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There are two situations where LEBENSOHL may be used:
  1. Partner opens 1NT and the opponent's overcall in a suit at the 2-level - natural or artificial. Without some agreed means of defence to such interference, the partnership may badly 'lose out' in battles for part-score, or even Game, contracts, or may venture into a completely unplayable contract. This situation is covered in a complementary article on this website, which the reader is advised to read prior to this article as many of the principles carry over.
  2. An opponent opens a 'Weak 2' and partner doubles for take-out. The problem now is, that if the opener's partner passes, then the partner of the doubler is forced to bid something - and how does partner of the doubler convey the strength of the hand? This situation is covered within this article.


Suppose that our RHO opens a 'Weak 2' and we have a hand with which we wish to compete. Without some agreed defensive scheme, our side may have to resort to 'guesswork' as to where our bidding should head. In order to avoid this 'guesswork', a style commonly adopted is as follows:
  1. 2NT shows a 17- 20 HCP balanced hand that includes stops in the opponent's suit. Assuming that the LHO passes, partner uses all the usual conventions that are used opposite a straight 2NT opener, eg, including transfers, and Baron or Stayman or 5-card Stayman, or whatever your usual methods are.
  2. A simple suit overcall is natural with 5+ cards and opening values
  3. With a hand that would like to make a penalty double, it is best to pass (smoothly) and hope that partner will re-open the bidding with a protective take-out double, which you will then turn into a penaalty double by passing it
  4. Over a weak 2 in a major, a jump to 4 of a minor shows a hand that is at least 5-5 shape in the minor bid and in the other major; if the opponents are playing '3 weak 2s' and open 2 then a jump to 4 shows a hand that is at least 5-5 in the majors
  5. A simple cue bid in the opponent's suit shows a hand that wishes to play in 3NT if partner can stop the opponent's suit. Typically, the hand will include a long running minor suit and some values in the other two suits.
  6. A take-out double shows any other hand type that wishes to compete on the board; note that with a border-line bid - e.g., balanced 12 or 13 points - it is best to pass. Partner should be relied on to protect to allow for this possibility.

By far and away the most common action will be a take-out double, and if this bid is now passed to partner, partner will be forced to bid, and therefore may struggle to distinguish a weak hand from something stronger. Note that the above guidelines apply in second seat, and also in fourth seat if the weak 2 is passed round, though in the 4th seat the values may be a bit shaded. If the 4th hand is strong, a simple suit bid won't be enough, so he should either double or jump in the suit.


The principles adopted are almost the same as in the situation where partner has opened 1NT and the opponents intervene - with the key differences in that the methods of showing / not showing stops is REVERSED, and additionally, doubler's partner has to bid if opener's partner passes, so in part his bidding distinguishes hands with 0-7 HCPs from stronger ones. In this situation, when it becomes appropriate, the 2NT response promises a stop in the opponent's suit. This is because it is unlikely that the hand that doubled holds a stop - having implied a shortage in the opponent's suit - and if we finish in 3NT we want the lead to come round to the hand with the stop, not through it.
  1. If two of a major is still available, then such a bid shows 0 - 7 HCPs, and it need only be a 4-card suit
  2. A non-jump bid of a suit at the 3-level shows 8+ HCPs and is natural. If the suit could have been bid at the 2 level then it shows 12+ HCPs and is game-forcing; it shows nothing either way about stops in the opponent's suit.
  3. A cue bid in the opponent's suit shows NO STOP in the suit, interest in at least one unbid major, and game interest
  4. 3NT shows game values, but no stop in their suit, and no interest in unbid majors.
  5. 2NT is once again LEBENSOHL, but now, when it becomes appropriate, the stop / no stop issue is reversed compared with situation 1
    • The hand that doubled bids 3 as routine, but can 'break the transfer' to show 17+ HCPs
    • Assuming that the doubler bid 3, then doubler's partner can bid as follows:
      • pass if he holds 0-7 HCPs with a club suit, or, unless the opponent opened a weak 2, bid 3 (to play), or bid 3 (to play) if the opponent's opened a weak 2
      • bid 3 of a major suit that he could have bid naturally at the 2-level - shows 8 - 11 HCPs, and is natural; it now says nothing about stops in the opponent's suit
      • cue bid the opponent's suit at the 3-level: this shows interest in at least one unbid major, but it also promises a stop in the opponent's suit.
    • The hand that doubled can 'break the transfer' to show 17+ HCPs either by bidding a natural (4-card +) suit or by cue-bidding the opponent's suit


The above principles also apply over a 'Multi 2' opening, which is most likely in practice to be showing a 'weak 2' opening, subject to a few minor differences as highlighted below. It is important that the defence to a multi is kept simple, so these are the basic rules:
  1. If RHO opens a multi 2, then suit bid, 2NT and double are still available. However:
    • 2NT would show 17-20 HCPs, with stops in both majors
    • Natural suit bids would be as over a Weak 2 opening, EXCEPT if the suit is a major it may be best to pass and await developments - in case you hold the same suit as opener! If you do choose to bid 2 of a major the inference is that you hold a six-card suit.
    • An intermediate jump overcall is still available (3 or 3), but as it is at the 3-level, it should not be lower range (12-13 points).
    • As 2nd hand will get a chance to bid again, it is not essential to bid with an opening hand, so for example with a 12-14 point hand and a balanced or 4,4,4,1 distribution, it may be safest to pass until opener's suit is known.
  2. If a multi 2 opening is followed by pass then a 2 or 2 relay bid, then a double in 4th position shows at least opening values. It is important for 4th seat to announce opening values in case 2nd seat has passed with values. From now on, a double by either player is for penalties. If the player in 2nd seat subsequently makes a suit bid, it might be only 4 cards.
  3. If 2nd and 4th seats do not bid on the first round, and opener's hand is then shown to be a weak 2 in a known major suit, then double in 6th seat is for take-out, and from now on bid just as if opener had opened a weak 2 in his major. An overcall in the other major is 5+ cards (not wanting to bid on the first round), i.e. just as it would have been over a weak 2 major opening.
  4. Once a Multi 2 opening in 2nd position has been doubled, or the response in 4th position has been doubled, then any subsequent double is for penalties, so the chances of taking a big penalty are maximised.

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