and 5-3-3-2 distribution, I think the 2 club opener should rebid 2NT. The auction works better after that.
Over 2D ONLY, opener rebids 3H, 3S, 4C, or 4D to show a 4-4-4-1 distribution. He bids the singleton. This is the same as for the responder. Again, this is a difficult distribution for the 2C opener to show otherwise. And the bid has uses when it is not used, because it means opener doesn't have a third suit.
Asking for Aces
It is a standard problem that 4NT can be Blackwood asking for aces, invitation to slam in NT, or just the best place to play when no fit is found and the auction is beyond 3NT. A partnership can use its normal conventions. I do suggest 5C over 3 NT being Gerber.
In any bidding system, I think an impossible suit should be transfer to NT. Then responder can pass or bid 5NT to invite to slam. My full system allows this a little better, because it better defines how many suits responder has. So,
What can 4S be? Opener can't have a third suit, so it must be transfer. Responder bids 4NT and then opener can stop, show aces, or invite to slam with 5NT.
Any jump rebid is a splinter, when the suit bid would have been forcing without the jump. This might be conventional and has nothing to do with my system.
I have tested my system with the assumption that 2C is opened with 22+ HCP aor 21 HCP and a worthless singleton or void. I looked at 100 randomly dealt hands. Responders first bid:
Responses over 2D:
- 2D: Occurred 66 times (66%)
- 2H weak: 6 times: On four of these occasions, opener had 4 hearts and a 2NT rebid
- 2H/2S, two suiter: 8 times.
- 2H/2S long suit: 6 times
- 3C/3D invitational: 14 times. This was 4 times for game, 7 times for small slam, and (unusually) twice for grand slam
- 2H/2S: Occurred 36 times. 9 times (25%) was with a 4 card major (
- 2NT: 19 times.
- 2C/3D: 7 times.
- Splinter: 3 times
- 3NT: 2 times.
To test your own bidding, you can make your own hands. Use my program for constructing two hands, one partially known. Enter only that partner's points are 22-40.
I currently call this system "Suit Showing" over 2 Clubs. Probably the most distinctive bid is the response of 2H or 2S showing a suit but not necessarily any points. You would have to alert any response but 2 Diamonds.