Lebensohl and Its Variations

The Lebensohl Fast or Slow convention can be extremely useful in competitive situations, especially where the game contract is still available.

Few examples for the Lebensohl situations:

Namely to following are the most common Lebensohl situations:

  • When right hand opponent overcalls our 1NT opening.
  • When our natural and weak response over an 1NT opening is doubled in 2nd or 4th position.
  • When we double to opponents 1NT opening and they run to their suit.
  • And finally a bit different situation, but propably to most common use for Lebensohl is when we double a weak two level opening in 2nd or 4th position. 

Our target is to create more bidding space to be able to separate the different hand types based on their strength. In order to do this, we have to give up the possibility of bidding a natural 2NT. We will use a conventional 2NT bid to force the partner to bid 3♣. This conventional 2NT bid is known as the Lebensohl 2NT.

The principle is to show the following types of hands

  • Natural weak hand on level 2
  • Limit hand with a minor suit on level 3
  • GF hand with a 5 card major on the level

Using the Lebensohl convetion the following hands are bid through the conventional 2NT which is forcing to 3♣:

  • Weak hands with 5 or more cards in a minor suit, with this either pass over the 3♣ or bid 3.
  • Limit hand with a 5 card major suit, with this bid 3M over the 3♣ relay.
  • Certain GF hands with no 5 card major suit, I'll explain this later.

By squeezing all these hands into the 2NT bid, other bids can become more descriptive.

  • Bids on the two-level are natural and non-forcing, as with a 5 card major we only need to deal with weak or GF now.
  • 3m is  natural and invitational, as we already have a bid to deal with weak hands.
  • 3M bid is natural, 5 card major and GF.

This seems quite simple right? The confusion with Lebensohl comes when we have to bid GF hands without a 5-card major suit. This is where the Lebensohl Fast and Slow conventions differ. It's extremely important not to agree upon playing the Lebensohl convention with your partner unless you discuss how to bid the following 4 hands:

  1. GF hand with a 4 card major and no stopper
  2. GF hand with a 4 card major and stopper in opponent's suit
  3. GF hand with no 4 card major and no stopper
  4. GF hand with no 4 card major, but with stopper in opponents hand

Lebensohl variations

Playing Lebensohl Fast, we always bid 2NT when we have a GF hand with a 4 card major suit, and then we bid a cuebid over the partner's obligatory 3♣ showing 4M, but no stopper in opponent's suit. But, if we bid 3NT over the partner's obligatory 3♣ bid we have both 4M and stopper in the opponents suit. When we have no 4 major, we bid 3nt with stopper and we bid a cubid directly without stopper. 

1NT 2 ?
2NT3♣3We have 4♠, no  stopper
3NTWe have 4♠ and we have stopper
3We don't have 4♠, we don't have stopper
3NTWe don't have 4♠, but we have stopper

Playing Lebensohl Slow, we always bid 2NT, when we have a stopper, and we bid cuebid over the partner's obligatory 3♣ to show 4M. Therefore we bid direct cuebid without stopper and a four card major holding, and we bid 3NT directly to deny both 4M and stopper. This is the tricky part, because even though a jump to 3NT may seem like a to-play bid, partner must bid on without a stopper.

1NT 2 ?
2NT3We have 4♠ +   stopper
3NTWe have stopper, but no 4♠
3We have 4♠, but no stopper
3NTWe don't have 4♠ and we don't have stopper but I'm strong

Fortunately other bids are easier to comprehend.

1NT 2X ?
2/2♠Natural, WEAK
2NTLebensohl, can be weak, invitational or even GF
3♣/3Natural, invitational or slightly weaker
3XCue bid of the opponents suit is artificial GF, and its meaning varies depending on the Lebensohl variation you choose
3/3♠Natural, at least five card suit. Shouldn't bid this with a 6 card suit if you only have GF values
3NTArtifical bid, its meaning varies depening on the Lebensohl variation you choose
4/4♠Natural, at least six card suit and to-play.

The same convention can be used when opponents open 1NT, and we double it for penalty.

Lebensohl after takeout double

You've probably already met other players playing the Lebensohl convention after a takeout double of a weak-two opening. It might not be the bidding situation it was originally intended to solve, but it's surely where it's to most effective compered to natural approaches.

The concept of the convention is almost the same as over the 1NT with two major differences.

  • The take-out table doesn't necessary show all other suits and isn't limited. It might be any distribution if hand is too strong for a natural overcall.
  • Pass is only an option if you're prepared to play the contract doubled. Therefore you'll always need to have a weak bid for all suits.

The idea is that all two-level bids are weak, if a suit can't be bid on the two level, then bidding through the artificial 2NT will show a weak hand. Also because partner might pass the 3♣ bid over the Lebensohl 2NT, a strong hand must never bid a 3♣ waiting for partners next bid, but show its extra values immediately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *