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Using 2/1 as a Convention

Two-over-One Game Force was first introduced nearly 50 years ago years ago by Richard and Rhoda Walsh, today it is widely used by most North American bridge players. It has become so much a part of the game that many teachers now teach Two-over-One as a part of beginning bridge.

In standard Two-over-One a responder, in a non-competitive auction, responds to a 1-level opening with a lower ranking suit at the 2-level to show game forcing values. Responder’s bid is a natural suit, which by definition is a 3-card or better minor or 4-Card or better Major. However, as a special provision Two-over-One requires responder to have a 5-card Heart suit to make response a Two-Over-One Heart response to a 1 opening.

For Example:

RHO        Opener      LHO       Responder                

                  1S         Pass           2D

Shows responder to have at least 3 diamonds and game forcing values. The bidding would continue forward slowly and deliberately, without fear of partner passing prematurely, to find a trump fit or determine if No Trump would be the best contract. The beauty of Two-over-One is that, with few exceptions, it binds each partner to keep the bidding open until a game has been reached. It is a powerful and very useful system that should be a standard part of every partnership agreement.

A few years back, my partner and I, after responding with many useless minor suits to show our game forcing values began to question why we need to use two-rounds of bidding to discover whether or not the responder has support for opener’s 5-card major.

We began to experiment by using the 2C and 2D responses to a major opening, not to show a side suit, but instead to show our attitude regarding partners Opening Major. 2C became: ”I have game forcing values but I do not have 3-card support for your suit”. 2D became “I have game forcing values with 3-card or better support for your suit” (unlike standard 2/1 which uses natural bids, when 2C or 2D are used conventionally, the bid must be alerted).

Using the Two-over-One Convention:

RHO        Opener      LHO        Responder     

                   1H        Pass            2C

Shows responder to have game forcing values but not 3-card support for partner’s Heart suit. It says nothing at all about Clubs, thus requiring an alert.


RHO        Opener      LHO       Responder                 

                   1H        Pass           2D

Shows responder to have game forcing values and at least 3-card support for partner’s Heart suit. It says nothing at all about Diamonds, thus requiring an alert.

After the To-over-One Convention, you may then continue to bid normally until your best contract is discovered. However, having trump agreement on the first response is not only a good defense against interference by the 4th bidder, it opens many new possibilities for the subsequent bidding.

What are the Trade-offs?It took many years for Standard American Bridge to adopt 5-Cards major openings. 5-Card majors won out over 4-card systems, at least partly, because 5-card major openings made it easier to find 8-card fits in the first round of an auction. One of the trade-offs of Two-over-One GF is that it delays the confirmation of 8-card major fits until the second round and consumes valuable bidding space in the process.

Using 2 over 1 as a convention restores the early confirmation of a trump fit (or lack thereof) while preserving the traditional game forcing signal. First round trump confirmation has great value and it eliminates the need for space consuming temporizing bids by the opener. The real power of the convention becomes apparent when you explore the new range of powerful possibilities afforded to the opener for his first rebid after a first-round game forcing trump confirmation has been provided by the responder. 

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