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What are the requirements for a strong 2 opening?

Board 3, Match-Pointed Pairs Format, Played on 28th July 2011, Dealer South, EW Vulnerable. Computer dealt

The hands:







A Q2














The bidding:





2C (1)









  1. Described as 'Strong – 8 playing tricks in an unspecified suit, or 21-22 Balanced'.

Result: ten tricks made, score +590 to NS. East / West challenged the validity of the 2C opener as a 'strong' bid. One of the players recalled a similar situation at the Brighton Congress a few years earlier, at which such a bid had been judged to be a non-permitted opening, and therefore as an 'error of procedure' and therefore an adjusted score had been awarded.

NOTE (A): as it happened, the same score arose at five other tables. Additionally, at one table the result was 4S doubled with an overtrick, and at another, the hand was played in 4S redoubled, making.

NOTE (B): on the sharpest of defences, the contract can be beaten: try the effects of the Ace of spades lead at trick 1, followed by a diamond switch...


Several lessons emerged from this incident, and many of them are worth sharing with ALL club members:

  1. As is well known, the EBU's “ORANGE BOOK (OB)” defines a range of ‘permitted systems’ – not just ‘strong 2’ openers, but much more beside, e.g., one of a suit openers

  2. The OB gets revised from time to time, and indeed we have been alerted to a new update that is due out in early August 2011

  3. As a generality, just because a bid is not within the range of ‘permitted systems’ does not in itself mean automatically that an adjustment is appropriate if such a bid is made.

For example, a 1H opening that lies outside the OB requirements for a one-level suit opening bid, is not as such ‘permitted’, so if one occurs in practice the perpetrator has taken themselves into the realms of a psyche / deviation / misbid and the various considerations about ‘implied partnership agreements’ that then come into play. As is well known, if there is evidence of a psyche being fielded, or if there is evidence of a history of psyching and therefore evidence that there is a ‘non-permitted system agreement’ in existence, then it will be deemed that there has been “an error of procedure” and the score will be adjusted, but if none of those points apply, then the incident is recorded, but the score is not adjusted.

  1. In the latest version of the OB, there is just ONE specific exception to point 3 – anyone who distorts a Multi 2D in an event that is run at anything lower than ‘Level 4’ will automatically be deemed to have perpetrated an ‘error of procedure’ (or in plain English, ‘made an illegal bid’), and an adjusted score is automatic.

  2. In previous editions of the OB, the ‘below level 4’ caveat did not apply to the Multi opening, and the same principle applied additionally to all ‘strong’ ACOL and ‘Benjy’ style two level openers, which therefore could not be 'distorted' in any way. So if someone had opened a ‘dodgy’ strong 2 at Brighton a few years back, under the rules that prevailed at the time, it would have led to an automatic score adjustment.

  3. The requirements for a strong 2 opening are currently (August 2010 to July 2011) defined as:

♠ 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.

  1. I was told that the whole philosophy of the ‘strong 2 minimum requirements’ was to stop people from opening a strong 2 on, say, a 9-card suit headed by KQJ and otherwise a ‘bust’.

  2. If we look at the club’s psyche book ( - password and user name required) we will find several examples of situations from the past where a bid that lies outside the OB definitions of ‘permitted systems’ has been made – yet only when some additional special consideration came into play was any score adjustment made. And further, those incidents involved a ‘gross distortion’ – not just one point off the limit as was the case with this particular 2C bid.


If we consider the hand in question against the criteria set out in paragraph 6 above, then:

  1. It does satisfy the minimum high card strength for a normal one level opening (11 HCPs)

  2. It only includes 7 'Clear Cut Tricks ': 5 in spades, assuming AQJx in one of the opponent’s hands, plus 2 in hearts

  3. It fails the rule of 25 (11HCPs plus 13 for the length of the two longest suits, = 24)

  4. It does not have 16+ High Card Points

Under the current OB rules, the 2C opening was a “minor but deliberate distortion”, which is therefore classifiable as a ‘Deviation’ rather than as a psyche. The player concerned would have needed to be an expert in the current rules to know that it was in fact a ‘deviation’ – for example, the comment about “to count the number of clear cut tricks in a long suit, assume a void in partner’s hand, and not the worst possible, but the next worst, lie of the outstanding cards” is not widely known.

Deviations” only warrant a score adjustment if they are a frequent occurrence or if there is evidence that partner made allowances for the sub-standard bid. I don’t believe that either of those apply to this incident, so therefore the result as played stands.

Follow-on Action

Publicise the lessons learned, both to the players involved, and to the wider club membership


It is perhaps quite sad that the game of Bridge has become so embroiled in rules and regulations, and all the more so that these rules are regularly updated such that players can become 'out of tune'. In some ways those rules can be 'stifling', but on the other hand, without any rules, chaos could ensue.

According to the historians, this whole issue of standardising the laws and regulations stemmed from some very famous incidents back in the 1960s, when two top England Internationals – Terrence Rees & Boris Shapiro – were accused of 'cheating' in the World Championships. So what do we mean by 'cheating'? The rest, as they say, is history... and the result is The Laws of Duplicate Bridge 2007 - supplemented by the Handbook of EBU Directives and Permitted Agreements - better known as "The Orange Book".

The EBU's Laws & Ethics Committee, which has editorial control over the Orange Book, claims to have taken heed of pleas for stability of the rules, and so it can be hoped that the 'goal posts' will not move very often in the future.

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