Bidding After Their Weak Two-Bids
Most partnerships these days play weak two bids. Part of
the reason to do so is that these are decent offensive hands,
but to open them with a one-bid overstates their defensive
potential. The weak two-bidder's partner usually has a
fairly good idea of whose hand it is and can act with
confidence that opener will not interfere with his plans.
We're all pretty comfortable with responding to and rebidding
with weak two bids. The real reason to play weak twos, however,
is that they wreak havoc on the opponents' bidding. Even the
lowly 2 opener sometimes is pretty devastating.
Let's consider these auctions from the perspective of the
opponents. After all, they are the ones with the serious
problems. We will need some tools and guidelines to try to
overcome the damage that has been done to our auction.
Despite that, we are going to be guessing a lot, and when
we guess wrong, it could be a disaster. There are no
perfect solutions. If this sounds like an advertisement
for weak twos...maybe it is.
The Simple Overcall
Simple overcalls can be at the two-level or at the three-level.
These more or less look exactly like normal two-level overcalls.
With a five-card suit, they should be sound opening bids; with
a six-card suit, they start at a minimum opening bid; with a
seven-card suit, they start at a very sound preempt. If you
have to bid at the three-level, it's a little scarier to bid,
but the requirements are not much different; just be a little
more conservative. If they open 2, we
might bid 2 with
- AK10xx Kx Axxx xx
- AKJ10xx xx Qxxx x
- KQJxxxx x Axx xx
we should pass. It feels wrong to have to pass with such a
good offensive hand as the last example, but partner will play
us for more defense and double them way too often. In other
words, the suit is good enough, but the hand isn't. Similarly,
don't overcall with a bad suit unless the hand is very strong.
For example, if RHO opens 2, you can't afford to overcall 3
with xxx KJxxx AKx Ax. Beef up the hand a little to
Axx KJxxx AKx Ax and you have to do something. 2NT seems
about right. Yes, we have to pass with some good hands and
may miss a game. That's the way it goes. If you overcall
with a bad suit, you can go for a large number. We can't
live in fear of being doubled, but if you buy a six-count
and a doubleton trump and might well go down four, it's
prudent to pass.
- KJxxx xxx Ax Qxx
- KQJ10xx xx xxx xx
- KQJxxxx xx xxx x
Our two- and three-level overcalls are always good hands, so
partner's new suits are forcing. As a result, if we overcall
in a major suit, partner's cue bid is usually a strong raise.
If we overcall in a minor suit, his cue bid asks about a notrump
If we have overcalled a major at the three-level, our actions
are a fair bit wider-ranged:
- (2)-2-(Pass)-3 = non-awful single raise, 7-10ish support points
- (2)-2-(Pass)-3 = limit raise or some very good hand
- (2)-2-(Pass)-4 = roughly a minimum opening bid in support
With better, we start with a cue and then support.
- (2)-3-(Pass)-4 = from a sound single raise through
a minimum opening bid
- (2)-3-(Pass)-3 = usually at least a slammish sound minimum
opening bid or better, but note that if
advancer wants to get to 3NT and can't
bid it himself, he has no other alternative.
The Jump Overcall
These are good hands. They are roughly the equivalent of a
hand we'd open one of a suit and jump rebid our suit. The
suit is always very good. So if they open 2, we might bid 3
with one of
If we have a double jump available (e.g. 4 over 2 or 2), that
just shows we would have opened 4 (or whatever). This helps keep
the single jump overcall pretty pure: avery good six- or seven-card
suit, at least three defensive tricks, and about five losers.
- KQJ10xx Axx AKx x
- AKJ10xx xx AQx AJ
- KQ109xxx x Axx AQ
In standard, new suit responses to jump overcalls are natural and
forcing, but many play them as cue bids, because a jump overcaller's
suit is playable vs. a singleton.
These are natural and absolutely promise a solid stopper. Partner
often won't have room to check back for a full stop, so if you don't
have one, you'll play notrump and lose the first six tricks. 2NT
shows about 15-18 HCP, just as it does over a one-level opening bid.
Responses to it are normally the same as your responses to 2NT opening
bids. There is no standard meaning to a transfer to their suit
(e.g. (2)-2NT-(pass)-3). Some play it as invitational in the other
major; others use it as three cards in the other major and shortness
in their major, warning that only a single stopper might be insufficient
to play 3NT. More complex (and more effective) structures are out there,
but this is simple and pretty standard.
3NT overcalls are not stronger than 2NT, but different. They have a
source of tricks and may be unbalanced. Partner is discouraged from
bidding his own suit here unless it can play opposite shortness. A
typical hand to overcall 3NT over 2 is xx KJx AKQJxx Ax. Responses
are normally natural and forcing if not game. With 19+ HCP and a
balanced hand, start with a double. There's room below 3NT to get
this untangled. Usually.
Believe it or not, the minimum hand to double a 2 opening is roughly
the same as one which doubles a 1 opening. Minimum doubles with a
singleton heart should still be made. A minimum with a doubleton can
Unfortunately, three-suiters short in their suit are not the only
types of hand which have to start with a takeout double. A strong
single-suiter either too good for a jump overcall or with a suit
not strong enough to play vs. a singleton has to start with a double.
A big balanced hand starts with double. In general, any very strong
hand unsuited to other action has to double. Try very hard, however,
to find an alternative if you have a singleton in the other major.
Partner is going to assume you have at least three of them and can
preempt the auction on you. For example, if you double 2 and he
has KJxxxx xxx Axx x, he's going to bid 4. If you have short
spades, that is probably going to turn out badly.
Responses to a takeout double at the two-level are a little different
than to a one-level takeout double. We shall assume you play lebensohl,
not because it's 100% standard, though nearly all expert pairs play it,
but because it really is essential, and without it, further bidding is
simply guesswork. I don't know how to help you guess, but lebensohl
can make the guesses far less difficult.
The key idea in lebensohl is that the doubler's partner can have a
huge range of strengths, and we need to clarify this below game. The
Let's say they open 2, partner doubles, and RHO passes. With all
minimum hands, we bid 2NT. That doesn't say we have a stopper. It
asks partner to bid 3. If our longest suit is clubs, we plan to pass
that. If we want to play in a suit other than clubs, we will bid it
after partner's 3 and expect him to pass.
|8-12||some values, but not enough to force to game
(Yes, there's some overlap.)|
With some values, but not enough to force to game, we bid our suit
directly. Partner now knows we are not broke and if he has extras,
he can bid a game. With game-going values, we can just bid game if
we know where to play, or we can cue bid.
Because lebensohl gives us two ways to make various forcing bids,
we can use it to give us lots of extra sequences. See
for some ideas on how to take advantage of this.
If you have a natural 2NT response to the takeout double, you
are stuck. Find something moderately close and cross your fingers.
Usually, that means showing values at the three-level by
bidding a suit.
If we can respond at the two-level, that shows a minimum hand
and is natural. So (2)-Dbl-(pass)-2 is up to about a bad
8-count. Doubler needs a very good hand to raise; responder could
even have only three spades once in a while.
Sometimes, you have a choice between overcalling and doubling,
for example, if they open 2 and you hold Axxxx x KQ9x A10x.
As a rule, it tends to work best to double unless your suit is strong.
We are starting out pretty high, and overcalling a weak suit can
run into a penalty double. If your suit is strong or has very good
texture, for example, AK109x x Qxxx Axx, it's better to overcall,
because it's a lot easier to double with Q109xx of trumps than it
is with Qxxxx. The downside of doubling is that we might not find
a 5-3 major suit fit, but reaching a 4-4 minor suit fit instead
usually means we have survived, and that's our first goal when
they preempt. If we have game, we'll usually have room to find
the 5-3 major suit fit. If we end up in a 4-3 minor suit fit
instead of a 5-3 major, doubling didn't work out. It happens.
Just about everyone plays "Leaping Michaels" these days. Over
a major suit weak two, four of a minor is a good hand with at
least five cards in the suit bid and five of the other major.
Some pairs play this as forcing to game; some play that it is
not quite forcing. If you choose the latter, partner should bid
if he has one cover card and no misfit, and always with one and
a half tricks or a fit.
- (2)-4 = 5 + 5
- (2)-4 = 5 + 5
- (2)-4 = 5 + 5
- (2)-4 = 5 + 5
This opens up a cue bid (which is Michaels if you don't play
Leaping Michaels) to ask for a notrump stop. If you cue bid
and then pull partner's 3NT, you have a very strong one-suiter
with a solid or near-solid suit, and a hand too strong to jump
immediately to game.
Over a weak 2, Leaping Michaels is a little different
Over 4, normally 4 asks for the major and 4 and 4 are
just to play. Some play differently; discuss it with partner.
- (2)-4 = 5 + 5 of a major
- (2)-4 = 5-5 in the majors
While it's not strictly part of Leaping Micheals, these sequences
are usually defined thusly:
The hands for these bids have roughly the same amount of offense,
but the jump cue shows decent defense (three or more pretty solid
tricks) whereas a jump to 4NT is very highly offensively-oriented.
- (2M)-4M = minors, we are in a force
- (2M)-4NT = minors, we are not in a force
The Balancing Seat
More or less, everything is the same, but simple overcalls which
have good offense but no defense and thus aren't quite up to snuff
in the direct seat can act. 2NT is still 15-18. Your stopper doesn't
have to be so solid; RHO didn't raise, so it's likely that partner has
some length or help in their suit. Doubles can be a trifle lighter,
but still look like opening bids. In the balancing seat, if the
choice between doubling and bidding is even close, double. If
partner passes sitting behind the bidder, you can collect
a big number, and you want to maximize your opportunities to do so.
Balancing doubles can be a bit off-shape; if they open 2 and you
hold Kxxx x AQxxxx Qx, it's right to double. If partner uses
lebensohl to get to 3, oh, well. But if he passes, it may
well be a bloodbath. Since RHO didn't raise, it's likely that
partner has heart length. If his hearts are good, they are in
Jeff Goldsmith, © 2013