Other Openings

So far we’ve covered all the opening bids at the one level. Now we’re off for the deep woods. Got your sword?

The Strong Two Club Opener

An opening bid of two clubs is the strongest possible opening bid, showing 22 or more points if the hand is balanced. If the hand is not balanced, but rather has a long solid major suit, you can open it two clubs if it has at least 8 ½ tricks in it and at least 16-18 HCP. It is too misleading to partner to open a weaker hand with two clubs. For a minor you’d want to have more like 9 ½ - 10 tricks.

You also need at least 4 quick-tricks. Here’s how you count quick-tricks, up to 2 per suit:

  • AK = 2 quick tricks
  • A = 1 quick trick
  • KQ = 1 quick trick
  • AQ = 1 1/2 quick tricks
  • Kx = 1/2 quick trick

A typical opening bid has two quick-tricks.

There are many two-suited hands with which you should not open 2♣. 2♣ uses up a lot of bidding room and makes it hard to show both suits. Bergen gives these examples:

  • ♠AKxxx ♥KQ ♦3 ♣KQJxx has 4 quick-tricks. But looking ahead, after 2♣ - 2♦ - 2♠, suppose partner bids a red suit. You cannot show the clubs without going to the four level.
  • ♠AKxxx ♥KQJxx ♦3 ♣KQ has the same strength but it is ok to open 2♣ because you can get the hearts in at the 3 level.

The standard responses are:

  • 2♦ is called “waiting” and is purely artificial, indicating that none of the other situations apply. ACBL rules now say no meaning of 2♦ is alertable or announceable.

    Responder really tells you nothing about his hand when he bids 2♦, except that he probably does not have 8 HCP and a good five-card major.

    If you have a very bad hand you bid 2♦ first and on your second bid bid 3♣, called the “second negative” or “double negative”. If opener has rebid 3♦ so that you cannot bid 3♣, bid 3♥ as “artificial, double negative”. Be sure partner knows this.

  • 2♥, 2♠ show at least 8 HCP and a good five card suit. Game forcing.

  • 3♣, 3♦ show at least 8 HCP and a good six card suit. Game forcing.

    Be very reluctant to bid 3♦; sometimes you need to show your club suit immediately with 3♣ because to do so on your second bid would show a weak hand.

  • 2N should not be bid. Traditional teaching is that 2N shows 8 HCP and a balanced hand, but it is not a good idea according to Bergen. Just bid 2♦.

Opener rebids 2N with a balanced 22-24, 3N with 25-27, and so on.

When opener does make a notrump rebid over a 2♦ response, all the strong 1N systems are “on”. For example:

2♣ – 2♦ – 2N – 3♥

is a transfer to spades. Think of the 2♣ - 2♦ - 2N sequence as opening 2 ½ NT.

Transfers and Stayman are not on after suit replies.

It should be noted that while responder may pass a 2N rebid with a bad hand, all the suit bids by opener are unlimited and completely forcing. Holding:

♠234 ♥234 ♦2345 ♣234

and hearing partner rebid 2♠, you must bid. A responder with a bust (defined as no Ace, no King, less than 4 points) shows this with a second bid of 3♣, or 3♥ if necessary.

For example, 2♣ - 2♦(waiting) - 2♥ - 3♣!(second negative) uses the tempo of the forcing 2♥ bid to tell opener the bad news.

Alternate schemes for responding to 2♣ are described in Advanced Bidding.

Preemptive Opening Bids

A preemptive bid is one designed to make the opponents miserable even though you have a poor hand, by using up the room they have to maneuver. The opening preempts are those above 2♣. Be aware that many pairs play 2♦ to mean minimal three-suited openers or other hand types; this must be alerted.

Two-Level Preempts

Opening bids (or jump overcalls) of 2♦, 2♥, and 2♠ are weak bids, showing a six card suit with 5-10 points, with 10 being rare. If we are vulnerable, the suit must be a good one, that is, two of the top three honors or three of the top five, including at least one of the top three. Not vulnerable, the bid promises at least a Queen and a six-card suit.

In first or second seat, the hand should not contain an outside four-card major, or even a good three-card major holding.

Opinion differs here. There are many very good players who preempt with less than these requirements. However sticking to the requirements has some positive payoffs in finding 3N games and in playing defense when they bid over it.

These bids have an entirely different meaning in fourth seat. There is no reason to preempt in fourth seat. A two-level bid in fourth seat shows a hand that would have opened at the one level and then rebid the suit at the two level, typically six cards and 12-14 points. Likewise, higher bids show progressively more powerful hands.


A raise from the two level to the three level is purely preemptive and relies on the idea that a nine card fit is relatively safe at the three level. It does not require a lot of points, but it does require three trump.

Excepting a raise, other bids by responder are forcing. The 2N bid is a conventional bid that asks the opener to bid a suit in which he holds an outside Ace or King, or else to rebid his suit. Knowing that the opener has an outside entry may permit responder to go to game. This 2N bid is called “feature-asking”. There are other schemes for 2N but they must be alerted.

Generally a bid other than a raise is going to show a hand of 16 points or so. Also, be prepared for opener to simply rebid his suit. He could quite well have nothing else to say.

One test used to decide whether to raise a 2M preempt to the four level is the “Rule of 17”: add the HCP to the number of trumps held, and go to game if the total is 17 or more. It is best to use your brain, however, and imagine how the particular cards you hold will play opposite your partner’s. This is a situation in which it is nice to be confident partner followed the rules about suit quality.

Three-Level Preempts

Three-level opening bids are similar to two-level preempts, except they show a seven card suit or six good clubs. To compete over such a preempt requires more than a minimum opening hand.

Three-level openings in fourth seat are not preemptive. They show a hand that would open at the one level and rebid at the three level, typically a six card suit and 17-19 points.

Four-Level Preempts

Four-level opening bids are preemptive, showing usually an 8-card suit or better. The bid is not strong, and partner must be cautious about going on. Other than that the treatment is similar to the three-level preempt.

Again, in 4th seat this is a powerful bid, showing 20 points or more. If it really is so great a hand that you are afraid of being left short of game by a partner with almost nothing, it is likely a candidate for a 2♣ opener.

Gambling 3N

Since one can open 2♣ and rebid 3N with a balanced 25-27 point hand, there is no need to open 3N to show this kind of hand. The (non-standard) Gambling 3N convention uses this bid to show a hand with ALL of these properties:

  • A solid minor with at least 7 cards.
  • No four-card major
  • No Ace or King outside the long minor

These restrictions are to talk you out of missing a slam and to help partner precisely visualize his chances for a 3N contract. If partner does think 3N will make, he passes. That means he has stoppers in the other suits, because he is under no illusions that you can help. If not, he bids 4♣ and you correct to diamonds if necessary.

This bid does not come up very often of course, but neither does the one it replaces. It will lead to rather spectacular failures if you and your partner are not on the same precise wavelength.