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Conventions: Scrambling 2NT

A bid that is dying in popularity in competitive auctions is the 2NT bid . Over the years experts have concluded the usefulness of it being “natural” is just not there . One way you can attach a meaning to the 2NT bid over a double after  opponents have bid and raised a suit and partner has made a takeout double is Lebensohl . I would recommend that the Pitbulls throw the “natural” 2NT bid in the garbage can – when both opponents are bidding and partner doubles.

1 2

This a freely bid 2NT because the doubler was in the direct position rather than the “sandwich” position . This could be Lebensohl or the good-bad 2NT saying I have enough to compete so bid 3 so I can bid a suit but do not get excited over there . A direct bid of course would be invitational . The good-bad 2NT is used when there is a lot of bidding and RHO ( in the sandwich position) interferes with you showing a good invitational hand.

What if partner doubles in the “sandwich position “ either directly or balancing.  This time you do not have the luxury of a pass unless stacked in trump . What some experts suggest is the “scrambling  2NT”.

[box]The scrambling 2NT bid is used after partner makes a takeout double at the two level in the “sandwich position” , and you hold two four card suits.[/box]

1 Pass 2 Dbl
Pass 2NT

and you hold   Kxx  Qxxx  Jxxx   xx.  If you bid hearts, you could wind up in a 4-3 fit (and the same with bidding diamonds). Why guess?  If you bid 2NT as a scramble, partner can bid his four card suits up the line.  With   xx  Kxxx  AKx  QJxx partner bids 3 over which you bid 3 to deny holding four clubs and then partner bids 3 to show that suit.

Balancing sometimes needs a scramble to find your best spot. You do not always have the perfect shape for a balance. Say the auction goes 1-P-2-P P-X-P-? & you hold K10x  xxx Jxxx Axx . The scrambling 2NT is usually used when you are 4-4  in two suits but this hand is an exception as partner may have a 5 card minor for his balance. Partner held  987  x  AKxx  K10xxx & you found you 5-3 club fit. They bid 3 and you beat it one trick.

Anyway in a nutshell , scrambling 2NT is where you have two four card suits and you “scramble” to the best spot by biding your lowest ranking 4 card suit up the line. Normally the opponents suit is the “bully suit” spades.

Why play this scrambling 2NT convention?

First, you and your partner may make moreaggressive doubles knowing that you can find your 4-4 fits safely.

Second, there is a negative inference if partner does not go thru Scrambling 2NT, then the doubler will know that the suit is a five card or longer suit.

Third, what else is 2NT supposed to mean? Natural? Very rare , why not bid 3NT or if trumps sufficient , pass the double ?

The scrambling 2NT is also used in another “scrambling auction” which is running from penalty doubles. This works both ways. In other words you are scrambling trying to find your best spot when the red card is appearing after every bid or when you are doubling and they escaped. The infamous Lee Barton psyched a NT in 3rd seat and BJ doubled. Lucille redoubled and I passed . Lee exposed the psyche be re-psyching 2 which got passed around to me. I doubled and Lee went to his escape suit of 2 and around to me. I held  9876  Qxx  K10xx  Ax and with partner passing a penalty double of 2 is too extreme a position to take. Enter the scrambling 2NT as the pass is forcing and I want partner to bid something. 2NT can not be natural or I would have doubled 2 or just jumped to 3NT. BJ held  Ax  AKJ109  Qxxx  xx and we could scramble to 4 vul.


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