BALANCING at the two level

When the opponents have stopped in a part score at the one or two level, should you pass it out or bid? The answer depends on what contract they have stopped in and what kind of hand you have yourself.

Let’s look at the classic situation where they are in two of a major:

1 Pass 2 Pass

Pass ?

First of all, they have less than 26 pts, probably less than 25; their range is roughly 19-24; this leaves plenty of high cards for our side. The mathematics of suit distributions indicate that if they have an 8 card fit, we usually have one as well. Thus if we have an 8 card fit and roughly half the high cards, perhaps we should try to play the hand.

A golden rule of competitive bidding is not to let the opponents play in two of a major when they have an eight card fit. This means that we strain to reopen in the above auction using one of the following bids:

 

DOUBLE with shortness and support for the other 3 suits
2NT with both minors
2 with 4+ spades (but prefer double if we can support all suits)
3 or 3 with a 5+ minor and no other 4+ card suit

How do these bids differ after the following auction?

1 Pass 2 Pass

Pass ?

The answer is that all the bids are the same, except 2NT shows two suits, in other words, two places to play at the 3 level, so it can include hearts. Partner responds by bidding their best minor suit. If we don’t have that suit, then we bid the next one that we do have.

 

DOUBLE with shortness and support for the other 3 suits
2NT 2 places to play at the 3 level, so it can include hearts
2 with 4+ spades (but prefer double if we can support all suits)
3 or 3 with a 5+ minor and no other 4+ card suit

One word of caution, if you are vulnerable be a little more careful; down two is -200, as is down one doubled. These are very bad scores at duplicate.

The following auctions do not indicate an eight card fit, so we do not strain to balance:

 

A.

RHO

Partner

B.

RHO

Partner

C.

RHO

Partner

1

1NT

1

1NT

1

1

2

Pass

2

2

2

Pass

A word of advice, don’t go out of your way to pass partner’s reopening double, partner has already bid your high cards for you, so four trumps are not an adequate excuse for pass. Four very good trumps (at least three trump tricks!) and what look like five possible tricks for the defense might be enough.

Exercise 1. 1 Pass 2 Pass Pass to you. What do you bid ?

A. B. C. D. E.
AJ32 K3 65 Q87 A5
65 73 74 72 KQ104
Q973 Q953 KQ9752 KJ74 KQ6
Q85 KQ854 A98 Q952 9854

How do we handle partner’s balance on the other side of the table? Well, the most important thing to know is that 2NT asks partner to pick a suit at the three level. We do not need 2NT as a natural bid, but we desperately need to play in our 8 card fit rather than our 7 card fit.

 

1 Pass 2 Pass
Pass Pass Double Pass
??
K76 43
43 AK32
AJ107 Q987
K932 J65

Look at the above pair of hands, after partner doubles, if you bid 3 you will be playing in a terrible 4-3. However, if you can bid 2NT asking partner to bid their lowest 4 card suit, you will get to your 8 card fit in diamonds.

Exercise 2. 1 Pass 2 Pass Pass Double Pass to you. What now ?

A. B. C. D. E.
AKJ2 K32 A65 87 J9
652 732 AJ74 QJ1098 A98
QJ73 Q953 KQ97 KJ7 K952
Q8 KQ8 A98 AJ5 Q854

Reminder, when the opponents have 19-24 pts, your side is not going to hold 26 pts. Therefore, unless you are wildly distributional, don’t punish partner by bidding a game. In fact, don’t punish partner by bidding again when the opponents take the push to the 3 level ! Not unless you are very sure that they are making and you’re only one down (and you had better be right) – the job of pushing them up one level has been done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *