The 2 opening bid is a cornerstone of Standard American bidding. It is strong and artificial, promising either:

  • 22+ HCP with a balanced hand, or
  • 17+ HCP and no less than "a trick short of game" with an unbalanced hand

"A trick short of game" means at least 9 playing tricks with a 5+ card major (i.e. one trick shy of making 4/), or at least 10 playing tricks with a 5+ card minor (i.e. one trick shy of making 5/). Some players relax this requirement to be 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 playing tricks, respectively.

Examples:

    AKQ
    AK6
    A32
    KT94

Holding 23 points, open 2 and plan to rebid 2NT.


    AKQ987
    AK6
    A32
    5

With 20 points and 9 tricks (6 spades, 2 hearts and 1 diamond), this hand should open 2 and plan to rebid 2.


    5
    KQJT
    AK
    AKT987

With 20 points and 10 tricks (5 clubs, 3 hearts and 2 diamonds), this hand should open 2 and plan to rebid 3.


    AKQJ987
    AKT
    653
    --

This hand "only" has 17 HCP, but is a trick short of game (7 spades, 2 hearts). Open 2 and plan to rebid 2.


Before the strong 2 bid was invented, all opening bids at the 2-level were strong two bids, natural and forcing. The benefit of the strong 2 bid is that it can be played in conjunction with weak two bids, which occur more frequently and preempt the opponents.


Responses to 2

The opening 2 bid is forcing. There are three popular approaches for responder's bids:

  • 2 "waiting". This is the approach officially supported by the ACBL in their Standard American Yellow Card, so it is the main approach that I'll describe.

  • 2 "waiting", and 2 is an immediate negative bid. In this approach, both 2 and 2 are conventional relays, but the latter shows only 0-3 points.

  • Control-showing responses. 1 king = 1 control, and 1 ace = 2 controls. This is the most complex of the three approaches.

Let's go over these one by one...


2 "waiting"

  • 2 - 0-7 points, artificial. This is called the "negative" or "waiting" response, because it usually expresses a weak hand. However, responder will occasionally have 8+ points but no good bid, such as with 4441 distribution.

  • 2 - 8+ points and 5+ hearts.

  • 2 - 8+ points and 5+ spades.

  • 2NT - 8+ points and a balanced hand.

  • 3 - 8+ points and 5+ clubs.

  • 3 - 8+ points and 5+ diamonds.

With the exception of the artificial 2, all other responses are natural and game-forcing.

Examples:

OpenerResponder
KQJ53S642
HAKQT3
DAJT9876
CAQ5432

2

2 1

  1. Artificial, "negative" or "waiting". 0-7 points.


OpenerResponder
AQ9SKJT74
HAK5Q986
DAJT972
CKQ4A5

2

2 1

  1. 5+ spades, 8+ points. Game-forcing.


2 "waiting", and 2 is the "double negative"

Same as above, except that a 2 response is 3-7 points (at least one king), whereas a 2 response is a "double negative", showing a very bad hand (0-3 points, and no king). Example:

OpenerResponder
AQ9SJT74
HAK5Q986
DAJT972
CKQ4876

2

2 1

  1. The double negative bid, showing 0-3 points. No aces, no kings.

Note this means that responder must bid 3 if holding a good hand with 5+ hearts.


Control-showing responses

Control-showing responses are completely different than the above two methods. One "control" = one king. Two "controls" = one ace or two kings. Using basic arithmetic, responder tallies his number of controls and bids thusly:

  • 2 - 0 or 1 controls

  • 2 = 2 controls

  • 2 = 1 ace and 1 king (3 controls)

  • 2NT = 3 kings (3 controls)

  • 3 = 4 controls


Opener's Rebids

After a 2 "waiting" response

After hearing a 2 response, opener's suit rebids are natural and forcing for one round. Any no-trump rebids, however, are non-forcing.

  • 2 - 17+ points and 5+ hearts.

  • 2 - 17+ points and 5+ spades.

  • 2NT - 22-24 points and a balanced hand. Note that this assumes an opening 2NT bid of 20-21 points.

  • 3 - 17+ points and 5+ clubs.

  • 3 - 17+ points and 5+ diamonds.

  • 3NT - 25-27 points and a balanced hand.

  • 4NT - 28-30 points and a balanced hand. I have never seen this come up.

  • 5NT - 31-32 points and a balanced hand. Ditto!

The one hand pattern that doesn't fit into the above bids is 4441. It is recommended to treat it as a balanced hand, and bid no-trumps accordingly. For instance, rebid 2NT with a 4441 23-pointer such as:

    AK93
    KQJT
    Q
    AKJ5


After a positive suit response

If responder makes a positive suit response (2/ or 3/, the partnership is committed to reaching a game contract. Opener's rebids are natural.

  • 2NT - 23-24 points and a balanced hand.

  • 3NT - Over 3/, this shows 23-24 points and a balanced hand. Over 2/ (i.e. a jump rebid of 3NT), this shows 25-27 points and a balanced hand.

  • Any raise - natural, 17+ points, 3+ card support.

  • Any new suit - natural, 17+ points, 5+ cards.


After a positive 2NT response

If responder bids 2NT to show 8+ points and a balanced hand, then the partnership's no-trump response system is on: Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, etc. Opener must bid accordingly, as if responder is the one who opened no-trumps.


Examples:

OpenerResponder
KQJ5SA642
HAKQJ87
DAJT987
CK96T752

2
2NT 2
3

2 1
3 3
4

  1. Artificial, "negative" or "waiting". 0-7 points.
  2. 23-24 points, balanced. Non-forcing.
  3. Stayman.


OpenerResponder
KQ5SA642
HAKQ87T5
DAJQ75
CKJ6A752

2
3 2
3NT

2NT 1
3
6NT

  1. Natural, balanced, 8+ points.
  2. Jacoby Transfer to hearts.


Responder's Second Bid

After Opener's No-Trump Rebid

If opener rebids no-trumps (e.g. 2NT), then the partnership's no-trump response system is on: Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, etc.


After Opener's Suit Rebid

As already stated, any suit bid by opener is forcing for one round. Responder can bid as follows.

  • Single raise - natural, 3+ card support. This shows a supporting hand with slam interest, even if responder's first bid was 2.

  • Double raise - natural, 3+ card support (frequently 4+). This is a signoff if responder's first bid was 2.

    With a good hand, it's better to bid "slowly" and save space for slam exploration. With a poor hand, it's less important to save space. Thus the distinction between single raises and double raises, which is based on the principle of "fast arrival".

    Examples:

    OpenerResponder
    KQ5SA642
    HAKQ87T952
    DAJQ543
    CKJ65

    2
    2

    2 1
    3 2

    1. Negative.
    2. A maximum hand (at the top of the 0-7 range) with slam interest in hearts. In practice, 6 is a reasonable contract.


    OpenerResponder
    KQ5ST642
    HAKQ87T952
    DAJQ543
    CKJ65

    2
    2

    2 1
    4 2

    1. Negative.
    2. A weak hand (at the bottom of the 0-7 range) with heart support but no slam interest.

  • All other bids - these can be played in two different styles...

    • Natural. All of responder's rebids are natural. New suits show 5+ cards, and no-trump bids show balanced hands. This is simple and easy to remember.

    • The "Second Negative". Many players use a conventional second bid by responder to show a truly poor hand of 0-4 points. This is done by either bidding:

      • The "cheapest" (i.e. lowest-available) minor suit, in response to 2/ or 3
      • 3NT in response to opener's 3 rebid

    The "second negative" is rather intricate, so some examples are in order:

    OpenerResponder
    KQ5ST642
    HAKQ87T3
    DAJQ543
    CKJ6542

    2
    2

    2 1
    3 2

    1. Waiting.
    2. If agreeing to play second negative bids, then 3 is the cheapest minor, artificial and showing 0-4 points. If not playing second negative bids, responder would be forced to bid 2NT, natural.

    OpenerResponder
    KQ5SAT642
    HAKQ87T3
    DAJQ53
    CKJ6542

    2
    3
    3NT

    2 1
    2 2

    1. Waiting.
    2. Natural, 5+ spades. If agreeing to play second negative bids, then this shows 5-7 points. If not playing the second negative, then this shows 0-7 points, which is less helpful for opener.


In Competition

  • If 2 is doubled, responder can redouble with 4+ good clubs, or simply make his conventional response.

  • If 2 is overcalled, responder's bids are natural. Double is for penalty, new suits are natural, and no-trump bids promise a stopper in the enemy suit. There is no longer a negative 2 bid; responder simply passes with a bad hand.


External Articles

See also

  • ACOL 2C
    A strong, conventional opening bid showing a balanced 23 HCP or an unbalanced, game-forcing hand.

  • Strong Two Bid
    The Standard American method of using 2, 2, or 2 opening bids to show strong hands.

  • Weak Two Bid
    The Standard American method of using 2, 2, or 2 opening bids to show a weak one-suited hand.

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