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Strong 2 Openings; Problems and Solutions

I spent a good deal of the early years of my bridge playing days (I cannot yet call it a career) playing various sorts of strong 1 systems.

I have become disappointed in those, but the 2 solution seems worse than the disease. At some level, 2 is OK because the opponents do not know enough to compete vigorously over it (while they go crazy to compete over 1). However, as my competition level becomes more aware of the advantages of competing over the strong but overloaded 2 bid, it seems totally wasteful to start the bidding so high with such a strong hand.

Then there are the problems of responding to a 2 opening even without competition . . . the 2 response gets quickly overloaded and many good grands are missed no matter what response system is used.

So . . . what are your standards for a 2 opener? For myself, as a general rule, I say 18+ HCP and 4 or fewer losers. The only exception is that a 5 or even 6 loser hand can be opened 2 if it fits a 22-24 HCP NT hand type.  With 17 HCP or less, I almost never open 2, even if I have only 2 or 3 losers.  Someone else will bid is my theory. Partner with 5 HCP or more or an OPP with 12 HCP or more.

And when, if ever, do you make a positive response to a 2 bid? and how? I know that some experts recommend 8+ HCP for a positive, but to me losing trick count is much more useful for the responder to a 2 opening. I want a positive response to show a fairly strong chance for slam. And I hold that a positive response is mandatory with 8 or fewer losers. Otherwise, too many grands are missed.  But having decided that a positive response is mandated, what system is used? I like "flip flop" in the Majors (2 means s and 2 means s) with 3 being obvious for s, leaving only the  suit as a potentially wrong-sided contract.

Finally, what other tools are in Responder's kit?  For example, the other day, I opened 2 and partner holds: x, x, QJ9x, KQJxxx. I won't bore you with the ridiculous system that we were playing, but we missed the totally lay down 7 and even the good scoring 6NT when partner felt compelled to leap to 6 after some preliminaries.

I would like something better for both opening and response, but I am not sure what it would be. What do you use?

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