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Doing things right ...
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The Doing things right ... page is the home of articles on various legal and ethical issues that crop up from time to time. The articles are either printed in full below or (if they're in pdf form) can be accessed via a link.

In August 2017 I posted an article * on changes to the law which described what value of hands could be described as 'strong' for purposes of an artificial 2♣ or 2 bid or possibly a strong club. The law is buried in the Blue Book (7c1a + Note 1) with links to the White Book. I am not sure that many are aware of this rule, so as an example came up on Tuesday (24th Sep 2019) I thought I would post a reminder.   

The law says to describe a hand as 'strong' it must have 16+ High Card Points (HCP) OR 12+ HCP with 5 'controls' – where A=2 and K=1  

The South hand above does not comply, so it is not legal to describe this hand as strong NOR is it legal to open it with a 2♣/ bid. If the ♣QJ was replaced with an Ace it would comply, but you must describe on your system card (and advise when asked) that the bid may include distributional hands with less than traditional points.

So what penalties might apply? Well, the offenders would be allowed a maximum score of 40% on the hand. If their opponents feel they were damaged then their score could be adjusted. On this particular hand all NS pairs got to 4 and the number of tricks depended on whether East thought West's ♣2 lead was a singleton – so no damage was likely. 

Trevor Purches

* Below on this page

... but you can on this hand

You couldn't have scripted it. No sooner had the pixels dried on the above article than this hand rolled up the following Tuesday.    

Same idea. A very long spade suit and 12 points, but this time you have ♠AK and an outside Ace - ie 5 controls. So you can if you wish open a strong artificial 2♣ or 2. Whether you should is another matter.


Strong Opening Bids 2017 amendment

There is a new, simpler and wider definition of a ‘strong’ hand and a new approach to disclosing strong opening bids.


The old ‘Extended Rule of 25’ regulation no longer applies. Instead, to be considered a ‘Strong’ opening bid or overcall, the minimum allowed by agreement is:


(a) any hand of at least 16 HCP; or


(b) any hand of at least 12 HCP with at least five controls.


An Ace is counted as two controls and a King one. There are 12 controls in any one deal.


So any hand that conforms to this may be opened with a strong, artificial bid like a Benjamin 2♣, but it may not be described as ‘strong’ without further explanation if it may be made with a hand that would not historically have been considered worthy of a forcing opening, such as a balanced or semi-balanced hand with fewer than 18 HCP, or a hand with a lot of playing strength but limited high cards.


This must be disclosed clearly both on the system card and in response to questions, by describing it as something like ‘a strong, artificial opening but may have less high-card strength than traditional strong hands’. This applies even though the minimum agreed strength must be 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.


So there is now greater freedom to open a wider range of hands as ‘strong’ (though this should not be taken as a recommendation to open all hands within the limits as strong bids!) but greater responsibility to ensure that your opponents are properly informed about your style.


If the above EBU-provided summary still leaves you unsure, feel free to ask any experienced Bath BC director for further guidance.

To enquire or not?

When one’s RHO bids and the bid is alerted, what do you do?

These are the options (in tempo please):

  • Bid a suit
  • Double for a lead
  • Pass (possibly to see what happens next)
  • Enquire the meaning of the alerted bid and then do one of the preceding options.

If you ask for the meaning you are possibly giving your partner unauthorised information. If you need to know the meaning of the alerted bid to decide what to bid, you could look at your opponent’s Convention Card. But if you have no intention of bidding, why do you need to know now? You will have other opportunities to ask what the bid means including during the Clarification Period. The Clarification Period lasts from the final call (i.e. the third consecutive Pass) until the opening lead is faced. Before the opening lead is selected the presumed leader has the right to have a review of the bidding and an explanation of the calls, as does his partner after the selected lead is face down on the table. So before you play you can easily find out what your opponents have been up to during the bidding.

However there is a better way. If when you sit down together both sides identify their basic system e.g. ‘Benji, five card majors, weak NT, better minor’ or ‘Reverse Benji, four card majors, Weak NT’ or ‘Precision, five card majors’ then the problem will often go away. If you don’t take advantage of this courtesy, then when an opponent bids 1♣ you have a problem. Is it strong and artificial or is it a prepared club or is it really natural and the bidder’s partner does not yet know? Should you now ask? Law 20F allows any player at his turn to call to ask about either one call or the whole of the opponents’ bidding to date. Explanations about a particular bid should be given by the partner of the person making the bid. Whether you ask about one or all of the bids you still run the risk of giving your partner extraneous information.

Let me remind those whose partner has asked about the alerted bid what effect the enquiry has on them. Law 16B1 states that the individual may not select from among logical alternatives one that could demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information (in this case, the question). So if the question makes it clear that your partner has an interest in a particular suit (e.g. the alerted 1♣) you must not lead that suit unless you have no logical alternative.

Let me now briefly discuss artificial systems, usually strong club type. Many of the bids in such a system are alerted, but if you have decided not to bid there is no need to ask during the bidding what each bid means. If you do, then you delay the bidding and you get little benefit. All you need to do is ask during the Clarification Period for a total explanation. It is likely to be both more coherent and quicker as both of your opponents will have now a clear understanding of their partner’s holding. It also allows you time to think about supplementary questions if you need to do so.

Grant Ferrie CCTD 28 June 2010