Multiple Questions on Strong Openings - 12

 Hi All,

I've had at least three recent questions concerning the Forcing Two-Club Opening. This has caused me to sit back and reminisce about my experience with strong openings. I have a childhood memory of opening 1 No Trump with a good hand, but missing stoppers. I was decidedly taught a lesson that day. Later I became an adherent to the teaching of Alfred Sheinwold which included the Strong Two Bid, which at that time was "25 or more points with a very strong suit. (may be reduced with a longer suit or two-suiter)".

In the sixties and seventies, Jean and I played the Neopolitan Club. All strong hands were opened 1 Club and it featured weak-twos, weak 1 No Trump and a host of other neat stuff. For a while I was too busy to play, but when I retired I started over. A lot of things had changed over the years, particularly the American Standard 5- Card Majors, Transfers, Weak Two Bids and the Forcing 2 Club.

At that time, the Forcing Two Club just replaced the Strong Suit Two Bids and was roughly the same, being generally described as a 6-card suit with 23 or more points, which could also be 21 points with a 7-card suit or 25 with a 5-card suit. It still required a very strong suit. This worked well since both partners knew that adequate support for the suit would normally be enough for game.

No Trump openings hadn't changed in all those years with 16-18 for 1 No Trump, 22-24 for 2 No Trump and 25-27 for 3 No Trump. Soon, however, a brilliant change took over to fold No Trump into the 2 Club system. This meant that 1 No Trump became a more useful 15-17, 2 No Trump became 20-21 and with more you would open 2 Clubs and rebid 2 No Trump or more with big hands.

As with all major developments, this sent ripples all through the game. Some players still have trouble with transfers, Florida may never recover from occasionally opening with only 3 Clubs or Diamonds and we are still a long way from deciding how to handle the expanded Forcing Two Club Opening. Many experts have decided that all hands with 22 HCPs or more should be opened 2 Clubs. Of these, many have hawked all sorts of ways for the responder to describe his hand and take over the auction. I think they are trying to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. 

I haven't seen anything yet that justifies evaluating a hand with a very strong 6 or 7-card suit as if it was the same as a balanced hand. When a player has a strong hand, he must first decide whether it is a No Trump or a suit opening and evaluate it appropriately.  If he has a very strong suit, he should evaluate his total points, including distribution, and open as described in paragraph three. If he has a balanced hand, he should count his HCPs and open as described in paragraph four. In almost all situations, responder should respond a waiting 2 Diamonds and not interfere until opener has described his hand.

The call to open 2 Clubs with all hands with 22 HCPs ignores a third type of hand that doesn't meet either of the above criteria. I wouldn't open 2 Clubs with 22 HCPs and a 4-1-4-4 distribution if you held a gun to my head. We need a different system for these kind of hands that allows us to bid back and forth to find the best contract. Fortunately, we have it described in detail in Lesson 2. I would open 1 Diamond. I would figure that we probably don't have game if partner can't respond and, if he can, I can force to game.

I intend to stick to the simple, consistent procedures that work, until the next brilliant idea revolutionizes the game. I certainly haven't seen it yet.

Stay well, Dave