back to TCBC

Ogust

John Haslegrave

I hope you all play weak twos in at least some suits. If you do, you should have discussed what happens when your partner opens a weak two and you have a strong hand. If you have a good suit of your own, you can bid it (this should be forcing). But what if you are thinking about game in opener's suit? You might not be good enough to raise straight to game, but you can't make a single raise because that is pre-emptive.

Harold Ogust faced the same problem, and came up with the idea of using a 2NT response as an asking bid, to find out more about the quality of the weak two. His suggested responses are as follows:

  • 3C : a bad hand with a bad suit
  • 3D : a good hand with a bad suit
  • 3H : a bad hand with a good suit
  • 3S : a good hand with a good suit
  • 3NT : a solid suit (AKQxxx)

So what constitutes a "good hand"? Well, this depends on your range for opening weak twos (and may vary according to position and vulnerability), but we are thinking in terms of raw HCP here. So if a weak two is 5–10 HCP for you, you might decide that a "bad hand" is 5–7, and a "good hand" is 8–10.

The concept of "good suit" is better defined—a suit is "good" if it has two of the top three honours (if it has all three, it is "solid", so respond 3NT).

So far, so good. But remember those crazy people from "last week" who swapped the meanings of some responses to see what would happen? Well, they've been at it again, so some pairs play:

  • 3C : a bad hand with a bad suit
  • 3D : a bad hand with a good suit
  • 3H : a good hand with a bad suit
  • 3S : a good hand with a good suit
  • 3NT : a solid suit (AKQxxx)

Make sure you and your partner are on the same wavelength here. If you find one of these easier to remember that the other, fine. I don't, so I thought about which was better. It pretty much doesn't matter unless the weak two is in diamonds. If it is responder is probably looking for 3NT rather than 5D, and what's most likely to be useful for 3NT is a good suit (so that it can be set up), so it makes sense to only go past 3D with a good suit. Hence I recommend the first option (which is the University A team standard).

Here are two recent boards where I used Ogust to get to the right contract (although in each case the operation was successful but the patient died):

Example hand #1

Cambs + Hunts League

 S A Q 9 8 x x 
 H x x x 
 D x x 
 C J x 
 S
 H J T x 
 D K J x x x 
 C Q x x x 
NS vul  S J T x x 
 H A K x x 
 D Q T 
 C T x x 
 S K x 
 H Q x x 
 D A x x x 
 C A K x x 
West



pass
all pass
North
André

2S
3H²
East


pass
pass
South
John

2NT¹
3NT

¹ Ogust

² bad hand, good suit
I could see that spades were likely to provide six tricks in notrumps after the "good suit" response, and it looked like nine tricks would be available in both denominations. Indeed, 3NT makes 64% of the time—it is almost certain if spades are 3–2, as it can then only be defeated if West started with exactly 5 hearts headed by the AJ or KJ. (Before people write in, I haven't forgotten about East having a stiff spade honour. It is not safe to play for this against good players, as East should falsecard on the first round holding SJTx, and this is more likely.)

On the diamond lead, things looked good. Sadly, with spades breaking badly, I couldn't take more than 6 tricks. At the other table, oppo reached the inferior contract of 4S (about 10%), and only went one off for a 5 IMP swing.
Example hand #2

Portland Bowl quarter-final

 S A J 7 4 
 H A 3 
 D A 7 4 3 2 
 C Q 8 
 S K 5 
 H T 9 8 5 
 D J 6 
 C A 9 7 4 2 
both vul  S Q 9 6 3 
 H
 D Q 9 8 
 C K J 6 5 3 
 S T 8 2 
 H K Q 7 6 4 2 
 D K T 5 
 C
West



pass
pass
North
John


2NT¹
4H
East



pass
all pass
South
Daniel

2H
3S²

¹ Ogust

² good hand, good suit
Again, this looks like a good contract. It can always be defeated if East has a small singleton spade (or small doubleton with at least one of the two top clubs), but is always coming in if this isn't the case and trumps split, and may still make if trumps are 4–1. So it is certainly odds-on.

At the table, Dan got the bizarre lead of the C4; East won and switched to a trump. Dan won his three top trumps (West cunningly following with the H5, 9 and T), and then played DK, A and 2, losing to East. Dan ruffed a club return and claimed for +1, saying that he could cross to dummy with a spade and play diamonds. Since West would ruff a diamond and cash a spade, this turned into –1 and 12 IMPs out.

Now, I don't want to disparage Daniel for forgetting about the outstanding trump—we've all done it, me more often than most. But I was amused to notice that at the point of his claim he should have played on trumps even though he thought there were none out. It's the only way to win the beer!