A strong two club bid indicates the ability to take something like eight and a half tricks, with a meaningful portion of that being tricks outside the main suit. The test that I use is something like, I can make game if responder has as little as "three and three," that is three well-placed high card points and three cards in my key suit.

The standard requirement is 22 high card points. That's adequate if opener plans to re-bid a major suit after a two diamond "waiting" bid, because 25 high card points and an eight card fit is a favorite for a major suit game.

I don't consider it an adequate holding for a 2NT rebid, because a 22-3 distribution between the two hands is an underdog for 3NT according to these tables of data. Open needs 23 high card points to be a favorite opposite "three."

But the biggest question mark arises when the opener has, say, six of a minor suit and 22 high card points and intends to play in that suit (the hand is not suitable for no trump). The worst problems arise with a diamond suit, because the two diamond response will expose the opener's hand as dummy. A rebid of three clubs is a bit less problematic, but it still rules out "double negative" responses such as 2NT or three clubs. To compensate for these problems, I need 25 points or more to open two clubs with a minor suit target.

Does such a three tiered structure (22 points for a major suit game 23 for 3NT and 25 for a minor suit game) make sense?

  • 1
    Especially for very strong unbalanced hands, you should count tricks, not points. My usual standard is 22+ balanced or 8.5 tricks in a major or 9.5 tricks in a minor (but both of the latter require enough high card strength to set opponents' game contracts). Feb 19 at 23:31
  • But let me note there are plenty of experts out there who play 22+ balanced or game in hand. Feb 19 at 23:36

1 Answer 1


The answer to your headline question is yes, but the reasoning and some of the specific recommendations in the text of your question are a bit off.

First, for NT. The table you linked to recommends the following for 22-3 HCP distributions: when vulnerable, 3NT is optimal; when not vulnerable, it is better to be in 3NT than 2NT (1NT is optimal). You should follow the standard recommendation to open 2C and rebid 2NT when holding 22-24 HCP, since your alternative with a 22 HCP hand is to open 2NT; I'm not aware of any system that would allow you to stop in 1NT with 22 HCP.

Second, for minor suit openers. Just because you have a strong hand with primary diamonds, it's not the case that the hand is "not suitable for no trump." This is a partnership game; your partner has some cards in their hand as well, and the question is which contract is best for the pair of hands you have. You should describe your hand as well as you can so that your partnership can arrive at the best contract. It's true that 2C-2D-3D eats up a lot of space, so you may put some extra diamond hands in your 2NT rebid or your 1D opener, but I wouldn't say that you require 25 HCP to plan a 3D rebid.

Let's look at a few hands:

  • Ax KQx AKJTxx AQ: This hand should probably plan to bid 2C-2D-2NT. It's semi-balanced and in the right point range.
  • AQx KQx AKJTxx A: You might even plan to bid this one 2C-2D-2NT; that wouldn't be the worst distortion in the world. But it's also OK to plan for 2C-2D-3D.
  • x AQx AKJTx AKQx: This hand should open 1D and rebid 3C; two-suiters are easier to bid when starting at 1D. The short spade means that it is very unlikely to pass out in 1D.
  • AKQx AQx AKJTx J: This is probably 1D followed by 2S, but I could see an argument for 2C followed by 3D. The danger here is that you have concentrated values in the majors, so it's entirely possible that neither opponents nor partner will be able to bid, and you can make 3NT when partner has as little as Jx xxxx xxxx QTx, and 5D when partner has as little as xxx xx Qxxx xxxx (this hand makes 6 if the heart finesse succeeds).
  • A Kxx AKJTxxxx A: This is only 19 points but I can't see any reasonable opening sequence other than 2C-2D-3D.

One issue with your analysis is that you are focused on what happens when partner has exactly 3 points. This happens less than 10% of the time when you have 22 HCP. 2/3 of the time, partner has 5 points or more. But also, you have 22+ HCP less than 2% of the time. (a) it's not worth spending a lot of memory and effort optimizing your 2C bidding since it doesn't happen very often, and (b) it's certainly not worth optimizing closely for the situation where partner has 3 HCP since it's a low probability event even after you've opened 2C. When you open 2C, you're trying to find the right game or slam, and you're not worrying too much about the situation where partner is completely broke.

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