Bob Mackinnon

One Diamond – Two Clubs – Two Diamonds

The 2/1 Game Force idea has gained popularity because of the simplicity of the concept. The principal focus of most auctions is to find support for a major suit. Thus, even experts who tend to open light with a 5-card major find the concept useful as is precludes the need to jump the bidding in order to create a forcing sequence. With a 5-card major suit opening bid deficiency in the high card content is often overcome through the ruffing with small trumps.

The situation is quite different when the opening bid is one of a minor where there a greater probability of playing in a NT contract. The priorities are: to find a 4-4 major fit, to look for a makeable NT contract at the appropriate level, to declare by default in 4 or 5 of a minor, or, rarely, to reach a minor suit slam. One difficulty is that if a minor suit slam is makeable, but not obvious, then in all likelihood so is the more obvious 3NT, so with the priorities being set as they are, slams will often not enter into consideration. On the other hand, the aim to compete for a part score in a minor has not been highly regarded, and traditional systems are not geared to such an eventuality. Recently, however, the mood has been to get into the auctions early if only to disrupt the opposition.

In the light of widely variable priorities the dangers of opening light in a minor suit are considerable, dangers which are amplified by the inappropriate use of systems with a conservative base. Max Hardy maintained that the response of 2 to 1 is a game force. Many club players adhere to this style, if only in principle. Many who open light in a minor and stick with an inappropriate response structure are willing to suffer the consequences if a poor 3NT doesn’t turn out well. Of course, anyone who is inclined to gamble will place his bet on 3NT regardless of the system being employed. Being forced to bid 3NT by your system when you feel it can’t be right is another matter entirely.

The current consensus approach after 1 – 2 is a ‘minefield’, according to Eric Kokish and Beverly Kraft, conductors of the popular Bridge World feature, Challenge the Champs, ‘because a two-club response creates a game force on the next round unless responder rebids 3 clubs’ (April, 2010). Here are the problem hands that prompted this comment. Aubrey Strul and Mike Becker were using the common approach.


Strul Becker
AK73 82 1 2
K864 95 2 3
QJ62 K954 3 NT Pass
9 AKJ83


Progressive experts have devised system changes that accommodate a light opening bid, but many of their artificial solutions are beyond the scope of the average player. The South African internationalists, Tim Cope and Glen Holman, have successfully adopted a systematic aggressive approach. They were able to achieve the top score for above combination by bidding 1-2-3-Pass. One wonders where the clubs have got to. Mike Lawrence, whose methods are discussed below, might suggest 1 – 2 – 2NT – 3 – Pass, the key bid being a non-forcing 2NT which limits the high card content of the opening bid. This seems to be closer to the mark as responder has given a good description of his holding. Notice that none of these methods is used to explore the possibility of a 4-4 fit in the majors.

Too Many Hands, Too Few Bids

The problem with the 2 response is that it takes up too much bidding space to allow for a full exploration of all possible contracts if all that is transmitted is that responder’s best suit is clubs and that he holds 12+HCP. Some pruning of the possibilities is required. Firstly, the opening bid should promise 4+diamonds, which allows freedom for 4-card raises. This adds to the load on a 1 opening bid, but there is additional space available for that bid. Secondly, the 2 bid should deny interest in a 4-4 major suit fit, thus reducing the necessity to explore that possibility. Thirdly, the lower limit of HCPs should be 11 HCP. Lastly, an immediate 2NT response should be natural and limited to 11-12 HCP without a 4-card major, a bid of convenience, correctable to 3 of a minor, that removes a potentially dangerous component from other auctions.

Given this scheme I have a simple suggestion: make opener’s rebid of 2 incorporate all strong opening bids (15+HCP) that truly merit going to game opposite such a response, otherwise bid naturally. If opener bypasses 2 he envisions playing in a part score, unless responder had a solid opening bid of his own and can force the auction beyond 3. After the 2 delay, responder and declarer bid naturally in a search for games and slams. Let’s see how this works after the strong 2 rebid which forces to 3NT.

Responder’s rebids after 1 – 2 – 2(strong)

2 , 2 concentration of values in a suit
2 NT 13+ HCP, possible slam interest
3 NT 13-14 HCP, flat and featureless with major suit stoppers
3 , 3 forcing
3 , 3 Western Cue, may bid again over 3NT with a first round control in the suit
4 , 4 slam tries inviting cuebids in the majors.
4 Total control asking bid: 4 aces (2 each) and 2 minor suit kings (1 each). We include a control asking jump for those who can’t live without it. A subsequent
5 asks for minor suit queens (5 = 0, 5NT = 1, 6 = 2.)


In the natural auction where opener bypasses 2, the bids of 2 and 2 are forcing, showing a concentration of values in a hand limited to at most 15 HCP. This is not the classical strong reverse. It is possible that responder may later raise the major suit bid in a suggestion to play in a 4-3 fit when 3NT appears hopeless, if, indeed, opener does hold 4 cards in the suit. This would be the case if responder were short in the other major. Responder cannot introduce a major suit on his own with this purpose in mind.

After a limited rebid by opener, responder must take charge with extras. Introducing a new major suit acts as a forcing bid, showing values in the suit, initially in a search for 3NT, but subsequently may be a slam try cuebid. A jump to 4 as a control asking bid is available, but perhaps better limited to cases where opener does not rebid a major. Below are given several hands to demonstrate the method, first, we compare with an expert’s take on the standard approach.

Mike Lawrence’s Analysis (1987)

In his book, Workbook on the Two Over One System, Mike Lawrence devotes a full chapter to the 1 -2 auctions without coming to any definitive conclusions, however, we may consider some of the auctions he presents for consideration in the light of our simple suggestion.


Auction Lawrence’s Suggestion Bob’s Suggestion
1 – 2 – 2 not forcing forcing, 13+ HCP flat
1 – 2 – 2 – 2 responder’s x reverse values in hearts
1 – 2 – 2 – 3NT 15+ HCP with good clubs 13-14 HCP, poor controls
1 -2 – 2 opener’s reverse, strong values in hearts, not strong
1 – 2– 2NT – 3 slam try in clubs sign off with a minimum
1 – 2– 2NT – 3 slam try in clubs sign off with a minimum
1 – 2 – 2NT 12-14 HCP, not forcing 12-13 HCP, not forcing


This last bid turns out to be exactly the same meaning under both schemes. Lawrence suggests this bid should be employed as often as possible, even with a singleton club in a 4-4-4-1 hand. Here is a hand that gives him problems: 8642 7532 AKJ8 A. Because of the quality of the major suits, Lawrence reluctantly suggests opener rebid 2, not 2NT. In our scheme opener may bid 2 as a one-round force, not promising reversing power or shape, and await responder’s reaction. It is still possible to stop in 2NT or 3. However, all in all, opener might do better by not opening this hand in the first place. With a better hand opener can bid where his points lie by bidding 2 with 8642 KQT AJ753 K, expecting responder to bid 2NT or 3NT with a spade stopper.

Example Hands

I refer to my approach as ‘come-as-you-are’. It isn’t fancy, and there are no tight restrictions. To work well, it has to get the slams right. That may be the easy part.


Natural Control Asking
AQ8 3 1 2 1 2
Q3 AK5 2 2 2 4 (control asking)
KQ652 A1084 2 3 5 (5) 5 (minor queens?)
A52 KQJ94 3 4 5NT (1) 7
5 5 7 NT?
6 NT 7 NT


In the natural auction partners exchange information through a series of cuebids. Responder can make the psychological bid of 7NT as he can count on opener to have a good diamond suit on the basis of his chosen series of bids, starting with 2. In the control asking auction responder takes charge with a 4 asking bid. Once he locates the Q he chooses the safer grand slam in diamonds. Opener might correct to 7NT.

The next example deals with stopping safely in 3NT.


Q103 J9 1 2 1 2
A KQ4 2 2 2 3 NT
AQ8643 KJ105 3 3 (F) Pass
AQ4 K742 3 3
3 NT Pass


It is often best to respond 2 rather than 2 as more information can be gathered concerning opener’s strength. In the long auction opener and responder find a double fit in the minors and show values in the heart suit. Responder bids 3 to express doubt, and opener suggests 3NT. Responder has no reason to go further. The marked spade lead holds declarer to 11 tricks. In the short auction responder jumps to 3NT on an aceless hand without slam interest. This is the approach one takes at matchpoints. If declarer receives a ‘safe’ heart lead, he makes 13 tricks.

The next example deals with stopping in 5 of a minor with poor trump quality.


QJ5 A107 1 2
A3 J 2 2
QJ876 A942 2 NT 3 (F)
AK4 J9872 3 4
5 Pass


Opener’s 2NT shows 17-19 HCP in a flat hand. Responder has doubts about 3NT, so shows the nature of his hand by supporting diamonds, leaving the hearts suit open to question. Opener’s 3 bid expresses doubt about 3NT, and responder takes the hint. The characteristic of these hands is that both players hold hands in which the long suit contains neither ace nor king, which makes the hands difficult to bid in a natural setting.

Finally, we return to the Bridge World hand of April, 2010.


Better Major Lawrence 2 NT
AK73 82 1 2 1 2
K864 95 2 3 (NF) 2 NT 3 (NF)
QJ62 K954 3 Pass Pass
9 AKJ83


Opener can rebid his best major in a limited context. Responder shows his club suit is rebiddable. Opener doesn’t like clubs so has to rebid his miserable diamond suit, nonforcing, but that does not mean it must be passed. It is possible that responder may raise spades holding Qxx, and the final contract will be 4. Not this time.

If opener chooses to follow Mike Lawrence’s advice on rebidding 2NT (12-14 HCP) despite the singleton club, responder can show diamond support, nonforcing, because the 1 opening bid promises at least 4. Responder has bid the 2 suits in which he holds top honors, which is a happy circumstance for natural bidders. Opener doesn’t see a good source of tricks in his hand, so he doesn’t proceed to 3NT and good judgment prevails.


Judy Kay-WolffMay 11th, 2010 at 10:54 pm


I find the above myriad of bidding sequences and theories absolutely fascinating. I was reared in a different era (ala Kaplan-Sheinwold) because of my late husband Norman’s partnership with the great theorist Edgar Kaplan. Of course, they avoided some of the above situations by playing inverted minors (all the time — without interference, with interference and over doubles as well) and of course Weak No Trumps (but only non-vulnerable). The variation in NT structure occurred after Norman on one occasion went for an obscene vulnerable ‘number’ against a part score and offered Edgar an ultimatum. They compromised as Edgar went quietly not wanting to seek a new partner.

I wanted to add one more sequence involving the problems of two level responses — where Edgar solved the issue of missing the 5/3 heart fit with minimum hands. He contended (and they played with great success) the following auction as non forcing:

1S P 2H P


A rebid of 2S, 2NT or 3H described mininimum hands — with or without fits. Of course a new suit at the 3 level would be forcing. However, in the auction with double fits, i.e.,

1S P 2H P

3H P 3S

it was a game force, asking partner to make the decision which game was better. A direct jump to 4H over 2H was merely taking a shot at a game with a heart fit. Nothing more.

This loose allowance of a 2H bid with a guarantee of no more than 10 points and a decent five (or possibly six) card suit often steered them into the right major or allowed them to get out with a minimum or a misfit. Incidentally, I haven’t modified Bobby’s style much in six years but I have convinced him to play 12-14 NV NT and the above heart sequence, but have failed miserably with inverted minors in any auction.

Bob M.May 12th, 2010 at 2:38 am

Thanks for the background.

Keep trying!

Axel VercauterenNovember 12th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

2C should deny a major. This means that 1H/S may conceal longer clubs also known as MAFIA (Majors First Always). Looks attractive yet the advocates of MAFIA don’t even come close to solve the bidding problems after 1D-1M; 2D.

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