Bridge: Two level openings
2 clubs as "strong unbalanced"
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Extending strong 2 clubs with ParadoX responses
The Acol (or Standard American) game-forcing 2 is a bit of a dinosoar. Its main purpose is to provide a top limit for your one level openings, allowing partner to pass these with less than 5-6 points. The downside is that your partnership starts strong auctions a full level higher.
In the 1930's traditions and methods diverged. In UK the 8-9 trick strong two emerged - Terence Reese once likened these to the Battleships of old. "rarely used, but reassuring by their presence". They took futher pressure off our 1 level openings, and also off 2, as they dealt efficiently with these purer hand types.
Meanwhile Americans had developed Auction Bridge's preemptive weak two concept. This kept the ceiling high on their one bids and led to divergence of style. The 1950's saw UK players were making "Acol light openings" on hands that would have been 2 level preempts in ACBLland.
Elsewhere in the world other solutions were tried, with Strern's Austrian team using the (so useful) 1NT opening as its power bid, and various strong 1 solutions. The latter are a technically efficient way to bid up big hands, and also permit your one bid ceiling to fall to as little as 15-16 points. A great boon in competitive auctions where openings can be light, with a naturally well defined hand type.
Is strong club the ultimate? Not quite - strong pass systems allow about twice the system "bandwidth" (but are generally banned). A more important point is that all these methods are vulnerable to preemption when there are real opponents at the table.
For many years UK players were jealous of the weak two's seen elsewhere. A method of combining these into Acol was developed by the Scot, Albert Benjamin 2 in the 1970's. The use of 2 as a game force, and 2 as 8-9 tricks is now hugely popular in UK. However auctions such as ..
.. are simply horrid! I did't like "Benji Acol" and sought for a means to put all such hand types through 2, with the bonus of freeing 2 for further preempts
As seen above an intrinsic problem with 2 sequences is that bidding space can to be used up too rapidly - limiting the information exchanged. The partners can reach the 4 level in two rounds and no-one is quite sure when partner is cue bidding, or perhaps showing a natural new suit.
A popular 50's method of Ace showing C.A.B responses to 2 are fluent - when positive. But then there is usually a slam on, so plenty of bidding space!
A 2 simple relay response also improves matters, allowing the big hand to start showing majors at the two level. It can still leave auctions such as 2 - 2(neg); 3 rather awkward.
I wanted to combine 8-9 trick major hands into 2. The problem is then to stop low (ideally at the two level) when responder has no useful card. I got my inspiration from the "Multi" method. If game is unlikely you make passable negatives in majors you don't like! Your 2 response then becomes a light positive relay. There is also some pleasure in auctions ..
Viable inclusions into strong 2 clubs with ParadoX
The opening can now cover a much larger gamut of hand types.
Thus the ParadoX concept emerged. Assuming a strong major two you make negative bids in
the lowest suit that you don't like. Some examples will make everything clear.
Responder's suit, or suits
What should 2 opener's partner do with his own suit? Well, basically I believe that he
shouldn't waste precious bidding space unless he really has something to say. So introducing suits like K10653, with some
extras is out chez moi. I expect KQxxxx or KJ10xxxx minimum - a source of tricks opposite Hx, and a real alternative
trump suit. A convention to show an AKQxxx+ solid suit is useful. Otherwise just let the strong hand express itself.
Gerben Dirksen posted a nice idea on rec.games.bridge that calls of 2NT-3 opposite 2 should be transfers showing semi-solid suits as above, and that 3 show unspecified solid suit "transfer to 3NT". I like that idea, which also right-sides say a later 6NT contract. But keep those such advances pure! A 4 card side suit is usually a flaw, needing a more measured approach
The above would reply 3 and 3 respectively playing Gerben's transfer style - up to you. It simply doesn't pay to jump otherwise (except splinters). The whole idea is to keep bidding low and express the big hand naturally.
Although this gives fantastic control of deals worth about game there is some loss
in more powerful auctions. Let's face it - 2 and standard positive response
is commonly worth a slam! The answer is some sensitivity, using cue bids that raise the level as showing extra values.
There are also some useful "catch up" bids.
Establishing forcing auctions
Three suited hands and asking bids (optional extension)
These big 4441 three headed dogs are almost impossible to bid in standard methods. Partner will assume you are 5-4
when you make a forcing rebid, and when anyone introduces the fourth suit - well it's "fourth suit"!
A strong 2 merely cramps the acution even further. I found the Roman convention handles
them efficiently. My method is not for the squeamish, but to whet your appetite for the asking bids involved ..
When opponents intervene
Worthy opponents will try to overcall, and if they can to preempt your strong club auctions. Some purity of style can help considerably. Im my case 2 show a predictable 5 losers. I like agreements such as ..
|Don't open these hands as 2 on simple 8 - 8½ trick 2-suiters. Prefer your (higher) major. This will rarely be passed out and well-trained partner should raise on Qxx and a bust in any case. Should opponents pre-empt you can get your second suit in. Good luck!
www.chrisryall.net/bridge/two/clubs.htm © Chris Ryall 1987-2008