Monday, May 3, 2010

A Dummy's Guide to 2/1 Auctions

I've never really understood why people think 2/1 is difficult.  In particular, why do bridge teachers still teach "Standard American" which is a hotch-potch of a system?  One of the problems is that there really aren't any good, readable, comprehensive books.  Maybe the Rodwell and Grant is good but I haven't seen it.

One of the issues is the forcing 1NT.  That, and the related sequence 1 p 1♠, needs to be described first (part 1 of a hypothetical book) because it is perhaps the least intuitive part of the system.  But the auctions that start with a 2/1 sequence are simplicity itself (part 2).  The other sections are not really part of 2/1 per se but might be included for completeness: there are the minor suit openings, including inverted minors and reverses, and notrump openings (parts 3 and 4); there are gadgets such as Jacoby 2NT, splinters, new minor forcing, etc. (part 5).  Part 6 might be about judgment, hand evaluation, inferences, etc.  Parts 7 and 8 would cover slam bidding and competitive bidding.

Here's my summary of part 2 (all you really need to know about non-competitive 2/1 sequences).
  • Priorities are [starting with responder's first bid, assuming a game-going hand]:
    • (a) support partner with four cards (there are various ways to do this);
    • (b) show your own pattern (or continue showing);
    • (c) support partner with three cards;
    • (d) show stoppers for notrump if a, b, c, don't apply;
    • (e) otherwise, bid the unbid suit ("fourth suit") if you don't have it stopped (or you have a holding like Ax);
  • Showing your pattern:
    • Bid suits in length order (longest first);
    • Rebidding a suit shows extra length (except opener's first rebid of a 5-card major may be used to show a minimum hand with no other good rebid);
    • A jump rebid shows a solid suit;
    • Rebidding a second suit shows at least 6-5 if the sequence was a reverse and at least 5-5 otherwise;
  • Jumps in new suits always show support for partner's just-bid suit and shortness in the named suit;
  • There are no "preferences" in 2/1 bidding, at least not until we get to the four level;
  • All bids below 3NT are forcing, and once a suit has been supported, all bids below game are forcing.
There are also various secondary agreements that you may or may not want to adopt (these all relate to 2/1 sequences):
  1. Responder's rebid of 3NT indicates a balanced 15-17;
  2. Opener's rebid of 2NT indicates a balanced hand suitable for notrump play in the 18-19 range or in the "wrong" range for an opening 1NT (e.g. if you play 15-17 1NT openers, then a 2NT rebid shows 12-14 or 18-19);
  3. Opener's rebid above 2NT promises "extras" [in my opinion, this promises at least a good 14 hcp, some would promise more];
  4. Opener's reverse promises "extras" [in my opinion, this promises at least a solid 12 hcp];
  5. Responder's jump to 4 of opener's major shows a "picture bid", with all (or most) values in the suits bid;
  6. With 6-4 distribution, opener rebids the major if a bare minimum [i.e. less than a solid 12 hcp];
  7. 1 p 2♣ is not 100% game-forcing;
  8. 1M p 2m p 2x p 3m is not forcing.
    That's about it.  It's really very simple.  There's very little need for judgment or fudging (once the 2/1 sequence has been initiated).  You just follow the list of priorities.


    1. Much later... I have discovered that some people play a jump in the fourth suit as some sort of natural bid, rather than a splinter in the third suit as described in this article.

      There are undoubtedly others of my "rules" that people would disagree with. But my set is relatively simple and easy to remember.

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