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The minimum requirements for a 'Strong' two of a suit opener (or equivalent, via Benji, Multi, etc)


This topic is often the subject of heated debate, and so the EBU have attempted to set out a clear definition. Many players are in fact oblivious of these definitions, and hence leave themselves open to having rulings made against themselves. The requirements for a strong 2 opening are currently (August 2012 to July 2013) defined in the EBU's Orange Book as below.
  • Firstly, the hand must meet “the normal high card strength associated with a one-level opening”. Rather unhelpfully, the EBU's Law & Ethics Committee has not defined what the “the normal high card strength associated with a one-level opening” actually is, but whereas the old version of the OB specifically stated '14 HCPs', the current ‘feeling’ is that it is ‘about 10 HCPs’.
  • One of the options below refers to ‘Clear Cut Tricks’ (CCT). To calculate the CCT, it should be assumed that partner has a void, and that the outstanding cards break, not with the worst possible lie, but with the second worst possible. So with an eight card suit, a 4-1 break should be assumed, with any outstanding high cards included in the longest holding, and sitting 'over' your suit.
  • Each of the points below is linked by an ‘OR’ not an ‘AND’, so the hand can be described as 'strong' if any ONE or more applies. The relevant passage in the Orange Book (August 2012 edition) is 10 B3:
    “Strong openings are often described as ‘Extended Rule of 25’ which means the minimum allowed is any of:
    1. Subject to proper disclosure, a hand that contains as a minimum the normal high-card strength associated with a one-level opening and at least eight clear cut tricks.
      A K Q J x x x x x x x x x does count as 8 clear-cut tricks as the spade suit will yield 8 tricks on any 4-1 break.
      A K Q x x x x x x x x x x does not as it would only yield 7 tricks on a 4-1 break.
    2. Any hand meeting the Rule of 25 (the number of High Card Points plus the length of the two longest suits must equal or exceed 25)
    3. Any hand with at least 16 HCPs”


At one time, sub standard Strong Two openers were subject to an outright ban, meaning that if one was deployed, adjusted scores would be applied, with the opponents awarded 60% and the offenders 30%, unless the actual board score was more favourable to the opponents. Today, any such bid would be treated as a 'Deviation' (deliberate minor distortion in terms of suit length or HCPs) or as a 'Psyche' (deliberate major distortion in terms of suit length or HCPs), depending as to how far the bid was short of these expectations. Note that ignorance is not a defence.


Players who choose to deploy a 'strong two of suit opening' - be it direct, or via Benji or via a Multi - are strongly advised NOT to describe them as '8 Playing Tricks', which would translate as '8 Clear Cut Tricks' as above, but rather as 'Extended Rule of 25', which gives greater flexibility and wider scope.


Hand played at Mountnessing on 28/07/2011

Full details of this hand can be viewed here - click on 'Travellers', and scroll to board 3. This example (North Hand) features also as the basis of this article. It does include sufficient HCPs for a normal one level opening, but beyond that, on the 'rule of 25' it adds to 24, it has it has 7 clear-cut tricks, not 8, and it fails to reach 16 HCPs. Weird though this hand is, it cannot legitimately be opened as a 'strong 2'.

Hand played at Mountnessing on 13/09/2012

Full details of this hand can be viewed here - click on 'Travellers', and scroll to board 14. This example (East Hand) was opened by at least two players as a 'strong 2 in diamonds', but against the rule of 25 it adds to 23, in terms of 'clear cut tricks' it offers only 6 (5 in diamonds plus the Ace), and it has 12 rather than 16 HCPs. This hand should be opened either 1 or 5, not as a 'strong' hand.

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