2C opening bid with 14 HCPs and only four controls

A had from tonight's SIM pairs (Board 9 Thursday 4th October)

Dealer N
EW Vul

W E
S 872 AK53
H J1097 KQJ9652
D J6 2
C AKQ95 J

Bidding goes Pass from North (after which NS pass throughout) then

2C! 3C
4NT 5H (ordinary BW 2 Aces)
6H all pass

2C was alerted and South asked West what it meant. West said "our strongest bid" and S further asked whether or not that was 23 and West replied "at least 23 but could be stronger".

When dummy hit the table I immediately thought that this bid was illegal.

14 HCP and only 4 controls.

Blue Book states

5C3
To be considered a ‘Strong’ opening bid or overcall, the minimum allowed by agreement is
either or both of:
(a) any hand of at least 16 HCP
(b) any hand of at least 12 HCP with at least five controls.
Partnerships who agree that an artificial opening (such as 2) may be made with a hand with a lot of playing strength but limited high cards (such as eight solid spades and little else) must disclose this clearly. For example, the opening could be described as “Either a strong hand or eight playing tricks in a major”. This applies even if the minimum agreed strength is in line with (b) above.
There is no restriction on the strength of a natural two-level or higher opening bid but similar requirements for full disclosure apply.

I reserved our rights and raised it with the Director at the end of the evening.

The Director examined it and agreed that the 2C bid wasn't compliant with the Blue Book and nor was the explanation consistent with the hand.

EW has no convention card.

It was deemed that West had no prior knowledge of the fact that E had bid this way and therefore 6H+1 was allowed to stand as it was effectively a psyche.

As all other pairs were playing it from East's hand, the one pair who were in 6H were held to 12 because S led AD so we got an outright bottom - probably in the country too!!

My question is whether anyone on this forum feels that there is any other way to rule.

As it was SIM pairs there is a commentary which states that 6H will be very hard to reach unless E opens an illegal 2C.

This was borne out at the 10 tables in our Club where only one other pair reached 6H.

The difference between W playing in 6H making 13 and East playing in 4H making 12 is 11 MPS for NS.

Any views please.

I'm particularly intrigued as to what the point is of defining which bids are or aren't legal if there is no redress against someone who makes an illegal bid.

Comments

  • edited October 2018

    The rule isn't about which bids are legal, it's about which agreements are legal. East can legally bid a strong 2!c on only 14 HCP, but only if East's bid successfully deceives West into thinking that East necessarily has the 23 points (or however many points the bid requires in the partnership's system).

    Normally, the correct thing to do with a bid like this would be to record it; if there's any evidence that West is anticipating the possibility of East bidding like this, the agreement becomes illegal.

    However, if East decides to do this without West having any clue it could happen, it's basically just a psyche/deviation, and assuming West reacts appropriately (i.e. assuming it's genuine), there's no rules violation. (Some jurisdictions have rules against psyching artificial strong bids, most likely aimed at situations such as this one, but the EBU doesn't.)

    If it does turn out that East/West have an (implicit or explicit) agreement that 2!c is an acceptable bid on this hand, then their score for the hand is capped at average minus (and their opponents get the symmetrical score, thus getting at least average plus): White Book 2.8.8.3. They'd also be warned about the illegal agreement, and given a procedural penalty if they used it again (or if the bid was very far out from what was described and fielded).

    Bear in mind that most of the time when East opens a 14-point hand with a bid that shows 23 (and with a distribution, 7411, that's good but not good enough to make up the difference), their partnership will end up going too high; that in its own right should be enough incentive to East/West to not play like this (given that the rules about fielding mean that West can't legally adjust for the chance that East might be massively overbidding). East got very lucky that West had a solid suit.

    Incidentally, I think you have the hands wrong, given that you're showing both East and West with the Jack of Hearts (and that they're fairly unlikely to have made slam off two aces, with no voids).

  • West had H A73

    East can't persuade me that he has psyched a 2C opening bid. He has not opened 2C to deceive anyone. I think he has opened 2C because he thinks it's the best opening bid with his hand. I think he would open 2C again if he held that hand again.

    I have some sympathy for wanting to open 2C as it is a Ro25 hand and it would have come within the definition of "strong" till when it was changed last year!

    I do from time to time come across players, even some whom I would have thought would have known better, who say that their partner's 2C opening shows 23+ HCP, when what they mean is that it will be 23+ if it is balanced.

    Barrie Partridge - Senior Kibitzer in Bridge Club Live - Pig Trader in IBLF

  • This doesn't come up that often but my first question is generally to the partner of the opener, asking what they think of their partner's bid. If they find it acceptable then it's an indication of an implicit agreement to open such hands with the bid they did. Thus, we have an illegal agreement situation and take it from there.

  • @ais523 said:
    The rule isn't about which bids are legal, it's about which agreements are legal. East can legally bid a strong 2!c on only 14 HCP, but only if East's bid successfully deceives West into thinking that East necessarily has the 23 points (or however many points the bid requires in the partnership's system).

    Normally, the correct thing to do with a bid like this would be to record it; if there's any evidence that West is anticipating the possibility of East bidding like this, the agreement becomes illegal.

    However, if East decides to do this without West having any clue it could happen, it's basically just a psyche/deviation, and assuming West reacts appropriately (i.e. assuming it's genuine), there's no rules violation. (Some jurisdictions have rules against psyching artificial strong bids, most likely aimed at situations such as this one, but the EBU doesn't.)

    If it does turn out that East/West have an (implicit or explicit) agreement that 2!c is an acceptable bid on this hand, then their score for the hand is capped at average minus (and their opponents get the symmetrical score, thus getting at least average plus): White Book 2.8.8.3. They'd also be warned about the illegal agreement, and given a procedural penalty if they used it again (or if the bid was very far out from what was described and fielded).

    Bear in mind that most of the time when East opens a 14-point hand with a bid that shows 23 (and with a distribution, 7411, that's good but not good enough to make up the difference), their partnership will end up going too high; that in its own right should be enough incentive to East/West to not play like this (given that the rules about fielding mean that West can't legally adjust for the chance that East might be massively overbidding). East got very lucky that West had a solid suit.

    Incidentally, I think you have the hands wrong, given that you're showing both East and West with the Jack of Hearts (and that they're fairly unlikely to have made slam off two aces, with no voids).

    Apologies.

    West had HA73 as pointed out below.

  • edited October 2018

    This is the hand https://ebu.co.uk/sim-pairs/000286/boards/9

    Opponents reach 6 !H at our table for a bad score. - at least partner had the sense to cash the Ace of Diamonds (after I had shown Spades/ Diamonds in the auction)

    I think comments above accurately describe the situation.

    The comment section is wrong of course. the hand does not fall foul of an EBU regulation of 2 !C calls. (Although the explanation is of course misleading). I get my benji players to say "8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit. if the suit isn't clubs the handmay not be strong".

  • @weejonnie said:
    The comment section is wrong of course. the hand does not fall foul of an EBU regulation of 2 !C calls. (Although the explanation is of course misleading). I get my benji players to say "8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit. if the suit isn't clubs the handmay not be strong".

    It depends on how the bid is described. With a proper Benji description (as a semi-pre-empt), it's legal. "At least 23 but could be stronger" implies that the agreement is that this is a strong bid, in which case it can't have only 14 HCPs no matter how hard you try to shade it.

  • 98% of players who play Benji aren't going to be familiar with (or at least won't have remembered Frances' article about) this stuff about it being a permitted agreement to have a less than strong hand if spades or hearts or diamonds but not clubs are held, and then there are those like me when I'm playing, who are not interested in it, because when I open 2C, I am going to have a "strong" hand and want partner to know so.

    Those who would open 2C on the East hand in the OP will be very, very likely to also open 2C if they had the same hand but with the hearts and clubs swapped round, and when asked about why they opened 2C, they will say that they think their hand is good enough for a Benji opening.

    Barrie Partridge - Senior Kibitzer in Bridge Club Live - Pig Trader in IBLF

  • Even I wouldn't open 2C on that hand and we play 2C as our only forcing bid, but may not be strong

  • I get my benji players to say "8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit. if the suit isn't clubs the handmay not be strong".
    I don't know what 8 playing tricks mean - can anyone give a legal definition that can be easily applied?

  • TagTag
    edited October 2018

    As far as I'm aware, there isn't one. We used to have clear-cut tricks, which was defined, but that fell aside with the most recent change to the laws.

  • If opponents do not understand "playing tricks" you need to provide a different explanation. My experience is that two members of a partnership rarely have any clear common understanding of how many playing tricks a hand has.

    In 25 years of feeling pressured to play benji in various partnerships, I have never ceased to be amazed as what my partners think is worth opening 2C. (I almost never have anything but a strong balanced hand when I open 2C.) Recently, when I explained 2C along the lines of "balanced 22-23 or unbalanced with playing strength but not game force", my opponent was annoyed I did not just say "benji".

  • That made me chuckle, Robin.

  • Only the players who have the comprehensive knowledge of the laws/regulations are likely to come out with an explanation of the Benjy (and in particular with regards to 8 PT/suit strength) in the way described by Robin but the vast majority of the players, as of now, would just be content to mention 8 PTs or strong etc. A very few players would go as far as saying "game forcing" or not" as the case may be. This is certainly true at club level but at county/congress level.the reality may be different. What we do really need at club level is for L &E committee to provide a sample of announcement/ explanations to be made which, if adhered to, would be helpful for the directors when ruling on thing like this. White Book 2018 remained unchanged from 2017 despite the fact that there have been numerous long debate and discussions on this thread on the change made in Blue Book 2017 unamended in 2018. Next year, these should be clarified even further in the Blue/White Book imho. If there is a good reason not to expand on these , then I would like to know for my own education.

  • This topic is still on the L&E radar, even though there was no change in the Blue Book in 2018.

    There are still two distinct issues - what agreements are permitted and how players explain their agreements. There is also the issue of deducing from one hand what the partnership agreement is.

    In terms of what is permitted, I am uneasy that how we rule depends on whether players understand how to describe their agreements. A pair may play that the minimum for 2C-2D-2H/2S is lower than their minimum for 2C-2D-3C/3D. If they bid as in the OP but they they would open at the one level on a similar hand with a long minor, then their agreements may be permitted (because the strength of 2C-2D-3C meets Blue Book 7C1 (a)). But a terse explanation of 2C which does not distinguish major suit rebids from minor suit rebids, will see them have 2C ruled illegal.

    In terms of disclosure, I think the words "good" and "intermediate" could be used (forget about "playing tricks"). The appearance of "strong" in Blue Book 7C1 (a) probably means that we are stuck with "strong" as synonym for "Blue Book 7C1 (a) compliant"; and so we need intensifiers for hands that hands that are worth an old-fashioned Acol two, or even an old fashioned Acol 2C: "really strong", "very strong", "game forcing strength", ...

  • There is no definition of 'playing tricks', as there was with 'clear-cut' tricks. My suggestion would be that the person expects to make 8 tricks against the most common distributions found at the table, since usually hands of sufficient playing strength don't come up that often and distributions that reduce the actual number of tricks made occur even less often.

    Good luck with the L&E - next they can answer how many angels can dance on the point of a needle? Both problems seem equally difficult to quantify.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:
    If opponents do not understand "playing tricks" you need to provide a different explanation. My experience is that two members of a partnership rarely have any clear common understanding of how many playing tricks a hand has.

    What if the agreement actually is "playing tricks", though? Say, you're playing with a new partner for the first time, agree that 2!c shows 8 playing tricks, but don't do anything to discuss how that's defined. You have no relevant partnership experience or agreements beyond the words in question, so there's nothing more to disclose.

    The opponents might not know what playing tricks mean, but they have as much information as you do, so it's not really any different to an (honest) answer "undiscussed".

  • I would hope that if someone says (honestly) "undiscussed" they would try and give similar situations where they do have an agreement, or "about relevant alternative calls available that were not made" in that position of the auction.

  • .........

    In terms of what is permitted, I am uneasy that how we rule depends on whether players understand how to describe their agreements. A pair may play that the minimum for 2C-2D-2H/2S is lower than their minimum for 2C-2D-3C/3D. If they bid as in the OP but they they would open at the one level on a similar hand with a long minor, then their agreements may be permitted (because the strength of 2C-2D-3C meets Blue Book 7C1 (a)). But a terse explanation of 2C which does not distinguish major suit rebids from minor suit rebids, will see them have 2C ruled illegal.

    .......

    Hi Robin

    If 2C is ruled illegal what happens next?

  • 2.8.3.3 Illegal method, fielding of psyche or deviation
    If a contestant uses a method that is not permitted, or is adjudged to have fielded a psyche or deviation then the deal should be completed. If they attain a score of AVE− or less then the score stands. Otherwise they get AVE− and their opponents get AVE+.
    ...
    A pair who has already had their use of a method ruled illegal should also be fined the standard penalty.
    While a procedural penalty of a standard penalty is normal with a fielded psyche, and no procedural penalty at all with an illegal method or a fielded deviation, the TD does have the right to penalise to a greater degree in aggravated circumstances.

    So on 1st occasion 40-60: on 2nd occasion 15-60

  • Our (Benji) 2C opener is "a hand where game may be missed if opened at the one level". Is this allowed?

  • @JeremyChild said:
    Our (Benji) 2C opener is "a hand where game may be missed if opened at the one level". Is this allowed?

    I would imagine that the majority of hands which you would judge to open on that basis will have 16+ HCP, and a significant number of those that don't will have 12 HCP and 5 controls. In other words most of the hands will qualify to be described as strong.

    Any hands which do not qualify to be described as strong are only problematic if based on a club suit, but if there are are a significant number of non-strong hands that you would be likely to open 2!c , then your opponents are entitled to know.

    We had a hand at the club last night that doesn't qualify as strong under the current rules although you can almost underwrite game opposite even a Yarborough with a void heart:

    !s AKQJx
    !h KJ98xxxx
    !d void
    !c void

    I guess you would want to open this 2!c , although my partner was content with 1!h (he caught up later big-time, with a bit of good guesswork).

    You need to be aware that the current rules weren't designed to provide a precisely-reasoned dividing line between hands that might or might not sensibly be thought of as strong. In making regulations there's often a conflict between clarity and "appropriateness for all situations". Here, the L&EC has gone for clarity.

  • Our (Benji) 2C opener is "a hand where game may be missed if opened at the one level". Is this allowed?
    @JeremyChild said

    You may describe your hand in any readily understandable form. The problem only occurs when you have an agreement that is not allowed in the Blue Book, which for its own reasons (or that of the L&EC) allows bids that describe certain types of hands ('strong hands') greater flexibility.

    To give an extreme example

    !s x
    !h x
    !d -
    !c AKQJT987654

    is "a hand where game may be missed if opened at the one level" - but is not strong and can't be opened (by agreement) by 2!c if 2!c could be any unspecified suit.

    So I would recommend "a hand where game may be missed if opened at the one level: If not holding a club suit the hand may not be strong."

  • Having spent many hours trying to understand the Blue Book and its rules about 'Strong' two bids the last word I would use about them is 'clarity.' :)

    Alan

  • edited October 2018

    @Abbeybear said:

    We had a hand at the club last night that doesn't qualify as strong under the current rules although you can almost underwrite game opposite even a Yarborough with a void heart:

    !s AKQJx
    !h KJ98xxxx
    !d void
    !c void

    I guess you would want to open this 2!c , although my partner was content with 1!h (he caught up later big-time, with a bit of good guesswork).

    Some systems handle hands this extreme with artificial bids above 3NT (and thus legal at level 4 regardless of the meaning). For example, in many systems that have even bothered to define a meaning for 5!h as an opening bid (it comes up so rarely that many systems don't bother), this is a clear 5!h opening ("pass with no A, K, or Q in hearts, if you have any of those cards we're forced to at least a small slam"). Given that the bid in question shows hearts, it would be legal even at level 2. (OK, so it's theoretically possible that 5!h goes down, but if your partner's hand is that bad it's probably a good sacrifice, and the opponents are unlikely to dare to double it.)

  • @ais523 said:

    For example, in many systems that have even bothered to define a meaning for 5!h as an opening bid (it comes up so rarely that many systems don't bother), this is a clear 5!h opening ("pass with no A, K, or Q in hearts, if you have any of those cards we're forced to at least a small slam"). Given that the bid in question shows hearts, it would be legal even at level 2. (OK, so it's theoretically possible that 5!h goes down, but if your partner's hand is that bad it's probably a good sacrifice, and the opponents are unlikely to dare to double it.)

    And even when this freak comes up it isn't quite right for 5!h (which I play in similar fashion with my regular partner, with whom I wasn't playing on this occasion, although we only look for Ace or King, not Queen). You definitely want to be in 7!h opposite!h Ax, and 7!h was actually making opposite stiff!h A, whilst some spade length will make 6/7!s excellent opposite short hearts. So I agree that devising meanings for 5M openings is not high on productivity!

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:
    (I almost never have anything but a strong balanced hand when I open 2C.)

    I should disclose that I opened 2C on an unbalanced hand (AKQJxxx with outside honours including an Ace). It was not a success: partner declared 3NT+1 but other tables made 4H+1, luckily it was XIMP.

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