Visualize that your partner has opened a weak 2 bid in 1st or 2nd seat. Partner’s work is over, do not expect to hear from him again unless you make a forcing response. As responder, your work has just begun. While the weak 2 bid is meant to create headaches for the opponents, sometimes that turns around when you discern (horror of horrors) that you actually have a hand with some real values. In those cases, if you and your partner do not have effective systems and the communication skills, you will likely be “hoisted on your own petard.”
The first decision that responder has to make is “when I add my values to what my partner is likely to have for his weak 2 bid, is a game, or even a slam, a practical possibility. I cannot emphasize too strongly that you must make this analysis on tricks, not high card points. Except for the trump suit, all honors other Aces and Kings, or Queens supported by Aces and Kings, are to be disregarded. Partner has more losing tricks than winning tricks, and you need to cover several losers in partner’s hand if game is a prospect. This introduces the concept of “cover cards”.
Count cover cards as follows:
A=1 cover; AK=2 covers; AQ=1 1/2 covers; KQ=1 cover Kx=1/2 cover.
If you have a singleton or a void and at least 3 cards in partner’s bid suit (2,3,4 is OK) , you can count the shortness as a cover card. If you have at least 4 cover cards you have a “green light” to explore the hand further. To get the answer, you need to find out how many tricks partner can take in his own hand so you can add his winners to your cover cards. Thus, if you have 4 cover cards, you can make a game in a major if partner can take 6 tricks.
If partner has any discipline at all, it is almost guaranteed that he can take a minimum of 5 tricks and a maximum of 6 tricks. So if partner opened with AKxxxx, xx, xxx, xx, that is 5 tricks. If partner opened with KQxxxx, xx, Axx, xx, that is 6 tricks. If partner opened with QJ10xxx, xx, Kx, Kx, that is 5 tricks. If opener has 7 tricks in his hand, it is too good for a weak 2 bid and should be opened with 1 of a major. If partner only has 4 tricks in his hand, the hand is too weak to open at any level and the thing to do is to pass and see what happens. Remember, if you pass originally with QJ10xxx, xx, xxx, xx, you are not barred from further bidding, and if you do pass and then make a call later in the auction, partner will not misinterpret your strength.
So, assume I hold 4 cover cards, I need to make inquiry. Suppose I only have 3 cover cards, it should be safe to pass. If I hold 5 cover cards, I can bid game without inquiry since 5+5=10. Almost universally, the inquiry bid is 2NT which is forcing. There are many response systems that can be used after partner bids 2NT.
One such system is generally known as “feature” in which opener bids any suit at the 3 level if he has an Ace or King in that suit outside the trump suit and rebids the opened suit if he does not. It is both simple and worthless! A respected bridge author has said “I consider feature an absurdity”. I could not agree more. Find something else, even if you have to make it up.
Another system is called “Ogust”, developed by a now deceased bridge expert. In Ogust opener shows whether he has a good hand and/or a good suit as follows: 3 clubs=bad hand, bad suit; 3 diamonds= bad hand, good suit; 3 hearts= good hand, bad suit; 3 spades=good hand good suit; 3NT top three honors in the bid suit. If you do not have a lot of experience and a facility for remembering a lot of bidding detail under pressure, this treatment can easily get mixed up and cause more problems than it solves. First, you have to agree with partner on what is a bad hand or suit and what is a good hand or suit. My personal guideline is that a good hand is 8+ hcps and a good suit is 2 of the top 3 honors. If this is not complicated enough, I should warn you that not all players using Ogust agree on the order of the responses. Some show the hand and suit in exactly the reverse order, so before you play the system with a new partner, you have to ask about the Ogust responses. Even if you get all this worked out, you still have to translate partners response into his trick taking ability. I would not assume partner can take 6 tricks unless his response shows a good hand and a good suit.
I think bridge is already too complicated. There is not an unlimited amount of storage space in our brains. Every time we take on excess baggage in the form of a complicated system, something else has to give, and often it is not an even trade. For novices and intermediates, I suggest using a simple system that I call red light/ green light. Following a 2NT inquiry, opener bid 3 clubs if he can take 5 tricks and 3 diamonds if he can take 6 tricks. Now responder simply adds together opener’s winners and responder’s cover cards. If you get to 10, bid 4 in the major, and if not rebid the opened suit at the 3 level. This is not invitational, it is a sign off!If the suit is diamonds, you need to work on a total of 11.
Say what, you want to play 3NT! Jack Brawner, who writes for the Florida Bridge News, asked Jeff Meckstroth when to bid 3NT and when to bid 4 of the major against a weak 2 bid. Meckstroth replied “are you getting bad results when you bid 3NT?” When Brawner said Yes”, Eric replied, “there is your answer, don’t bid 3NT.” Brawner says that now he never tries for 3NT and that he is well ahead of the game.
In the next post we will wrap up with a quick discussion on responses to weak 2 bids when you don’t have game potential.