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There are times in bridge (e.g. when opening a "weak two") when a bidder needs a strong suit headed by at least two out of the three "top" honors, that is A-K, A-Q or K-Q. The weakest of these, K-Q, has one guaranteed "top" trick.

The rule is designed to prevent bidding (under these circumstances) with suits headed by two card combinations like Q-J, K-J, Q-T, K-T, and worst, J-T, where you are not guaranteed at least one top trick.

So in these situations, a Q is acceptable as "one" honor, with the K as the second honor. But if you had J-T behind the Q, and counted the combination as a second honor, the Q-J-T combination would guarantee one top trick.

So are there systems or experts who would allow a bidder to open a "weak two" with a suit headed by Q-J-T, K-J-T, A-J-T etc., counting the J-T combination as "one" rather than two honors? (With a Q-J-T headed suit, I would want a side honor for a 5-10 point "weak two..")

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Broadly yes. A common take on this is ‘Two of the top three, or three of the top five.’ That means QJT counts (or KJT or what have you). See for example this article on Fifth Chair.

Also note that this only really applies first or second seat, and some would even do it first seat Not Vulnerable. Preempts are getting somewhat more aggressive over time as their value is shown - some even do five card weak twos now, though I find that more risky than I can tolerate.

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  • And if you had QJTxxx or KJTxxx in fourth position, you would pass and find out which of the first three seats had an opening hand, right? – Tom Au Jan 20 at 15:23
  • Right, preempts are off in fourth seat entirely. Fourth seat ‘weak’ two is different - still weaker than opener but much stronger and looking for a part score or game opposite ten. larryco.com/bridge-articles/rule-of-15-and-crifs for example. – Joe Jan 20 at 15:31
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"Rules [of thumb] are made to be broken". But "you have to understand why the rule exists so you can effectively choose to break it". This is what makes them different from Laws and Regulations.

To answer your question straight up, it would be rare to see an expert whose weak 2 agreements in all positions are "2/top 3" (even 2/top 3 or 3/top 5); in fact, it would be rare to see an expert whose agreements in any position (maybe 2nd seat unfavourable) is 2/top 3. This conservative rule of thumb has been shown to be less effective than a more liberal style.

It's easier to play a conservative style when it comes up; it's trivial for partner to know when to bid game, and when to double the opponents. It's not that KQ or AQ vs QJT is a trick, it's that partner knows that top-honour-doubleton will solidify the suit (for max 1 loser, 90% of the time), when counting tricks for game. You can use your limited asking room very effectively.

But it's much easier to oppose a conservative style when they pass and your teammates/the rest of the room doesn't. The whole point behind preempting is a gamble that because you're weak, the opponents own the hand, and we should take away their room.

Third seat "preempts" have always been some flavour of "he has 13 cards and some of them are spades". With no worries of preempting partner, hands that are clearly too dangerous to open in case partner has the big hand are clear openers, as are hands that are "too strong" and would be opened at the 1 level if partner could have a hand.

As far as systems go, I submit EHAA. From the linked synopsis:

An EHAA two-bid shows six to twelve high card points, and a five card or longer suit. There are no restrictions on suit quality (xxxxx and AKQJxxxx both qualify).

Is it a good system? Well, nobody would play it in a world championship, so no. But it got us to the second day of a National event, because it puts the opponents to a lot of guesses the rest of the room doesn't have, and if they get enough wrong, even underdogs can do well (of course, our first final session was 35%; if they get enough right, it doesn't matter how good you play). Obviously, all the system you have over a more normal weak 2 goes out the window, replaced by things that work when partner could have an 8- (or even 6-) high suit.

Less spectacularly, my regular partnerships:

  • play Precision, and we've agreed "2/top3 or 3/top5 second or vul". Remember we open most 10-counts at the 1 level, especially 10-counts with a 6-card major;
  • play "anything goes" in a 12-14 NT context. First seat favourable, J9xxxx is an expected minimum (and could be worse), second seat all white probably minimum KJ8xxx or QT9xxx. We play Ogust so we have a hope the few times partner has the hand; we lose on average when she does; we win on average when she doesn't[*];
  • expects to be the best pair (or second) in the room, and therefore avoids gambles. We play disciplined first two seats, trusting our defence to get back some of the advantage we're giving to the more freewheeling pairs, knowing we're getting their bad results "for free".

[*]: This is the partnership that plays EHAA when we're bored, challenged to, or when the opponents complain that "we only play all that weird stuff to confuse us". No, this is what we play when we want to confuse you...

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This is not a "rule" but a bidding agreement, and not all partnerships use it. I prefer, for example, to say that a weak two-bid will include "Two of the top three or three of the top five when vulnerable, but any one honor when not vulnerable". Yes I will open 2H on a suit that is Jxxxxx when not-vul against vul. Those who use the Ogust convention to respond to weak two openings are more likely to open with a weaker suit. Ogust permits the responder to ask about suit and hand quality right away, when there is a possibility of game.

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