Join Bridge Winners
Building A Better 2/1 Structure: The troublesome 2M rebid

For years 2/1 game-forcing players have argued about constructive auctions beginning: 

  • 1M -- 2X -- 2M
  • 1M -- 2X -- 2NT

Some prefer the 2M rebid to guarantee a 6+ card major. Others point out that then 2NT must be bid without stoppers in unbid suits, which may wrong-side 3NT. The critics prefer to use 2M as a nebulous waiting bid--the default call on a hand that does not have a more descriptive rebid--and to reserve 2NT for hands that stop both unbid suits.

South
Kxxxx
xxx
Qx
AKx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
?

Should opener rebid 2 or 2NT? There is an argument for either. Both styles have eminent advocates in print (Mike Lawrence and Marty Bergen, among others). However, it is far from obvious which approach is superior. In this article I will examine the pluses and minuses.

Lawrence School

In his book on 2/1, Mike Lawrence treated the 2M response as opener's "catch-all" rebid. 2M can show either 6+ cards in the major or any hand with a five-card major that does not meet the requirements for another rebid. His recommended 2/1 rebid structure was:

1M -- 2X -- ?

2Y = 4+ card suit

2NT = balanced minimum with stoppers, or at least partial stoppers, in both unbid suits

3X = good support and mild extras

3Y = 4+ card suit, mild extras. Same applies to opener's reverse into 2 after a 1 opening

3M = solid suit and slammish

2M = Any hand that can't bid one of the above

The Lawrence philosophy is what I would call "locationist." For Lawrence, the location of opener's values, as much as his shape, is the determinant of opener's rebid. 

Using Lawrence's agreements, opener's 2M rebid covers a lot of hand types. Opener might have:

  • A 5-3-3-2 minimum (lacking a stopper)
  • A 5-4-3-1 minimum (with insufficient values to bid his second suit at the 3-level, or to reverse)
  • A 6+ card major of any strength (without a solid suit)

 Strengths: The Lawrence approach supports scientific NT bidding well. It allows the partnership to avoid 3NT with an unstopped side suit, and to scramble into a 5-2 major-suit fit or a minor-suit fit instead. Furthermore, his approach is better for NT-siding. It allows the partnership to declare NT from the side that benefits from a lead up to its side-suit honors. Consider this hand:

North
Qx
Kx
AQJxxx
xxx
South
AKxxx
xxx
Kx
Axx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
?

3NT is cold from the North side but in danger from a heart lead if South has rebid 2NT and declares the final contract.

Weaknesses: Followup auctions after a 2M rebid are uncomfortably ill-defined. There are simply too many hand types that opener might hold for him to describe his hand accurately in the limited space remaining below 3NT.

North
xx
Ax
Qx
AKxxxxx
South
KQJ109x
xx
AKx
xx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
?

Opener must rebid his major twice just to show six of them, losing the chance to show a side feature. With this nice hand, opener would like to rebid 3 to indicate diamond strength in addition to long spades, but he has not yet shown his sixth spade. His only realistic call is 3 since 4 will often be the best spot, even in a 6-1 fit. But rebidding spades is space consuming and makes slam auctions awkward. The partnership could easily miss an excellent 6 on the given layout.

 

Bergen School

The Marty Bergen school of 2/1 treats 2M as showing a 6+ card major since for Bergen, rebids always show opener's shape; they make few statements about location or amount of values. The Bergen style displays what I call a "shapist philosophy." Once a GF is established, the priority is describing opener's shape rather than the location of values. The Bergen rebid structure looks like this:

1M -- 2X -- ?

2Y = 4+ card suit 

2M = 6+ M

2NT = balanced hand. No implication of stoppers in unbid suits. Non-specific concerning values held, responder could hold extras.

3X = good support.

3Y = 4+ card suit. No extras implied, opener could be a dead minimum or hold significant extras. (same applies to opener's reverse into 2 after a 1 opening).

3M = solid suit and slammish.

Strengths. Bergen's rebids work great whenever opener has a 6+ card major suit. 6- and 7-card majors are called out immediately and separated from the much less slammish 5-3-3-2 hands. 6-2, 7-2, 6-3 and 7-3 fits are found immediately making slam bidding easy. So far, so good.

Weaknesses. Unfortunately opener must rebid a "catchall" 2NT with 5-3-3-2 hands, regardless of location of side suit values. This can cause embarrassing results when you go down in a 3NT contract that was cold from responder's side. The Bergen counterargument is that this disaster, while possible, happens only infrequently. After opener's 2NT rebid, the partnership still has the 3-level to escape from NT if it lacks a stopper. In order to be punished for a stopper-less 2NT:

  • The final contract must be 3NT.  
  • If the final contract is 3NT, responder must have an insufficient holding in the unbid suit or the missing honors must lie over the dummy.  
  • Opponents must attack the weak suit. 

That is a significant parlay, and Bergen is correct--the stopper-less NT rebid won't cause a disaster very often. 

 

Contrasting the Approaches

Let's look at some auctions to compare the two approaches.

North
Qx
xx
KQJxx
AJxx
South
AKJxx
xxx
xxx
KQ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
?

Does opener hold a 5-3-3-2 minimum without a heart stopper (the actual hand), or does he hold a 6-1-3-3 hand? Responder has no idea. Contrast that with this auction:

North
Qx
xx
KQJxx
AJxx
South
AKJxx
xxx
xxx
KQ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
?

Now responder knows exactly what type of hand opener holds, and can judge the correct strain and level much more easily.

South
AKQxx
xxx
xx
Kxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
?

What should opener rebid? Should he bid spades a third time on a 5-card suit? if he bids 3, will partner know his suit might be playable in game opposite a singleton?   Let's look at another auction:
South
AKQxx
xxx
xx
Kxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
?
  Opener has an easy and descriptive 3 call to emphasize his excellent quality, but short, spade suit. Responder will be well placed to choose the final strain.     Conclusion So which method is better? Is it just a matter of personal preference? Having tried both approaches, I now have a firm opinion; I believe the Bergen approach is significantly more effective.   Both methods lose some of the time, but with the Bergen school, the losses occur less often. Playing the Lawrence style, 1M -- 2X -- 2M auctions come up frequently, and the partnership often struggles to describe opener's hand in difficult auctions. Playing the Bergen style, followup auctions after either opener's 2M or 2NT rebids are easy and clear. The cost of the method (wrong-siding 3NT) doesn't occur very often. So, while it sticks in my scientific craw to rebid NT with an unstopped side suit, the Bergen approach to the 2NT rebid clearly costs less, and leads to some wonderful, easy, scientific slam auctions when you are able to find your 6-2 and 7-2 major fits.    That doesn't mean Lawrence's criticisms are invalid--they are quite valid. It simply means that his methods force a different set of problems on the partnership that outweigh the benefits of his approach. Is there a third way, a technique that combines the benefits of both approaches? Perhaps. Next week I will present a convention developed by John Schuler of San Diego that adds a small artificiality, but provides the benefits of both approaches. So like the hero of a 1930's movie serial dangling precariously from a vine on a cliff, I will ask you to tune in next week to see how this story ends. Happy bidding for now, everyone!  
43 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top