As in all bridge systems, there are no rules, only guidelines. The bridge player should keep this fact in mind when recalling that there are over 640,000,000,000 different card combinations, which can be dealt in the game of bridge. As a consequence, the bridge player is forced to deal with certain guidelines for handling the shape and point-count of a hand.
There are holdings that are sufficiently biddable with the basic guidelines of any bidding approach, but every now and then the bridge player will encounter a holding with freak distribution and 30 high card points. Conventional methods have been developed to deal with these hands. The concept behind the strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid is one of these conventional methods.
In reality the inventor of the strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid is rather attributed to Mr. Henry Mountifort Beasley, who was born in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, India. The reason for this diversion from the Culbertson method was, in all likelihood, the revelation of his new bidding method, which started in the year 1936, owing to the dissatisfaction of Culbertson's Strong Two Opening Bids and especially the first response of 2 Diamonds. Such mentions in other British publications also include the mention that it would be a disservice not to state that other bridge personalitites have also laid claim to the authorship of this approach.
Note: For authorship see the publication Recollections of a Pioneer Bridge Player in the year 1948, which was published in the Contract Brige Journal. This article was reprinted in Hasenson 2004.
Note: In the photograph below Mr. Henry Mountifort Beasley is pictured during a possible practice match at the famous Grosvenor House, at that time the first hotel in London, England, to have a separate bathroom and entracance lobby for each bedroom. The bridge player, with whom he is practicing for the prestigious Schwab Cup match, is presumed to be Mr. Terence Reese.
The strong, artificial Two Clubs Opening was most likely strongly promoted and re-introduced by Mr. David Bruce, who was also known as Mr. David Burnstine during his bridge career. He was one of the great pioneers and bridge personalities of the game of bridge and his name is associated with many of the other bridge pioneers. This concept of a strong, artificial opening bid was employed by Mr. Pierre Albarran and Mr. Baron de Nexon from France also as early as 1935.
Many bridge conventions and methods disclose the amount of values held by certain bidding opening bids and sequences. The general guidelines of Five-Card American Standard approach have illustrated the effectiveness of describing a certain holding within a particular range. Below is a chart showing certain ranges.
1 No Trump 15-17 hcps 15-17 hcps Reverse showing 5 of a lower and 4 of a higher-ranking suit. 18-19 hcps Reverse Jump Shift. 2 No Trump 20-21/22 hcps 3 No Trump 25-26 hcps
Note: The 1 No Trump point range is different according to both the partnership agreement and based somewhat on the bidding system employed.
Dependent on the point range two players employ the partnership must be aware that certain conventions may or may not be used. This is why it is absolutely essential to have a solid partnership understanding. The point range must be made known to your opponents on the Convention Chart.
Note: The strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid is an artificial opening bid. It is quite possible that the bridge player has no Clubs at all in the holding.
It is important to remember that the opener's hand is practically a stand-alone holding with sufficient strength to warrant game, although there are certain conditions where game is absolutely not feasible. This is the reason why the general consensus maintains that a 2 Clubs opening bid is not game forcing.
In essence, and for all intents and purposes, the strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid shows a certain point range and balanced holding not covered by either a 2 No Trump or 3 No Trump opening bid. The strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid can also, on the rebid, show a distributional holding, which is game invitational. The decision to make such an opening bid is based either the sum of the high card points and/or the number of losing tricks, or conversely winning tricks.
Illustrative Examples and Analysis
Understanding the parameters of the strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid can be first achieved by illustrating how the bid can be employed to communicate a definite and clearly defined range of high card points. This range is normally accepted as that range between a 2 No Trump and a 3 No Trump opening bid. In this explanation the 2 No Trump opening bid equals 20-22 points and an opening of 3 No Trump equals a range of 25-27 points.
Example 1 Opener KJ98 AK74 AKQ K4
Analysis 1. The holding contains 23 high card points. 2. An opening bid of 2 NT is not an option since the pre-agreed range is exceeded. 3. Opening 1 is not an option. Partner could pass. 4. Hence, the player opens with a strong, artificial 2 Clubs, which is a forcing bid Continuances 1. The partner is forced to respond according to a pre-agreed method. 2. The opener then rebids, showing distribution, shape, and values. This rebid is then a limited bid. Opener's Rebids 1. A rebid of 2 No Trump shows 23-24 high card points, (semi-balanced to balanced holding). 2. A rebid of 3 No Trump shows 27-28 high card points, (semi-balanced to balanced holding). 3. A rebid of 4 No Trump shows 29-30 high card points, (semi-balanced to balanced holding). 4. A rebid of 5 No Trump shows 30-32 high card points, (semi-balanced to balanced holding). 5. A rebid of 6 No Trump shows 33-34 high card points, (semi-balanced to balanced holding).
Note: If the partnership understanding of the value of the holding is based on the number of losing tricks, then the holding may contain no more than 5 losing tricks for a 2 No Trump opening bid, and 4 or fewer losing tricks for a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid.
Note: In the case that the rebid of the opener is 2 No Trump, then the responder may pass this rebid when holding absolutely no values and absolutely no distributional values. Under these circumstances and agreeing to these parameters it becomes obvious that a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening is not always forcing to game.
Note: When the rebid of the opener is 2 No Trump or 3 No Trump, the following conventional method can and should be employed. This is by partnership agreement only.
1. Blackwood - asking for Aces. 2. Logic - Visualization - Reasoning. 3. Stayman - inquiring about a 4-card Major. 4. Jacoby Transfer - transferring to a 5-6 plus card Major suit. 5. Gerber - asking for Aces, although sometimes ill-advised owing to a certain ambiguity.
Losing Trick Evaluation
The parameters for a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid include the understanding that the holding contains a minimum of 4 or fewer losing tricks. If the player is not familiar with this particular evaluation method, then it would behoove the player to acquaint himself with this supplementary method for evaluating the holding.
Note: Some partnerships have inverted this definition to the understanding that the holding contain at least 9 winning tricks or more. Some agreements also include a reduced total of 8.5 winning tricks.
In contrast to the balanced to semi-balanced holding containing a definite number of high card points, whereby the rebid is No Trump, the non-balanced holding can consist of a one-suiter or two-suiter. Some partnerships have included also a three-suited holding, which is quite rare.
Thus, the amount of high card points becomes irrelevant if the holding consists of four or fewer losing tricks (9 winning tricks). It is the shape and quality of the holding which decides whether a holding should be opened with a strong, artificial 2 Clubs.
Example 1 Opener AK8 AKQJ97 6 AK6
Analysis: this holding contains only 3 losing tricks (or 10 winning tricks), 24 high card points, and should be opened with 2 Clubs. The singleton Diamond does not fit the requirements for a No Trump bid. Again, the high card points become relatively irrelevant owing to the distribution of the holding.
Example 2 Opener AKQ9865 K2 7 AQ5
Analysis: although this holding has only 18 high card points, the general agreement is that any similar holding should be opened with a strong, artificial 2 Clubs. Considering that the worst scenario would be that the partner has a void in Spades, the chance that the opponents each hold 3 cards in Spades is a probability, which brings the number of playing tricks to at least 8 playing tricks. The number of losing tricks equals only three, which meets the requirement of opening this hand with 2 Clubs.
There are several bidding sequences for the partner to respond to a 2 Clubs strong, artificial opening to show values and location of values. However, the partners must agree first upon the requirements for a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid. Using the guidelines described above should reinforce the decision to include this method as part of the partnership agreement.
Note: For those partnerships, which seek an alternative method for distinguishing between holdings with exactly four losing tricks and those holdings with exactly three losing tricks, the following suggestion is made as a possible guideline. The following two examples should illustrate this recommendation:
Example 1 Opener Responder Meaning
AKQ9865 K2 7 AJ5 2 Promises at most only 4 Losing Tricks, but could be fewer. 2 Per partnership agreement. 2 Promises length and trick-taking strength in bid suit.
Example 2 Opener Responder Meaning
AKQ9865 K2 7 AQ5 2 Promises at most only 4 Losing Tricks, but could be fewer. 2 Per partnership agreement. 3 Partnership Agreement: with a jump to the three level the opener shows generally 3 losing tricks. Note: By jumping to 3 Spades instead of bidding Spades on the two level the player demands also that only Spades can be trump in a suit contract. This guideline, however, is overruled if the decision is made upon further continuations that a No Trump contract would also be a secure contract. Continuations are per individual partnership agreement.
The student of this extended concept will realize that the player holding exactly four losing tricks (9 winning tricks) bids at the lowest level, whereas the player with the holding containing exactly three losing tricks employs the jump of one level to show exactly three losing tricks (10 winning tricks). This applies only to a suit rebid by the opener.
In this manner the player holding three losing tricks is able to communicate to partner a holding, which is practically a game hand without assistance from partner. In the second example the player can securely force partner to bid a game contract by jumping, since either the King of Hearts is a winning trick in the above Example 2, or the finesse works in Clubs. No guarantees.
In contrast to the second example the first example contains four losing tricks. Without assistance from partner, a game contract is, as a stand-alone holding, not feasible.
Stipulations and Regulations
Not all holdings are created equal or treated as equal. The ACBL has defined a 2 Clubs opening bid in the following manner and the following is a quote is from both the ACBL and also Mr. Rick Beye, Chief Tournament Director for the ACBL.
ACBL regulations and the General Convention Chart do not permit players to employ the 2 Clubs opening bid with holdings that contain long strong suits, but which also have very little outside strength.
In the June 2005 issue of The Bridge Bulletin, page 38, the reader will find an explanation of Mr. Rick Beye, Chief Tournament Director of ACBL. It is a direct response to this condition as set forth by the ACBL, and is quoted below.
The most common example we give of a 2 Clubs opening that is not allowed is a hand such as:
KQJxxxxxxx J J K
This clearly is not a 2 Clubs opening bid. We do allow something like:
AKxxxxxxxx x A x
While both of these hands contain 11 high card points, any bridge player can see the true playing strength in the second hand. Similarly, bridge players should be able to realize that the first hand is one that would cause concern to a tournament director.
Hands that fall in between the two examples constitute a gray area, in which a tournament director must try to make a judgment as to the bidder's intent. If, as in the first case, it is clear that the intent has been to fool the opponents, some penalty would usually be levied.
Note: The bridge player must be aware of the fact that these regulations do not apply at the local bridge club level. At the local bridge club level the bridge player may open any holding per partnership agreement, which may or may not comply with the regulations of the ACBL, although the local bridge club is sanctioned by the ACBL. All bids, approaches, and bidding systems are allowed or disallowed at the discretion or decision of the Board of Directors of the bridge club or by the bridge club owner(s).
Approach by Experienced Players
The following advice and approach by experienced players regarding the continuations is generally employed with holdings illustrated below:
Opener Responder Meaning
A AKQJ1098 AQJ86 void 2 Forcing for one round or, by partnership agreement, game-forcing. 2 Individual partnership agreement. 3 By jumping to 3 Hearts instead of bidding Hearts on the two level the player demands that only only Hearts can be trump in a suit contract. This guideline, however, is overruled if the decision is made upon further continuations that a No Trump contract would also be a secure contract. Continuations are per individual partnership agreement.
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.
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