19-Point 2C Opening


Contents

Note:
      = Diamonds or Clubs.
      = Hearts or Spades.



Overview

An unbalanced 2-3 HCP hand will usually be enough for game opposite as little as an unbalanced 19-HCP hand when there is a major suit fit, yet standard forcing 2C opening normally requires at least 22 HCPs, missing all those games where opener has 19-21 HCPs and responder has 2-3.

Even when game is not available, the 19-HCP 2C lets you search for the best part-score contract.

Take a look at the two hands below. Game in Hearts is a good bet, but after a 1 opening, you probably will not find the Heart fit, much less the Heart game, because responder will pass 1.

    AKxxxx
    AJxxKTxxx
    xxxxx
    AKxxxx

The hands above are not freaks. (See the problem hands at the end of this document for more.) In fact, a frequent theme in problem hands in bridge magazines is the difficulty of getting to game or slam after not opening a 19-21 HCP hand 2.

Another advantage of 19-HCP 2C is the preemptive and intimidating effect on opponents when each side has about half the HCPs. In The Bridge World, May 2006, p. 22, holding 63 A3 AKQ3 AQ852, the editor says that if the auction starts 1-P-1-3, "you'd be in a bad way."

With 19-HCP 2C, bidding might go 2-P-2*-?? (*4+ Hearts, 0-5 HCPs). Even if RHO knows that your HCPs could be as few as 19 opposite 0, he also knows that on average, your side will have MORE than half the HCPs. RHO's jumping in at 3 when your side could have all the outstanding points is a lot riskier than after the bidding has gone 1-P-1.

It should also be noted that 19-HCP 2C allows you to "intimidate" the opponents much more often. A 19-HCP will come up for a pair 5% of the time, while a 22+ HCP hand will come up for a pair only 0.4% of the time. (See http://www.durangobill.com/BrPtCntStats.html.)

The only potential disadvantage of opening 2 with just 19 HCPs would be getting too high opposite a bust hand. So if a way can be found to avoid that problem, then you are just left with the advantages and no downside.


What About Precision?

Okay, not everybody plays strong 2 requiring 22+ HCPs. Some people play strong 1 openings where 1 is artificial and forcing and requires only 16 HCPs.

If the opponents stay out of the auction, 1 is actually superior to even a 19-HCP 2C in the respect that you have more room to describe your hand.

But a 19-HCP 2C has some advantages of its own:

  • Opening 2 is mildly preemptive, especially against opener's RHO after opener's partner has bid. For example, 2-(P)-2 may be bid with as little as 19 HCPs opposite 0 HCPs, but RHO would now have to come in at the 3 level.

    In contrast, a strong 1 has no preemptive effect whatsoever. After 1-(P)-1 (neg.), RHO can come in on the one level or with a good 6-card suit, can jam things up by jumping to the 2 level, such as 2. Now it is the strong 1 opener who must make the first bid of his suit on the 3 level with as few as 16 HCPs opposite a possible 0 HCPs.

  • Opening 2 has more of an intimidating effect, since you are known to have at least 19 HCPs, but may have much more. In contrast, a strong 1 (Precision), which is made with as few as 16 HCPs, is not as intimidating as 2 because on average, the 1 opener will have a lot fewer points than the 2 opener. So while, at first glance, the Precision bidder has more bidding room, in actual practice the opponents are more likely to enter the bidding and use up more bidding room.

It should also be noted that the primary reason for opening 2 with as few as 19 HCP is to avoid missing games when responder has fewer than 6 HCPs and must pass.

But in Precision, if responder has enough to make game opposite 16 HCPs, he is going to have enough HCPs (6+) to bid without being forced into doing so. Thus with Precision, you will not get to any more close games than you would with the 19-HCP 2C.

So it appears that the strong 1's only advantage is giving you more bidding room, but that this advantage is negated to a large degree by the increased ease with which the opponents can safely jam up the bidding.

An example of this is from the 2000 ITT Semi-Final, 8th Segment where Weinstein and Garner were playing a Strong 2C (not a 19-HCP 2C, but the principle is the same) and bid unopposed to 7NT. In the other room, Hamman and Soloway opened 1C Precision, Berkowitz made a preemptive jump overcall of 2H. After Soloway bid 3D, Cohen continued overcaller's preempt by bidding 3H. This jamming up of the bidding resulted in the Precision players ending up in 6D for a loss of 11 IMPs.


Surviving A Bust Hand

The only potential disadvantage of opening 2 with just 19 HCPs would be getting too high opposite a bust hand. For this reason, it is important to find a fit at as low a level as possible when the 2 bidder has a minimum (19-20) and responder has a very poor hand (<6 HCPs).

In addition, when responder is weak, it is advantageous to have his longest suit as trump since his long suit will probably not take any tricks otherwise.

Playing regular Strong 2, responder normally has to make an artificial 2 with a bust hand, then after opener has bid his suit, responder must make a second artificial negative bid. After this, the odds of ending up in responder's best suit are greatly reduced.

In the 19-HCP 2C system, when responder is weak and has an unbalanced hand, instead of making artificial negative bids, he bids his best suit. The artificial bid is used to show a GOOD hand, since there will be plenty of time later to find a fit. This is simple logic.

A "good" hand is one with 6+ HCPs, and responder makes an artificial bid of 2. With <6 HCPs and a balanced hand, he also bids 2, intending to pass any non-jump bid by opener. Otherwise, with a bad, unbalanced hand, responder bids his best suit.

Compare the bidding with these two hands when the 19-HCP 2C opening is used versus not used:

: AKxxxx
: AJxxxxxx
: xxxxx
: AKxxxx
19-HCP 2CStandard 2
2 - 21 - P
P

Obviously, 2 is a much better contract than 1. (People like to claim that a pass-out of 1 is not likely to happen, but the fact is that it very well could happen, especially since opener's LHO may be forced to pass with good HCPs, but without the shape to overcall or make a takeout double. So you run the risk by opening on the 1 level rather than 2, and it is an unnecessary risk.)

One more bonus for opening 19-HCP 2C:

If you play 19-HCP 2C, then when you do NOT open 2, you have limited your hand to <19 HCPs. This is useful information for responder when deciding whether or not to try for game or for slam when you have opened one of a suit.


Requirements

An unbalanced hand with 19+ HCPs or 16+ HCPs with 8+ Tricks
- or -
A balanced hand with 25+ HCPs

Responses
2 36+ HCPs, 7+ suit, slam interest
46+ HCPs, 7+ suit, slam interest
2 6+ HCPs or <6 with a flat hand
24+, <6 HCPs, If 4-card major, no 6+ card minor.
2N 2-suited in the minors, <6 HCPs.
3 <6 HCPs; usually 6+
(With eg: 3-3-5-2, bid 2 then pass even 3)
(With eg: 3-4-5-1, bid 2 then pass any new suit bid)


Rebids By Opener

2 2 6+ HCPs or <6 and a flat hand.
Note that if <6 and flat, responder will pass any non-jump rebid by opener, so opener must jump to force to game with a very strong hand.

If responder bids again over a non-jump rebid by opener, then he obviously has 6+HCPs. An exception to the <6 flat-hand 2 is that with 4 Hearts in a flat hand, responder should bid 2 since opener does not have to go up a level to bid the other major, and with Hearts, he can still raise or pass responder's Hearts.

In contrast, if responder bids 2 and opener's suit is Hearts, opener would have to bid 3. If responder bids 2 with 4=3=3=3, then he can pass when opener bids 2 and a level of bidding has been saved.

2 shows 4+. If responder bids 2N over 2, it shows a minor 2-suiter. If opener picks a minor and responder then bids the other minor, it shows 4 in the picked minor and 6+ in responder's bid minor.

Responder with a good hand and good (4+) support can (1) Splinter to show a singleton or void, (2) bid a new suit and then jump in opener's suit to show (2a) concentrated values in the suit bid, (2b) good support for partner's suit, (2c) no singleton or void, (2d) no Aces or Kings in the unbid suits, or (3) bid a new suit, then raise opener's suit then cue bid other Aces or Kings (if possible).

A 2N response is always artificial, no matter who bids it. It usually shows the minors and less than 3 card support for partner's major. (e.g.: 2-2, 2-2N)

2N
3
3
Minor 2-suiter.
5+ cards - No equal or better major
Solid suit, within trick of game
Responderís rebids:
  • New Suit = Feature
  • 3NT = less than 2 of opener's suit.
  • Pass with <2 HCPs, no singleton/void
    or no trump
  • Raise = less than 6 HCP, balanced
  • 4N = RKCB [Openerís suit]
4+x
3N
4N
Solid suit (x), Game/slam in hand.
25-27 HC, balanced hand
28-29 HC, balanced hand


2 - 2/2N/3

In this section, responder is showing an unbalanced hand and <6 HCPs by not having bid 2 first, so the goal is to find a fit as cheaply as possible. A minor suit game is normally out of reach if opener is at a minimum, but with a fit, a major suit game is still possible even if opener has a minimum and responder has a couple of HCPs in an unbalanced hand.

In Hand Evaluation, Mike Lawrence has partner opening: 1-P-P-1, D-P. What would you bid with KJ875 853 T63 82?

Lawrence says to jump to 3 because opener may have a hand like AKT2 3 AJT2 AKJ.

Is 3 the bid you were thinking of? (Be honest, now.)

With the 19-HCP 2C opening, the bidding would go:

    2-P-2-P, 3-P-4

When responder shows <6 HCPs and 4+ Spades in an unbalanced hand, opener can afford to raise with 4 Spades in an unbalanced hand. Responder goes on to game with 4 HCPs, 1 distribution point, and one more Spade than required.

2 2 Shows <6 HCPs and 4+ Hearts.
44+ Hearts, 22+ HCPs
34+ Hearts, 19-21 HCPs
Pexactly 3, 19-21 HCPs, no good 6-card suit
2<3 H's, 4+ S's; or 3 H's and very good S's
2Nartificial; <2 Hearts; <4 Spades; no other bid
3exactly 2 Hearts, 5+ minor; responder corrects back to Hearts with 5 Hearts and shortness in opener's suit or with any 6+ Hearts
3self-sufficient Spade suit, 24+ HCPs
4NRKCB for Hearts
-
2 2 Shows <6 HCPs and 4+ Spades.
44+ Spades, 22+ HCPs
34+ Spades, 19-21 HCPs
Pexactly 3, 19-21 HCPs, no good 6-card suit
2Nartificial; <2 Spades; no other bid available
3exactly 2 Spades, 5+ Hearts
3exactly 2 Spades, 5+ minor
4NRKCB for Spades
-
22N Artificial. Usually 5-5 or more in the minors, but could be 6-4. Normally no 4-card major.
333 by opener = better minor.
3 by responder = 6+, 4
-
22N
344 rebid = 4, 6+C
-
22N
4...24+ HCPs, good 6+ .
4N<2 of the major
-
2 3 Shows <6 HCPs and 5+ Clubs.
4 ... Shows 24+ HCPs, 6+ good Hearts.
4 Shows <2 Hearts, 4 Spades, 6+ Clubs (With only 5 Clubs and 4 Spades, would have bid Spades first.)
5 Shows <2 Hearts (probably void), <4 Spades
-
2 3
4 ... Shows 24+ HCPs, 6+ good Spades.
4N Shows <2 Spades, at least 4-6+ in Hearts and the minor; otherwise, pass.


2  -  3/4
-----------------

2 - 3/47+ suit, 6+ HCPs, slam interest.
New suitControl or feature
3NLess than 2 of responder's major
Game raiseMinimum, 2+ support
4NRKCB for responder's suit


Responses In Competition

"2x" means any 2-level overcall.
Each response is made only if the one above it cannot be made.

2 (2x) P 5+ HCPs or an Ace or King
Dbl25-27 HCPs, balanced
24+ Hearts or Spades
35+ Diamonds or Clubs
3xcue bid = 3-Suiter,
short in overcaller's suit
2Nany 2-suiter

2(2x)3xcue bid = 3-suiter
short in overcaller's suit

2(2)2fair 5+ card suit
24+S, <4, no better minor suit
2N<3, <4
3exactly 3, a 5+ minor suit that is better than Spades

2(2x)2fair 5+ card suit
2N<3
3exactly 3, 5+ Hearts, no better minor suit
3exactly 3, 5+

2(2x)DblNone of the above bids can be made.
P25-27 HCPs, balanced
24+ Hearts or Spades
2Nany 2-suiter

2(2x)36-card suit


Bidding Strong Balanced Hands

25-27 HCPs -- As seen above: 2-2x, 3N

23-24 HCPs -- Open 2N.

20-22 HCPs --

    There are a couple of ways to show this.

    1. Use a 2 opening bid to show a balanced 20-22 HCPs, instead of to show a Weak-2 in Diamonds. Alternatively, some people use 2 to show a Weak-2 in either major -or- a strong balanced hand. Assuming responder bids 2 (nominally, pass or correct), opener's rebidding 2N shows the big balanced hand.

    2. Open 1 and jump to 3N over any response which does not spark some kind of suit-game interest in you.

    A more complex way involves opening 1 forcing with 13+ HCPs. Responder bids a 5+ card major, if any; otherwise, he bids 1. A 1N rebid shows 15-17, while a 2N rebid shows 20-22 and a 3N rebid shows 25-27 with 4-card majors. (Note: 2 followed by 3N shows 25-27 without majors). This method is used with a Weak Notrump, where an opening 1N shows 12-14 HCPs balanced.


Problem Hands

Below are problem hands from various publications.

AKQJ94-A74-Qx-A9

    From Dec. 2003 Bridge World, page 46, problem D. Two experts jumped straight to 4 because "1 is too risky; partner will pass with too many game-making hands". Still, 10 other experts did open 1 and risked a pass-out.

    The "winning" answer (11 of 32 experts) was 2 with a rebid of 2NT over an expected 2 response because "this hand is not strong enough" for a 2 rebid and is too strong to open 2N to start with.

    Yet does anyone really believe that the 2N rebid paints an accurate picture of this hand? The director says: "Unless partner has four Spades and uses Stayman, we will never get to Spades after a 2N rebid."

    With the 19-HCP 2C convention, all of these problems go away. You can open 2 to show 19+ HCPs, then rebid Spades.


KJT6-void-54-QJT8654
   opposite
Q5-AQT97-AKJ93-A

    From Dec. 2003 Bridge World, page 32, problem 5. The problem is getting to the best contract - 5 - which both pairs got to after opening 1. Let's see if we can get to it using the 19-HCP 2C.

    Bidding should go:

      2-2 (2 is artificial: shows 6+ HCPs)
      2-3
      3-3 (shows 4-6+ distribution)
      3N-4
      4-5

    After the 3 bid, the rest of the bidding is judgment, not system, but it is certainly reasonable.


764-4-8643-KJ973
   opposite
A-AK9875-AK5-AQT

    Problem 8 from the last source. Everyone opens 2 with this hand. The problem is to see if we can get to 6 playing the 19-HCP 2C convention.

    Bidding should go:

      2-2N (2N shows the minors and <6 HCPs)
      4-4N (4 shows 24+ HCPs, 6+H;
              4N shows 0-1 Hearts, <4)
      5-6 (6 is a guess, but a reasonable one)

T83-K653-984-Q72
   opposite
Q7542-7-AKQ-AKJ6

    From March 2004 Bridge World, page 22, problem 7, "Challenge the Champs". One team bid
         1-1N, 3-3, 3-P
    and the other bid
         1-1N, 2-2, 3-3, P.

    The winning contract was 2, which neither team found.

    With 19-HCP 2C, the bidding goes 2 (19 HCPs, unbalanced) - 2 (less than 6 HCP, balanced, planning on passing any non-jump bid), 2 - Pass.


QT7-AKQ765-A8-A5
1-1, ??
    From May 2004 ACBL Bulletin, page PB-3:
      This is a tough hand to describe... Handling big hands can be quite challenging in standard methods.

    The bids 3, 4, 2N, and 3N all have drawbacks, according to the column. Two people lied and bid 3 to force to game.

    Using 19-HCP 2C, the bidding will go 2-2, 2-2, and now you have an easy rebid of 3 because you are already in a game force. Partner can raise you, rebid Spades, or make some other bid, but no problems should remain in the bidding.


AJ7-T-AK6-AKJ987
1-1, ??
    From BidBase BidSim deal generator (#11181). Having not opened this 20-HCP hand 2 (playing SAYC), what do you do now? Neither 3 nor a lying 2 are forcing. On the rec.games.bridge newsgroup, the 2 bid was recommended, but was called "unattractive and maybe tragic".

    In 19-HCP 2C, the bidding simply goes 2-2, 3 and you have accurately described your suit and strength, and partner's response puts you in a game force, so bidding proceeds easily and naturally.

    In fact, the following very similar hand subsequently turned up in the May 2002 issue of Bridge World, page 52:

    AK6-AQ-43-AQ8654 After the bidding goes 1C-P-1S-P, the author says:

      Playing standard, there is no, well, ... "standard" rebid available. It's always a choice among the tainted reverse, the heavy and off-shape 2NT, the extra-heavy jump rebid, or the trump-short jump raise. All lies, and we have to grit our teeth and choose the best one.

    Grit out teeth? What kind of system is that?


AQTxx-AKxx-void-AQxx
1-P-P-2
3-P-4-P
6
-- making 7
    Mike Lawrence shows this hand in his book Balancing to illustrate one of the pitfalls of balancing - the opening bidder and his partner get a second chance to find a better contract, or even get to a game, or even in this case to a slam which they otherwise would not have bid.

    People claim that strong hands don't get passed out when opened at the 1 level, yet for the opponents, that would be the winning bid here.

    If opener's RHO had just passed, you would be playing 1, missing at least game in Hearts.

    Playing the 19-HCP 2C, the bidding would have gone 2-2, 3-4. Probably not getting to slam (which, after all, made only because opener's RHO held all the kings), but not having the risk of being in 1 passed out, either. Good enough for a top in most duplicate games.


K83-AKQ84-KT65-A
AQ65-JT73-Q8-532

    Bridge World, Dec. 2002, page 31, Deal 2: Both teams ended up in 4 instead of 6 because they opened 1 and could never catch up. Even looking at both hands, the editor had trouble bidding to slam after opening on the 1 level.

    With 19-HCP 2C, the bidding should go 2-2, 2-2, 3-4. Responder's bid of 2 forces at least to game. Then his 2 bid followed by the later raise of Hearts shows a concentration of values in Spades. The jump-raise to 4 shows good trump support and no other Aces or Kings in his unbid suits. The failure to Splinter or bid out shape indicates no singleton or voids.

    Opener now continues with a bid of 5, asking for lower honors in Diamonds (since responder has already denied higher honors), such as QJ, QT, or third round control such as he has: Qx. Responder bids 5 and opener can now bid 6

    Below is another example of this bidding:


AK7632-A5-KJ7-A8
QT85-76-AQ543-72

    ACBL Bridge Bulletin, July 2005, page 63. The author uses a Drury gimmick to get to 7 while his opponents only got to 4.

    Here is the bidding using 19-HCP 2C:
    2 - 2
    2 - 3
    4 - 5
    7

    Notice that this is the same principle as the previous set of hands: bidding Diamonds and then jumping in partner's Spades shows a concentration of values in Diamonds, good trump support, no singletons or voids, no Aces or Kings in the unbid suits.


AQ8-QT-AK-AQJ764
KT92-7-9853-KT83
    Bridge World's Challenge The Champs: Granovetter and Zia bombed out with a 3N contract: 2-2, 2N-3, 3-3N where 2N=balanced and 3 was Stayman.

    Kokish and Nagy bid: 2-2, 2N-3, 3N-4, 6 where 2 showed two A-K points (A=2, K=1), 3 was a puppet to 3N, and 4 showed exactly 4=1=4=4 distribution. 6 was the ideal contract.

    Our bidding would go:

      2  2 --- 6+ HCPs or <6 and balanced.
      3  4 --- Splinter
      6

    Responder has a problem of whether to show his 4-card major or bid his excellent minor suit support. Had responder bid his Spades, the bidding might have gone like this:

      2  2
      3  3
      4  4
      4  5
    and now responder has bid out his shape of 4=1=4=4, and the fact that he mentioned a major with only 4 cards implies he has the King (since he lacks the A-Q), so opener can safely bid 6. However, the bidding may not always work out so neatly, so it may be better to support opener right away, especially with such a weak major suit.

    Note that the experts treated this hand as balanced and bid NT, despite the heart weakness and the risk of missing a slam in Clubs, Logically, it seems that once responder goes positive, 3NT is seldom going to be the best spot -- that you must try for the Club slam, and if slam is on, you may still get to NT if that turns out to be best. If responder has a bust, you have even less reason to want to be in NT.

    The 19-HCP 2C normally denies a balanced hand, and a 2N bid would be artificial, so we avoid the above problem. However, if Hearts were AQ and Diamonds were KT, you might want to open this as a NT hand instead of opening 2C.


QJ764 T AKQ AK54
Bidding: 1-P-P-2, ??
    From Bobby Wolff's Aces newspaper column in November 2005. Wolff says to pass: Even thinking of bidding is really a stretch. If you double, that would be for takeout (and who is to say that you can beat two clubs anyway?) while bidding 2S on such a ratty suit would not be advisable.

    If you cannot beat 2C, you are not likely to get a very good score at matchpoints when your side has more than half the points.

    Although this is not world's best 19-HCP hand, it is 19, so we open it 2C. Worst case scenario is that partner has Hearts and less than 6 HCPs, so he will bid 2H.

    We would raise if we had 4+ Hearts, and pass if we had 3, so when we bid 2S, partner knows immediately that we have <3 Hearts. If pard has 3 Spades, he will pass. If he has 4+ Spades, he will raise. Otherwise, if he has 6+ Hearts, he can rebid them. If he is 2-suited, he can bid his other suit. We will pass either of these bids.

    Whatever responder bids, it is unlikely that our RHO will jump into the bidding with his Club suit on the 3 level when we have shown a very strong hand.


AJ KT92 QT AKQT2
Bidding:
1-P-1-1
2-P-3-P
??

    This hand was on rec.games.bridge. The first question was whether to stretch to bid 2N or to open 1C. Almost all voted for 1C. The second question was what to bid next in the sequence above. There was no easy answer. (The 2D bid was artificial - could be short. The 3D bid was a game force.)

    In 19-HCP 2C, the bidding goes:
    2C - 2D (waiting)
    3C - 3D
    3H - ??

    You've shown your 4H, 5C shape and 19+ HCP strength, so now responder can bid out his shape or ask for aces or whatever his hand dictates.

    A common theme with opening 19+ HCP hands on the 1 level is the problem of trying to get your real strength and shape across later. That usually ends up using more bidding space than opening 2C to start with. The following hand is another example:


Q7 AKJ964 A83 KQ
Bidding:
1-P-1-P
??

    In his book, Matchpoints, page 80, Kit Woolsey gives the hand and bidding above, and points out the problems with all the possible rebids, concluding that an underbid of 3H is the least of the evils, but adds: You may miss an odds-on game when partners passes with a minimum.

    Open 2C and if partner has less than 6 HCPs (which he probably doesn't on the bidding given), he will respond 2S and you can bid 3H -- no longer an underbid, and in fact, responder knows that you have a one-suited hand with exactly 2 Spades and 5+ Hearts and 19-21 HCPs. You've virtually shown him your cards!

    If responder has 6+ HCPs and responds 2D, you bid your 2H and he will most likely bid his 2S, but now you are in a game force mode and still on the 2 level with plenty of room to look for the best contract.