Strong Twos



  • Thank you for the link Gordon, although on this occasion I have already looked.

    I just find it ridiculous that a hand with just 32.5% of the High Card Points available and potentially only three winning tricks (Two ♠️ Tricks and One ♥️ Trick) can be deemed as strong.

    Are the EBU learning books going to change to reflect this? Imagine a learner making the step up from finishing the EBU Teaching Courses and going to a Bridge Club for the first time and say in second seat holding twenty plus points and the person before them bids a strong opening with only a twelve count? Twelve being what they’re have just learned as being a minimum opener by EBU reaching standards.

    I’m not so sure that others and I would be so aggrieved, if the changes were acceptable as you say so with twelve plus high card points and five controls, if it also had to include eight winning tricks - which I am sure that historically was the case.

    Sorry if I seem a bore.
  • Twelve being what they’re have just learned as being a minimum opener by EBU reaching standards.

    The regulations are for what is permitted - not what is recommended or to be taught.

    There is a tension between those who want to open 2C on almost anything and those who want a "strong" 2C opener to promise something (in terms of high cards and defence). The only solution is proper disclosure by those who open intermediate strength hands - when they use the phrase "eight playing tricks" , they need to be prepared to further explain that the hands need not be strong (in terms of high card strength) and need not have any defensive values.

  • Of course their agreement MIGHT be 21/22 and 8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit, more likely it was 21/22 points OR 8 playing tricks in an unspecified sui. (Which is illegal unless they agree that if the suit is clubs it meets the new requirements for a strong hand)..

  • A bridge teacher asked me recently how she should explain to her students the rules on agreements for opening strong artificial openers. The answer is, she shouldn't. As Robin says, the regulations are just there to describe the limits of what is permissible, not to teach good bridge. Anyone who is teaching a fairly standard version of Acol will already be teaching standards for strong openers that are within the limits of the regulations.

  • Thank you for the comments gentlemen.

    That hand was just one example from recently. But in the last three/four months (and not me) I have witnessed a lot of tension over a strong opening such as this one.

    In fact since the new rules were implemented I know of half a dozen pairs who no longer play at EBU clubs and only play at non affiliated ones. I’m afraid I’ve only witnessed animosity over a twelve point strong opening hand.

    Going back to what Robin says about “eight playing tricks”, yes this hand did have five controls, thirteen high card points and a very very poor seven card ♠️ suit, but potentially there are only three winning tricks. To me a ‘Trick’ is a definite winner. It didn’t satisfy the rule of twenty five either.

    PS: it was 100% described and clarified as containing 21/22 High Card Points and Eight quick Tricks in an unspecified suit.
  • Of course it is possible for affiliated clubs to make their own rules about this if they wish.

  • Did they explain how this 12 count was "21/22 High Card Points and Eight quick Tricks"? It does not meet either.

    The EBU regulations do not mention playing tricks: the regulation is 16+HCP OR 12+HCP with 5+ (high card) controls. There is no requirements on any amount of playing strength.

  • Assuming the explanation matched their agreements, all we have here is either a psyche or a misbid. EBU regulations on what constitutes a "strong" hand aren't relevant.

  • edited April 2018

    @Tag said:
    Assuming the explanation matched their agreements, ...

    This is not an assumption I would make when ruling. I would start from the assumption that the hand is consistent with the partnership agreement (and perhaps be persuaded otherwise).

    The explanation (as quoted) is very unlikely to be their agreement:
    * HCP range "and" playing strength is an unlikely: more usual is an HCP range for balanced hand and a playing strength for unbalanced hands;
    * Reference to "quick tricks" is unlikely: eight quick tricks is the maximum possible.

  • Again thank you. Explanation this time was very inaccurate.

    Just pointing out that:

    1: A Weak Two can be opened with 10 HCP’s and potentially seven winners(tricks).


    2: A Strong Two ♣️ Opener can be opened with 12 High HCP’s and potentially only one winner. I suppose that such a hand would actually hold 13 HCP’s.

    Trust me now, next time I’m dealt an eleven point hand I won’t know whether I’m coming or going.
  • The whole point about a 'strong 2' is that it must have the potential to take tricks both offensively (declaring the contract) and defensively. Once you understand that then you should be able to work out whether you are coming or going.

    Your weak 2 on 10 points with seven winners probably only has 1 (maybe 2) winners if the long suit isn't trumps.

    11 points will never be a 'strong' 2 as defined by the EBU. It certainly can be '8 playing tricks' though: the two are not synonymous. The use of the word 'strong' is felt to be a psychological ploy to disuade the average club member from competing with hands that do have potential of making tricks.

    12 points may be 'strong' - provided it has 5 controls (or more). Again these controls are anticipated to be able to take tricks in defence.

    15 or more points is felt to be 'stong' no matter what the hand looks like - on the principle that it holds so much strength that it will take tricks both offensively and defensively

    (This may not of course be the case - consider AKQJT987654 - K - Q, but the line has to be drawn somewhere - and the EBU felt that using 'controls' was easier than to convey 'clear-cut tricks' (the old ER25).)

  • edited April 2018

    AKQJT987654, K, Q, void is a very different hand type from a traditionally "strong" hand. A hand that's a natural 2NT opener, for example, would expect to make a large number of tricks defending against an opposing contract (and might well be suited for a penalty double). The hand you have there is very strong if it's played in the 11-card suit, but only worth around 1 trick if playing against an opponent's suit contract in a different suit. So it affects the decision about whether to continue or double when competition starts up at a high level.

    The opponents are entitled to know about what your opening bid tells your partner about how safe doubling is. "Strong", under current EBU regulations, implies to your opponents that you're giving your partner permission to penalty double with a suitable hand. If that's not the case, you have to describe your hand some other way. (Your opponents would certainly be much more willing to sacrifice over a hand like that than they would against a balanced hand with 11 top tricks!)

    In this case, the hand is describable as "strong" because it's something of an outlier; the extra cards in the 11-card suit actually make it weaker in defence, rather than stronger. But the line has to be drawn somewhere (and if you're opening a "strong" bid on a hand like that, you shouldn't be surprised if your partner is more inclined to double than they should be.)

  • Agree with Weejonnie:

    “12 points may be 'strong' - provided it has 5 controls (or more). Again these controls are anticipated to be able to take tricks in defence.”

    This is what I always perceived wherever I played in the World to be the case, a strong opener as well as showing anticipated tricks should also contain defensive ones too.

    Think I’ll start playing the Blue Club again.
  • @gordonrainsford said:

    What is not accurate is the way the bid has been described, which seems to suggest requirements for their strong, artificial opening bids that are not fulfilled by the hand in question.

    And I wouldn't mind betting that they know that this hand-type is a possibility. How I'd treat depends on the degree of experience of the pairs. If the pair concerned are inexperienced, it's a matter of education, so no PP. The more inexperienced the opponents the more likely an adjustment for MI is - experienced opponents would be less likely to be deterred from Gordon's double after 2 !c -2 !d -2 !s .

  • I play a multi 2C opening which shows either 54 or 55 in the majors with 10-14 points OR a hand that I want to play in game. The game hand will contain 25 or more points (balanced) OR have 2, 3 or 4 losers in an as yet unspecified suit contract. In the latter case do the Blue Book rules mean that:
    a) the suit can't be clubs, and
    b) the hand must be strong (16+ points or 5 controls with 12+ points).
    In the system I also play a multi 2Ds - is this OK?

  • The majors option is fine as it satisfies BB 7C1(b)(iv)(2).

    Given that you have an option under 7C1(b), then your "want to be in game" hand must either satisfy 7C1(a), or the same option under 7C1(b).

    So the WTBIG option must either be strong or based on a suit that isn't clubs.

    We look at your opening bids individually, so whether your 2 !c bid is allowed doesn't depend on what you play for your 2 !d bid, or vice-versa. Feel free to post details of your 2 !d bid if you are in doubt.

  • Thus you seem to have selected (under 7C1(b)

    (iv) Any combination of meanings that show either or both of
    1) At least five cards in a suit, specified or not, which must not be the suit opened, and/or
    2) At least 5-4 in two suits, either or both of which may be specified or not, but both of which must not be the suit opened.

    So IF the suit is clubs then the hand must be strong - otherwise it need not be (but your partnership have to declare that you may have limited high-card strength)

    For a multi-2D, the same thing applies: if the suit is diamonds then the hand must be strong (assuming you are playing a weak 2 in a major as one of the options). There is nothing wrong in having your (WTBIG hand in clubs, but with limited high card strength) under the multi 2D (and a strong hand in clubs under the 2C) and vice-versa.

  • The best way to think about it is that all the meanings that don't guarantee 16 points (or 12 + 5 controls) must be of the same type, and you can add any number of meanings that guarantee 16 points to an otherwise legal bid. So in this case, we can split your multi into three real bids:

    • Game forcing, based on high cards: this has got to imply 16 points (most people would put it at more like 23) so it's legal combined with anything.
    • Game forcing, based on losers: A 4-loser hand could in theory have only 5 HCP and 1 control, so it has to either have an anchor suit or deny the suit you bid.
    • Intermediate with both majors: This isn't expected to be strong, so it has to fall into the same category as the previous bid: either having an anchor suit (and the same suit), or else denying the suit you bid.

    I wouldn't expect your "game forcing based on losers" hands to have any particular anchor suit, so it looks like this bid is only legal if hands weaker than 16 points (or 12+5 controls) deny the suit bid. So the legal bid here would be a multi bid with the following options:

    • Game forcing, 16+ HCP (regardless of whether the HCP are the reason for the game force)
    • Game forcing, 12+ HCP, 5 controls (if this is an option, your opponents need to be told it is)
    • Game forcing, ≤4 losers in hearts, diamonds, or spades (it is not legal to include clubs in this option, although the previous two hands could have clubs)
    • Intermediate with both majors (this is OK because it's asserting 5-4 or better in two suits which aren't clubs)

    This is almost, but not quite, the same as your bid; it removes one option, a game forcing semi-preempt in clubs, that would otherwise be available. (The reason is that it lets your opponents safely give a conventional meaning to the double of 2!c without having to worry that you'll leave it in on a weak hand.)

  • Thanks for your well considered answers. This forum is great. I will make sure that my partners now understand that if they wish to open 2C with a 4 (or fewer) loser club suit then it will have to conform to the new strong rules. By the way our 2D multi is similar to the standard 2-way type - intermediate in a major or 23/24 points balanced.

  • Just to clarify, most Weak One No-Trump openers of twelve to fourteen High Card Points can also be opened as a Strong Two ♣️?
  • @kato said:
    Just to clarify, most Weak One No-Trump openers of twelve to fourteen High Card Points can also be opened as a Strong Two ♣️?

    No, very few of them could since they would need five controls. I doubt anyone would want to, but if they did they would need to ensure they described this accurately to their opponents.

  • I've said some of this before but here goes..
    I've played for over fifty years, played three or four times a week for over ten years and have been a Director for two years.
    With the new Blue Book I have tried to understand strong openings.
    When I use the word strong about any hand or bid it always depends on the context and on shape. It never ever says anything about defensive values. I believe that most Bridge players see this the same way.
    The EBU seem to have a different view. With a standard Acol Two Clubs opening they want me to call it strong and they want it to be defensively strong.
    I have two questions.
    (1) Why????
    (2) How else can I make a forcing bid for a hand so strong (my definition) that I want to make my partner respond?

    I call it game forcing now instead of strong.
    To be honest I don't even know as a Director how I should handle these complicated Blue Book rules.


  • The reason for having a defensive element in these bids called strong is because the use of the word undefined suggests high card strength and deters some from coming in over it when it would be to their advantage to do so. Part of your problem may be seeking to impose your own definition on the word. Do you have evidence for your assertion that "most Bridge players see this the same way"
    If you open a hand strong in playing strength at the one level how often does it get passed out?
    Have you considered playing strong and forcing two bids? You can play natural ones as anything you like provided you disclose to the opponents that "strong" could mean a hand with fewer than the expected number of high cards such as (extreme example) QJ10xxxxxxx x x x.
    I'm not sure that the basic regulation is all that complex.It seems you assert so because you don't agree with it. However it is worded and whatever the limits are the basic philosophy of having some defensive strength for openings described as strong has been the view of the Laws and Ethics committee for as long as I can remember. Whilst the L&E are not there to teach anyone what they think is good bridge those who played Acol many years ago, including Bob and Jim Sharples, used to describe their strong openings as "a hand of power and quality"

  • "If you open a hand strong in playing strength at the one level how often does it get passed out?"

    But it can happen. Imagine you have 11 points in first seat, as in a hand posted on other forums played at the Young Chelsea recently. I can see partner passing, because he only has five points and he needs six to reply. LHO has a balanced 14 count, and RHO has 10 points and doesn't know about protecting. And that's not counting the odd occasions (that happen more and more as my opponents get older) where an Ace gets "lost" behind another card.

    In the forms of Acol most played in clubs (Benji or three weak twos), there is no forcing bid other than those the EBU say must be "strong". Are ordinary players to be deprived of constructive bidding sequences on distributional hands, just because players who are so old they remember the Sharples don't want to have to cope with these rare openings? I'm told they are difficult to defend against, but I don't have a problem (as long as the disclosure is OK), whereas I get done by lunatic (but legal) pre-empts almost every session. You cannot force stone-age Acol on players, nor can you expect them to learn complex methods to jump over the legal hurdles.

    I think that there is a problem in the L&EC regulating club bridge, because they don't understand it. I just checked through the L&EC members, and none of them won more than 1000 black points in club bridge in 2017. Only Heather Dhondy won more than 500. One didn't play any bridge at all. Is there any feedback from players who play sub-50 (NGS) sessions week in, week out?

    The other thing that disturbs me is the harking back to obsolete forms of Acol. Our players don't have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the game. Locally, our newer players, none of whom are young, few of whom will ever be any good, learn from friends, or just turning up at the improvers club, or were taught Benji at lessons. I've seen players totally bewildered by a traditional Acol strong two (only played by returnees before they find a regular partner who forces Benji on them), because they've never seen one before. Yet the strong, experienced players seem unable to accept that "ordinary" club bridge changes with the times.

  • I'm not going to respond at great length to the most recent posts, although I could :/ .

    Please remember that the Blue Book regulations are not of any direct application in clubs. Most (affiliated) clubs will apply them because there have to be some rules, and it is easier to allow someone else (the L&EC) to do the hard work formulating those rules, rather than for the club to try to do it for themselves and risk confusion or worse.

    As to why the rules are as they are, in drafting rules there is always a trade-off between clarity and relative simplicity on the one hand and tailoring rules so that they apply in a sensible way to all situations (but at the risk of length and complexity) on the other. This principle has been particularly in evidence in connection with alerting, especially the alerting of doubles, but it applies equally well in relation to permitted methods.

    When I first saw the 12HCP or 5 controls rule I thought it was, shall I say, very strange (other epithets available), but at least it has the virtue of simplicity (much simpler that the old Extended Rule of 25). Frances Hinden (L&EC Vice-Chair) has done a good job of explaining both what it says and why it came about - see

    Disclosure should be the key. I'm afraid that I don't have a lot of sympathy with people who want to bend what I consider to be relatively generous rules for what you are allowed to open, say, 2 !c on, because I see the consequence (unintended, maybe) of implying great strength when holding few high cards as intimidating inexperienced players, particularly, from coming in when they should be.

  • I think part of the confusion over these rules in the definition of Strong. Many poor and/or inexperienced player assume that 2C means 23+ points, so when my 2C turns out to be:

    32 Spades
    AQJ1098 Hearts
    32 Diamonds
    AQJ clubs

    and they missed 4S because they assumed that 2C announced as strong and forcing to game (except 2C - 2D - 2NT), when really it means, I want to go to game if you have anything partner.

    Surely they have a right to know this. So a better announcement is, "this is our strongest bid, but may not be that strong" - full disclosure and so as players we can decide our own meanings to what constitutes a strong hand, but need to let the opposition know that it may be safe to overcall.

    The laws set out to define the minimum requirements to simply call a bid strong without further description.

    Happy to be corrected if I'm wrong (I'm married so I am used to both being wrong and corrected :) )

  • If 2C shows
    * "less than strong" hands with a long suit which is not clubs; and
    * "strong" hands with any suit
    then the disclosure (on the convention card and when responding to questions) must make the different treatment of clubs clear.

  • No Problem "The hand contains 8+ playing tricks in an unspecificied suit. If the suit is not clubs then the hand may have limited high card strength". isn't hard to remember or say.

    Then we come to "Strong jump overcalls" - these also have to have 15+ or 12+ and 5 controls. to be described as such, So if you have an agreement on overcalling 1H with 2S on "AKQXXX XX KQX XX" then you can't explain if asked that you play "Strong" jump overcalls. ("Intermediate to strong" is probably the correct description").

    Since there is no definition of "Weak" or "Intermediate" in the Blue book, the best thing to do would be to say "6-10 HCP, 6 card card" (or whatever the agreement is, rather than to pretend it is a convention named after a Mrs 'Strong' or a Mr 'Weak'.

  • @Martin said:
    Many poor and/or inexperienced player assume that 2C means 23+ points...

    In practice I think this is the crux of the matter. The problem with a lot of club players is that they fail to ask questions when they should. A lot of inexperienced players don't look at opposition convention cards (if there are any), and would just assume that an alerted 2 !c was a hand with lots of lovely points, and not ask. If they are looking at a good hand themselves, the extent of their ambition is likely to be hoping that you will get to some high-level contract that might go down. It just wouldn't occur to most that they ought to be coming in so as to make something themselves.

    My recommendation is that at least against inexperienced players, you should consider a brief statement at the start of the round to the effect of "We play..., but should we happen to open 2 !c , then we might not have as many HCP as you might expect".

    My problem is the reverse. If the opposition open 2 !c , then if they really are showing lots of lovely points, I want to come in on bus tickets if I have any distribution. But if they just have a lot of playing strength, I only want to come in if I have a decent hand. But I know the issues and will ask questions.

    @Martin said:

    Happy to be corrected if I'm wrong (I'm married so I am used to both being wrong and corrected :) )

    I like it. Me, too.

  • @weejonnie said:

    Since there is no definition of "Weak" or "Intermediate" in the Blue book, the best thing to do would be to say "6-10 HCP, 6 card card" (or whatever the agreement is, rather than to pretend it is a convention named after a Mrs 'Strong' or a Mr 'Weak'.

    Caution is required unless you are a rigid schmoints-counter. Most of my jump overcalls are weak, but expectations differ quite a lot in various positions. I think it is helpful to say something along the lines of "nominally weak but not stupid" (other, some of them ruder, forms of words are available in place of "stupid") for vulnerable WJOs, and "nominally weak but very wide-ranging" for non-vulnerable WJOs when partner has passed, if you play this style.

    If the opposition still want to know how many points to expect, we say something along the lines of "we don't really base it on points, but it is likely to be in the region of...", which is an attempt at combining helpful and accurate disclosure with some measure of protection to ourselves in the event of having indulged in some particularly improbable flight of fancy.

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