In Their Own Words

The Weak Two-bid

(Warning: Dangerous if Used Improperly!)

by Howard Schenken

The weak two-bid is very effective when put to proper use. When bid on hands that are too strong or, far more important, too weak, it will boomerang and the results will be disasterous. The weak two-bid has always been one of my favorites, possibly because I invented it way back in the 1930s. My theory was that if a jump overcall would cause the opponents bidding problems, a weak two-bid introduced before they had a chance to bid would act as even more of a hindrance.

Requirements for the weak two-bid

Here are my requirements for the weak two-bid.

  1. 8-12 high-card points with one and a half to two defensive or honor tricks (except in certaintactical situations.)
  2. A six-card suit headed by at least Q-J-9.
  3. At least five potential winning tricks, often six or more, especially when vulnerable.
  4. Little or no support for the other major suit.


Some good and some bad weak two-bids

Here are some examples of how to and how not to use weak two-bids.

  1. ♠Q J 10 9xx  x  xx  ♣A Q 10x. (9 HCP)
    Bid 2♠. You should win at least six tricks.
  2. ♠xx   A K Qxxx  xxx  ♣xx. (9 HCP)
    Bid 2. You should win five or six tricks.
  3. ♠x  A Q Jxxx   xx  ♣ Q J 10x. (10 HCP).
    Bid 2. This fine hand should produce seven tricks.
  4. ♠K J 10xxx   x  A xxx  ♣ xx (8 HCP).
    A minimum 2♠ bid, worth about five tricks.
  5. ♠xxx  A 10xxxx  A x  ♣xx (8 HCP).
    Pass. Your heart suit is too weak.
  6. ♠ K 10 9xx  Q 10x   x  ♣A J 10x (10 HCP).
    Pass, or bid 1♠ if you wish. You have a weak five-card suit. You also have heart support.
  7. ♠ xxx   A Q Jxx  Axx  ♣xx (11 HCP).
    A borderline 1 bid. Some players make a weak two-bid merely because they think their hand is inadequate for a one-bid. This is a very fallacious theory.

The last three hands illustrate the wrong type on which to open a weak two-bid. They all have at least two defensive tricks, but are very weak in playing strength. Remember a weak two-bid takes bidding room away from your partner as well as the opponents. Should you ever make a weak twobid in a five-card major? Hardly ever, except with hands like this:

  1. ♠K Q J 10 x xx  Axx  ♣xxx (10 HCP).
    Bid 2♠. You have five fairly sure tricks.
  2. ♠ x  A K Q Jx  J 10 xx  ♣ xxx (11 HCP).
    Bid 2. You should win at least five tricks.


Responding to a weak two-bid

Most players agree in principle with my requirement for the weak two-bid. Mishaps occur because they cannot resist shading the requirements. But when it comes to responses, there are two distinct schools.

  1. Every response is forcing except a raise. This may work out well whenever responder has slam possibilities, since it leaves more room to explore. Also it assumes that the opening bidder has a very good suit. Against these virtues are certain defects.
    1. You always must get to at least the three level. At the same time, the quality of the opening bid may remain a mystery to the responding player. Hence he may be in doubt whether to continue or stop bidding.
    2. You can only proceed on the assumption that the weak two-bidder always has a very good suit.
  2. Two notrump as the only forcing response. This response always shows at least the equivalent of an opening bid, although not necessarily a notrump-type hand. It has several distinct virtues.
    1. It gives opener a chance to clarify his hand. With a minimum, he simply rebids his suit.
    2. With a solid suit or a strong suit with a sure reentry, opener can bid three notrump.
    3. With a sound weak two-bid, he can show a feature such as an ace or a subsidiary suit.
    4. The negative aspect when responder takes out in a new suit is most important. A bid in a new suit is an absolute denial of support for partner’s suit. It announces that responder has a long, strong suit of his own, and he wishes to play the hand. Opener is commanded therefore to pass unless he can raise his partner’s suit.


Some sample hands

Assume your partner has opened with 2 and your only forcing response is 2NT. What do you respond with the following hands:
1. ♠ x  A K Q Jx  J 10 xx  ♣ xxx

Click for answer
(12 HCP) Respond 2NT, but pass a rebid of 3.
2. ♠ xx   Qxxx   Qx  ♣ A Jxxx
Click for answer
(9 HCP) If not vulnerable, jump to 4 as a further shutout bid. If vulnerable, bid 3
3. ♠ A Q J xxx  x  Axx  ♣ A Qx
Click for answer
(17 HCP) Respond 2NT. Over a rebid of 3, bid 3♠. This also is forcing.
4. ♠ Jxx  —  A Q J 10xxx  ♣ Qxx
Click for answer
(10 HCP) Bid 3. This is a firm denial of partner’s suit. He can only pass or raise your suit
5. ♠ A K Q 10xx  xx  x  ♣ Q 10xx
Click for answer
(11 HCP) Bid 3♠. This response shows a strong suit. It is very encouraging, but still not forcing.
6. ♠ x  x   Q 10 xx  ♣ K Q J xxxx
Click for answer
(8 HCP) Bid 3 for two reasons: (1) you hope to buy the contract at that price; (2) if you pass, your LHO is sure to enter the bidding.


    Both the weak jump overcall and the weak two-bid are primarily designed to interfere with the opponents by depriving them of several rounds of bidding space. If you use them soundly, you should get many good results and few poor ones. But if you fall in love with the word “weak” and use them to excess, you will find the opposite is true.

    About Howard Schenken

    Howard Schenken (1905-1979), the bridge player’s bridge player, was one of the all time greats and an original member of the Bridge Hall of Fame. He was a major player for more than five decades. In several polls he was declared by the majority of U.S. experts the best player of all time. Schenken standardized and popularized the weak two-bid and was the first American expert to realize the enormous advantage the Italian teams enjoyed with their strong opening bid of 1. He incorporated it into his Schenken Club System. When the rank of Life Master was created in 1936, selection was based solely on success in national events. Schenken was named Life Master #3.