Can an agreement be one sided?

A pair agree to play benji acol (it's the first time they've played together).

One of them is a staunch believer in the old 8 playing tricks criteria. He opens such a hand with 2C, but doesn't have the strength required by BB7C1a. As far as he's concerned his bid is OK (it's not a misbid or a deviation). There is no suggestion that his partner has fielded.

They haven't discussed the system beyond "benji".

Is this an illegal agreement?

Comments

  • This is why I treat expressions like 'Benji Acol' as meaningless.
    Was the bid alerted and, if so, how was it described?

    Alan

  • Players and partnerships need to be educated that 'benji' and '8 playing tricks' are not magic words they can use that mean their methods are permitted agreements.

    Ask the partner "did you know he would open 2C on that ?". If "yes" they have an illegal understanding and should be warned. If "no", then "you do now, and that means you now have an illegal understanding". In either case, they need a different understanding.

  • If you agree to play Benji without discussing it, it doesn't become illegal until your implicit agreement from seeing how your partner plays it is precise enough to make the semi-pre-empt in clubs something that's possible for the partner to anticipate. (By semi-pre-empt, I mean a hand which is worth a huge amount of tricks in the right strain, but has no real defence; the 16 HCP / 12 HCP with controls rules are basically intended to allow strong hands but exclude semi-pre-emptive hands.)

    So I agree with @Robin_BarkerTD here: when one partner sees the bid used in a way that couldn't legally be agreed, that then creates an illegal agreement and thus forces the agreement to be changed (e.g. by agreeing not to open Benji on semi-pre-emptive hands).

  • @JeremyChild said:
    One of them is a staunch believer in the old 8 playing tricks criteria. He opens such a hand with 2C, but doesn't have the strength required by BB7C1a.

    As an aside, I would question whether this is the old version. Benjamin was supposed to include hands that were worth an Acol 2-bid, which included in its definition "a hand of power and quality". It's only more recently that this crucial part of the definition has come to be disregarded by some teachers and players.

  • This point came up during discussion at club recently. Increasingly, people are learning "bridge" without ever experiencing what an "Acol 2" bid was. Is it not the case that Standard English (or whatever the EBUTA calls its standard system) includes weak two bids? If they don't know what one is, how can they relate to one?

  • @ais523 said:
    If you agree to play Benji without discussing it, it doesn't become illegal until your implicit agreement from seeing how your partner plays it is precise enough to make the semi-pre-empt in clubs something that's possible for the partner to anticipate. ...

    If the players have not discussed their agreements in any detail, they have certainly not discussed distinguishing how '8 playing tricks' applies to different suits: clubs v not clubs (or minor suits v major suits). When asked to rule, the TD can assume they treat all suits equally, unless they say something to indicate an awareness of 7C1a v 7C1b. If you like, the TD can ask further questions: to the opener and partner "would you open this hand 2C if the long suit was clubs?". But the TD is going to be hard-pressed to get them to understand the nuances of 7C1 and change to an intermediate-multi-benji 2C during a session.

  • @TawVale said:
    This point came up during discussion at club recently. Increasingly, people are learning "bridge" without ever experiencing what an "Acol 2" bid was. Is it not the case that Standard English (or whatever the EBUTA calls its standard system) includes weak two bids? If they don't know what one is, how can they relate to one?

    I think it all comes down to teachers. Since a Benji 2C is supposed to include Acol two-bids, they need to have been taught what one is.

  • @gordonrainsford said:

    @JeremyChild said:
    One of them is a staunch believer in the old 8 playing tricks criteria. He opens such a hand with 2C, but doesn't have the strength required by BB7C1a.

    As an aside, I would question whether this is the old version. Benjamin was supposed to include hands that were worth an Acol 2-bid, which included in its definition "a hand of power and quality". It's only more recently that this crucial part of the definition has come to be disregarded by some teachers and players.

    By "old" I was referring to what I believe was previously an official definition of 8 playing tricks, when it was allowed as a criteria for a "strong" opening bid.

    Of course I could be completely wrong on this!

  • @JeremyChild said:

    By "old" I was referring to what I believe was previously an official definition of 8 playing tricks, when it was allowed as a criteria for a "strong" opening bid.

    Of course I could be completely wrong on this!

    The 'old' regulation was in terms of 8 'clear-cut' tricks: AKJxxxx was probably only 5 clear-cut tricks; whereas some of my correspondents appear to want it to be 7 playing tricks.

  • @gordonrainsford said:

    @TawVale said:
    .Is it not the case that Standard English (or whatever the EBUTA calls its standard system) includes weak two bids? If they don't know what one is, how can they relate to one?

    I think it all comes down to teachers. Since a Benji 2C is supposed to include Acol two-bids, they need to have been taught what one is.

    The standard systems do not include Acol twos and do not feature Benji 2C, so presumably the (standard) teaching does not need to teach what an Acol two-bid is.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:

    @gordonrainsford said:

    @TawVale said:
    .Is it not the case that Standard English (or whatever the EBUTA calls its standard system) includes weak two bids? If they don't know what one is, how can they relate to one?

    I think it all comes down to teachers. Since a Benji 2C is supposed to include Acol two-bids, they need to have been taught what one is.

    The standard systems do not include Acol twos and do not feature Benji 2C, so presumably the (standard) teaching does not need to teach what an Acol two-bid is.

    What two bids are commonly taught nowadays? Three weak-twos? If so, why do so many people play Benjamin?

  • Many years ago, I learned Acol with Strong Twos. Shortly after that my partner suggested playing Benji. The agreement for Benji at that time was a Strong Two opener in an unspecified suit. 8PT was one of the criteria for a Strong Two, but it had to be more than that (hand of power and quality). The gains were weak twos in the majors and the ability to bid a Strong Two in clubs. Weak twos were relatively rare, and a Weak Two in diamonds unheard of. The strong balanced range was a much later addition. I agree that the problem is that Benji simply doesn't work if you have never learned Strong Twos. As an EBTA Teacher, I teach Three Weak Twos, but I still play Benji as I learned it with my regular partners. I wouldn't dream of teaching Benji to a more advanced class without first teaching what constitutes a strong two.

    It has been a relatively recent switch from strong to weak twos in the Bridge for All materials. Prior to the 2017 Edition Strong Twos were advocated. The 2017 addition gave the option by adding a chapter on Weak Twos. The Edition due in January 2020 will, I have been told, do away with Strong Twos altogether. So it depends how recently you learned to play.

  • @gordonrainsford said:
    What two bids are commonly taught nowadays? Three weak-twos? If so, why do so many people play Benjamin?

    The standard system cards (including foundation) are three weak-twos.

    I am sure there is market pressure for teachers (outside the metropolitan centres) to teach Benjamin so their students can go out and play what 'everyone' is playing in clubs.

  • @BlackTopaz said:
    The agreement for Benji at that time was a Strong Two opener in an unspecified suit. 8PT was one of the criteria for a Strong Two, but it had to be more than that (hand of power and quality).

    My guess is that even when teachers teach this, players are so keen to try out the new convention that they forget any requirement that will limit its use.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:

    @ais523 said:
    If you agree to play Benji without discussing it, it doesn't become illegal until your implicit agreement from seeing how your partner plays it is precise enough to make the semi-pre-empt in clubs something that's possible for the partner to anticipate. ...

    If the players have not discussed their agreements in any detail, they have certainly not discussed distinguishing how '8 playing tricks' applies to different suits: clubs v not clubs (or minor suits v major suits). When asked to rule, the TD can assume they treat all suits equally, unless they say something to indicate an awareness of 7C1a v 7C1b. If you like, the TD can ask further questions: to the opener and partner "would you open this hand 2C if the long suit was clubs?". But the TD is going to be hard-pressed to get them to understand the nuances of 7C1 and change to an intermediate-multi-benji 2C during a session.

    When I play with a pickup partner and the only agreement is "Benji", I would consider bidding 2!c on a hand with less than 16HCP if it were very powerful offensively, but not if the suit were clubs (because I aim to mentally modify agreements to be Laws-compliant). I have no way of knowing whether or not my partner will do the same (other than asking, but exact requirements for Benji are pretty low down the list of things that need discussing and there's often not much time to do it).

  • @ais523 said:
    When I play with a pickup partner and the only agreement is "Benji", I would consider bidding 2!c on a hand with less than 16HCP if it were very powerful offensively, but not if the suit were clubs (because I aim to mentally modify agreements to be Laws-compliant). I have no way of knowing whether or not my partner will do the same

    I think that a player who intends to open 2C on non-strong hands should not call the bid "Benji" and should tell partner and opponents that they intend to do so, and ensure that partner can explain 2C in line with the player's intentions. Otherwise they are failing to disclose their methods and could be seen to be attempting to conceal them.

  • To my simple understanding, if a bid is described as strong then it must meet the 16+ / 12+ with 5 controls threshold.

    If it is not described as strong (e.g. some play 2C as including a weak 2 in diamonds), then it need net meet that criteria. The way I see most people playing Benji (or maybe it's reverse Benji) is that 2C is "Strong" and therefore needs to meet the threshold, but 2D is "not quite so strong" and need not and hence would not constitute an illegal agreement (except in the suit bid).

    Although in practice many club players will not have had the detailed discussion as to exactly what the weaker option means, except it is "not strong", or at least "not our strongest bid" and hence 1624B's good point that it is essentially meaningless, .... well almost meaningless.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:

    @ais523 said:
    When I play with a pickup partner and the only agreement is "Benji", I would consider bidding 2!c on a hand with less than 16HCP if it were very powerful offensively, but not if the suit were clubs (because I aim to mentally modify agreements to be Laws-compliant). I have no way of knowing whether or not my partner will do the same

    I think that a player who intends to open 2C on non-strong hands should not call the bid "Benji" and should tell partner and opponents that they intend to do so, and ensure that partner can explain 2C in line with the player's intentions. Otherwise they are failing to disclose their methods and could be seen to be attempting to conceal them.

    If partner doesn't know your methods, you have no agreement and thus there's nothing to conceal. The correct answer to a question would be "we agreed to play Benji, we didn't discuss what that means". (This leads to an interesting disclosure problem: if both partners have a rough idea what Benji is but differ on the details, and an opponent who doesn't know what Benji means at all asks. There is an agreement here – on the rough principles or idea behind Benji – but neither partner knows what it is, thus can't disclose it!)

  • I'm reminded of 'Ghestem' here.....
    It's made clear in TD training that 'Ghestem' is a minefield as it comes in so many flavours that a ruling is unlikely to go in your favour if you just use one word on your convention card to describe your two-suited overcalls.
    It's pretty obvious from this thread that 'Benji' also comes in so many variations that you do yourself a favour to go for full disclosure. In fact BB 2 A 2 says: "These regulations are secondary to the duty of full disclosure (Law 40A)." So full discosure is not optional.

    I very much liked Robin Barker's early post:
    "Players and partnerships need to be educated that 'benji' and '8 playing tricks' are not magic words they can use that mean their methods are permitted agreements.

    Ask the partner "did you know he would open 2C on that ?". If "yes" they have an illegal understanding and should be warned. If "no", then "you do now, and that means you now have an illegal understanding". In either case, they need a different understanding"

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

  • ais523: "If partner doesn't know your methods, you have no agreement and thus there's nothing to conceal. The correct answer to a question would be "we agreed to play Benji, we didn't discuss what that means"."

    You cannot use this argument to get away with the "strong and artificial, but perhaps lots of playing strength without being technically "strong" if the principal suit is not the one opened" trick that so many people think will rescue them from an adverse ruling. All TDs know that an unqualified description of "Benji" or "eight playing tricks" or "Acol two in any suit" does not come with this built-in get-out clause.

    Bear in mind that you would be the offending side ( = the side that caused the problem, whether or not you have actually offended against any rule, regulation or propriety), so the onus would be on you to demonstrate what your agreements are in case of doubt. If this very detailed and specific modification was part of your agreement, you would have said so or written it on your convention card or other supporting document. It's not part of your agreement by default.

  • I agree that it isn't part of the agreement. That's the whole reason you don't have to disclose it! As such, you're not the offending side, because no offence has actually been committed.

    Once your partner has seen you do it, then maybe it does become part of the agreement (and needs to be disclosed). Before then, though, the agreement is just "undefined Benji" which partner could be interpreting any number of different ways. The agreement is not "artificial, perhaps strong, perhaps semi-preemptive", nor is the agreement "artificial, always strong"; the agreement was "I said Benji, partner said yes, I don't know what partner means by 'Benji' and partner doesn't know what I mean by 'Benji', we're just hoping our ideas of the convention are close enough". When asked, you disclose the actual agreement, i.e. "we agreed Benji but don't know what that means". The problem is that it's possible for you and your partner to both know more about Benji than the opponents do, but nobody in your partnership actually knows that; and in that case, it's possible for both you and your partner to have the strong interpretation of Benji, and it's also possible for both you and your partner to have the semi-preemptive interpretation of Benji, and it's possible for your ideas to differ. The first two possibilities here feel like you're gaining an unfair advantage. (Note: the whole "strong" thing is irrelevant here, because the actual agreement doesn't contain the word "strong" anywhere, nor does the explanation to the opponents.)

    Just to be clear, I'm arguing that a) I believe this is the situation under the present Laws, but b) it feels like a bit of a gap in the Laws, but c) I'm not sure it's possible to do anything better (this sort of undefined agreement is very common, especially in pickup partnerships).

    Here's a comparable situation: a pickup partnership agrees to play Ghestem without discussing what suits each of the possible bids show. The bidding goes (1!s), 3!c. 3!c is alerted, and the partner of the 3!c bidder says "we agreed to play Ghestem, in which a 3!c overcall shows a specific two-suiter, but we didn't discuss which suits are shown by which bid". This is the full and complete agreement; there is no more information in the agreement, there is no more to disclose. But doesn't the Ghestem partnership end up with an advantage if they both happen to interpret the bid the same way? (Of course, they also end up with a disadvantage if they interpret the bid differently!)

    The Benji situation is a little worse because the difference between a strong Benji and a semi-preemptive Benji doesn't normally matter much for the partner of the Benji bidder, but it matters a lot more for the opponents. So not having a defined agreement as to what it means is more likely to give the partnership an advantage; if each partner's guess as to what it means happens to be incorrect, there isn't a huge downside, whereas if the opponents guess wrong, they're hurt rather more.

    Actually, I think this principle could be generalised into something that doesn't require purposefully failing to pin down your agreements with your partner. Say you're playing Reverse Benji, and agree "2!d can always be bid on a strong hand that's slightly short of a 2!c bid; it can also be bid with a non-strong hand worth 8 playing tricks in any suit but diamonds, but only if it contains four cards of the same rank" (the latter condition serves to artificially limit the frequency of the second possibility, so that it will usually be a strong hand but not always). This is a somewhat comparable situation to the "incomplete Benji" agreement; partner will be expecting a strong hand, but sometimes you don't have one (and it isn't even a psyche!). It has the advantage of being fully defined, though; it's just that opponents might struggle to make use of the information given.

  • If you have opened an artificial "strong" (?) two bid and the opponents call the director and ask if what you have done is legal, you are the "offending" side, by virtue of being under suspicion of having done something unlawful. It is up to you to demonstrate to the director that the methods you are using are lawful.

    If I were the director I would seek evidence that your agreements include a different treatment of the suit opened to the other suits, in the form of a written convention card or spoken explanation given at the time. I would not accept an unsupported explanation given after the nature of the hand was revealed to your partner.

    The opportunity for abuse by the unscrupulous is obvious: you agree (explicitly, or by deliberately avoiding a discussion despite knowing each other's predilections) to play 2!c as strong or semi-preemptive in any suit, make no attempt to disclose to the opponents that it isn't anything other than a proper strong hand, but when you're caught with a semi-preemptive hand you claim that what you've done is OK because the suit you had was other than clubs. You could either genuinely make sure you don't scrimp on the quality of club hands (but not tell the opponents this, of course), or bid it on all hands and get away with it three times out of four when the TD is called.

    I know some people will bleat about "assumed innocence until proven guilty", but players who have such sophisticated agreements know about their duty to disclose them, and have to expect to be ruled against if they make no effort to do so.

    In your Ghestem example if the partners get into a muddle and get a poor score the opponents won't complain. If they land on their feet there are several avenues open to the director. It's not legal to play 3!c as two random suits and see if partner (and the opponents) can guess which ones, but that's what you are doing, whether this was your intention or not.

  • I guess the situation here is that there are two relevant sets of rules: EBU permitted agreement rules, and the Laws. I think this is compliant with the Laws in a hypothetical jurisdiction that allowed any agreement, but that it makes sense for the EBU to ban it as a non-permitted agreement.

    That said, on the same basis, I think you have to ban "no agreement" if any sensible meaning for the bid could be non-permitted, which seems like a hard agreement to ban in practice! That basically translates to "you must have a precise understanding with your partner about all bids that could potentially encroach into banned bidding space if deviated from", which is a rule that seems justifiable, at least at the tournament level (and of course clubs don't have to follow EBU regulations). It would probably benefit from being more widely publicised, though ("if your bids are straying close to dangerous space, make sure you have a firm agreement with your partner so that you can prove that they won't enter it").

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