By Kitty and Steve Cooper

Almost all hands of 22+ points are opened with an artificial bid of 2C; the exceptions are unbalanced hands with more than one suit that don't need to force to game or that would be too difficult to rebid. After opening 2C to show any strong practically game-forcing hand, opener's next bid clarifies his hand type. If you have an unbalanced hand you rebid your longest suit. If you have a balanced hand with a five card major you have to choose between bidding your suit and grabbing the notrump. Bidding notrump may lose the major suit fit so the hand needs to be more suitable for notrump than for suit play. If you are not sure, bid your suit. If you have a balanced hand you next make the notrump bid that shows your point count as listed below.

Rebids after opening 2C with a very strong balanced hand:
Points      Bid        
23-24      2NT
25-26      3NT
27-28      4NT
29+       You could rebid 5NT but it is probably best to bid a four card suit and explore.

It is important to remember that the purpose of a strong forcing opening bid is to either reach game opposite a hand that would pass a one bid or get to slam when partner has as little as one ace and one king with a fit (sometimes just the one ace plus something on the side will do).
Occasionally unbalanced hands that have many tricks but less than 22 points are opened 2C. The time to do this is when the hand has close to ten tricks with a major or nine in NT with a minor, e.g. S AK987654 H A2 D K2 C A or S 4 H A2 D K2 C AKQJ7653. Both of these hands make game opposite nothing and slam opposite one or two control cards (aces and kings are control cards). On the first hand you should rebid 4S after the 2C opener to show this hand type. On the second hand you should rebid your minor then follow with 3NT.

Responding to the 2C Opener

It is very important to let partner have enough bidding room to show their hand type, so you should respond 2D to the 2C opener to give them room unless you have a very good suit of your own. Old-fashioned Standard American bidding uses 2D to be 0-7 points and a negative response. A more modern style is to show the negative response on the next round of bidding; a double negative is 0-3 points (doesn't make game opposite 22). If partner bids 2NT (23-24), you can pass without enough points to make a game, but when partner bids a suit you are forced to take another bid. If you have a very bad hand ( 0-3 points), you bid 3C over two of a major to show it, this says nothing about clubs and must be alerted as “a double negative.” The double negative over 3C is 3D, but over 3D there is no double negative, just bid 3NT.

What hands don’t respond 2D over partner's 2C bid? Well, hands with very good suits, two of the top three honors in a five card major or a six card minor. If you take away partner's room to bid, you want to have a good reason. It’s best to have the strong hand declare notrump contracts, so 2NT and 3NT are non-existent responses to a 2C opener in this system. Jumping in a suit is best used for a semi-positive, a six card or longer suit to just the king or queen, with no side ace or king.

An even more modern version of this response system is to bid 2D as an artificial positive and 2H as an immediate double negative; in that case 2NT shows a hand with a good five card or longer heart suit to two of the top three honors and everything else is as above.

Over the 2H double negative bid opener can sign off in two or three notrump or bid three of a suit, natural and not forcing. These next bids are quite advanced, so if you are a beginner you can skip the rest of this paragraph. In order to have two ways to bid a suit at the three level, one forcing and one not forcing we use 2S by the 2C opener as a relay to 2NT to next sign off in his suit at the three level, mind you the weak hand can always raise with a fit and a little something. Responder can also bid a six card or longer suit of his own to play instead of bidding a dutiful 2NT. See Consult the Coopers for some even more advanced ideas!

Responding when a 2C Opener Rebids NT

When partner rebids NT your bids are the same as in other notrump auctions. The cheapest bid in clubs is Stayman, asking for a four card major. If you play transfers over 1NT, then you play them here as well. 4NT is quantitative, asking partner to bid a slam if maximum, and 4C is Gerber, asking for aces (but over a 3NT opener or rebid, 4C is Stayman so many people use 5C as Super Gerber to ask for aces).

Remember that two balanced hands need 34 points for a small slam and 37 points for a grand slam, so when you know as responder that there are that many points be sure to get to slam. With a good eight card or longer fit those numbers can be shaved by one or two points as long as the controls are adequate.

Responding when a 2C Opener Rebids a Suit

More difficult are the auctions where partner bids a suit. The priority is always to raise partner with three or more trump (unless you need to show a double negative first) and otherwise to bid your own five card or longer suit. After raising, new suits are cuebids, looking for slam. For example in the auction 2C - 2D - 2S the responses are:

  • 3C is a double negative (0-3, can pass a 3S rebid)
  • 3S shows three or more trump•
  • 4S shows four or more trump with no ace, king, or singleton
  • 2NT is four plus points with no five card or longer suit to bid
  • New suits are natural, showing five or more cards in the suit bid.

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