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Responding to a Weak Two in a Minor

Toby Kenney

You're probably all familiar with using 2NT as either a feature enquiry or as Ogust in response to partner's weak two bid. These are both fine when partner's weak two is in a major, but when partner bids a weak two in a minor, there are two problems with this:

  • If your partner can have a 4-card major side-suit (I recommend permitting this) then you might be better playing in that major, rather than the minor.
  • Partner's response to the 2NT enquiry might be above 3 of his minor, in which case, you will often have no option but to play in game.

The solution to the second problem (suggested by John Haslegrave) is to switch the meanings of step one and 2NT, so 2NT is a natural forcing bid showing the suit of step one—diamonds in response to a 2C preempt, hearts in response to a 2D preempt. The point is that after a forcing change of suit opener will nearly always want to either rebid his suit or raise the new suit, so there is little value in having a lot of space in this auction—we might as well use 2NT to show this. Now step one becomes a feature enquiry.

This allows the following solution to the first problem: When we make a feature enquiry, partner can show a major suit feature with either a useful honour (Ace or King) or a reasonable side suit (Qxxx or better). We can then make another bid (usually 2NT) to enquire which of these he actually has.

That's the basic idea of the responses. There is another refinement: usually it will be better for responder to become declarer, since he has not (and will not) described his hand as well and he should have more points. Therefore, to maximise the chance of this happening, the major suit responses are reversed, so a 2H or 3H response shows a spade feature or sidesuit, and a 2S response shows a heart feature or sidesuit.

We mentioned that responder can enquire whether opener's major suit is a feature or a genuine side-suit, but didn't elaborate on how this works: if opener has been able to show his feature at the 2 level, then 2NT is the enquiry, and the responses are as follows:

  • 3 of the minor says that the major was not a side suit.
  • 3 of a new suit is a singleton or void in that suit.
  • 3NT shows a 5–4–2–2 shape (with 5 in the minor and 4 in the major).
  • 3 of the major shows a 6–5 shape (and says nothing about the other suit).

After this 2NT enquiry and any response other than 3 of the minor, the major suit is agreed. If 2NT is not available (this only occurs on the auction 2D—2H—3H), then 3S is theenquiry, and in response, 3NT denies a heart side-suit, 4D shows a 6–5 shape, 4S shows a 4=2=5=2 shape, and 4C or 4H shows a singleton or void in that suit.

Here is the full system (as far as opener's second rebid) in response to a weak 2C opener:

  • 2D: Feature enquiry, then:
    • 2H: Spade feature or sidesuit, upper range weak two.
    • 2S: Heart feature or sidesuit, upper range weak two.
    • 2NT: Upper range weak two, no feature or major side suit (by implication, opener will usually have a good suit).
    • 3C: Lower range weak two.
    • 3D: Upper range weak two, diamond feature (not side suit).
    • After 2H or 2S, 2NT asks if major suit is a feature or a side suit, responses after 2C—2D—2H are:
      • 3C: Spade suit is a feature.
      • 3D: Spade suit is a side-suit, diamond singleton—usually 4=2=1=6 shape, but might be 4=3=0=6 or 4=3=1=5, or even 4=4=0=5 or 4=1=1=7 perhaps.
      • 3H: Spade suit is a side-suit, heart singleton.
      • 3S: Spade suit is a side-suit, 6–5 shape.
      • 3NT: 4=2=2=5 shape.
  • 2H/S: Natural, forcing, usually 5+ cards.
  • 2NT: Forcing, showing 5+ diamonds.
  • 3C: Pre-emptive.
  • 3D/H/S: Splinter.
  • 3NT: Natural, to play.

The response structure to 2D is very similar.