Lebensohl over Weak 2-Bids

After an auction like:

   LHO  Partner  RHO   You
   2S    DBL     Pass   3C
your partner often has a difficult decision if he has extra values. Since there is such a wide point range for your minimum response (0 to about 8 or 9 pts.), he doesn't know whether or not it's safe to bid on. The Lebensohl convention was invented to help you give partner a more accurate description of your strength in these situations.

After an opponent opens a weak two-bid and your partner makes a takeout double, your bid of 2NT is Lebensohl. It says nothing about notrump. It asks partner to bid 3C, and you can then pass, sign off in a suit, or make another descriptive bid.

Weak hands (0-6 pts.)

The Lebensohl 2NT is most useful when you have a very weak hand and want to sign off in a suit that is lower in rank than the preempter's suit. If your suit is higher in rank than the preempter's suit (i.e., LHO opens 2H and you have spades), you make your "normal" minimum bid at the 2-level. But if you would have to go to the 3-level to make a minimum bid in your suit, you start with 2NT to relay partner to 3C. You can now pass if clubs is your suit, or bid another suit. The auction will go:
  LHO   Partner  RHO    You 
   2S    DBL     Pass   2NT 
  Pass   3C      Pass   Pass (or 3D or 3H)
The doubler will accept your relay with any hand of up to about 18 playing pts., but he can refuse it if he has a very powerful hand. With a hand that will make game opposite an average of about 4-5 pts. in your hand. he should refuse the relay and make another descriptive bid. If he bids higher than 3C, it is forcing; you must bid again, even if you are very weak.

Medium-strength hands (7-10 pts.)

If you bid a suit at the 3-level (instead of using the 2NT sequence), it is encouraging, but not forcing. It shows a hand with constructive values (a good 7 to about 10 pts.), but not enough to jump to game. Doubler can pass with a minimum or bid on with extra values.

You can also use the Lebensohl 2NT to invite when your suit is higher in rank than the preempter's suit. If LHO opens 2H and you have spades, you can sign off in 2S if you're weak. If you instead use the Lebensohl 2NT sequence, it shows invitational values (8-10 pts.). This full auction would be:

    LHO   Partner   RHO    You
    2H     DBL      Pass   2NT
    Pass   3C       Pass   3S
If LHO opened 2D, you can use the sequence to invite in hearts or spades.

Forcing hands (11+ pts.)

The Lebensohl 2NT sequences above all show limited values. If you have invitational or forcing-to-game strength, your jump responses can all retain their standard meaning.

Here are some simple uses of Lebensohl:
    LHO   Partner   RHO   You
     2H    DBL      Pass   ?
43  7542  J1053   K84 -- Bid 2NT (Lebensohl). Over 3C, you'll bid 3D to show the very weak sign-off hand.

J5  Q654  Q64   Q753 -- With Lebensohl, you can't make a natural 2NT bid. This is a very poor 7 pts., so evaluate it down and use the Lebensohl 2NT. You'll pass partner's 3C.

K52 732  AJ643   75 -- Bid 3D to show constructive values. If partner has extra values, he'll bid on.

AQ83 742  K873   J9 -- Bid 2NT (Lebensohl). You plan to invite by bidding 3S over partner's 3C.

AQ1084 4  A1097   1073 -- Bid 4S. This hand is too good for a Lebensohl sequence, which partner can pass. 

Specialized uses of Lebensohl

Lebensohl can be a beneficial addition to your system if you limit it to just the standard treatments above. If you want to adopt some more advanced uses of the convention, you can add special sequences to distinguish between different types of forcing and invitational hands. Here's one approach, which you can simplify or expand to meet your preferences:

Invitational auctions

Game auctions

Choice-of-game auctions

Lebensohl can help you improve your bidding accuracy when you have a good hand, but only 4 cards in the other major. Since the takeout doubler may have only 3-card support for your suit, it's helpful to give him specific information about your length in the other major and your stoppers in the opponent's suit. To do this, start with the Lebensohl 2NT (ostensibly showing a weak hand), and then follow with a cuebid or 3NT:
   LHO   Partner  RHO    You
   2H     DBL     Pass   2NT
   Pass   3C      Pass   3H or 3NT
Both these auctions show forcing-to-game strength and give partner the choice of playing your suit or notrump.

One-suited slam try

Two-suited slam tries

Lebensohl can also be used to show a two-suited hand with slam-try (or better) values. To do this, you start with 2NT, then bid a new suit at the 4-level:
  LHO    Partner   RHO   You
  2H      DBL     Pass   2NT
  Pass    3C      Pass    ?

Copyright   Karen Walker