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Opening 2NT: The Baron Convention

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baron_system_1948_1steditionThe Baron convention is a simple tool to ascertain all the opener’s four card suits – not only majors – when the opening is 2NT or stronger, as 2♣ followed by NT rebid at the due level according to the strength.

The authors, the Englishmen Leo Baron and Adam Meredith, published it in their book: “The Baron System of Contract Bridge”. (1947 Contract Bridge Equipment Ltd. Leeds).


A note: the Baron-Meredith System also presented the “third suit forcing” convention, as

1 – 1; 1♠: forcing

1 – 1♠; 1NT – 2: forcing.

Therefore the third suit forcing bid is not natural, as many think, and has to be alerted.


The pro of investigating upon all suits looks clear if we take a glance to the following two examples:

  1. a) ♠J10xx Jxxx ♣Jxxxx Here nobody can be happy playing a 3NT contract, even assuming that the opener has the duly 21-22 points. But 5♣ or 5 are worth the stake (if opener can support one minor).


  1. b) ♠Axxx Axxx ♣Jxxxx Here we are in slam zone; different level but same stuff: 6♣ or 6 are sure better contracts than 6NT. It is not meaningless that Leo Baron put the opening 2NT at the end of the book, in the chapter dedicated to slams, where the opening frequently does flow.


A note about the opening itself: 2NT should be in the range 21-22; the lesser the strength the more the risk of getting the double, which over 2NT is always punitive, whether direct or balancing.


The Convention: the responder bids 3♣ (asking), thence both opener and responder bid their four card suits at lowest level, denying the ones jumped and not ruling out those still biddable. That’s all.



2NT – 3♣ (Baron)

3 – 3

3♠ – 3NT. The opener has diamond and spade but no heart, the sole major held by the responder.


2NT – 3♣ (Baron)

3NT – Pass. The opener has club in 3-3-3-4 shape



2NT – 3♣ (Baron)

3 – 3♠

3NT – 4

5 – Pass. Here the responder could have right the poor hand of the example a) seen above. 4 is game inviting.


Note. When the 2NT opener is called to decide according to his strength, the response will depend more upon his heads than his points. Let’s liken the following two hands:

♠AKxx  Kx  AKx  ♣Axxx and ♠AQJx Kx  KQJ  ♣KQJx: the twenty-one points of the former make a better hand than the twenty-two of the latter.


Further auction should always be dealt with the logic of natural bidding and taking in account the information already given. For example:

2NT – 3♣ (Baron)

3 – 4♠. Clearly here the responder doesn’t care of opener’s spade support, but it cannot be a sign off; would he just be in game had bid 4♠ at once. Then it’s a slam try, forcing.


Drawbacks. Admittedly, the Baron Convention loses the 5-3 fit in major when the opener has the five card suit. This cannot be denied, nonetheless the major game contract with the 5-3 fit is only preferable to 3NT when the responder has an unbalanced hand with actual power to ruff, namely (according to Culbertson), the void in a suit and three low trumps, infrequent, or the single in a suit and an head in trump, even rarer after such a powerful opening.


Paolo Enrico Garrisi

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