13. The 2N Opening Family

What Hands Are Included?

Opening 2N shows a balanced hand with 20-21 points. The hand may contain a five card major. Experts will often open a 5-4-2-2 hand with 2N, and certainly a 5-3-3-2. As with opening 1N, opening 2N nails down opener’s strength to a small range, and responder becomes Captain of the hand.

With 22-24 points, a balanced 2♣ opener rebids 2N; respond to that 2N bid exactly as if the opener had opened 2N except that he has a few more points. We refer to these agreements as the 2N opening family.

A hand that is 1=4=4=4 can be opened 2N with a singleton ♠K, but not an ♠A. If you open it 1♦ you’d have a choice over partner’s expected spade bid of jump shifting to 3♣, losing the hearts, or reversing into hearts without longer diamonds than hearts, which is not permitted. Opening 2N may be the least evil.


Unlike the situation over 1N, there is no room for many conventions; in particular, there is no escape sequence to get out in a minor. Otherwise:

  • Pass with less than game-going values (5 HCP or perhaps an Ace)

  • 3♣ is Stayman. What variant of Stayman is a choice, see below.

  • 3♦ and 3♥ are major transfers.

  • 3♠ is up for discussion; see below.

  • 4♣ is Gerber.

  • 4♦ and 4♥ are Texas Transfers, if you play them.

  • 4N is quantitative, asking opener to bid 6N with a hand with good trick-taking ability.

  • 6N means you are sure we have 33 HCP but not 37 HCP.

  • 7N means you’re having a good day.

Some play 3♣ as Puppet Stayman. Unfortunately you can’t play both Smolen and Puppet because of the different meanings of a 3♦ reply by opener. Expert opinion favors plain Stayman with Smolen or a more complicated version of Puppet, according to Gavin Wolpert. Most ordinary players play Puppet Stayman, or even ordinary Stayman without Smolen. You can do fine with just ordinary Stayman.

As a general rule, when responding with a hand with a five-card major, we transfer to it and then show the other suit when game forcing. With 5=5 in the majors, a transfer to spades and then bidding hearts is offering opener a choice of 4♥ or 4♠, while transferring to hearts and then bidding spades is more interested in slam.

As with the 1N opener, holding 5-4 in the majors, responder can bid 3♣ and if opener replies 3♦, puppet the four-card major suit (Smolen). Or, partners can agree to use Puppet Stayman.

Notes on 3 Spades

Some intermediates play that 3♠ is a relay to 4♣, analogous to the minor relay 2♠ over 1N, intending to get out in a minor. This is a bad idea over 2N; pick between pass and 3N.

Any agreement about 3♠ suffers from the problem that opener’s RHO can double for a spade lead, possibly sinking the ship. We really have to be serious about a possible minor slam before risking this.

A common agreement is “Minor Suit Stayman”, showing both minor suits. Experts do not play this. Again, if you might make 3N you should bid it.

Experts make 3♠ a relay to 3N, followed by responder showing a minor as a slam try.

See Advanced 2N Bidding for a full expert system.

I have no section on dealing with interference over a 2N opener because doing so is almost never advisable. As a general rule, responder as Captain would deal with it.