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Bridge: Two level preempts

Some constructive methods

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2NT enquiry: 'Ogust' (USA) aka 'Blue Club responses' (UK)

note 2NT asks opener to describe Points and Quality - remembered as 'p before q'. This works best with strict six card suits but can be modified for 5 card weak twos as below
  • 3C = poor hand, weak suit
  • 3D = poor hand, good suit (KQxxxx)
  • 3H = good hand, weak suit
  • 3S = good hand, good suit
  • 3NT= AKQxxx
It is quite playable to make 2S the enquiry over 2H.

Many in Britain met the 2NT "p/q" method first in Garozzo and Yallouze's exposition of their Blue Club {Faber:1969 ISBN 0-571-09265-9}. The Italians don't attribute the idea, but it seems likely that Harold Ogust, who played in USA in the 50's was the originator. Yanks never attribute ideas either ;))!


A simple 2NT alternative

note Alan Frank wrote reminding me of the method the late great Terence Reese used to recommend. 2NT asking for a side suit feature if not minimum. Alan plays an artificial 3C relay as alternative Ogust (presumably joining the min/max and max/min responses). It strikes me that you might run into problems over 2H and a moved down 2S for ?feature, 2NT=Ogust might work better. It depends how much you are willing to remember. Over 2S you need an artificial 2NT to show the spade guard below 3H. They are quite a few other workable combinations but this style can be useful if you identify a double fit. Se also Paul Baker's methods below.


note RONF is an ACBL territory acronym for Raise Only Non-Forcing, implying that both 2NT and a new suit take out cannot be passed. Clearly a useful and simple agreement with a new or pick-up partner. One assumes this doesn't apply to bids of four in the other major? I don't know.

A suit response method (Paul Baker)

note The bid invites support. You raise or show a splinter with 3 cards, and rebid your own suit or 3NT naturally

eg 2H - 3D

  • 3H = poor weak two
  • 3S = spade splinter diamond support eg 1633
  • 3NT= balanced something in the other suits
  • 4C = club splinter diamond support eg 3631
  • 4D = probably 2632 (or 2533 if you open such rubbish)
  • 4H = I would play this as signoff in hearts

Paul plays this with my ex-partner Julian Merrill alongside Ogust, giving a choice of contructive auctions.


Kernsy - asking for shortage

note Walter Kerns is a Washington (USA) player who seems to do well in bidding competitions. Walter sent me with his splinter based enquiry style which he calls "Kernsy". There is much more to his style which involves sound, disciplined weak twos and mainly non forcing responses. A nice example of how methods can be integrated toward a clear goal.

In Kernsy 2NT has special use and asks for partner to cue a shortage (singleton or void). Intervention is specifically allowed for. Double of an overcall replaceds the cue bid. Any action in a contested auction over 3 of opener's suit shows good values.

I personally feel that while this nicely sorts out control of the cue-bid suit, it doesn't help that much with evaluation - the ruff will taken in the long hand. One can judge that any side values opener might hold will be in the other suits, but being a weak two - they might not be there! :))

Sadly Walter doesn't have a site to link to, but Googling the name I found Icelandic international Heiðar Sigurjónsson's site (careful, main pages in Runic!) with a more or less complete system. So it definitely works. Or compare Rodney Lighton's method below for a less specific approach.

September -a modified Ogust :))


Jeff Goldsmith argues that losing count is the thing with these hands as one is generally bidding up a fit. He uses the 2NT relay as follows (playing 'loose' weak twos).

2H - 2NT?
  • 3C = poor weak two - 9 loser
  • 3D = 8 losers, bad hand
  • 3H = 8 losers, good hand
  • 3S = 7 losers or better

But suggests a finer division using 'return to trump suit' as weakness

2H - 2NT?
  • 3C = 8 loser normal or good all round hand
    ... relay 3D - 3H=bad trumps, 3S=good
  • 3D = 8 losers, bad hand
  • 3H = 9 (or more) losers, trash!
  • 3S = 7 losers or better

Obviouly a similar structure for 2S although 2D might be tricky! Personally I might work this further to include splinters, and perhaps a 3NT for the running suit and balanced type. After all, this would commonly be very constructive auction and could lead to slam. There is more discussion in Jeff's under An Ogust Variation. This style is obvious when you think of it, and my thanks to John Mayne for pointing it out to me


Another Ogust variant

note Suggested by correspondent Rodney Lighton 2H - 2S asks for
  • rebid of the suit with minimum.
  • 3D balanced maximum
  • 3D max short
  • 2NT max short red suit (3C then asks which)
2S - 2NT asks for
  • rebid of the suit with minimum.
  • 3D balanced maximum
  • 3H max short H's
  • 3C max short minor (3D then asks which)

New suit (F) askes opener to show strength and honour location, responder will bid the lowest suit in which a fitting honour would be useful. 2NT over 2H is 'new suit' in Spades. With a minimum opener rebids 3 of the major suit opened. With a maximum opener shows any useful honour card by bidding the suit (below the 3 level of the suit opened) or by raising the response.

Comment: A little complicated and Rodney admits he has not played this at the table. However it strikes me as useful to have both long and short suit trial bids available. Paul Baker's method and Undiciplined Reponses implement some similar features.


Undisciplined Responses

  • Suit asks for stopper
  • 2NT ask for quality
  • Jump asks for control (fit jump in competition)
New suit - Asking for stopper or support - eg 2H - 2S
  • 2NT = stopper (ie minimum no trump)
  • step 1: 3C = Sxxx
  • step 2: 3D = Sxx
  • step 3: 3S = singleton/void

This always works for 3NT - the worst stopper enquiry case is 2S - 3H?;
Even if there is no stopper the knowledge of 3S=xxx, opposite xxx might be enough for 3NT!

Modified Ogust step responses to 2NT - quality enquiry
(The Warwick University system below could be substituted)
  • 3C = trash
  • 3D = good 5 card
  • 3H = 6 card but bad hand
  • 3S = 6 card and good hand
  • 3NT = solid suit
  • jump to 4 new suit = 5-5
  • jump in own suit = seven cards
Jump suit - control enquiry - (but a fit jump in competition)
eg 2H - 4C .. Step responses except NT = {guarded king}
  • step 1: 4D = no control
  • step 2: 4H = singleton
  • step 3: 4S = Ace
  • 4NT = C Kx(x) {neatly rightsiding 6NT}
  • step 4: 5C = void
From a posting (source lost) slightly modified {CJR}

Warwick (University) style responses

note After a freestyle weak major two - 2NT? ...
  • 3C = a 5 card suit
    then 3D enquires after strength,
    ... 3H shows minimum (0-6ish)
    ... 3S shows maximum (7-9ish)
  • 3D = 6 card suit, 0-4 HCP
  • 3H = 6 card suit, 5-7 HCP
  • 3S = 6 card suit, 8-9 HCP
  • 3NT = really poor quality suit, but with 8-9 HCP (outside trumps)
All new suits are non-forcing in Warwick, writes informant Ben Cowling

Richard Pavlicek responses - version 1

note After a freestyle weak major two Richard Pavlicek's 2NT enquiry always has invitational+ values ...
  • 3C = a 5 card suit
  • 3D = 6 card suit and not a terrible hand
  • 3{other major} = natural(!) some values
  • 3{own suit} = terrible hand - fast arrival
  • 3NT = solid suit (AKJxxx+)
  • 4C/D = natural 6/4+
Ater a weak 2D - 2NT
  • 3C = still a 5 card suit
  • 3D = 6 card suit minimum hand - fast arrival again
  • 3H/S shows a stopper
  • 3NT denies a major stopper

As in Warwick Richard's new suits are non forcing, but constructive.
New suits after an enquiry are treated the same.


Richard Pavlicek responses -version 2

note Peter Matthews wrote to me on an ethics matter. As an aside he claims to have played Pavlicek responses opposite "sound weak twos" for some 25 years. But his version is quite different! A sound style obviates need for Ogust style power enquiry. The method can therefore be wholly constructive.

One can ask three basic questions.

  • Next bid asks: Do you have any shortness? (Always a singleton - USA weak twos do not have voids)
  • 3C asks for a feature - usually a high card stopper?
  • Other calls are natural and forcing. Suimply do you have support for my suit?

So - following a "sound" 2H

  • 2S ?shortness .. 2NT shows short spades and repeating 3H denies a singleton
  • 2NT substitutes a natural forcing spade call
  • 3C ?feature, or rebid your suit. Minimum NT (here = 3NT) shows feature in the C suit
  • 3D is a forcing diamond call (but I'm not sure how you force in clubs)!

Following a "sound" 2S

  • 2NT (next bid) ?shortness .. call your singleton or repeat spades
  • 3C ?feature. Call suit, repeat suit, or again 3NT shows a feature in Cs
    {btw: I'd say a feature was a likely NT stopper - say eg Q10x, or Kx or better - chris}
  • 3D/H are natural and forcing.
  • 3NT to play

The method is nearly compete, but as usual sacrifices the poor old club suit. However that's not usually critical, once you start with pre-empts. If you decide to play this I'd tend to agree 4C as a slam try in clubs.


EHAA methods

note Thomas Andrews wrote in: In the first book on EHAA just published, they list their responses to the wide-open weak twos (any 5+-card 6-12 points, including 2C openers.) I refer to the responses as the "Guess" system:
  • 2NT = invitational, denying 3-card support, non-forcing
  • Single-raise = Invitational with 3-card support
  • New suit = Natural, to play. Non-forcing, but partner might take another call if max with support
  • Jump-shifts = Natural forcing
Lots of invitational hands get crammed into the 2NT call
- which is why I call it the "Guess" system. You get auctions:
Perverse, given that partner can pass 2NT. :-)

Responding to this critique, EHAA guru/co-author Eric Landau says: I don't know where "Guess" originated either (probably Mr. Andrews' own term), but it's not misdescriptive in some cases. Mr. Andrews' example, however, is somewhat misguided; I can't imagine an EHAA pair ever having the auction he gives. He's right insofar as responder to 2H holding an invitational-strength hand that wants to play in spades regardless of opener's hand has no descriptive action and must guess what to do, but the normal thing to do would be to guess immediately between 2S and 4S (both to play), not to bid 2NT and risk playing there.

Comment: I think interested readers might do well to buy the EHAA book and judge for themselves. Some in the UK would term this the "Landy Game try" - you bid game and then try and make it!

Every Hand An Adventure - Devyn Press (USA) 1996, ISBN 0-939460-61-0

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