This hand happened to me in online play. I had:

♠AKQ109 ♥AKQ75 ♦3 ♣QJ

That is 21 high card points, mostly in hearts and spades, both as 5 card suits. So game in either hearts or spades looks good, No Trump is only an option if partner has a stopper in diamonds and clubs. With that many points in my hand we could go to game if partner holds as little as 5 points including shape.

Partner held:

♠7 ♥2 ♦Q987652 ♣K753

I opened 2 clubs, partner responded 2 diamonds as expected. After mentioning first my hearts response 3 diamonds and then my spades partner bid 4 clubs. At that point I though NT could work, partner promised diamonds and clubs but a 4 NT bid would be considered a slam invitation. So instead I bid 4 hearts, hoping partner would chose between either game in hearts or spades. Partner big 5 diamonds instead. I bit 6NT and we went down 3.

Some other players opened the bidding with 1 heart or 1 spades, which was followed by passes all around. Better than my outcome but not good either. Some people opened the bidding with 4 hearts or 4 spades, both made but that seems a massive gamble to me, although both bids made it. Some people opened 2 NT which got a response of 3 NT which then made. That seems like the most desirable outcome but then my hand doesn't look like it should open 2NT with shortness and no stopper in 2 suits.

So what would have been a good course of bidding with this hand?

3 Answers 3


The hardest strong hands to bid are probably two-suiters with spades as an anchor suit. First, some commentary on the bidding that actually happened:

Always bid your higher suit before your lower suit with two 5-card suits. In this case, it means bidding spades before hearts. Having opened two clubs, your rebid is 2S, not 2H. That gives your partner more room on the next round of bidding. Your auction should have gone 2C-2D; 2S-3D; 3H-3NT. Partner has shown their diamonds and, diagnosing this misfit, should bid 3NT with the fourth suit stopped. If their hand was a bit better, they would have made a positive response to 2C with 3D directly.

I would open 1S with this hand. I don't have game in hand, and two-suiters are difficult to describer over a 2C opening. Partner should respond; their hand has a lot of offensive power, and is stronger than a balanced 7-count that wouldn't consider passing an opening bid. If partner hears a 2C or 2D rebid, good things can happen. As it is, the auction should go 1S-1NT; 3H-3NT. Again, with the unbid suits covered and an extreme misfit, responder should try to get out of the auction in the cheapest game.

  • @KarlKnechtel Yes, note that the answer says "your rebid is 2S", i.e. after you open 2C and partner responds 2D. I'm not suggesting that this hand should be opened 2S.
    – ruds
    Commented Jun 29 at 18:09

2♣ is a horrible bid that should be used when necessary, not a bid you should want to make. It exists because 12-21 (11-21, 10-21) is already a huge range to resolve, and there has to be a top limit somewhere; not because it's a great bid.

Its biggest problem is that it preempts your auction(1) - as you saw. ruds' comment is right(2) - if you bid 2♠ first as you should, then at least you've shown your hand at 3♥. It doesn't really help much on this hand (partner's "only hope" is 3NT anyway), but will help tremendously when they can bid 3♠ with say Jx.

But that's just dressing; the key is that two-suiters don't play well with 2♣ openings.

I look for reasons to not bid 2♣; "Big two-suiter" is a huge one(3). I will only bid it if literally the right K or QQ (and nothing else) will make game(4). Here, you have three chances if you open 1♠ to be able to show your hand; the chance that one opponent doesn't have a minor preempt (or even a minor 10+) and that partner can't scramble a 1NT or a 2♠ response - and that you can make game - is low. Lower than many think.

And I note that here, with a not minimum GF responding hand to 2♣ (K, Q, decent suit), even 3NT isn't a lock (3 diamonds, ♣A and whichever major suit long trick you break - assuming one does break 4-3). Yes, it's a massive misfit, but still.

The way to think about this hand is not "partner might pass 1♠", it's "what do I need to make game?" And what you need is a) a major fit (Jx counts, likely), and b) minor Aces (kings aren't really helpful, as you see here). Are you going to lose a spade fit in the auction? Almost certainly not (yes, you might lose a heart fit). Is partner going to pass with an Ace? Almost certainly not (4, again). So, if you do end up playing at the 1 level, you're likely to be happy about it. Also, if slam is in the picture, is it going to be easier to find after 1♠ (or 1♠-1NT; 3♥) than after 2♣? Likely, or at least no harder.

It is truly unfortunate that you hit a massive misfit with a beautiful hand. Misfits are hard to bid and hard to play no matter what, and sometimes you're going to get to a bad contract or the wrong contract. You'll have company.

  1. In fact, this is why strong 1♣ systems like Precision exist. Sure, you're sacrificing more than one opening bid to the strong god (in "standard" Precision, I would say 4: 1♣, 1♦, 2♣ and 2♦) but you get it back with the limited 1 Major openings (and to an extent, the other 3 minor openings), and at least your strong investigations don't start with a preempt (the opponents tend to do that for you, though).
  2. Although I disagree about his "worst hand"; it's two-suiters with primary diamonds, especially diamonds and a major.
  3. And if your system over 2♣ is "2♦ GF, 2♥ ultra-negative", that's another reason; what are you going to do if partner bids 2♥? Remember, ♠Jx ♥Jx and out likely makes game; ♠432 ♥432 is about 50%; are you likelier to find that out after 2♣-2♥ than after 1♠-pass (remember, opponents might save you!)? How do you bid the hand?
  4. My convention cards, in the space marked "minimum for response", has "Ace or 6 HCP". I would strongly suggest at least discussing adopting this treatment.
  • With 21 points in my hand, the 3 others have 19 between them, giving an expected value of 6.33 HCP for partner. So not having 6 HCP for a 1NT response is actually not that unlikely. But I guess if this happens, just being in 1 spade is probably not that bad.
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 28 at 17:00
  • 1
    or and Ace, or SJxx and (a K or a singleton) which raises, or...But also, if partner can't come up with a response, then the opponents, with (if we have one) a fit, might. And if neither - as I said, 1S might be a great contract.
    – Mycroft
    Commented Jun 28 at 17:05
  • 2
    Fair note that 2C auctions with long diamonds are terrible, but I'm much less worried about 1D passing out than 1S.
    – ruds
    Commented Jun 28 at 17:41
  • heh, true. But (and OP, this is going way beyond the scope of your question) that's why modern bidding is moving to "I don't respond to partner's opener without at least 13 cards", and eating the fail case when partner has 18 flat. And my concern about 1D passed out is not when I have a big hand with lots of diamonds - it's when I have a big hand and they have lots of diamonds :-). Of course, my primary partnership is weak NT, so 1D tends to be sound, so partner stretches even more to bid than standard - that may colour my thoughts as well.
    – Mycroft
    Commented Jun 28 at 17:49
  • A good summary! I did upvote the other answers as well. Two comments: I agree about 2-suiters with diamonds being the most inconvenient hands to describe. My related horror story comes from BBO, playing with a bot. I was dealt AKQxxx,-, AKQJxxx,- I stretch to open 2-suiters at one level (for the listed reasons), but surely this is a 2C-opener. Well. My GIB partner had a good hand and responded 2H. Still unperturbed I continued with 2S. And the bot jumped to 6NT. Needless to say, we didn't get to the correct grand. Commented Jul 14 at 10:54

Given what you said about the results, I wonder about the standard of defensive play among your opponents. But, ignoring that...

Yes, opening 2 suited hands 2C tends to cause lots of problems because you can't show both of your suits below the 3 level. I would open this one 2C because you have a good chance at game opposite xxx xxx xxxx xxx, but I wouldn't object to partner opening 1S.

Assuming a 2C opening, it goes

2C - 2D - 2S - 3D - 3H (yes you must bid spades first with equal suits, because the extra step you get by having shown both your suits with 3H rather than needing to get to 3S to show both your suits is huge).

Now I really disagree with 4C at this point. On general principles, the 4th suit shouldn't be natural, and on general principles, new suits at the 4 level shouldn't be natural. What can you gain by bidding 4C naturally? Partner can't have a club fit for you; they have 9 or likely 10 major suit cards, which doesn't leave much room for 4 clubs. If partner bid 4C, I would take that as an artificial bid supporting hearts and suggesting slam.

That leaves 4D or 3N. I don't like 3N - partner's high cards are useful in either 3N or 5D, but I might have zero entries to my hand in 3N. Picture partner with AKxxx AKxxx AK x and 5D is odds on while 3N is hopeless against competent defense since you never get to hand to run your diamonds.

So it goes 2C - 2D - 2S - 3D - 3H - 4D. Now 4H, and then 5D. At this point, you should be aware that partner's hand looks like xx xx xxxxxxx xx and pass, knowing that you're likely already too high. (And you are, likely down 2.)

Assuming a 1S opening, I think you have to respond 1N with that 5 count. If partner has a fit for either minor, you can make game even if they don't have that many points. So it goes 1S - 1N - 3H, and you wish you had passed. Now the question is whether 4D is natural or not; people play it either way. If 4D is natural, that's the bid with this hand, and you'll probably end up at 5D. If it's not natural, then the question is whether 5D is natural or not. You're either forced to bid 3N with a misfit or end up in 5D.

Finally, just for amusement (KK relay with relays at +2 after power 1H, if I remember the system correctly):

1C (artificial 16+ any) - 1D (artificial 0-8 any) 1H (hearts or artificial 20+ any) - 2D (gf opposite 20+, clubs) 2H (confirming 20+, asking for more description) - 2N (diamonds longer than clubs) 3C (forced, asking for more info) - 3H (2254 or 1174) 3N (to play) - 4D (1174, one king, no aces)

and opener can pass.

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