M J Bridge

Theory and Conventions



Basic Lebensohl

The Lebensohl convention is extremely useful, and in its basic form it should be an early addition to your system as you look to compete at any level beyond local club bridge.  It is almost universally adopted by tournament players.

A pity they got its creator’s name wrong.  (The story goes that the idea was introduced by an American named Lebensold and his partner’s father changed it to something which looked more like an authentic derivation.)

You might have a hand which is not worth a a game-try, but on which you would really like to make a competitive bid to play at the three-level.

Equally you might have a hand on which which you want to play at game-level, but you would like to show your suit in a forcing manner on the way there.

The problem is how to distinguish between the two.

The Lebensohl solution is that all immediate suit-bids at the three-level are game-forcing.

With a weaker hand and a good suit, bid an artificial 2NT first, to which partner must respond 3.  You will then either pass if your suit is clubs, or bid your suit at the three-level with no intention of going any further.

These two hands demonstrate the basic method:-

Hand 1

A 6

K T 7

A Q J 6 3 2

8 5

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2or 2.

Bid 3, natural and game-forcing.

Hand 2

J 6

T 7 4

A Q J 6 3 2

8 5

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2or 2.

You want to compete with 3, but that would be game-forcing.

The Lebensohl solution is to bid an artificial 2NT.

In response partner will bid 3 and you will correct to 3.

You will need a few further agreements to complete the picture.

Two of a suit

if you have the bidding space to show a suit at the two-level then this is natural and weak.  Partner will only raise with four-card support to increase any preemptive value.

A J T 7 6

T 7

Q 6 2

8 5 4

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2.

Bid 2.

This bid promises nothing more than a bit of competition.

Three of the opponents’ suit

this is most usefully given a Staymanic meaning - game-forcing and promising four cards in an unbid major.

A Q 8 6

T 7

K Q 7 5

Q 8 5

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2.

Bid 3.

Game-forcing, and promising four spades.


is natural and ‘to play’.

Note that if you do not have a stop in the suit then you are relying on partner to have a suitable stop for his opening bid.  This will not always be the case, and partner has no means of knowing whether or not you hold a stop.

This is a system weakness which will be addressed as and when you adopt an extended version of the convention.

As a stop-gap measure you might agree to make this bid only when holding a stop and to double on such a hand otherwise.


This bid is used differently by different partnerships.

I have already discussed the basic options available under ‘non-Lebensohl methods’, but for the moment I shall confine my attentions to just one of the common meanings.

Use the double to ‘show values’, promising something like nine or ten (or more) points (according to partnership agreement), and suggesting shortage in the enemy suit - but note that it does not guarantee a four-card major suit holding.


Partner will frequently pass the double for penalties, but this does not make it penalty double in the normal sense.

It is more like a take-out double, and partner will on occasion choose to take it out.  For this reason, if you hold less than game-going values then your hand should be suitable for play in any of the other three suits.

Intermediate and above

Opener’s first bid

Opener’s rebid

This page last revised 18th Nov 2017

A 8 6

T 7

A Q 3 2

Q 8 5 4

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2.

You have twelve points.


K 8 6

T 7 5 2

A Q 3 2

Q 4

Partner opens 1NT and RHO overcalls 2.

You have eleven points, together with a holding in the opponents’ suit.

You really don’t want to double and see partner take it out (into clubs perhaps).

Pass, and hope that partner reopens with a double which you will pass again.

Context  -  Partner opened 1NT - RHO made a natural suit overcall.