Tuesday, August 24, 2004 3:10 AM

Good/Bad 2NT


This is a description of the Good/Bad 2NT convention as played in my partnership . This convention uses 2NT in competitive situations mostly after a bid in the sandwich position by the opponents. It is used as an artificial bid to show a hand that is weaker than bidding directly at the three level. The intended audience for this article is expert players in steady partnerships.


Consider this contested auction:

1Diamond Suit-1Spade Suit-Dbl-2Spade Suit


You hold one of these hands that should compete respectively to 3Heart Suit, 3Diamond Suit, 3Club Suit:

Spade Suit84  Heart SuitA742  Diamond SuitAK53  Club SuitQ97

Spade SuitHeart SuitK7  Diamond SuitAKT9543  Club SuitQ97

Spade Suit84  Heart SuitDiamond SuitAKT53  Club SuitAQ974

Or you hold one of these hands that should invite to game:

Spade SuitHeart SuitAJ42  Diamond SuitAK532  Club SuitQ97

Spade SuitHeart SuitA7  Diamond SuitAKT9543  Club SuitK97

Spade Suit84  Heart SuitDiamond SuitAKQ53  Club SuitAQJ74

As you can see, it is hard to make affordable natural bids that clearly distinguish between competitive and invitational values in this situation.

Now try another one:

1Heart Suit-1Spade Suit-2Club Suit-2Spade Suit


Suppose the bidder would like to bid a suit at the 3 level. This time, the auction is already game invitational for the bidder’s side. So the issue is how to show whether the hand is competitive or game-forcing.

A good solution in these sequences is to use 2NT as an artificial bid that shows the weaker ( bad )  of the two hand types in the given situation. This allows direct bids at the 3 level to be natural and the stronger of the two hand types.


The biggest problem in using Good/Bad 2NT is knowing for sure whether it applies to each possible situation. Expert practice varies widely.

The following 3 requirements must all be met, otherwise it is not Good-Bad 2NT:

Both sides have bid.
There have been 3 or more non-passes, and the most recent bid is 2 of a suit by right hand opponent (RHO). Special case: if RHO made a weak jump overcall, then 2NT is Good-Bad.
You wish to bid a specific suit that is lower in rank or (rarely) equal to that of RHO’s suit.

The partner of the Good/Bad 2NT bidder usually bids 3§. Partner should make some other bid to show suit preference, an unexpectedly long strong suit or enough extra strength to force the bidding higher.

2NT is artificial and shows a hand that will compete in some suit at the 3 level that is of a rank lower than or equal to RHO’s 2 level bid.
If neither partner has invited or forced to game: 3 of a suit is natural and invitational (as opposed to competitive).
If either partner has invited but we are not yet forced to game: 3 of a suit is natural and game forcing (as opposed to competitive).

If the context of the auction shows which suit(s) the 2NT bidder is probably competing in, that should be in the explanation.

Further information (if requested):

Responder makes the best bid for the situation, with a default to 3§.


There is no free lunch in bridge. Good/Bad 2NT replaces 2NT as a natural bid (or as a scramble or other conventional call). Fanatics will assure you that no one wants to play a contract of 2NT, but some of the time you definitely will regret the loss of this descriptive bid. Our experience is that Good/Bad 2NT is a clear winner in frequency and size of benefits.

Good/Bad 2NT requires some discussion, practice, and memorization.  Initially there tend to be many failures to alert and instances of giving misinformation.  A good approach is to play several sessions without using it.  Try to identify in the post mortems each situation in which it would have applied, both for our side and the opponents.

Good/Bad 2NT provides an actively ethical solution to a class of bidding problems that traditionally have been handled (unintentionally, of course) by timing and body language.  The convention occurs fairly often, typically once to several times per session. Furthermore, it is fun to use.  It provides a basis for fine-tuning auctions, usually without other changes in partnership agreements.

Good/Bad 2NT is a good tool for both sides, regardless of which side opened the auction and what opening bid was made.  It is equally useful at any vulnerability and form of scoring. The Good/Bad 2NT convention is applicable to virtually all bidding systems in which the 2NT bid has not already been assigned some other special conventional meaning.


The 2NT bidder has the option to compete further after having limited the hand.  This might occur with extra length, especially in a minor, or after partner has shown a preference that improves the hand.

In a close decision, it often is right to make the direct suit bid to show the suit pattern of the hand.  This goes well with a style of aggressively inviting.  It also anticipates a tendency of opponents to frequently bid directly over the competing 2NT call, preventing the 2NT bidder from clarifying the hand.

 On the flip side, it can be right to compete with a very marginal hand and hope that LHO will be enticed to take the immediate push.

Good/Bad 2NT can also  be used to distinguish between an average hand and a perfect maximum within an already limited range.  For instance, responder might use it in this situation: 

1Diamond Suit-pass-1NT-pass 2Diamond Suit-2Spade Suit    -?

We play that the Good/Bad 2NT bid is non-forcing (although rarely passed) but some play it as forcing.

The basic rule regarding the number of non-passes might need to be modified when a Forcing Pass system is in use by either side.


Here are some cases where Good/Bad 2NT does not apply in our methods:

  1. Only one side has made a non-pass.
  2. There have been fewer than 3 non-passes in a competitive auction. In these examples, we play 2NT as a natural game try:

 1Spade Suit – 2Diamond Suit – 2NT

1Heart Suit – 1Spade Suit – 2NT 

  1.  RHO’s bid is not a suit.

1Spade Suit – 2Heart Suit – dbl – ? 

  1. They use a convention at the two level against which we employ some other predetermined defense.
  1. The other side starts the auction with a strong artificial bid showing at least 16 HCP.