Improved Major Openings

This chapter highlights advanced treatments of major openings and their related conventions.

Two-Way Reverse Drury

In Reverse Drury, we bid 2♣! as a passed hand to show a limit raise or better. In Two-Way, we bid 2♦! to show a limit raise with four or more trump, and reserve 2♣! to show a limit raise with exactly three card support.

A Better System After J2NT

The standard scheme of responses to Jacoby 2N (1M - 2N!(4 trump, opening hand)) have problems. When either opener or responder make a jump to game, showing no slam interest, their partner with extras is stuck – it may be right to go on, or it may be bad, and it is most often just a guess. Another complaint is that the standard answers gives away shape information even when it turns out nobody has slam interest at all.

For the “standard expert idea” see Larry Cohen’s web pages. Here is a much simpler version of the same idea for established intermediate to advanced partnerships:

Consider an extra King or so as “extras”, or a hand with great playing strength.

After 1M - 2N!(game forcing, 4+ card support), opener bids:

  • 3♣!(minimal opener) to show a minimal hand. Any other bid shows extras.
  • 3♦! extras without shortness
  • 3♥! extras with club shortness
  • 3♠! extras with diamond shortness
  • 3N! extras with shortness in the “other major”
  • 4M shows the worst imaginable opener, always 5332.
  • Other four-level suit bids show a great second five-card suit. These bids tend to not show extra HCP, just the great shape.

After a reply showing extras responder should cue-bid if above minimum.

If the opener does not have extras, the responder may have extras and still have slam interest. After 1M - 2N! - 3♣!, responder can bid 3♦! to inquire about shortness, and the same 3♥!, 3♠!, and 3N! responses show shortness. With no shortness, opener cue bids at the 4-level below game if possible.

The shortness bids are easy to remember, since they are “steps up the line” through the two minors to the other major.

Note: Since a 5332 with 15-17 HCP would be opened 1N, the 3♦! reply to 2N! is usually 5422, or it is 18+ HCP.

Bergen Raises

Bergen Raises are an option; again, some people do not play them because of the difficulty of recognizing them, or thinking something is Bergen when it isn’t. Do not try them until you are experienced in the standard raise structure.

The emphasis is on distinguishing three-card from four-card limit raises. A four card raise has a great deal more potential for game than a three-card raise.

With 4+ cards,

  • 1M - 2M 6-10 HCP with 3 cards in M; or a good five, particularly Axxx in trumps.
  • 1M – 3M! 2-6 preemptive, 4 card raise
  • 1M – 3♣! 7-10 constructive 4 card raise
  • 1M – 3♦! 10-12 limit 4 card raise
  • 1M - 1N forcing is forcing for one round, may have 10-12 and 3 trump.
  • 1M – 2N! 13+ game forcing 4-card raise. (Jacoby 2N)
  • 1M - 3N 12-15 points, 3 spades, very balanced.

If responder has 3 trumps and 10-12 points, he bids 3M the next chance he gets.

The following part is optional: a bid of 3 of the other major shows game-forcing values, four trump, and a singleton or void somewhere. If opener rebids the next available step, responder shows the suit by making step rebids:

  • 1♥ - 3♠!(gf raise, stiff or void somewhere) - 3N!(asking where)

    Responses are 4♣! clubs, 4♦ diamonds, 4♥ hearts

  • 1♠ - 3♥!(gf raise, stiff or void somewhere) - 3N!(asking where)

    Responses are 3N! clubs, 4♣ diamonds, 4♦ hearts

Note the collision here with the normal splinter or jump shift meaning.

When Is It Not Bergen?

Bergen raises are off:

  • if responder is a passed hand;
  • if there is an overcall or double

Rationale: If there is a double, 2N! is a Jordan raise so you wouldn’t need 3♦ for this. After an overcall, you have cue bids.

Reverse Bergen interchanges the meanings of 3♣ and 3♦.

Constructive Raises

Another alternative is to require 8 to 10 HCP and four card support for the raise to 2M. With only a good 5 to 7 HCP, or 3 cards, we bid 1N forcing for one round, (or 1♠ over 1♥), and then sign off with 2M on our next bid.

The idea is to prevent partner from making a game try unless we might say yes. In return for safer and more appropriate game tries, we cannot stop at 1N by the responder. Therefore, constructive raises are least disruptive when used only when 1N is already forcing, such as in 2/1 by unpassed hands. Or, you have to play 1N as “semi-forcing”, announce it, and have your opponents laugh and ask, “What does that mean?”.

Kokish

After 1♥ - 2♥, 2♠! asks in what suit responder would accept a game try, 2N by responder meaning spades. Responder just bids 3♥ if there isn’t one.

After 1♠ - 2♠, 2N! asks in what suit responder would accept a game try.

Gitelman’s Major Raises

In a series of three articles <http://bbi.bridgebase.com/articles/fg/2over1.html> Fred Gitelman explains his ideas for improving 2/1. In particular he explains three helpful slam-bidding conventions: Serious 3N, Last Train to Clarksville, and Lackwood. While the latter two are complex expert-level conventions, Serious 3N is presented here, along with a cousin, Medium 3N.

Medium 3N

If we have a game-forcing agreement on an 8-card or better major fit at the three level, there are three bids available to continue to game: bid game, bid 3N!, or make a control-showing bid.

With the Medium 3N convention, 3N is “medium”, a mild slam try, while the control-showing bid is “serious” interest in slam.

Serious 3N

Serious 3N assigns the opposite roles to the 3N! and control-bid on the way to game. The 3N bid shows serious slam interest, while the control-bid is merely mild slam interest.

Serious 3N is just one of the ideas for improving Two Over One by Bridge Base Online founder Fred Gitelman. He suggests a different approach to major raises, avoiding J2NT, in his article Improving 2/1.