In short Lebensohl is the use of the 2NT bid as an artificial bid to describe various hands after partner has opened 1NT (either weak or strong) or when partner has doubled a weak two. We will also look at other situations where you can use it as well.

Let’s look at how Lebensohl works after partner has opened a weak NT (12-14 points balanced).

So partner opens 1NT and RHO bids a suit naturally and now it’s your turn to bid!

So the 1NT bidder needs to know what your bids are….are they a:-

  • forcing response
  • non-forcing response
  • natural response
  • artificial response
  • invitational response
  • game-showing response

It is exactly these questions, which needed to be answered in order to structure a proper defense method for the No Trump bidder and partner. Without any guidelines the partnership would be lost as to how to continue. You’d be guessing and that is something we try and avoid in bridge if at all possible.

Responses to Lebensohl

Following is an outline of the responses available to the responder after a natural overcall in a suit.

1NT2♣2//♠ / XTo Play / Values
1NT22/♠ / XTo Play / Values
1NT22♠ / XTo Play / Values
1NT2♣3Natural Game Forcing
1NT2♣3Natural Game Forcing
1NT2♣3♠Natural Game Forcing
1NT2♣2NTPuppet to 3♣

The 2NT forces opener to bid 3♣. The 2NT is a puppet bid forcing the 1NT opener to bid 3♣. We have the 1NT opener on strings…they are the puppet.

The rebids by the responder after 3 Clubs by his partner:

  1. Pass with a weak hand and long Clubs.
  2. Any bid suit below the rank of the overcall is a sign-off.
  3. Any bid suit above the rank of the overcall is invitational.

Any immediate cuebid of the suit of the opponent is Staymanic (asking opener to bid 4 card majors) and promises a good 12 high card point count.

Any immediate cuebid promises a 4-card Major suit, but it is important to remember that the cuebid also denies having a stopper in the suit bid by the opponent. This cuebid by the responder is forcing to game unless the partnership cannot find a Major fit.

1NT2♣3♣Stayman (no club stop)
23Stayman (no diamond stop)
23Stayman (no heart stop)
2♠3♠Stayman (no spade stop)

The options for the No Trump bidder, after a cuebid by his partner, are as follows:

  1. to bid a 4-card Major, if he has a 4-card Major.
  2. to bid 3 No Trump with a stopper in the suit of the opponent.
  3. to seek a better contract, if neither condition is fulfilled.
    3.1. With a minimum No Trump, bid 4 Clubs or 4 Diamonds.
    3.2. If the 4-card Major suit of the responder is known, then the No Trump bidder can consider playing in a 4-3 Major fit.
    3.3. Holding a maximum No Trump and no wasted strength in the suit bid by the opponent, a jump to five of long Minor suit is advisable.
    3.4. Cuebidding the suit of the opponent at the four level is requesting the partner to choose his better Minor suit at the five level.  
    3 No Trump Response

1NT – 2X – 3NT

Any 3 No Trump response after any intervening overcall promises sufficient values and no 4-card Major suit, but it also denies having a stopper in the suit bid by the opponent. The No Trump bidder has then several options:

  • Pass with a stopper in the suit of the opponent.
  • Bids a 5-card Major suit, if he has one.
  • Explores for a better contract, generally in the Minor suits.

2NT Response

If the responder bids 2 No Trump after the immediate overcall, forcing his partner to rebid 3 Clubs, and then cuebids the suit of the opponent, then this cuebid is a Stayman bid, asking for a 4-card Major suit. The difference in this bidding sequence is the fact that the responder is showing a stopper in the suit of the opponent.

  1. Using the Lebensohl convention, it is apparent that the partnership only loses the natural 2 No Trump bid.
  2. The advantages are that each response can be recognized and determined as to whether they are:
    2.1. Forcing.
    2.2. Invitational.
    2.3. Non-forcing.
    2.4. Game-forcing. 
Lebensohl After A Takeout Double of a Weak Two Bid

After the opponents have opened the auction with a Weak Two bid and your partner doubles, defensive guidelines are necessary to inform your partner whether or not you, who are forced to bid, have a weak holding, a moderate holding, or a strong holding. The Lebensohl convention can assist greatly with this dilemma. The following guidelines should clarify.

  1. The 2 No Trump response by the responder forces the partner to rebid 3 Clubs. This gives the responder the opportunity to sign off in a long suit with a weak holding, and the partner must pass.
  2. A non-jump suit bid by the responder at the three level is constructive and informs the partner that his holding contains useful values and/or suit length and/or distribution.

This situation arose after such bidding sequences and holdings were encountered, such as the following:


Holding 1

♠ – 754 – 86 – 109743 ♣ – 985

S 754 S 865
H 86 H K7
D 109764 D KQJ86
C 985 C 1082

Holding 2

♠ – 754 – K7 – KQJ86 ♣ – 985

Now using Lebensohl we have a method to define a weak hand and a hand that might be interested in game. Before Lebensohl it would be your best guess as whether the doubler should continue or not.

Other Lebensohl Situations

In a competitive situation…

1♠Double2♠? (Lebensohl)

West can now use 2NT to try and sign off in a 3 level suit contract or bid a 3 level suit as invitational. Bid 2NT followed by 3♠ to show a stopper and 4 hearts or just bid 3♠ directly to show 4 hearts with no stopper.

After a weak jump overcall…

1♣2♠ (weak)? (Lebensohl)

South can now use 2NT to try and sign off in a 3 level suit contract or bid a 3 level suit as invitational. Bid 2NT followed by 3♠ to show a stopper and 4 hearts or just bid 3♠ directly to show 4 hearts with no stopper.

After a strong reverse…


South can now use 2NT to try and sign off in 3 clubs when you’ve responded with a 5 count for example and can now use a simple 3♣ bid for example to explore slam without taking up valuable bidding space.

Two Different ways of playing Lebensohl

Going through 2NT with a stopper is known as FASS (Fast Arrival Shows Stopper).

Alternatively you can play it as going through 2NT denies a stopper or FADS (Fast Arrival Denies Stop).

My preference is for FADS!

The important thing is you agree what you are playing with your partner.