Lesson 4: Strong Hands 2♣

Sometimes you’re dealt a hand like this: 

♠ 6
♥ AKQJ1095
♦ AK
♣ A62

Don’t open 1♥, in case partner passes with fewer than 6 points, and you miss game or even slam. You need a bid which will force partner to say something, regardless of points.
So don’t open one of anything. Start at the two level. Opening bids of 2♦, 2♥, and 2♠ (which in the past, showed strong hands) are now used as weak 2’s. This leaves 2♣ as an artificial bid to describe any strong hand of about 20+ points. It says nothing about clubs, it’s just a forcing bid. So, responder, even with no points at all,  must say something.

For 2♣ to mean a game force, it must be the first bid in the auction. Unless responder has a good long suit with 8+ points, they usually make a waiting response of 2♦. This leaves plenty of room for opener to describe their hand. With the above hand, opener would start with 2♣ and rebid 2♥ over the 2♦ response. There’s no need for opener to jump, as 2♥ is forcing.

With 8+ points, responder has the option of making a positive response instead of 2♦.
Now, the partnership is committed to at least game, possibly slam.
Positive bids – 2♥, 2♠, 3♣ or 3♦ always promise at least five-cards, and two of the top three honours or better. Positive bids of 2NT or 3NT show 8-10, or 11+ points, and don’t have a five-card suit.

If responder immediately raises opener’s suit, (2♣ p 2♦ p 2♥ p 3♥), the partnership is headed for at least game and perhaps slam. Once the trump suit has been agreed, normal slam bidding methods – Blackwood and Cue Bids – come into play.

Opening Strong Balanced Hands
20-21 Open 2NT
22-24 Open 2♣, planning to rebid 2NT
25 + Open 2♣, planning to rebid 3NT

Opening Strong Unbalanced Hands
If opener rebids a suit rather than no trumps after opening 2♣, it’s still forcing.
It’s not just high cards that justify opening 2♣. Playing strength and defensive potential play a part too. To open 2♣, you should have some quick tricks (aces and kings that will take tricks even in defence).

Compare these hands, both of which contain three losers. Hand 1: ♠A ♥AK10874 ♦AKJ4 ♣K4 contains 22 high card points, plus two length points for the six card heart suit, and has three losers, one in hearts, one in diamonds, and one in clubs.  

Hand 2: ♠KQJ108765 ♦QJ1097 This hand contains 9 high card points, and four or five extra points for the long suits. It also contains three losers, one in heart and two in diamonds.

Hand 1 has lots of offensive potential but also would take tricks in defense if the opponents were to compete in spades or clubs. It should be opened 2♣. On the second hand, you can take ten tricks all by yourself if allowed to play in a spade contract. But you have no sure tricks in defense if the opponents compete in hearts or clubs. Don’t open 2♣. Open 1♥ or 4♥ and try to buy the contract at a suitable level.