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Bad/Good 2NT
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Some pairs play some form of the worst-named convention in Bridge "Good/Bad 2NT". In this article, I will review Good/Bad 2NT, and provide a sensible tweak (explained to me by, you-guessed-it, Oren Kriegel).

The traditional treatments are better termed "Good 2NT" or "Bad 2NT", where the former works as follows:

Good 2NT

(1M) Dbl (2M) ?

  • 2NT = relays to 3, in order to show a good suit (caveat: I've never quite fathomed how this is actually supposed to work, with good clubs).*
  • Direct 3/3/3 = natural and competitive, can be fairly weak.

EDIT: As Oren has kindly pointed out, what I've written is clearly unplayable. Good-2NT = bad clubs or good-in-a-higher-suit. The rest of the article pretty still much holds.

Bad 2NT switches these (2NT contains the bad hands, and direct bids are good).

The principle behind Good-2NT is: if you're weak, bid your suit (direct = weak) ASAP. Partner can compete if necessary, and should know what to lead if defending 3M (opponents tend to have more values, on average).

The principle behind Bad-2NT says: on the contrary, we don't mind defending 3 if we have a bad hand, but we need to show our good suit (direct = good) ASAP. We don't want to miss game if it's there.

As far as I know, the Bridge World did some analysis at some point finding that Good 2NT is "better" (not that I necessarily agree). In this article, I hope to explain an improvement to either Good 2NT or Bad 2NT.

What's the sensible tweak then?

Sensible tweak

The tweak applies only over

(1) Dbl (2) ?

  • 2NT = bad clubs-or-diamonds, or good hearts
  • Direct 3/3 is good
  • Direct 3 is bad.

How it works:

If you bid 2NT with a bad minor, you shrug and pass if the opponents bump to 3 before you clarify. Alternatively, with a 6-bagger and an itch, you can always bid Gerber or Derber. With good hearts, you start with 2NT and double any further competitive spade bid. 

Notice this either-or option means you can clarify your heart holding (the key other major) in any competitive setting. Good-2NT does not do this (since a Good 2NT could be good in clubs, diamonds, or hearts). Bad-2NT loses being able to bid weak hearts immediately (the key suit when partner doubles spades). 

By the same reasoning, you can't play this either-or convention the other way round (2NT as good clubs/diamonds or bad hearts), since a later double won't offer which minor you hold. 

I'm inclined to call this "Bad/Good 2NT" (and notice the convention's name now actually matches the convention description!). Who knows, maybe this was the intention all along.

Suppose however that the auction starts:

(1) Dbl (2) Bad/Good-2NT

(3) Dbl (Pass) ?

Partner has robbed you of the opportunity to describe further. However, partner has shown additional values by doubling again (opposite an expected weak club/diamond hand), and often will have fewer-than-expected hearts for the second power double. It's probably right to take the money unless you hold a surprisingly good hand for hearts (or if the penalty is insufficient value against your vulnerable game).


Further Considerations

I didn't delve into (1) Dbl (2) ? auctions, but while you're at it, you might firm up your agreements as to what the direct 3 versus 2NT-then-3 offers. However, this is already (implicitly) part of standard Good-2NT or Bad-2NT.

Note that the either-or nature is harder to exploit at a higher level (where you need a follow up double to have it's natural penalty-oriented meaning). You might try a Bad/Good 4NT after (2) X (4) ?, but I don't think it is any improvement. 

However, there are other situations where this duality works very well (I learned the following from Jay Barron, but the idea is essentially the same) For instance:

(1NT) 2Y (Pass) ?

Advancer can distinguish strength courtesy of a Lebensohl-esque 2NT. This is particularly useful when bidding constructively over a weak or mini-NT. Here is one example:

(1NT) 2 (Pass) ?

  • 2 = NF constructive
  • 3/3 = constructive
  • 3 = courtesy raise
  • 3 = GF with spades


  • Pass = to play
  • 3 = to play
  • 3 = good raise in hearts
  • 3 = invitational spade hand, NF.

You can make your own modifications (e.g. both 3 and 2NT-then-3 are good invitational heart raises, but one shows four trumps). 


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