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Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Get Yer Retaliation in First – The Case For Playing Weak Twos – 21 Jan 2010

Hi All
Great to see you all back in the swing of things. And welcome to the new faces – hope you enjoyed yourselves.

As you know last week the POW’s played their first ever teams match in the Newcomers Division of the London Metrpolitan Bridge Association’s London League. The opposition were the Slammers from the Robson club, who sadly won, but everyone enjoyed themselves, which is the main aim. Next match in two weeks, so watch this space …

A basic tenet of what I teach is that it - usually - pays to be aggressive. Get yer retaliation in first. This is the reason I like Weak Two’s as an opening bid.

Weak Two’s

In the far far distant past, many many aeons ago, in a stone age of bridge, a bid oozed from the mire and was sledgehammer to smash a raspberry - ACOL (or STRONG) TWOS. This forcing bid was defined as a hand worth around eight or more tricks by itself. Typically this would be around 16-22 HCP with a 6-card+ suit or two strong suits of 5+. The reason for opening with a strong and forcing Two Bid is that you didn’t quite have a game by yourself – you’d open 2C if you did – but you were worried that if partner passed with less than 6 points, you’d miss a game together. So you forced partner to make at least one response, and then next time round partner could pass if they had to with a really bad hand – I mean really bad.

Using Acol Twos, 2 Spades could be something like:


Apart from the fact that such a hand might reasonably be opened 2C anyway, and that without the Queen of hearts (18HCP) you could show that hand by opening 1S and rebidding 3S there is also the matter of frequency to consider. How often do these Acol Two hands occur? And can’t be handled by opening 1, or upgrading to 2C? The answer is: not much, old bean.

Accordingly, about 60 years ago, someone had the bright idea of extending the nuisance value of the weak 3 pre-empt (7 card suits 6-9 HCP) to weak 2 pre-empts with 6-card suits and 6 - 9 HCP. Now 2 Spades looks something like:


It rapidly became apparent these hands occur hugely more often than strong 2 hands. This is, therefore, a much better use of 2 level opening bids. You get in the auction more often and you create much more nuisance value to the opponents who are going to be squeezed out of more auctions than before. All this is a GOOD THING. (These are also the hands that make weak jump overcalls)

3 x WEAK 2’s

In the system we teach 2D, 2H & 2S are all weak openings: 6 card suits with about 6 - 9 points. They happen often. Use them freely and without fear. “Aha,” you mutter conspiratorially, “but what about partner? What does partner do with a good hand? It’s all very well mucking up the opponents, but it’s no good mucking up us as well, is it?” But the funny thing is, that it doesn’t. You have given partner so much information about your hand and such accurate information, that partner can decide where the combined hands belong. So:

Responses to Weak Two’s

All raises are designed to continue being obstructive and difficult. 2S - 3S is just getting in the way promising nothing. OTOH 2S - 4S is a two way bid. It could be either more of the same with 4 card support OR it can say: “I am bidding this to make, but if we don’t we may have talked them out of a making contract into the bargain.”

A problem only really arises with responding hands - with a fit - where game MIGHT make if opener is maximum, but not otherwise. With a fit and say 14 -17 HCP responder asks opener to say if they’re minimum or maximum with : 2NT!

Opener now bids a feature in a side suit if maximum (8 or 9 HCP) OR signs off in 3 of their suit if not. So …

2H - 2NT

= Sorry, not much here.

2H - 2NT

= Yes, I’m maximum AND I have either the A or K of Clubs if that helps you decide what to do.

There are other more complicated systems of responses to 2NT you’ll find in books but this is the simplest and the least likely to get you into trouble. A key point to realise is that any change of suit response (2H - 3C, say) is unconditionally forcing for one round. You cannot rescue a partner who may have plumped for a suit you do not hold. The only weakness bid is PASS; only raises are not forcing.

Here now we stand on the precipice of the modern era: stone age bids banished to history. The system is: ACOL, WEAK NT, 3 WEAK 2'S, STAYMAN, TRANSFERS & BLACKWOOD. This is the basis of modern Bridge – no more grunting in muddy caves but “Silent, upon a peak in Darien.” (Keats)

All the best

PS: “Announcing”: When you use bids about which you have made an advance agreement with partner, the opponents are entitled to know what is going on. The idea is that they should have available the same inferences as your partner. It’s not poker: bridge is intellectual, don’t you know! So when partner opens with a Two Bid you are nowadays required by the rules of tournament bridge to “announce” the strength of the bid, so the undeserving opponents are fully in the picture. You just say “weak” when partner bids a Weak Two, just as when partner opens 1NT you say “12 to 14”.

To be even pickier you should also announce Stayman and transfers too!

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