Consult the Coopers: Two-way Checkback, March 2013
We have been asked by several players to explain the advantages of two-way versus one-way new minor forcing.
Coopers: In the old days, when partner opened the bidding and then rebid 1NT he had 13-14 balanced points, so the need for invitational bids by responder was minimal. In basic bridge, non-reverse two level bids are to play, 2NT is invitational, and reverses and jumps are forcing. But as opening bids have gotten weaker, the range for the 1NT rebid has become wider, 11+-14, so you now need to invite with a good 11 to 12 point hand. Additionally, it is usually better to play in a 5-3 major suit fit or a 4-4 fit in a major that responder didn’t bid (usually this will be hearts after 1m-1S). So the new minor forcing convention was invented to find more major suit fits and invite games.
The original new minor convention uses responder’s bid of two of the unbid minor over a 1NT rebid to ask opener to show majors up the line, either four cards in an unbid major or three card support for the original major. Responder raises or bids 2NT to invite. Other three level bids by responder are game forcing. For example, after 1C-1S-1NT, the artificial bid of 2D asks partner to show a four card heart suit or three card spade support; if opener bids 2H responder’s bid of 2S shows five spades and invites game.
The problem with the original method was that it did not work well when responder wished to explore for slam. While there are ways to work around the problem, they use up a whole level of bidding. When your side may have a slam, bidding room is vital.
So the two-way new minor convention was invented. Over a 1NT rebid, responder bids 2D as an artificial game force (yes, even when opener bid 1D). Bidding after 2D is natural. Since there is no need to jump when you are already in a game force, jumps show shortness or are RKC. If responder bids 2C it forces opener to bid 2D, after which all auctions are natural and game invitational. Of course responder can pass in order to play in 2D (assuming that the enemy lets you). Playing two-way new minor allows you always to know whether our side is in an invitational, game forcing, or weak sequence.
What is the down side of two-way new minor? A slight problem is that you cannot play in 2C. But it is unlikely that the enemy would let you do that anyway. To play in clubs you bid 2NT, which forces opener to bid 3C after which you either pass or bid 3D to play (you should use 2N to get to diamonds when you are so weak that you’re sure that the enemy won’t pass out 2D if he bids 2C to force opener to bid it). Thus in order to invite in notrump you have to bid 2C first. The other down side is memory strain. The first time the auction goes 1D-1S-1NT-2D, it may go all pass when someone forgets, since 2D doesn’t really sound forcing.
Some who play two-way new minor like responder’s three level jumps to be forcing, while others prefer them to be invitational. Either way, jumps in old suits show good six card suits while jumps in new suits are at least 5-5 and unsuited for notrump. Be sure to discuss this when you start playing two-way new minor. You will also need to agree about (1) how to play after 1C-1D-1NT (we think it’s best to play as if the auction had begun 1D-1M-1NT) and (2) how to play if responder is a passed hand (we play that all bids are natural and not forcing).
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