When your opponents open a Weak 2 and your partner doubles for takeout, there isn't enough room for natural bidding to reliably find the right contract.
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On the above auction, East might have a hand like
- ♠T953 ♥A632 ♦J9 ♣A96
- ♠T953 ♥J632 ♦QJ9 ♣96
If West had a hand like ♠7 ♥KQ85 ♦KT7 ♣KQJ73, West would want to bid 4♥ opposite hand #1 and would want to pass 3♥ opposite hand #2. How is West supposed to bid accurately when East is making the same 3♥ bid with both hands? With natural bidding, East's 3♥ bid has a range of 0-10 points. That is too wide to bid accurately.
Another situation where natural bidding falls short is when the advancer, the doubler's partner, has game forcing values and a 4-card major.
It is easy for East to bid 4♥ with hand #1 because they expect an 8+ card spade fit.
- ♠AT953 ♥A32 ♦J9 ♣A96
- ♠K964 ♥A93 ♦KQ74 ♣Q2
- ♠K964 ♥83 ♦KQ74 ♣AQ2
Hand #2 and #3 are more difficult because it isn't clear whether East-West have an 8-card spade fit. West's takeout double advertises 3+ card spade support. If West has a 3-card spade suit, 3NT may be a better option on hand #2. East doesn't have a heart stopper on hand #3. So 3NT isn't viable unless West has a stopper. The Weak 2 preempt doesn't leave enough room for natural bidding to allow East-West to choose reliably the best game.
After a takeout double of a Weak 2 bid, the advancer (the doubler's partner) needs to be able to:
- Show a weak hand (0-7)
- Show a medium strength hand (8-10)
- Show a forcing hand (11+)
- Offer a choice of games
- Show slam interest in 1 or 2 suits
When natural bidding will not suffice, a common approach is to give up a natural bid, and use that bid to clarify the meaning of other bids. Lebensohl over the double of a Weak 2 bid gives up a natural 2NT bid, and uses the 2NT bid to clarify other auctions. Let's revisit hand #1 and #2 playing Lebensohl.
With hand #2, ♠T953 ♥J632 ♦QJ9 ♣96, East uses the artificial 2NT bid, planning to rebid 3♥ to show a weak hand (0-7) with hearts. West is expected to bid 3♣ with a normal takeout double, giving East the opportunity to pass 3♣ if they were weak with long clubs.
With hand #1, East bids their suit directly at the 3-level to show a medium strength hand (8-10).
Bidding is more accurate playing Lebensohl because advancer can differentiate weak hands (0-6) from medium strength hand (8-10). The Lebensohl 2NT bid is used with the weak hands. The medium strength hands can show their suit immediately.
If advancer's suit is higher ranking than the suit of the Weak 2 bid, advancer can bid 2 of their suit to show a weak hand.
Advancer now has 2 ways to show a medium strength hand at the 3-level: bidding the suit directly, or using the Lebensohl 2NT bid and then bidding their suit at the 3-level. When the takeout doubler has just 3-card support for their partner's major, knowing whether or not you have an 8-card fit can help you decide when to bid game and when to stop in a partscore.
Use an immediate jump to the 3-level to show a medium strength hand (8-10) with a 5+ card suit. This allows the takeout doubler to bid games which they might otherwise reach because they are certain they have an 8-card fit.
East might have a hand like ♠AT953 ♥632 ♦A9 ♣J96 on the above auction.
If East has a medium strength hand with a 4-card spade suit, they would use the lebensohl 2NT bid and then bid 3♠. East might have a hand like ♠AT93 ♥632 ♦A9 ♣J986 for the auction below. Now if West, the takeout doubler, had just 3 spades, they would know they have a 4-3 spade fit.
Game Forcing Hands
With 11 or more points, Advancer makes a game forcing bid. If advancer has a 5-card major and 11+ points, they can comfortably bid 4 of their major, expecting an 8+ card fit. With a 4-card major, responder may prefer forcing with a cue bid. With no 4-card major and a stopper, advancer may prefer to bid 3NT. See the choice of games discussion below for advice on handling other combinations.
So far, we have covered the easiest parts of Lebensohl which provide the vast majority of the benefit. Here is a quick summary:
- Going through the artificial 2NT switch is always weaker
- Directly bidding at the 3-level is always stronger for a lower ranking suit
- Directly bidding at the 3-level is always longer for a higher ranking suit
The use of the lebensohl 2NT switch dramatically reduces guessing. You can ignore the more advanced parts of Lebensohl, discussed below, and still get great benefit.
The Intervenor's Expected Rebid over the 2NT Lebensohl Bid
When you make a takeout double of a Weak 2 bid and your partner bids an artificial 2NT, the Lebensohl bid, your expected response is 3♣. Your 3♣ response says I have a normal takeout double and I am willing to pass 3♣ if you have a weak hand with clubs. If your hand is too strong or too shapely to play 3♣ opposite a weak hand with clubs, you need to find another bid to show your strength and shape.
Tools for Advanced Partnerships
An Advancer with game forcing values may want to show:
- 5-card major
- 4-card major and a stopper
- 4-card major and no stopper
- Both majors
- No 4-card major and a stopper
- No 4-card major and no stopper
- A long minor
- Both minors
Advanced partnerships with good memories may wish to invest the memory and the practice to add the following agreements to improve their choice of game auctions. These agreements are very helpful when you have a 7-card major suit fit and need to know about stoppers to choose the right strain.
- Direct 3NT bid is natural with a stopper & typically no 4-card major
2♥-X-P-3NT ♠K96 ♥A53 ♦KQ74 ♣Q52
- Direct cue bid is a Western Cue Bid asking for a stopper, no 4+ card major
2♥-X-P-3♥ ♠K96 ♥83 ♦KQ74 ♣AQ52
- Delayed 3NT bid is natural with a 4-card major and a stopper
2♥-X-P-2NT ♠K964 ♥A93 ♦KQ74 ♣Q2
- Delayed cue bid shows a game force with a 4-card major and no stopper
2♥-X-P-2NT ♠K964 ♥83 ♦KQ74 ♣AQ2
- Jump cue bid over a Weak 2♦ shows both majors
2♦-X-P-4♦ ♠AK852 ♥KJ83 ♦97 ♣Q2
- Jump cue bid over a Weak 2♥ or Weak 2♠ shows both minors
2♥-X-P-4♥ ♠2 ♥3 ♦KQ752 ♣AQ9842
2♠-X-P-4♠ ♠5 ♥Q8 ♦AK984 ♣KJT76
Note: Since minor suit games require 11 tricks and score just 20 per trick, you may prefer 3NT if you or your partner has a stopper.
The sequences where advancer shows a 4-card major and shows or denies a stopper are extremely valuable when the takeout doubler has just 3-card support for advancer's major. The following table summarizes advancer's actions with game forcing values depending on the length of their major and whether or not they have a stopper in the preempter's suit.
|0 to 3 card major||4-card major||5+ card major|
|No Stopper||Cue bid to ask for a stopper||2NT the cue bid||Bid 4 of major|
|Stopper||Bid 3NT||2NT then 3NT||Bid 4 of major|
Slam Try Sequences
- 1 Suited Slam Try: Cue bid then bid 4 of your suit
2♥-X-P-3♥; 3NT-P-4♠ ♠AQ962 ♥74 ♦KJ7 ♣AJ2
- 2 Suited Slam Try
- Major + Minor:
Lebensohl then 4 of your minor to make a slam try in the unbid major and the minor
2♥-X-P-2NT; 3♣-P-4♣ ♠AQ92 ♥4 ♦K73 ♣AQJ82
- Both Minors: Lebensohl then jump cue bid slam try in both minors
2♥-X-P-2NT; 3♣-P-4♥ ♠Q2 ♥A4 ♦K973 ♣AQJ82
- Major + Minor:
The content of this article is based on Karen Walker's "Lebensohl over Weak 2-Bids" article. Our goal is share Karen's advice with examples, an emphasis on why the agreement is so important, and where the most value can be realized. We have adjusted the weak range to include 7 point hands to reflect our recommendations. The advanced agreements are presented for the benefit of advanced pairs who are prepared to memorize and practice those agreements. The advanced agreements should be low on the priority list for most pairs. We highly recommend reading Karen Walker's article.