Strong Opening Bids

YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB3 Ch3 (April 4, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 3 series, Ch. 3 — tells how we bid a very strong hand. Opener announces their strength but not their distribution by opening 2♣. Since its invention in 1929, this bid has been an artificial convention. The bid is forcing on Responder, who generally relays with 2♦. Opener then shows their best long suit or a NT distribution. You may download this lesson in one of the three following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB3 Ch3 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB3 Ch3 Note.docx
  3. Practice Hands: BeB Strong Hands for Blog

Basic 2♣ Opening

Playing Tricks: An opening of 2♣ shows a hand that is strong in its points or trick-taking ability, but undisclosed in its shape. There are three hands that qualify. (1) Notrump hands with 22+ HCP and no 5c+ rebiddable suit, (2) Unbalanced hands with 22+ PVP1 and a rebiddable suit, or (3) Unbalanced hands with 18+ HCP and 9+ Playing Tricks. Responder in most cases bids 2♦ Waiting. Opener rebids 2M, 2NT, 3m, or 3NT.

The Official System: Prior to 1929, a partnership would have opened a strong hand naturally at the 2-level or 3-level. This practice consumed too many spots on the bidding ladder while offering few opportunities to use such bids. In 1931, bridge’s Official System adopted the new 2♣ convention as a single, strong, artificial opener. This freed all other bids on the ladder to be assigned a more frequent meaning, such as a preemptive bid.

Forcing: In natural bidding, an Opener has no method to force Responder into bidding. Natural openings such as 1m, 1M, 1NT, and Weak 2 allow a Responder to pass. A 2♣ opening is forcing on Responder for two rounds.

Convention Card: A partnership marks their card to show they play 2♣ strong, 2♦ waiting, and the HCP range for their 2♣ bid.

Responder’s 1st bids

  1. Waiting: 2♦. Responder shows under 8 PVP, even distribution, non-rebiddable suit, disinterest but possible strength for small slam, one-round forcing.
  2. Suit: 2♥, 2♠, 3♣, 3♦. Responder shows 8+ PVP, rebiddable suit, forcing to game.
  3. NT: 2NT. Responder shows 8+ points, even distribution, systems on, forcing to game.

Minimal Points: Responder cannot bid with less than 8 PVP. With more points, Responder may still choose to wait for Opener’s 2nd bid. Remember that Opener has 22 points so Opener needs nothing more than support. Opener may have a good major suit. If Responder bids the wrong suit (ie, not Opener’s intended suit), then Opener may have to show their intended suit at the 3-level. If Responder bids the right suit (ie, Opener’s intended suit), then the contract will never be right-sided with the big hand concealed. Responder’s best option is to listen for Opener’s first two bids, then pass, support, or show control cards. Even with an initial 2♦ Waiting, Responder may find a fit for Opener’s suit and lead the partnership to small slam.

Minimal Suits: Responder can bid NT with 8+ HCP, but this bid also gets in the way of partnership communication. Let Opener be the first to bid NT, then Responder can suggest Stayman or JTB to find a suit fit.

Opener’s 2nd Bid

  1. New Suit (unbalanced): With a 5c+ suit, Opener can bid 2♥, 2♠, 3♣, 3♦. These bids are forcing. Having already shown their strength, Opener need not be concerned about reverses, jumps, or other displays of strength.
  2. Raise a Suit: With 3c+ support, Opener can support Responder’s natural bid, assuming Responder had 8+ HCP and did not bid 2♦.
  3. NT (balanced): 2NT (22-24 points), 3NT (25-27 points). These NT bids are nonforcing. However, if Responder does continue, then Stayman and Jacoby are on.

RoNF: Opener can force for two rounds, then must change suits to keep Responder bidding. Responder can force also by changing suits. On their first re-bid, Opener will show their longest 5c+ suit. If Opener has two such suits, then Opener bids the higher one first. This gives Responder a chance to choose the best fit at the lowest level.

Opener without a suit can re-bid in NT: A NT bid shows Opener’s point count in a narrow 3-point range. Opener treats a 4-4-4-1 distribution as NT, as it has no 5c suit for a suit bid. Responder with a flat hand is strongly encouraged to support at least 3NT game. All systems are on, such as Stayman, JTB, TTB, ace asking.

Responder’s 2nd bid

  1. Opener Bid a Suit
    1. Responder = 0-3 HCP: Responder makes a second negative, which is forcing one round. Responder makes the 2nd negative by bidding the “Cheaper Minor Negative” convention, the cheapest of 3♣, 3♦, 3NT.
    2. Responder = 4+ HCP: Responder raises Opener’s suit w/ 3c+ support, bids any 5-card suit, or bids NT. A cheap raise of Opener’s suit is strong and invitational to slam, while a jump raise suggests a weak signoff.
  2. Opener Bid 2NT (20-21 HCP)
    1. Responder = 0-4 HCP: Responder passes, as game may not be possible
    2. Responder = 5+HCP: Responder bids Stayman, JTB, or TTB.
  3. Opener Bid 2♣-2NT (22-24 HCP)
    1. Responder = 0-2 HCP: Responder passes, as game may not be possible
    2. Responder = 3+HCP: Responder bids Stayman, JTB, or TTB.
  4. Opener Bid 2♣-3NT (25-27 HCP)
    1. Responder = 0-7 HCP: Responder passes, as slam may not be possible.
    2. Responder = 8+ HCP: Responder bids Stayman, JTB, TTB, or higher.

Force: A nice feature of 2♣-2NT openings is that they are forcing. A Responder can pass a natural 2NT showing 20-21 HCP when holding 0-4 HCP. In contrast, a Responder cannot pass 2♣ – 2NT. This forcing principle assures the partnership that neither partner will pass until the partnership finds its best strain.

Destructive Bids and Declarers’ Re-Bids

Simply because a partnership can find its best suit or NT doesn’t mean it can find a makeable contract. The bidding can get too high before the partnership finds its fit. Opponents can help the Opener and Responder get too high by taking space off the bidding ladder. Opener has already reached the 2-level without revealing their suit. Any preempt of a 6c+ suit by Opponents will further complicate Responder’s task of finding a fit. Since Opener has more than half the points, such bids by Opponents are destructive, not meant for a positive score. The Opponents’ intent is to improve their negative score.

  1. Overcaller/Advancer’s Bids
    1. Preempt: Opponents bid a 6c weak jump overcall. Since the Opener has more than half the points, a weak preemptive overcall is dangerous. Overcaller does best to be nonvulnerable. Spades is the most destructive suit as it is highest on the bidding ladder.
    2. Double: After Opener bids 2♣ or Responder bids 2♦, a double asks Advancer to bid a major. Overcaller does best by being 5-5 in the majors.
    3. NoTrump: After Opener bids 2♣ or Responder bids 2♦, a cheap NT asks Advancer to bid a minor. Overcaller does best by being 5-5 in the minors.
  2. Opener/Responder’s Bids
    1. Redouble: A redouble by Responder of 2♣X shows a 4c+ ♣ holding. It is for takeout. Without clubs, Responder bids 2♦ Waiting or a natural suit.
    2. Pass: If Responder passes after an overcall, this pass is equivalent to a 2♦ Waiting negative bid.
    3. Double: If either Opener or Responder doubles, it is for penalty.
    4. Suit Bid: A suit bid over any interference is natural and to play.
    5. NT Bid: A NT bid over any interference is natural and to play. It promises a stopper in the opponents’ bid suits.


  1. Best eBridge: Log on, then choose Bidding, Strong Hands. There are 70 hands to bid. Some are the same deal, but you will alternate between being Opener and Responder. Hands 1, 2, 3, … are basic concepts. Hands 70, 69, 68, … are advanced.
  2. Click on “Strong 2C Opening Bid.” This site keeps the 2♣ Opening Bid simple, but does take 10 pages to show you example bids and responses.

 Tests of Comprehension

  1. Strong 2♣ 1st Bids: For a test on Opener’s and Responder’s 1st bids after a 2♣ opening, go to Quiz 1 (p. 122). Try b, c, f.
  2. Strong 2♣ 2nd Bids: For a test on Opener’s and Responder’s 2nd bids after a 2♣ opening, go to Quiz 2 (p. 124). Try c, f, h, i, k
  3. Summary: For a test on Opener’s various bids after a 2♣ opening, go to Quiz 3 (p. 126).

Hands to Play, from BB3, Popular Conventions (230 p.)

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB3 P. 128, #9 E N 4♥ Q♣ A
BB3 P. 130, #10 N E 2NT 4♥ B
BB3 P. 132, #11 S S 3NT T♥ C
BB3 P. 134, #12 W W 4♠ J♣ D


  • A: E=22 HCP, 2 LP, 1 DP. W=4 HCP, 1 LP, 1 DP. East (E) opens 2♣ strong, rebids ♥. West(W) supports and E goes to game. Defenders take 2 tricks on ♣ lead, and are entitled to A♦. Declarer must win the rest. Declarer must finesse the Q♠. Making game. (+420).
  • B: N=23 HCP, 0 LP, 0 DP. S=1 HCP, 0 LP, 0 DP. North (N) opens 2♣ strong, rebids a flat hand as 2NT. South (S) has nothing, so passes. E has nothing, so leads 4th best with just 2 entries to develop the long suit. Declarer has the time to develop ♥ and ♦. Making partscore (+120).
  • C: S=5 HCP, 1 LP, 2 DP. N=20 HCP, 3 LP, 3 DP. North (N) opens 2♣ strong, rebids ♦. S shows 2c support w/ stoppers by bidding 3NT. Declarer has the contract from the lead, so runs 10 tricks. Making an overtrick (+430).
  • D: W=22 HCP, 2 LP, 3 DP. E=8 HCP, 1 LP, 1 DP. W opens 2♣ strong, rebids ♠ over partner’s ♥. With support, the partnership gets to 4♠. There is no transportation. Defenders win the first three tricks. Declarer has a trump loser, but ruffs a ♦ winner to take a sure trump finesse. Making game (+620).

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB3 Ch3 may be downloaded at

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