Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Reversing… for beginners

I am working on SAYC on two fronts.  One is that I am mentoring Luise and her partner who are trying to work on a convention card (and on a system).  I am also working on editing an SAYC book.  So my teaching brain is thinking about SAYC.

I have always hated reverses.  As I get older and maybe wiser with more system knowledge I hate them less.  It always seemed that whenever my partner or I reversed something bad happened.  I remember sitting in on a lecture at a regional that Paul Thurston gave about reversing and it seemed to make sense at the time but I can’t remember what he said now.  Over the years I have developed my own system which many of my partners consent to play to humor me.  Its designed for minimum pain.

The idea is that you always bid 2NT (Lebensohl) on a weak hand and then over 3C make the descriptive (and nonforcing) bid you want.  Any other bid, be it fourth suit or a rebid of your major is game forcing.  It seemed to me that if you were forced to the three level you might as well just go there.  I can see some problems with this approach but at least it is clear and simple.

Now I am playing that the negative bid is either fourth suit or 2NT whichever is cheaper.  In this approach rebidding your own suit at the two level is still a game force so you will have to make the negative if you want out in your suit.  This seems okay to me and is still pretty simple.  It does have the advantage that you still have chances of playing notrump from the strong side when opener wants to play there even opposite a negative.

The book I am working on has rebidding your major as a weak bid although it is still forcing on opener.  So the auction 1C-1H-2D-2H is weak but forcing.  I am not sure why it has to be forcing if it is weak.  Some of opener’s rebids can be passed by responder but not I think fourth suit or a rebid of opener’s second suit (diamonds in the example).  2NT is still Lebensohl (for hands where you don’t want to rebid your major) and fourth suit seems to be natural and forcing.

I tried to explain some of this to Luise this morning suggesting the 2NT is the only weak bid method.  It was my KISS approach.  What do you think we should teach beginners.

I still hate reverses.


Robert E. HarrisMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I play in a group (mostly women) where several partnerships will reverse freely without much (if any) extra strength. They say, “We don’t not play reverses.” They get along fairly well with these methods, so much so that I think I should keep records and see how they actually do with the kinds of hands.

I like any system that is easy to remember and lets us get out after a reverse is good. It needs to be easy to remember because it won’t come up often.

The use of 2NT as Lebensohl is new to me, but a great idea. I intend to implement this in my regular partnerships, if I can.

Fourth suit natural (below 2NT)has a lot of appeal if not game forcing; it has the ring of, “Hey pard, bid 2NT unless you are really strong.” I certainly would not want this to be a game force if I wiggled up a 5HCP response to opener on a 5 card suspect suit, hoping to pass next. Say, for your example of 1C–1H–2D–?, and I hold Qxxx=Kxxxx=xx=xx., or even JTxx=KTxxx=xxx=x


Chris HasneyMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

To keep it simple, an opener reverse should show a 2-bid hand (minimum 16+ HCP) and is forcing for one round only unless opener continues with the 4th suit, now forcing game and looking for a home. A responder reverse shows an opening bid, perhaps in support of opener’s suit (and thus including distribution points), perhaps not, and is game forcing. Some partnerships play opener reverses very strong, 18+, and also some play that suits can be equal length. Neither of those treatments are standard.

Chris HasneyMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:52 pm

How does one correct a comment? I realized my grammar was poor and that the sentence should have read: “Neither of those treatments is standard.” Couldn’t go in and correct it. Oh, well.

Chris HasneyMarch 12th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Addendum, and not all would concur. In Standard (SAYC or similar), after a two over one (2/1) response if responder subsequently bids a higher ranking suit than s/he bid originally it is NOT a reverse and does not guarantee opening strength values. It’s merely exploratory for a fit and may be limited to a responder 2-bid hand, 11-12 HCP or thereabouts. Of course, responder’s hand could be bigger.

kenrexfordMarch 13th, 2010 at 6:35 am

FWIW, in my mind (perhaps not a good place to go) the 2NT Leb approach, although not in theory ideal (prefer Ing), is easier to explain if you think about a parallel.

Look at the reverse as the functional equivalent to a strong 2-bid opening. Back in the day, a 2H opening was a BIG hand with hearts, and 2NT was negative.

So, instead of calling 2NT “lebensohl” and scaring people off because of screwy words, just call it “negative” and explain the parallel. Suddenly, it’s easy.

You can also ditch the idea of calling 2NT a “relay to 3C” to further simplify things. Relays are for experts. If you focus on 3C as if it were a choice made by Opener, rather than forced onto Opener, it seems somehow more natural. Responder made a negative call, I have shown my hand as Opener, so I’m bidding the cheapest call — 3C — to see what he has. Call it “Checkback Stayman” if you want, or describe 3C as like Stayman, but obviously passable if that seems best. Passing when that seems best is also an easy concept.

LindaMarch 13th, 2010 at 9:49 am

Ken those are awesome ideas. I am not sure about checkback Stayman but your concepts are very cool

Paul GipsonMarch 15th, 2010 at 9:01 am

I thought a fairly common expert approach was known as Blackout, where the cheaper bid of 2NT and 4th suit is used to show weak hands.

Paul GipsonMarch 15th, 2010 at 9:06 am

Crowhurst’s Precision Bidding in Acol is a dated but comprehensive bidding book that provides good advice for beginners and natural players (including experts) in this area.

Eric says that there are three non-forcing bids after a Low Reverse such as 1C-1H-2D:

2H – shows a fair 6-card suit and little else

2NT – a stop in the fourth suit but insufficient values to bid 3NT

3C – simple preference to opener’s first suit

All other bids are game forcing.

This seems easy enough.

LindaMarch 16th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I usually play the way you describe in your first comment Paul. I think for beginners simple preference not forcing, 2NT natural but not forcing and repeat of your major not forcing is not a bad idea. It seems that most people play that repeat of your major is forcing one round if you play the style you describe above. Then a raise or 2NT by opener would be not forcing on responder.

Still this all seems pretty complicated for beginners.

Leave a comment

Your comment