ResponDING to a 2 § Opening


General: There isn’t one “correct” set of responses to a 2§ opening - - there are several systems in common use.  Many show a “strong” response if responder bids anything except 2¨.  But there any similarity ends.  Fundamental is that 2§ is a game-forcing opening bid in almost every case.  The trouble is, it can be 24+ HCP and a good 5-card suit, or an 18 point hand with two 6-card suits, because any hand with 9½ tricks can be opened 2§.  It’s nearly game in opener’s hand, so responder needs very little for opener to make game.

Traditional Responses: Years ago, a 2NT response denied any worthwhile values and 2
¨, 2©, 2ª and 3§ showed good suits and values.  Modern players won’t bid 2NT when they are responder because the wrong hand ends up playing the hand in 3NT (or 6NT!).  In fact, responder should avoid bidding NoTrump whenever possible, in any system of responses. In a NT game, it puts the 22 point hand on the table for all to see.  Not a good system.

Step Responses
: Some play that responses are purely HCP-showing:  hands with 0 – 3 points bid 2¨, 4 – 7 bid 2©, 8 – 10 bids 2ª, etc. Exact numbers vary.  This is “scientific”, but again the wrong hand ends up the declarer a lot of the time, and the emphasis on “points” downgrades the importance of distribution and fit.  Not a good system.

American Standard: the Second Negative.
A 2¨ response is a “waiting” bid, not showing anything specific, but denying the existence of a good suit.  Unfortunately, you also must bid 2¨ with a terrible, zero-point hand, and then you have to bid the “cheapest minor” – 3§    on the second round to show opener you are really weak - - two artificial bids, going to the three or four-level, to show weakness? Not a good system.

Single Negative Response: Many now play that a 2¨ response is artificial but not necessarily “weak” -- the hand could have any number of points, but has no good suit to show.  A response of 2ª, for example, could show a decent Spade suit of 4+ cards and a couple of major honors, 8 or so HCP, and playable with a fit by opener, or is a guaranteed good stopper for NoTrump. 


With a weak hand - - lacking an Ace or King - - the response is 2© - - artificial, a single Negative response and responder doesn’t have to bid again. 2NT shows a long, real Heart suit with some (8+) points, and not wanting to play in NT.  2ª, 3§, and 3¨ are real suits.  A better system, but not best.


Modern Usage. A modern variation is that 2¨ shows any Ace or King or more - - not points, but Ace(s) or King(s), with any number of HCP. (With one King, it could be just 3 HCP!)  Lacking an Ace or King, the response is 2© (alertable).  This often helps a declarer with a strong playing hand identify slams with less than top HCP values.  Question: Are two Queens the same value as an Ace? Answer: Not even close!  Game is a near certainty after a 2§ opening, so the important question is: Is there a slam in the hand?  To make a slam, opener needs Aces and Kings. 2¨ is alertable, as it means something different than “Standard”.  A much better system.

Continuations after a 2¨ response: Opener bids her strong suit or bids NoTrump at some level. Responder then bids whatever is appropriate - - raises opener, shows a stopper for NT, bids 4 NT Blackwood (1430 RKC), etc.


QUIZ:   Playing 2¨ shows an Ace or King, what are responder’s 1st and second bids?

2§ – P -  ?     

ªQJx   ©xxx  ¨Qxx  §QJxx         2©*, then raise opener’s suit or 2NT to 3NT             

ªAKxx   ©xxx  ¨Qxx  §Txx         2¨*, then raise a major or bid Spades

ªxx   ©KJTx   ¨xxx  § xxxx        2¨*, then raise Hearts or raise NT to game


2§ - P  - ?        

ªxx   ©KQTxx  ¨Qxx   §Jxx        2¨*, then bid Hearts or transfer to Hearts over 2NT

ªxx  ©Qxx  ¨xxxx   §Jxxx          2©*, then pass anything except Hearts

ªKQJxxx    ©x   ¨Qxxx  §xx       2¨*, then Spades or transfer to Spades over 2NT


2§ – P – 2¨*  – P   2© - ?  

ªKxxx  ©QJxx   ¨x  §Qxxx         4¨*, a splinter in support of Hearts

ªKxxx  ©x   ¨QJxx  §Qxxx         2ª, looking for a NT game


2§ – P – 2©*   – P   2NT – P    ?    

ªQxx  ©Txxx  ¨QTx  §xxx          3NT because opener has at least 22 HCP

ªQJxxxx  ©x  ¨xxx  §Qxx           3©, Jacoby Transfer to Spades, then bid 4ª



What do these final bids mean?


2§ – P – 2¨*  – P      2NT – P – 3¨      A Jacoby Transfer to Hearts
§ – P – 2©*  – P      2ª– P – 4ª        No Ace or King, but Spade support
§ – P – 2¨*  – P      2© – P – 4NT     RKC Blackwood, Hearts is trump.

          2§ – P – 2¨*  – P      3¨ – P – 3©       A Heart stopper, looking for 3NT

 (c)Bob McConnell, 2010