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Bridge: Two level preempts

The Rough 2 diamonds

Rough 2D as {4+/4+ in diamonds and a major} Examples from real play


A link to Ben's system notes

I received this email from Ben Cowling of Warwick University Club

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hi Chris,

did i ever tell you that i have been trying out the Rough 2D opening that you mention on your website - i think it's brilliant? i've been playing it for over a year, at Warwick Uni and in local/national competitions (and even in the World Youth Pairs in Poland).

i think it is working really well - partly because of opponents unfamiliarity, but in general just because it is such a difficult pre-empt to defend against.

i started compiling an archive of rough 2D deals (religiously recording every hand where it came up). i got above 50 before i decided i was bored, and stopped. i have put it on the Web, although it is not linked from anywhere, i thought you might be interested to see it, at

i tried to make crude estimates of the IMP gain/loss on each hand (even when the board was played at MPs, for some silly reason). The upshot is that i think it was worth over 2 IMPs a board, on average. I should add that i think our (very good) team, playing generally against bad (but not LOL) opposition was worth something approaching 2 IMPs a board anyway(!) but i think the Rough 2D is still worth it's place. it seemed to come up two or three times in most matches, but sometimes it didn't come up at all.

we have been playing it at all vulnerabilities, and haven't lost any big penalties so far. it seems like it should work better at IMPs than at MPs, but playing it at both forms of scoring anyway.

i didn't see anyone playing it at the World Youth Pairs Championships, although we played less than 1/4 of the field. There were quite a few playing the Ekren 2H opener (including the Austrian winners). Ben Cowling

p.s. this is my favourite Rough 2D opener to date. 6D is the opponent's best slam (6NT goes off on a heart lead), but when we open 2D we manage to persuade them not to bid it. it's from the archive mentioned above.

7.6 Played in Coventry
both vul
S A732
H QT82
D 8643
C 7

S Q984
H J543
D J7
card table S KT
C Q94

S J65
H K976
D -
C JT8632


all pass

2D: Showing 4/5 diamonds and a 4-card major, 4-9 HCP.
double: Takeout.
redouble: Asking opener to bid 2H with 4 hearts, or bid 2S with 4 spades.
3D: Cue - forcing.
3NT: "well i've got the diamonds stopped ........"

South led a heart, West won in dummy and was allowed to hold the SQ at trick two, so he made 12 tricks for -690.

If East/West want to punish North/South, they will defend 2H doubled, and probably take it for -500, which isnt as good as a game for them. At other tables, East/West shouldnt have too much trouble reaching 6D.

I visited Ben's web site and he has a superb set of some 60 (!) deals on which the rough 2D came up. The deal above is just an example. The complete archive is downloadable in adobe PDF format from I have mirrored the first few pages here in standard hypertext as they form a useful set of system notes.

Mirror: An Archive of Deals where the
"Rough" 2D Opening has been Employed

by Ben Cowling - Warwick University Bridge Club - April 2001
Note: this section contains only Ben's system notes

1 Introduction

Note: Not strictly correct as IMHO an "Ekren" 2D would describe the original Norwegian version showing both majors. CJR

The "Rough" 2D opening, also known as the "Ekren" 2D (after the Norwegian Grand Master, Bjørn Ekren), is used to show a weak hand, with 4/5 diamonds, and a 4-card major. If you hold two four card suits then simulations indicate the chance of an eight card fit in one of them is around 60%, and rises to a healthy 78% if you are 5-4 or better. Total Trick theory predicts that your opponents will rarely get rich doubling you in a such a fit at the two level. Indeed you are virtually always safe if non-vulnerable. Even if the fit isn"t there, the bid is quite slippery and it may be too tricky to be able to extract a penalty.

This archive is a record of deals where my partner or I have used the "Rough" 2D opening, with or without success. I have tried to be comprehensive with this record, even including the slightly naughty openings at the end. There are three main points of interest on each deal:

  1. How the 2D opening performed at the table (against non-perfect opponents).
  2. How the 2D opening might have performed, had the opponents been experts.
  3. Whether the 2D opening risked a costly penalty.

My intuition suggests that the 2D opening will be very good against ordinary opponents, and perhaps hold its own against very good opponents (getting some good and some bad results). I doubt it will go for many big penalties, at the table.

2 Notes on the 2D Opening

2.1 Treatment of the 2D Opening

I play the 2D opening to show 4/5 diamonds and a 4-card major, with the range varying by position (but the same at all vulnerabilities):

Strictly speaking, opener shouldn"t have a void, or three 4-card suits. In 2nd position, we will choose not to open most of the 4/4 hands within the range, and thus the probability that we hold 5 diamonds for our bid is greatly increased. We probably don"t open it at all in 4th position, but we haven"t decided on this yet.

Non-vulnerable, we will open almost any hand within the specifications and treatments just given, but we will be slightly more careful when vulnerable, especially when opponents are non-vulnerable as well.

We occasionally step outside these limits in 3rd position (as with any system), and open 4441 hands, or hands with 6 diamonds and a 4-card major, or hands with 10-11 HCP. These are considered as misbids though, and responder shouldn"t take this into account when responding.

2.2 Bidding in response to the 2D Opening

Our structure after the opening 2D is very simple, with most bids being sign-offs. The complete structure is:

2H is "pass or correct", opener should pass this response if he holds 4 hearts, otherwise he should bid 2S. If responder holds say 2-4-1-6 shape, he could bid 2H, and, if opener continues with 2S, retreat to 3C.

2S is a non-forcing sign-off, responder has 5+ spades. Opener can (and should) raise when holding 4 spades and a non-minimum hand.

2NT is a forcing enquiry, two different structures are shown below, we usually play the simpler one.

3C is a sign-off, responder has 6+ clubs.

3D is a pre-emptive diamond raise, responder has 4/5 diamonds.

3H and 3S are pre-emptive bids, responder has a 7/8-card suit.

3NT+ are all to play, except 4NT and 5NT, which would be RKCB, or a grand slam try, respectively. Direct 4NT would be RKCB for diamonds, while 2NT (enquiry) followed by 4NT would be RKCB for opener"s major suit.

In a competitive auction, over a double of 2D, we play all bids as before, except that "redouble" is asking opener to bid his major, and 2H becomes a natural sign-off. Over an overcall of 2D, we play all bids as before, except that a cue-bid is forcing, asking opener to bid his major suit. All of our doubles are for penalty.

2.2.1 The simple 2NT enquiry

The simple 2NT enquiry has responses:

- 3C lower end of range, with 4 hearts.

- 3D lower end of range, with 4 spades.

- 3H upper end of range, with 4 hearts.

- 3S upper end of range, with 4 spades.

2.2.2 The complicated 2NT enquiry

The more complicated 2NT enquiry has responses:

3C upper end of range (not 5D+4S), then 3D asks,

- 3H upper end of range, 4D+4H.

- 3S upper end of range, 4D+4S.

- 3NT upper end of range, 5D+4H.

3D lower end of range, with 5 diamonds, then 3H asks,

- 3S lower end of range, 5D+4S.

- 3NT lower end of range, 5D+4H.

3H lower end of range, 4D+4H.

3S lower end of range, 4D+4S.

- 3NT upper end of range, 5D+4S.

3 Suggested Defence to the 2D Opening

The suggested defence shown here has been devised with simplicity in mind. Having said that, it is the very defence I would play, if I met the "rough" 2D at the table. It is also the defence that I will consider my imaginary "experts" to use, when judging how they might bid over our 2D opening.

Dbl takeout, 12-19ish fairly balanced, or perhaps some strong types, with Lebensohl 2NT available in response, for a very weak hand.

2H or 2S natural overcall, good values with a good suit.

2NT natural overcall, balanced 16-18 HCP.

3C natural overcall, good values with a good club suit.

3D strong forcing bid, 19+ HCP, or very good playing strength (at least 8 playing tricks).

3H or 3S natural and strong, with a good long suit and 7-8 playing tricks.

3NT to play.

4 Alternative Auctions

When considering alternative auctions (that is, a typical auction on the same deal at other tables in a large field), I have tried to be objective and realistic. Of course, often lots of silly things go on, and the scores on the traveller don"t bear much resemblance to the "par" score.

My imaginary players use a system called Standard Warwick. This is a frilly student-friendly version of standard ACOL, with weak 2"s in the majors, and a weak 1NT. A description of this system can be viewed at theWarwick University Bridge. {end of mirrored section}

Links to the main archive, site index, more advanced methods and brown sticker sub-pages and an index

spider See also: my special pageon the early history of Ekren
and a translated Bridge i Norge New article on defence to the opening.

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