Lebensohl Opposite 1NT
After Partner has opened 1NT, and the opponents have come in at the two-level, the auction has become quite crowded. Here are a couple of problem situations which might occur. First of all, suppose that Partner opens 1NT, and RHO chirps in with a natural 2♠ bid. What do you do with these two hands?
A. ♠ 7 B. ♠ 7
♥ 954 ♥ 94
♦ KJT985 ♦ KQJ842
♣ 753 ♣ A975
With Hand A, you have no aspirations for game, but you would surely like to compete to 3♦. With Hand B, you want to play in game … whether that game should be 3NT or 5♦ will depend to a large extent on Opener’s Spade holding. Clearly, you cannot use 3♦ for both of these hands.
C. ♠ A7 D. ♠ 97
♥ KJT6 ♥ KJT6
♦ K743 ♦ AK74
♣ 842 ♣ 842
Again, Partner opens 1NT, and you would like to be in game. If you are given a free run, it’s a simple Stayman auction, ending in a contract of 3NT or 4♥. But, as before, RHO crowds our auction with a 2♠ bid. It’s easy enough to use 3♠ here as Stayman, but what is Partner supposed to do when he does not hold 4 Hearts, and when he also has no Spade stopper? Does he guess to bid 3NT, hoping you hold Hand C, and then go down in flames when you turn out to hold Hand D?
What Exactly is this Lebensohl?
Using Lebensohl, 2NT is an artificial bid. In fact, it is a “relay”, demanding that the 1NT Opener bids 3♣. This tricky device has the effect of doubling up on most of the available sequences, as in the following examples:
1NT 2♠ 3♥ 1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3♥
1NT 2♠ 3NT 1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3NT
1NT 2♠ 3♠ 1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3♠
In the above examples, the left-hand auction goes directly to the 3-level, and the right-hand auction goes to the 3-level via that Lebensohl relay of 2NT. Of course, the fast way says one thing, and the slow way (via 2NT) says something else!
The good news is that we have just doubled our bidding sequences, surely we’ll be able to put all these extra sequences to good use. The bad news is that we can no longer make a natural 2NT bid when they interfere. So, what are you supposed to do with those invitational hands? You must improvise! Either you will just boot out a 3NT contract, or else you will double them in 2♠. As with most conventions, there is a definite cost involved, and losing the natural 2NT call is the price of playing Lebensohl. But, a price worth paying.
As we saw above, we have two ways of bidding 3♥:
The Fast Way
1NT 2♠ 3♥
Conventionally, the fast way to 3♥ is forcing to game … Responder usually has 5 Hearts, and is offering Opener a choice of game in 3NT or 4♥. Could Responder have 6 Hearts? Unlikely, with that many Hearts he will go to 4♥ directly (or via a Texas Transfer).
The Slow Way
1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3♥
The slow way shows a hand without interest in game, presumably 6+ Hearts, something like ♠ 87 ♥ KJT642 ♦ 9542 ♣ 9. Responder just wants to compete to the 3-level.
As you can see, when they bid Spades, we only have two ways of bidding our suit at the 3-level, and we bid slowly to compete, and directly to force to game. There is no invitational mechanism, their 2♠ just took up too much room. However, when Responder’s suit outranks their suit, we have a third option:
1NT 2♥ 2♠ Competing, no interest in game.
1NT 2♥ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3♠ Invitational.
1NT 2♥ 3♠ Game-forcing.
The cue-bid of their suit is used as Stayman. Again, we have a slow way and a fast way to make this cue-bid:
1NT 2♠ 3♠ The cue-bid is Stayman, and the fact that it
was made directly says that we have no Spade
1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3♠ This cue-bid was made the slow way, the so-called
“Stayman with a Stopper”.
This is the so-called “Slow Shows” method (or “Fast Denies”, if you prefer). Pretty straightforward, once you get that 2NT relay into your repertoire. After the Stayman cue-bid (by either the Fast or the Slow method), Opener will usually be in a position to bid 3NT or 4♥.
Try these hands after the auction has started 1NT 2♠, 3♠ … Fast Denies, so this is Stayman Without a Stopper.
♠ AQ8 Here we have two stoppers in their suit, so 3NT is surely playable.
♥ QJ85 But, we also have a 4-card Heart suit, so 4♥ is most likely to be the
♦ K854 right spot.
♠ Q54 Yes, it’s a rather precarious Spade stop, but 3NT seems like the
♥ K76 best guess here. Hopefully the AK♠ are with the overcaller, or else
♦ AQ842 maybe Partner has the Jack.
♠ 75 3NT is clearly out of the picture. But, we have 3 good Hearts, and
♥ AQ7 can take the Spade force in the short hand, so the 4-3 fit may play
♦ K965 rather well. In other words, a 4♥ bid.
♠ 752 Fortunately, this situation never seems to come up in real life,
♥ A7 which is just as well, because it’s an awkward situation indeed.
♦ KQJ3 Partner has committed us to 3NT or 4 of a suit, and here we are
♣ AJ65 a minimum hand, so we certainly cannot take this one to game
in a minor … so we bid 4♣, hoping that we will end up in our best
minor fit, and that Partner can bid to the 5-level with a bit extra.
♠ 752 A similar hand to the one before, but beefed up to maximum
♥ A7 values. This one is probably worth taking to the 5-level, and the
♦ KQJ3 best way to do that is to bid 4NT … even without prior discussion
♣ AK65 this should surely say “pick a minor”. Yes, it is something of a
gamble, there might well be 3 Spades to be lost.
Bidding No Trump
For hands where Responder has no interest in a major suit fit, but has the values for game, he’ll usually set his sights on 3NT. As usual, there’s a fast way and a slow way to get to 3NT.
1NT 2♠ 3NT “Fast denies”, so leaping to 3NT directly denies
a Spade stopper.
1NT 2♠ 2NT Pass
3♣ Pass 3NT Going to 3NT the slow way shows a stopper.
Is Lebensohl on after the opponents bid 2♣? It needn’t be, most players use a Double here as Stayman, and play that the rest of their system is on, so Transfers and whatever else are still available.
Is Lebensohl on after the opponents double? No. Some players use one of a number of fancy run-out systems, which is all well and good, but you can also keep things simple and just play “systems on” in this situation.
Is Lebensohl on after we have overcalled 1NT? For example:
1♥ 1NT 2♥ ??
Yes, indeed, Lebensohl can and should be used here.
For examples of Lebensohl from actual play, please follow this link to the Archives
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