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M J Bridge

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Opponents open with an artificial strong two


The bids that you are most likely to meet in this category are an ‘Acol 2’, ‘Benji 2 or 2’, and ‘2 as the only strong bid’.  There are other possible variations but all should be treated in the same way.


All too often the player in the overcalling seat and his partner sit and admire in respectful silence - and not surprisingly the opening bidder and his partner finish in a carefully explored optimum contract.


Very often those opening hands which qualify for an artificial opening bid are shapely affairs, and contain much more offensive potential than defensive strength.  It will frequently take your opponents at least two more bids to define their holdings, and so there is great scope for disruption linked to a reduced chance of serious punishment.


Now is the time to get frisky.  There is everything to gain by interfering and relatively little to lose.  Whenever your opponents make an artificial bid you must ‘mess them about a bit’, inasmuch as it is safe to do so, as and when you get the opportunity.


My suggestion is that you adhere to a method very close to that which you employ against a strong club.  Consistency of method is easier on yourself, your memory and your partnership.


Simple method


As you move beyond an intermediate level you should consider taking on board a two-suited defence such as the one which follows, but in the first place a simple natural approach is surprisingly effective:-

double shows a high card-holding and length (say 5+) in the opponents’ artificially bid suit, suggesting both a sacrifice and a lead;

all suit bids (including the opponents’ opening artificial suit) show length and strength in the suit bid, but do not promise a strong hand.


The same methods apply both immediately over the opening bid, and after any artificial response (relay, negative, or artificial positive) from responder.

T 6 4

8 5

9 7 2

A K 9 4 3

Opponents open 2 (Benji).

Double.

Opponents are not going to score well if 2x is left in; you are indicating an excellent opening lead; and with a fit partner might just be able to put the pressure on.

Q J T 8 7 4

8 5

9 7 2

T 6

Opponents open 2 (Only strong bid).

Bid 2.

The opponents don’t know what they’ve got.

Take up their bidding space and put the pressure on fast.

Q J T 8 7 4

8 5

9 7 2

T 6

LHO open 2 (Acol), and RHO responds 2 (negative).

Bid 2.

They still don’t know what they’ve got.

Put the pressure on fast.  Perhaps partner might even be able to increase it.

Conventional methods


There are many conventional defensive methods out there.

The one which follows is typical, concentrating on showing both single-suited and two-suited holdings, but by all means choose any other defence which appeals to you.

Truscott defence


This is the same as the defence which I will offer when facing a strong club opening.

As before, this system can be used both immediately after the artificial opening bid, and also over any artificial response to such a bid.


the next four suit bids all show a two-suited hand with the suit bid and the next higher suit;

double shows the last suit bid and the non-adjacent suit;

2NT shows the other two non-adjacent suits.

higher bids all show single-suited hands.


The main considerations all correspond to the shape which you promise, particularly on the two-suited holdings.

The simplest guideline is to promise 5-5 in the two suits - but there will be times when you choose to relax this requirement.


Clearly many of the sequences defined above will lead to a bid at the three-level.

Your opponents will be reluctant to double before they have shown the nature of their hands, but even so you should be conscious of the risks involved.


if your opponents opening bid includes a strong no trump option then tread a little more warily - a penalty double is a real possibility;

if you can show both your suits at the two-level then be more prepared to stretch your requirements;

vulnerability will continue to be a factor.

Intermediate and above

7 3

K Q T 7 4

A J T 8

82

Your opponents open 2 (Acol).  Bid 2 showing both red suits.

Your opponents open 2 (Benji).  Bid 3 showing both red suits when not vulnerable.

Q 7 4

3

A K J T 8 7 2

6 5

If the opponents open an artificial strong 2 then bid 3 to show your single-suited holding - you might even try 4 at favourable vulnerability.

If they open a strong and artificial 2 then you must choose between pass and 4 - 3 in this sequence would be two-suited.

7 3

K Q T 4

A J T 8

8 7 2

Opponents open a strong and artificial 2.

This hand emphasises the importance of a partnership agreement on the length promised when showing a two-suited hand. I would overcall 2 at favourable vulnerability, and also when not vulnerable if your opponents’ bid does not include a strong balanced option - otherwise I would require greater length.

Beginner and above

Advancer’s next bid

Overcaller’s first bid