How to Bid Two and Three Level Openers in Bridge (Lesson 5)

By Joe Andrews
The Mysterious Lady

Lesson 5 brings us to higher level opening bids in Bridge. The most common opening bid is one of a suit or one of No Trump. Opening (strong) bids on the two level fall into the realm of holding very powerful hands and occur less frequently. Note: there is a system which allows for "weak" opening two bids (6 to 12 HCP) and a six-card suit other than clubs. This is covered in another of my articles. Three-level openers promise a seven-card suit, distributional features and a lower point coint. Opening two bids include all suit calls as well as 2 NT. Opening three bids are "preemptive" and usually one long suit. The idea is to block the opponents' communication and perhaps make "game!" The only exception is a first bid of 3 NT--an absolute powerhouse! Here we will examine how to bid two and three-level openers.

OPENING BID OF TWO CLUBS (1ST OR 2ND SEAT)

This promises at least 20+ High Card Points (HCP), and NO five-card major (Spades or Hearts) suit. Distribution values are a premium. Note: this bid does not promise a Club suit (although some rare hands with 20+ HCP may contain a long and strong Club suit). Minor suit contracts are less than desirable, unless this is the only possibility.

OPENING BID OF TWO SPADES, HEARTS OR DIAMONDS (STRONG)

The opening bid (or bid in second seat after a pass) of two Diamonds promises no five-card major and the same 20+ HCP. The opening bid of two Spades or Hearts promises 20+ HCP and a FIVE-card major suit.

OPENING BID OF TWO NO TRUMP

This bid announces a tremendous, balanced hand with 22 to 24 HCP (this is an EXACT range, no exceptions!) and NO five-card major suit. In a (upcoming) article of my Bridge Series, I review the various reponses to this bid, including the STAYMAN convention and the JACOBY transfer bid.

OPENING BID OF THREE OF A SUIT (WEAK)

This is a called a "preemptive" call and shows a weaker hand with the following requirements: A seven-card suit (any suit) Less than 11 HCP (some players prefer less than 10 HCP) Expectations of losing no more than two cards in the trump suit.

As you learn the the game of Bridge, you will understand the importance of VULNERABILITY, and the impact of the opening three bid.

If you have an opening hand of 13+ HCP, you must NOT use a preemptive bid of three if your hand also includes a seven-card suit. In this case, you will open with ONE of your suit and then bid the suit again if your partner responds. Hand in the middle range (11/12 HCP) will lean toward a one bid, especially if the distribution is extreme.

OPENING BID OF THREE NO TRUMP

In order to open 3 NT, you must have 25 to 27 HCP (a very unusual ocurrence), a balanced hand and no five card-major suit. 3 NT is a "game" requirement by itself, and any response by partner will lead you to exploring a possible "Slam" (6 or 7 bid). This is discussed in more detail in another of my articles.

RESPONSES BY PARTNER (2 BIDS)

A strong opening two of a major suit bid is FORCING and demands that your partner reply. If he has less than 6 HCP, he must bid 2 NT (which is a negative response). If he has more than 6 HCP, he may raise the trump suit one level with at least three-card support. Any suit raised to the three level promises five cards in that suit. The reply to an opening bid of 2 C or 2 D is TWO of a major (if you hold four Spades or four Hearts and have the 6 HCP). The idea is to find the "4-4" major fit. A strong opening bid of 2 NT by partner may be raised to 3 NT with as few as 4 HCP. (The Stayman Convention is used to show a four-card major by the responder.)

RESPONSES BY PARTNER (3 BIDS)

Remember, the opening bid of three shows a long suit and a weaker hand. In order to raise to the four level (game), your partner must have an opening hand (13+ HCP), two-card trump support and a stopper in one of the side suits. Responding to an opener of 3 C or 3 D requires a little more, as minor suit games (5 C or 5 D) require more points. Partners's opening bid of 3 NT is game by itself; any raise to the four level is an invitation to Slam.

There is a lot of material which space does not permit to include, however, these basics are a good guideline for the novice or lower intermediate player.