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Trouble with lebensohl By Billy Miller


Dear Billy, We have been having a great deal of trouble with lebensohl. My partner and I not only use it after our 1NT openers when the opponents interfere, but also when the opponents open a weak two-bid and we double. One of the biggest problems we are having is in regards to showing stoppers over the double of a weak two. I jumped to 3NT thinking I was denying a stopper over my partner’s double of a weak two-bid, and my partner thought I was nuts! We have asked around but get many different answers. Our heads are swimming in lebensohl auctions. Please help! 2NT Is Confusing To Us Midwestern Gal(s)

Dear To Know, I can understand your confusion on this subject. In fact, I would like to introduce a new concept of referring to the differing lebensohls. I’d like to call the lebensohl used over a 1NT opener as «stopper lebensohl» and the lebensohl used over the double of a weak two-bid as «range lebensohl.» What do you think?

The common thread between these two conventions is that 2NT is used as a relay to 3, but the purpose of using this relay bid is much different depending on which auction you are facing. Let’s talk about the easier one, range lebensohl. Here’s how you use it.

When partner doubles a weak two-bid, the immediate response of a non-jump new suit at the three level shows about 8 to 11HCP. With 0 to 7HCP, use the 2NT relay to 3. Either pass 3 with clubs or correct to any other new suit at the three level. Because the relay auction is used with 0- to 7-point hands and the direct three-level response shows 8- to 11-point hands, we are able to separate these two ranges by using range lebensohl. Very useful. Without this conven-tion, the doubler would never know whether partner has 0 or 11 points or anything in between. The cost of using this convention is to give up the natural 2NT response to the double. A small price to pay for a huge upside.

Using range lebensohl, the jump to 3NT says, «I have at least one stopper and I want to play 3NT!» Very simple. Normally, the takeout doubler is short in the opponent’s suit and is not expected to have a stopper. So I do not use the stopper portion of the other lebensohl over the double of a weak two-bid. When I jump to 3NT, I’ve got their suit covered.

Now for stopper lebensohl. Those who don’t play lebensohl often have trouble when they have enough points for game and jump to 3NT without a stopper in the opponent’s suit. Opener has to guess what to do if they themselves do not have a stopper. Does partner have a stopper or not? So «stopper lebensohl» uses the 2NT relay to force 3, and the 3NT follow-up shows a stopper. The immediate jump to 3NT, therefore, denies a stopper! Most people play «slow shows,» referring to whether or not they have a stopper in the enemy suit. But this convention does not stop there. You can cuebid the enemy suit directly to ask for a four-card major (Stayman) without a stopper, and use the 2NT relay followed by a cuebid as Stayman with a stopper. You can also bid immediately at the three level to indicate a game force, or use the 2NT relay to 3 to compete weakly in any new suit.

Both conventions have many secondary uses, too complex to properly cover in this article, but hopefully these definitions will help you in your partnerships to properly refer to which convention you are using: «stopper lebensohl» over partner’s 1NT openers and the opponent’s interference, «range lebensohl» in response to partner’s takeout double of a weak two-bid. Good luck!


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