Strong Twos

It's not just the Laws that are confusing - take the new EBU regulations on strong twos.
This is an actual hand. It has 14 points and 4 "controls" therefore not suitable for a Benji 2C bid.
s 4
h A Q J 10 8 5 3
d--
c A Q J 7 5

How does that work, then? I would open 2C every time.

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Comments

  • Another 'strong 2' with 8 clear cut playing tricks recently held:
    S -
    H KQJ109xx
    D AKxx
    C xx
    Only 4 'controls'
    Playing strong 2s, what is the best bid?

  • Either 2H, or a Benji 2C. 8 tricks opposite a yarborough

  • But '8 tricks' is not covered in the new rules for strong 2s.
    Might not the opposition call the TD, and what does Td then decide?

  • I think the problem is that a void (or singleton) is a control in a suit contract but the regulation does not recognise it as such.
  • Please note that you can define your 2 bids in any way you wish (8 playing tricks etc) BUT, due to the definitions in the Blue Book about 'unspecified suits' , if the suit bid actually is the suit where the 'strength' lies, then the hand must be 'strong', as defined. (The Blue book never did define 'playing tricks' - it defined 'clear cut tricks'.)

    Thus in the first hand

    s 4
    h A Q J 10 8 5 3
    d--
    c A Q J 7 5

    If you define your 2 Club bid as "8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit: if the suit is clubs then the hand will be 'strong'" then this hand qualifies as a 2 Club opening hand. Similarly it qualifies as an Acol 2 Heart opening hand - provided you do not use the word 'strong' in your definition of an Acol 2.

    S -
    H KQJ109xx
    D AKxx
    C xx
    Only 4 'controls'
    Playing strong 2s, what is the best bid?

    Again there is no problem opening the hand as 2 Hearts - provided you do not use the word 'strong' in your definition. (I might open the hand 4 Clubs - Namyats as a very good pre-emptive, or 4 Hearts. If I opened the bidding with 2 Hearts/ 2 Clubs with the intention of trying to frighten/ mislead my opponents then, although this is legal, I would feel slightly uncomfortable. Lets be honest - quite a few players probably do this.)

    (You can even do it if your definition does include the word 'strong'. What you must not do is to have an agreement to open such a hand as 2 hearts, when using 'strong' as part of the definition.)

    If called as a TD then you need to be informed (by convention card/ system notes) what is the partnership agreement. One idea would be to find out if both players of the partnership would have made the same call on the same hand (although 'wide boys' would probably be able to spot the trap). If they do then they have an agreement and you have to decide whether it is legal. If they do not then you may decide that the person who called deviated (as they are fully entitled to do so), and it might be a good idea to record the hand as evidence of a possible illicit partnership agreement.

  • I checked this with a senior county director.
    If a pair describe such hands as strong whilst playing Benji, then he would award 40%/60%.
    Playing natural strong 2's may be different, though.
    I agree that the EBU have not taken into account singletons and voids. A singleton K is a control by their definition but a void isn't. I just don't get it!

  • High-card controls are used as a measure of defensive strength - trying to recover the notion that "game forcing" bids and "acol two bids" might be good enough to stop the opponents from making game.

  • Weejonnie is saying that so long as you make sure your hand meets the Blue Book definition of "strong" when the suit is clubs you can open these hands with an artificial, near game-forcing 2!c without needing to worry if it quite meets the criteria if the main suit is diamonds, hearts or spades. You'll be covered by BB7C1(a) and BB7C1(b)(iv)(1), a permitted combination of meanings.

    I think it's a bit much for the regulating authority to claim ownership of the word "strong" when every bridge player in the country would recognise the given hand as "strong", but so long as your explanation is clear you should be all right. If you describe it (in answer to questions and on your card) as "nearly game-forcing or stronger in any suit, 16+ or 12+ with at least five controls if the main suit is clubs" I can't see why you should get into trouble with the director. Of course, if you have a tendency to weaken the hand so that it's more pre-emptive (replace the aces by kings, for instance), you'll have to be careful to include this in your description.

    It's a shame because most club and casual players don't want to have to bother with all these legal technicalities and introduce exceptions to their Benjamin bids, but this may be the easiest way to stay on the right side of the law.

  • Thank you weejonnie, PBCchair and VixTD. Using the combination of meanings presumably one could have on the card "strong" OR 8PT - covered by BB7C1(b)(ii) if playing 'strong 2s' or
    the same - covered by BB7C1(b)(iv) if playing Benji or 2D multi.

  • With a slight amendment: there is no problem for Acol 2s (as long as you make clear the hand may not be 'strong' ) but:

    "strong (21/22 balanced or long suit) OR 8PT in a suit other than Clubs" - Benji 2C
    'Weak 2 in a major, strong (22-23 balanced/ long minor) or 8 playing tricks in Clubs" - Multi 2D (depending on how you play it)

    Yes! I know it is awkward.

  • Does anyone know why the EBU abandoned the use of ER-25? The definition was clear-cut (pun intended) and people I played with seemed happy with the definition.

  • I suppose one reason was that it is easier to count points/ controls rather than clear-cut tricks (most people rely on 'playing tricks' which is a bit vague) - and the insistence of controls means that inexperienced players should no longer be frightened to compete when a bid that sounds strong (but only offensively) is used, since the word 'strong' cannot be used in the description. Now a 'strong bid' has to have some reasonable defence. The EBU gave some examples in the magazine in August about competing against a Benji 2!c opening.

  • On behalf of the Laws & Ethics Committee I've drafted an "FAQ" on the new BB rules as they relate to Benji openings. I guess this is still technically a draft, because it hasn't been approved by the full committee, but Tim, Gordon and Robin have all reviewed it.

    It's attached as a pdf to this post. About a third of a page explaining what you can do, and 2.5 pages answering some of the questions we've received.

  • It's all very well being told what we can't do, but it would be good if the L&E committe would advise on what a Benji player is supposed to do on hands like that in the opening post. Hands that are too strong for a non-forcing 1-level opener and are clearly not pre-empts, yet do not have 16 HCP or five controls, seem to arise surprisingly frequently.

    In practice 95% of the club do not know or understant the current regulation, open it 2C and are not challenged. It is only the handful of us who do know the regulation who feel constrained and frustrated.

    Yes, we may be able to cover the majority of cases with some strangulated legalese, but that really isn't satisfactory.

  • The problem that faces the EBU is the word "strong". This was always understood to mean strong in top cards. An Acol Two bid is defined as a "Hand of Power and Quality with at least eight playing tricks" Benjamin was invented so that you could play weak twos in the majors and still have a way of showing an Acol Two. However over time the strength of this bid has been less and less understood and club players seem to have developed a fear of opening bids with lots of playing tricks but not that many top cards at the one-level. However you can only play something legal and more and more players opened 2C without much strength, and got some good results because their opponents were misled by it.

    It has never been legal to play a Benjamin 2C or the like as any old hand with a lot of playing tricks. The problem is that as more and more people do the EBU had to define what strong meant. Despite what David said above I do not think the previous definition was understood by the majority of players so the EBU have tried another one.

    Of course there will be some freakish hands that cause people to not like the new definition but you have to play fair with opponents, and a fairly random 2C is not playing fair.

    There are some alternative suggestions above but it is vital to pick one that is legal and to keep the opponents informed. You can play a natural strong two, but if you will not always have a hand that is defined as strong you must call it "Intermediate to Strong" in your announcement. Another suggestion above included using as an alternative the definitions for hands that are not strong. While you can do this to call it "Benjamin" or "strong" would then be misleading: it has to be defined exactly. "Strong or eight playing tricks in a suit other than clubs" is not really sufficient as a description because players now equate "eight playing tricks" in their minds with "strong" so a better definition would be "Strong or eight playing tricks in a suit other than clubs, need not be strong in the latter case" or some such.

    Incidentally weejohnnie posts two hands and asks what you would bid. I would open both at the one level with no worries.

  • (Actually the hands are referenced earlier, I was commenting on them)

    In the old days, one opened at the 2 level on hands where you were concerned that you would miss game even if partner had less than the stregnth required to respond at the 1 level. (Opening 2NT with 19-20 is too low - partner needs 6 points or so to raise to 3 and so would respond to a 1-level bid. In fact if such a 2NT is passed out it will go off about three quarters of the time)

    These days most 2-bids have become basically pre-emptive. A 'Strong 2' is going to have to be announced as "intermediate to strong, not forcing". There is of course no formal definition in the Blue-Book what 'weak' or 'intermediate' actually mean (although the WBF do define 'weak' and the EBU set minimum agreed HCPs for 1-level bids)

  • PBCchair. Hypothetical
    bidding 2c p 2d p 2h p p p
    Lead As all follow
    2c taken by A
    3h 4h s s
    Oops every in between trump sitting off side

  • @PBCchair said:
    It's not just the Laws that are confusing - take the new EBU regulations on strong twos.
    This is an actual hand. It has 14 points and 4 "controls" therefore not suitable for a Benji 2C bid.
    s 4
    h A Q J 10 8 5 3
    d--
    c A Q J 7 5

    How does that work, then? I would open 2C every time.

    I would open 1H whether I was playing Acol Twos, Benji, Precision or virtually anything else.

    I could live with opening a natural Acol Two in hearts, if I was playing them, although it wouldn't be my first choice, because at least I have bid my longest suit. And when I play Acol Twos, I play a new suit on the next round as forcing.

    If I open 2C Benji, I believe it is normal to play a 2H rebid as non-forcing? If not, I am worse off than when I open 1H because opposite a hand that doesn't fit hearts, I am at the 2-level rather than the 1-level.

    If I do, then at least I hope to get both of my suits bid, except...
    2C (2S) P (4S) ? Now what?
    2C (2S) P P ? I can bid 3H, but I've only shown one of my suits and I'm at the 3-level. How does partner know that Qxxx x xx K10xxxx wants to play in slam, but Qxxx x K10xxxx xx isn't making game?

    ...and if you tell me that opponents never intervene over your 2C opening, is that because they think it shows a strong hand with lots of defence?

  • @Frances said:

    @PBCchair said:
    It's not just the Laws that are confusing - take the new EBU regulations on strong twos.
    This is an actual hand. It has 14 points and 4 "controls" therefore not suitable for a Benji 2C bid.
    s 4
    h A Q J 10 8 5 3
    d--
    c A Q J 7 5

    How does that work, then? I would open 2C every time.

    I would open 1H whether I was playing Acol Twos, Benji, Precision or virtually anything else.

    I would open an Acol Two because they work best on two-suiters. But I am happy with 1H.

    I could live with opening a natural Acol Two in hearts, if I was playing them, although it wouldn't be my first choice, >because at least I have bid my longest suit. And when I play Acol Twos, I play a new suit on the next round as >forcing.

    I don't, because the perfect hand for Acol Twos is two-suiters which maybe should not get to game.

    If I open 2C Benji, I believe it is normal to play a 2H rebid as non-forcing? If not, I am worse off than when I open 1H >because opposite a hand that doesn't fit hearts, I am at the 2-level rather than the 1-level.

    When I played Benji I played 2C - 2D - 2H as forcing, same reasoning.

    ...and if you tell me that opponents never intervene over your 2C opening, is that because they think it shows a >strong hand with lots of defence?

    Probably - and that is why we need regulations about what is "strong".

  • @Frances said:

    2C (2S) P (4S) ? Now what?

    1H (1S) P (4S) ? Now what?

    Quite seriously, I'd open 2C on that hand and rebid 4H. Of course you can't guarantee ten tricks, but any club length opposite and I only see three losers maximum.

  • 5C seems fairly obvious. The chance of playing in the correct suit seems be at least doubled than if you had opened 2C.

  • But everybody in the room without the interference will be playing in hearts, and that outscores clubs at pairs, which is what the vast majority of club sessions are. There is no way partner can cooperate when the opening bid effectively denies a 3-loser hand. I would say that at pairs the correct suit is always hearts.

  • When I open 2C and the bidding goes 2C 2D 2NT partner can pass.
    Any other sequence starting 2C is forcing to Game. That's my definition of the 2C opening .. strong enough to be game forcing. I can't define it by HCP because it depends on shape. I would expect at least 8 tricks given reasonable distribution.
    I can't see a problem with this.
    Alan
  • The problem with that, Alan, is that if your hand is making game mainly because of shape then it is quite possible that the opponents might have a reasonable sacrifice (or even game/ slam their way). They have the right to know that your Game-forcing hand isn't all Aces and Kings and other defensive goodies.

    The word 'strong' has been defined by the EBU in context of hand definition. It is different from the average bridge player's definition of 'strong' which is basically "I know it when I see it" - and has been pointed out, a weak 1NT could be 'strong' under the definition. In fact with a hand such as A42 A42 K3 J5432 some people might even pass.

    The second problem are the restrictions in the Blue book for using 2-level calls. Whether by design or error, there is no way to have a suit bid apply to all the suits (unspecified) unless the hand is strong. This may have been a genuine attempt to stop 'weak random suit' 2-level calls, which are hard to defend against, but the effect is, regrettably that people playing a simple system such a Benji are caught in the backwash. The EBU have drawn a line in the sand at the strength you need to be able to do this (make a 2-level suit call showing any suit) and regrettably for many relatively inexperienced/ club players, the line is in an inconvenient place.

    if you define your 2!c call to be "Game forcing unless the rebid is 2NT" then that is fine - provided your agreement is that only hands that meet the EBU definition of 'strong' can be opened. The Blue Book IIRC carries the advice/ instruction that you must make clear that the hands may be lower in HCP than could be traditionally expected for such a call - even if they are 'strong'.

  • My card says 23+ (NT) or game forcing.
    I don't use the word Strong here.
    I would never expect Strong to imply specific HCP
  • Alan,

    If you and your partner would open

    !s -
    !h - AQJT
    !d -
    !c - AQJT98765

    with 2!c - then you are playing an illegal system

  • I am not sure I could predict that one but I expect I would bid 2C, 5C or 6C.
    I can't imagine opening less than 2C.
    i need a spare day or two to read the Blue Book.
  • If I opened 2C on the given hand I would expect my partner to bid 7NT off a trick or two. It does not help partner if they have no idea whatever about the top card strength of your hand.

    But your judgement is not relevant: you are playing in EBU events under EBU rules. So long as you follow the rules you can bid what you please, but you cannot flout the rules because you think they are wrong.

  • I have been directing for two years and learning the Rules but this change in the Blue Book has arrived and I'm trying to get to grips with it.
    I have been a club player for about fifty years and for most of that time no one ever mentioned Weak Twos or used the word Benji.
    My comments above are from the point of view of players. My understanding is that Acol 2C has always meant either 23 points NT or a general, unspecified Forcing to game.
    Now we have the complication of what to do with the old Strong Twos. My feeling is that they are too rare to bother.. they become either 1 of a suit or 2 C.
    I don't know why the EBU don't like the standard, very common usage of Forcing to Game without specific points or controls.
    I have ordered a non digital Blue Book and will delve into it.
    Alan
  • Natural strong 2's are perfectly acceptable, even if they don't contain the HCP or controls specified by the EBU definition - as long as the definition is correct - you use either 'forcing' or 'non-forcing' in the announcement. If you are prepared for the hand to be not 'strong' then you would say 'intermediate to strong - not forcing'.

    The EBU 'don't like' the 'Forcing to Game' definition as it implies (without saying it) a 'strong hand' and could discourage competitive bidding. I am sure that there has been more than one occasion when both sides could have a 'forcing to game' situation.

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