Strong Two Club Opening

This is the first post of what I like to play as my favorite system. The way I play 2♣ essentially as described on Chris Ryall's webpage (link on right).

The opening bid of 2♣ can be considerable weaker than most 2/1 GF systems. One reason is that it includes ACOL two bids in either major: these are hands with a good suit, at least five controls, and at least eight "sure" tricks. Another reason why it is weaker, we include "strong three suiter" that, to be quite honest, don't have to be all that strong. Once again a minimum of five controls, but the hcp required is only around 16. The other requirement is for 5 losers or less. To see more about these opening bids, see Chris's page, or the examples below. But my system does have one big differences from Ryall's, we don't open 2♣ with any strong two suited hand (see chapter on MisIry transfer preempts). Taking the strong two suiters out, simplifies the bidding after the 2♣ opener, because if opener shows a second suit, IT IS LIMITED TO 4 cards (or less). Opener may temporize with a second suit (to establish game force) with a great first suit.

Opening two bids, hence, can be:
  • Acol two in a minor with 5+ controls (S-Ax H-AKQJTxx D-xx C-xx would be ideal minimum)
  • A strong three suiter (4441 or 5440) with five or fewer losers. This would be typical minimum hand: (S-AJTx H-x D-KQxx C-AQxx)
  • Any balanced hand 25 hcp or more (we do not open 2NT with balanced hands with less than 25 hcp).
  • Any true Game Forcing hand, with two notable exceptions. First, I prefer to play namyats, so game force major one suiter with less than five controls, open four of the correct minor. Second with game forcing hand (or near game forcing hand) that contains two five card or longer suits, open with the transfer preempts mentioned above.

So the opening two bid can be quite weak, by standard american standards. Not coincidentally, we have not one, but two negative responses to this opening bid. The first negative bid is 2 which denies the ability to win even one trick in a heart contract. Thus, 2is not even forcing. Opener with an acol 2 bid in hearts (see example above) can pass 2 and take his promised 8 tricks. If he has an acol 2 bid in ♠ he bids 2♠ over 2. With true game force hand (any), he bids something other than 2♠ over 2 (even a raise of 2 to 3 is GF).

So what constitutes a trick? Any king, any two queens, several hearts and a ruffing value. With a trick (or better), you must respond 2D which is semi-positive (a trick) or BETTER. So what if you a ruffing trick for a potential heart contract, but no tricks for a spade contract? Then you bid 2♠ which shows a ruffing trick for hearts. If you had a natural trick, you would bid 2D. AFTER a TWO DIAMOND response, a 2NT rebid by RESPONDER is a warning, it says "I have only one trick for your major suit contract". And a jump to 4 of openers major is a similar warning, it says, "I have only two tricks for your major suit contract".

So with two negative bids, and a semi-positive (or better) bid, what does the other bids by responder show?

Responses to Two Club Opening

  • 2D = 1 or more tricks for a major suit contract
  • 2 = no tricks if the hand is played in hearts
  • 2♠ = no tricks if hand is played in spades, one if played in hearts
  • 2NT = Some solid suit (AKQxxx or AKJxxxx, or better). Can have side cards too.
  • 3 any = a six card suited headed by KJ or KQ or better, no second suit. Generally not too much on the side either
  • 3NT = I play this two suits (unknown) both five cards plus, both headed by two of top three honors (never happened yet)

The bidding after these response are quite simple.

"Optional BLACKWOOD" Over 2D by responder, I play a jump to 3H or 3S as GF, optional blackwood. It establishes the trump suit, but the responses are "optional". Responder can bid 1st step to show horrible hand for 2D bid (one trick, or 1.5 tricks with no fit). Opener can then bid the next cheapest suit (3NT is to play) to force responder to respond to blackwood. Clearly after the denial response to the original blackwood, responder will NEVER have more than one keycard (not even one key card plus trump queen). So normal responses are not needed. First step is no keycards (or trump queen), second step is one key card (or trump queen), third step is one key card an a lower suit queen, fourth step is one keycard and the middle suit queen, and fifth step is one key card and the higher suit queen.

Also after this denial bid, opener can bid a suit OTHER than the re-ask to ask about controls in the bid suit. This is specific asking bid stuff, like kantar uses.

Another unusual rebid is 2NT by opener. This shows the three suited hand. There is an entire bidding scheme following this response, which is posted in chapter 2 (also on the Ryall page). Other bids by opener are natural, show the bid suit. Opener can not have two long suits, nor generally a balanced hand, but he can be 5431 or 6421 or 6430. So if opener bids a second suit later, it is never more than 4 cards.

The 2D response is forcing to 3 of a major. The logic here is opener has an acol 2 bid in a major or a true game force hand. But since 2D only promises 1 trick, 8+1 = 9, so may not have enough for game. If opener rebids 2/2♠ over 2D - responders 2NT rebid is forcing, but promises exactly one trick for that major. Any bid other than 2NT by responder is game force. If opener rebids the major, the auction can end. Over 2/2♠ with only two tricks in support of the major, responder jumps to game in it. Any other support shows potential for 3 or more tricks in support.


Over interference, responders doubles are takeout, his NT bids shows stoppers in their suit, and his free bids show 2+ useful cards and generally a suit Kxxxx or better. But we keep 2 and 2♠ to their usual meaning (as if no interference) if responder has a chance. So in these cases pass is semi positive. If RHO doubles 2C, then pass shows ONE TRICK only, 2D shows two tricks or more and is now game force.

Openers doubles are takeout and show the three suited hands, his notrump is natural, his new suits are one round force, and his cue-bid is looking for a stopper.

Finally, a NOTE about BLACKWOOD. I use Eddie Kantar's Roman Keycard Blackwood where=ever possible. Buy his "Roman Keycard Blackwood, Slam bidding in the 21st century" 4th edition by Master Point Press, Toronto Ontario. Buy it, use it.

Some example auctions.

Opener Responder
S AQT S 54
H AKJ4 H 73
D AKT D 7532
C A62 C J9754

2C - 2H 2H = no tricks
3NT - Pass 3NT = 25-27 hcp

S AQJT52 S 84
H K H QT63
D A9 D T8764

2C 2S 2S = on trick for hearts, none for spsdes
Pass PAss = I got four losers.

S KJ S 97652
H AQJ653 H 8
D AJ D Q64
C KJT C 9872

2C 2H 2H = no trick for Hearts

S AQ S 432
H A H K972
D AKQ963 D T42
C AK96 C 732

2C 2D 3D = 100% game force
3D 5D 5D = one trick, and modest fit
6D Pass 6D = this has to have some play

Opener Responder
S A8 S J52
H 5 H QJ93
D AKQ942 D J863
C AK85 C T9

2C 2S 2S = trick for H, not spades
3D 3H 3D = 100% GF
3NT Pass 3H = some heart stuff

Opener Responder
S KT9 S QJ654
D AKQ9 D J73
C 8 C 6542
2C 2D 2D=semi+
2H 2S 4C=splinter
4C 4S 4S=no interest

S AKQ6 S J985
H KQJ952 H 7
D AQ7 D J92
C C T9642

2C 2H 2H = negative, no tricks
4H 4H = too good to invite


S K76 S Q854
D KT4 D 7532
C A C K65

2C 2D 2D = semi
2H 2NT 2NT = one trick only
3NT Pass 3NT = educated gamble

S A5 S 6
H AKQ976 H 83
D K5 D A732
C A84 C T97652

2C 2D 2D = semi+
2H 2NT 2NT = one trick only

S AK7 S 8532
H AK542 H QJ
D AQ97 D
C A C QJT7432

2C 2D 2D = semi+
2H 3C 3C=show clubs twice,GF
3D 4C 4C=forcing
6C Pass

S Q8 S T76
H KQJ874 H 93
D AK6 D 95
C AQ C J76543

2C 2H 2H = no tricks
Pass Pass


S AKQT76 S 82
H KQ H T85
D J9 D 76542

2C 2D 2D = semi+
2S 2NT 2N = one trick warning
3C 3S 3C = GF, 4 or less clubs
4S Pass Pass = remember no 2 suiters

S AKQ65 S 9872
H A4 H 76
D AQT9 D 863
C A4 C Q632

2C 2H 2H = no trick
2S 3S 2S = passable
4S Pass 3S = some mild hope

S AQJ765 S 9
H K8 H AJT632
D AK D 952
C K74 C 986

2C 3H 3H = broken 6 card suit
4H Pass


S AKQJ6 S 9742
H A9 H 63
D A853 D T92
C AJ C K875

2C 2D 2D = semi+
2S 2NT 2N = one trick
3NT 4S 4S = real spade support

S AKQT94 S 6
H T8 H J9753
C AK4 C T762

2C 2D 2d = semi+
2S 2NT 2NT = one trick
3C 3NT 3C = four (or less) gf
Pass 3NT = reds fine

S AKQJ8532 S T
D A D T98742
C AQ95 C T76

2C 2D 2d = semi+
3S 3NT 3S = optional RKCB
4C 4D 3N = refuse to say
5C 5S 4C = blackwood
Pas 4D = 0 keycards
5C = SSA
5S = no control

S AKQJ8532 S T
H AJ95 H KQ2
D A D T98742
C C T76

2C 2D 2d = semi+
3S 3NT 3S = optional RKCB
4C 4D 3N = refuse to say
5C 5S 4C = blackwood
Pass 4D = 0 keycards
5H = SSA (Kantar RKCB)
6H = KQx(x)
7S = wow, perfect

S KJ7642 S Q53
H A8 H Q972
C AQT C 9875

2C 2D 2D semi plus
2S 4S 4S two possible tricks


S AKJT962 S Q53
H KQ H 972
D AK43 D J9
C C J8743

2C 2D 2D semi + or better
2S 2N 2NT one trick warning
3D 3S 3D four or less spades
4C 4S 4C Cue, 4S no DQ, no Red control
5C 5D 5C Cue
6S Pass 5D doubleton D, 6S bingo

S AKJT873 S 6542
H A63 H T954
D K D 864
C A6 C K5

2C 2D 2D semi plus
2S 2NT 2NT one trick warning
4S Pass 4S enough

S AQ9872 S T6
H KJ5 H 732
C A C Q9743

2C 2H 2H = no tricks for heart contract
2S Pass 2S passable
Pass = glad you let me pass


H 3 H J8652
D AQ94 D K52
C AKQ C 985

2C 2D 2D = semi + (or better)
2S 4S 4S = with two tricks, show them
Pass Six spades not horrible spot


S AKJ98 S T54
H K2 H JT8
D AQ54 D J8
C AJ C K9653

2C 2D 2NT = one trick warning
2S 2NT 3D = GF, 4 or less D's
3D 4S 4S = didn't excite me


S AKQJ6 S 32
H AQJT H 854
D 8 D K642
C AK7 C Q965

2C 2D 2NT one trick waring (no fit, side
2S 2NT queen discounted as trick)
3H 3NT 3H four cards or less
Pass 3NT opener doesn't have to pass


S AKQ985 S J3
H AK5 H J73
D Q2 D 98643
C K3 C 976

2S Pass 2S = Passable


S AK9832 S 64
H A762 H KJ5
C AK C 9853

2C 2D 3D = more than one trick, GF
2S 3D 3H = no more than 4
3H 3S 3S = natural
3N Pass 3NT = suggestion, responder with 3S pulls

S AKJ865 S 3
H H QT542
C AQJ3 C 8765

2C 2D 3H more than one trick
2S 3H 3S with a heart void, no rush to bid 3NT
3S 4S 4S nothing extra


S S JT8752
H AKQ9873 H 6
D AK D 964
C KQT5 C A83

2C 2D 3H = optional blackwood
3H 3S 3S = refuse blackwood, poor hand
4S 5C 4S = Exclusion blackwood
6C 6H 5C - one control
7H 6C = Modified Specific Suit Ask, 3rd round control
6H = no third roudn control

6C = modified specific suit ask. After the 3S refusual
to answer optional blackwood, responder will not have and
ACE and King. So this has to be looking for third round
control. This is unnecessary here. If responder has Ax
of clubs, you can hope to ruff one, If he has Axxx
(or more) in clubs, you can hope they are all good.
And if he has Axx? Well odds are with you to drop
jack anyway, thanks to club ten.


S AQ S 754
H AK8653 H 4
D AK43 D QJ982
C J C QT32

2C 2D 2D = semi plus twith two queens and a jack
2H 2NT 2NT = warning
3D 4D 3D = GF, four or less diamonds
6D Pass 4D = fit, no more than one key card (see 2NT)

S AKJ842 S 97
H 6 H JT75
D AKJ4 D 72
C A6 C KJT97

2C 2D 2NT = warning
2S 2NT 3D = 4 or less D
3D 4S 3S = choices
Pass 4S

S Q3 S T976
H AKQJ2 H 98
D AKQ5 D T9762
C A2 C T4

2C 2H 2H = no trick opposite heart hand
3H 3S 3H = too good to pass, 3H = GF
3NT Pass 3S = ok, some spade cards
3NT = five diamonds might be ok


S AK S T753
H AQ98752 H 43
D A5 D K983
C K7 C 653

2C 2D 2D = semi+ or better
2H 2NT 2NT = warning
4H Pass 4H = ackward, 3H not forcing, so pass


S AKQT8632 S J
H A H K5
D A D JT9765
C QJ4 C T763

2C 2D 3S = optional blackwood
3S 3NT 3NT = not telling you my keys
4C 4D 4C = demand blackwood
5C 5S 4D = no key card, no trump queen
Pass 5C = specific suit ask (modified)
5S = no control

S AQT6532 S 84
H AK5 H QT94
D 5 D 8632
C AK C 764

2C 2D 2D = semi plus (got heart trick/ruffing trick)
2S 2NT 2NT = one trick warning (might not have that)
4S Pass 4S = 3S would not be forcing, (east would pass)


S KQ S T8532
D 8 D AQT743
C AJ73 C 8

2C 3D 3D = this kind of suit, nothing else
3H 3S 3S = maybe 3NT?
3NT Pass


S AQ S KT873
H AKQ875 H 3
D AK D J632
C AT7 C K85

2C 2D 2NT = after 2D, forced to 3 of a major
2H 2S 3C = game force, club value
2NT 3C 3H = still game force, good hearts
3H 3NT
6H PAss

1) Responder would not cound once king and
a side queen as "two tricks", which the 3C
bid confirmed, so must have a two black suit
kings for sure with the encourgging 3C bid.


S AQ S T52
D 8 D QT975
C KQ64 C AJ8

2C 2D 3H = optional blackwood
3H 3NT 3NT = 1 or 4 key cards, two possible tricks+
6H Pass May need a finessee


S S AJ87654
H KJ8764 H
D AKQ4 D 962
C AKT C 984

2C 3S 3S = suit like this
3NT Pass 3NT = yuck


H AQ2 H J873
D K7 D QT52
C 7 C QJT96

2C 2D 2D Two queens, semi +
3S 3NT 3S Optional blackwood
4S Pass 3NT = yuck, no I not tell you.
4S = ok, we stop


S AQ8 S JT53
D AQJ6 D 432
C 7 C AQJ92

2C 2D 3C = game force
2H 3C
3NT Pass


S KQ S 982
D 952 D K43

2C 2D 2NT one trick warning,
2H 2NT 3H = passable.
3H Pass Pass = I might regret this decision


S AKQT942 S 73
H AQ4 H T53
D 52 D A87
C A C QJ976

2C 2D 3C with ACE and Queen, ok to bid 3C
2S 3C 3H = four or LESS
3H 3NT


S A S T8642
H AQJ76 H K2
D AQ92 D J873

2C 2D 2NT with Kx support, plan on 3H next
2H 2NT 3D = four or less, GF
3D 3S 3S = gentle explore,
3NT 4C 3NT = club stuff
6D Pass

Bridge logiC. East was heading for 3/4H.
Parnter's 3D opened the door to 5/6D. If over 3S,
partner retreats to 4D/4H, enough. But 3NT
suggest a hand similar to one partner has.
Four diamonds, five/six hearts, club control.
4C here cant be to play, and can't be showing
a stopper. This MUST be diamond fit, with a
sure control, and queen or doubleton club.

This auction is possible because with hearts,
over 3D, responder would bid 3H. So the
implication about diamond fit is strong.
Responder surely has a red king and diamonds,
plus useful card in clubs.


H K5 H QT4
D AQ D T7654
C K93 C AT84

2C 2D 3C = with Ace and queen, not 2NT
2S 3C 3NT = stoppers in reds, if partner has three
3NT Pass tricks he will call again.


S AQ54 S K6
H AKT9653 H 874
D D AK83

2C 2D 2D semi+ (or a LOT BETTER)
2H 3H 3H three or more possible tricks (Qx or xxx+)
5S 6C 5C = 1 key card
7NT 5S = SSA
6C = Kx of spades
7NT = matchpoint bid 7H, 3S, 2C, 1D


S AQ9 S K6542
H AKQ864 H J
D K4 D A653
C Q4 C KT6

2C 2D 3S = game force
2H 2S 4NT = RKCB
3S 4NT 5S = 2Keys with Q
5S 6S


S AQ9 S KJ32
H AQJT764 H 93
C 8 C K7642

2C 2D 3H = optional blackwood
3H 3NT 3NT = 0 key cards, but some tricks
4H Pass 4H = to many missing.


H AKQ742 H T83
D AK6 D T975
C 5 C KQ9742

2C 3C 3C = this kind of suit
3H 4S 3H = too good for 3NT immediately
6H Pass 4S = splinter here, void
6H = hope your club is AJ, or KQ...


S AKQ432 S J98
H A3 H K5
D KT3 D AQ964
C A5 C T42

2C 2D 4NT = RKCB, agreeing Spades
2S 4NT 5C = four controls
5C 5D 5D = queen ask
6D 7S 6D = Q + DK, no heart k, no club king


H A H KQ64
D KQJ4 D A8765
C A5 C 82

2C 2D 4D = GF raise to 4 minor RKCB
2S 3D 4H = one keycard
4D 4H 7NT/7D = plenty of tricks, MP bid 7NT
7D Pass


S AK642 S Q9853
H K8 H JT3
D AK D 64
C AKQ6 C 987

2C 2D 4S = two tricks (theoretically)
2S 4S
6S Pass


S AKQ654 S 972
H H J98
D AK5 D 863
C KQ93 C A874

2C 2D
2S 2NT


S AKQT97 S 543
H H Q87543
D AQ3 D T8
C AKQ8 C 64

2C 2S 2S = heart trick, no spade trick
3S 4C 3S = Game force
4D 6S 4C = probably doubleton or queen, encouraging

Ok, this takes some getting use to. 2S = no trick for
spade contract. 3S = game force ANYWAY, 4C = can not
be to play, can not be A or K (since would respond 2D),
so something like this hand), 4D = slam try,
6S I have distributional control in diamonds too,
and, get this, actually spades.

S AQJ7642 S T953
H AJT3 H K75
D A D T74
C A C 965

2C 2D 2S = might play in hearts, so not 3S
2S 2NT 2NT = one trick warning
3H 4S 3H = GF
4NT 5C 4S = real spades
5H 5NT 4NT = modified RKCb (responder has 1 at most)
6S Pass 5C = none, no queen either
5H = asking, 1st step 5NT Kxx(x)



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a practical comment on the laws. The EBU seems much more lax about regs than the ACBL. Yet there has been some recent discussion on the laws forum about what can constitute a strong 2C opening. The rules say (a) that you cannot mix strong and non-strong openings into your 2-level bids except for in the case of the multi and (b) that a strong 2 must abide by the rule of 25. This means that strong Roman hands must be 17+ and the example hand you gave for an "Acol 2" in hearts would only be up to the Rule of 23. The rationale behind this ruling is that opponents will expect some defense for a strong opening and not want to compete. Are you worried about this, or are you thinking of higher level competitions or just something for online.


1:30 AM  
Blogger bboinquiry said...

Hi Matt,

No I am not overly concerned about what is allowed in europe in regular play. In this country multi 2D has for a long time been disallowed (except at unlimited events). What I am trying to do is develop, for me, a system that fits my bidding style.

F2F, I use, for the lack of a better description, Bridge Base Advanced with some legal additions. But stylistic carryovers remain from this system. And playing something like this, helps.

BTW, I got this 2C/2D system from Chris Ryall virtually unchanged (well a few very minor tweeks). He is in england, and apparently plays this is europe just fine. I have room to tweek the acol 2 in the major to require a tad more stregth, and to go from good 15 hcp with five controls to 17 hcp with five controls is not that big of deal, if required.


7:04 AM  

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