A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings

A strong 2♣ opening is something I have a lot of opinions about — some popular, others less so. A mentor I greatly respect taught me to generally not open a strong 2♣ with an unbalanced two-suited hand, or “freak” hand, unless it is absolutely necessary.  Many people play that opening 2♣ and rebidding anything other than 2NT is GAME-FORCING — often times, 22-counts (as fun as they are) are not really strong enough to make game with no help from partner. Thus, try to restrict the 2♣ opening to balanced, or semi-balanced hands, unless you have fancy tools and tricks to describe unbalanced hands thereafter.

The other logic behind this is that we have preempted ourselves by opening at the 2-level, and have not described one lick of our hand with our first bid. Well, this is fine and dandy if our next bid is a clear, concise 2NT, showing 22-24 balanced. However, consider the following hand. What would you open?

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 9.53.58 AM

To see what Julie recommends (and Tom agrees) for a “plan of action” with this hand, and the logic behind it, click on continue reading tag below.

I would open 1♠, and not think twice about it. Here is the full deal, with an example 2♣ auction:

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 9.43.53 AM

What is South to do over North’s natural 3♥ rebid? Do we risk bypassing 3NT to show the ♦ suit? Partner could have 1♠ and 2♦ for all we know, and 3NT is all we could make — quite a pickle!

Let’s look at how the auction times out if we open a mere 1♠:

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 9.49.45 AM

We open 1♠ as South, and partner bids 1NT (forcing). This bid only denies having a game-forcing hand or big spade fit, playing 2/1.  Now, South can rebid 3♦ to set up a game-force. We have promised 5♠ and at least 4♦ and a game-forcing hand. At this point in the 2♣ auction, we had only promised spades, and partner introduced a heart suit on us, which left things a bit muddy. Now, without going too much into the nuances of Roman Keycard Blackwood, we can get to 6♦ or 7♦ on this auction, whereas the 2♣ auction may leave us in 3NT, 4♠, or 5♦, depending on our and partner’s evaluation.  6♦ is as cold as ice, while 7♦ is makeable, although somewhat tricky.   Suffice it to say almost all the matchpoints are yours if you bid even 6♦.

The risk of opening 1♠ with this hand is that everyone passes, and you are stuck playing 1♠ when you should be in a better and/or higher-level contract. Well, as responder, I try to always bid if I have at least an Ace, or 4-card support for my partner’s opening, so if partner has no aces and no spade fit, we probably aren’t taking enough tricks to make game in any contract. Plus, looking at the South hand only, there are 12 hearts and 18 HCP floating around among the other three hands, so sometimes the opponents step in and (accidentally) let you further describe your hand, even if partner passes 1♠.

This is not to say that you should never open 2♣ with a monster two-suiter or other freak hand.   But before you do so, plan the auction first going forward taking into account reasonably likely bids and rebids by partner.  If it is not clear what you should bid after partner makes a reasonably anticipated re-bid,  like 3♥ in this example, seriously consider opening on the 1-level instead, followed by some strong, forcing bid thereafter.

— Julie Arbit

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2 thoughts on “A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings”

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