Weak Two Openings – Lebensohl


The original version of Lebensohl was intended for use when the opponents overcalled our 1NT opening.  Here is an example:


LHO    Pard    RHO    You

             1NT    2♠       2NT                


Here, using Lebensohl, 2NT is an artificial bid, requesting that Opener bids 3♣, whereupon we will continue the description of our hand.


LHO    Pard    RHO    You

  2♠      Dbl     Pass    ??      


This is an analogous situation to the previous auction.  In both cases they have bid a suit at the two-level, and in both cases Partner has shown some values, and in both cases our side has yet to mention a suit.  So, it should not be completely surprising that Lebensohl works well over their Weak Two, doubled by us.  In fact, in our own experience, Lebensohl over a Weak Two doubled is even more useful than its 1NT counterpart, somehow it just seems to come up more often.


Weak or Constructive?


Suppose that they open 2♠, and Partner doubles.  How would you bid each of these two hands?

            Weak                           Constructive

            ♠ 965                           ♠ A65

            65                             65

            Q9874                      KQJ87

            ♣ 853                          ♣ 853


In both cases, we may well belong in 3, notwithstanding the great disparity in the strengths of these two hands.  In the first hand, we just want to play it in 3 unless partner has a really strong hand  … but, in the second hand, we would like to show Partner that we have constructive values, in case he has some extras of his own which are enough for us to make game.  In other words, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a way to show a bad 3 bid and an invitational 3 bid?  Lebensohl provides us with precisely that:


LHO    Pard    RHO    You


 2♠       Dbl     Pass    3                    This shows constructive values, something in the

                                                            good 8 to bad 11 range.


 2♠       Dbl     Pass    2NT                 This bid is artificial, and is used whenever we have

a weak hand which is just trying to get out at the 3-level.  The Doubler usually bids 3♣ next, to see where we are headed.


2♠        Dbl     Pass    2NT

Pass    3♣      Pass    Pass                 This is how we get out with a weak Club hand.  By

“weak”, we mean a hand that is not good enough to make a direct 3♣ bid, something in the 0-7 range.


 2♠       Dbl      Pass    2NT

Pass     3♣       Pass    3                   Getting out with a weak Diamond hand.


If you play Lebensohl when they overcall our 1NT opening, you will see how similar are the mechanics of the convention over their Weak Two doubled.  In both cases we bid directly with some values, and use the 2NT relay to show a weaker hand.  And, yes, in both cases, the price of the convention is the same … we cannot bid 2NT naturally opposite Partner’s Double. 


When Doubler Has Extras


Unlike a 1NT opening, the Doubler’s hand is unlimited, and he may be too good to accept the relay to 3♣, something which doesn’t happen in the 1NT version of the convention.


LHO    Pard    RHO    You


2♠        Dbl      Pass    2NT

Pass    3                                          


Here, Partner bypassed our relay to 3♣, and he obviously has a very good hand, one which still harbors hopes of game opposite some hands in the 0-7 range.  Why didn’t he bid 3 directly over the 2♠ opening?  No doubt, he thought his hand was just too good, perhaps he has: ♠ 7, AJ5, AKT965, ♣ AQ5.  In this sequence, when Partner has by-passed your relay, and you are in the top half of your “weak hand” range, then you should give Partner one more call.  Of course, the ideal situation would be for you to have a Spade stop, how nice if you held something like this: ♠ QT54, T4, J76, ♣ J742.  Yes, it’s not much of a hand but well worth 3NT over 3.


No Trump Sequences


Consider these two sequences:


LHO    Pard    RHO    You                              LHO    Pard    RHO    You


2♠        Dbl      Pass    3NT                              2♠       Dbl      Pass    2NT

Pass      3♣      Pass    3NT


In the 1NT version of Lebensohl, most partnerships play that bidding 3NT directly over the Double shows the values for game, and denies a Spade stopper, and that going via the 2NT relay shows a Spade stopper.  Our suggestion would be to play your Weak Two Lebensohl the same way, if only to keep things simple.


Here are two more sequences with No Trump implications:


LHO    Pard    RHO    You                              LHO    Pard    RHO    You


2♠        Dbl      Pass    3♠                                2♠        Dbl      Pass    2NT

Pass     3♣       Pass     3♠


In both cases, we are cue-bidding their suit with a 3♠ bid … one auction does so directly, the other auction goes the 2NT indirect route.  Reverting to the 1NT version of Lebensohl for a moment, both cue-bids are “Stayman”, seeking a 4-4 major fit … the difference between the two sequences is that the “slow” auction shows a Spade stopper, and the fast auction denies a Spade stopper.  This treatment is analogous to aforementioned 3NT auctions … slow shows, fast denies.


That’s fine, but in these sequences the 1NT analogy starts to break down.  When Partner doubles 2♠, he usually has 4 Hearts, whereas there is no such expectation when he opens 1NT.  So the obvious question is … do those Stayman-type cue-bid sequences still make sense in the Weak Two version of the convention?  Probably not is the answer.  This is not a subject that appears to be covered in the literature, and our own suggestion is as follows:


When we make the “fast” cue bid, we have half a stop in their suit and game-going values.


When we make the “slow” cue-bid, we have half a stop in their suit and more than game-going values.


As before, the slow bid shows more than the fast bid.


Over Two Diamonds


LHO    Pard    RHO    You


 2       Dbl      Pass    2                   Here, as our suit is higher-ranking than their suit,

we don’t need to go through any 2NT shenanigans to announce a weak hand.


 2       Dbl      Pass    2NT                This sequence is generally used to show a hand with

Pass    3♣       Pass      3                  constructive values …


 2       Dbl      Pass    3                   … and this third sequence is our way of creating a

                                                            game-forcing auction.


The same set of options is available when our suit is Spades, and they open with a Weak 2.


Balancing Doubles


In all the auctions discussed so far, the Double has been in the direct seat.  How about when the Double is in the balancing seat?  We offer three possibilities:

  - play the balancing Double the same way as the direct Double, and use Lebensohl, this certainly keeps life  

    simple, and there's a lot to be said for that.

  - play 2NT as natural, just like most non-Lebensohlites

  - use the Scrambling 2NT opposite the balancing Double ... discussion of this is a whole new topic which

    we'll add to the Systems Library in the not too distant future.


See also:   Weak Two Openings - Introduction

                Weak Two Openings - Follow-Up

                Weak Two Openings - Competition


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