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  #1  
Old 12-08-2012, 11:18 AM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Bridge question about "not permitted" bids

I will admit to having learned how to play bridge about 5 times in my life. Obviously, it's never stuck, mainly because the bidding seemed like a total mystery and I didn't have enough interest to work at it. But I did learn the basics of the game play, and being of somewhat logical mind I occasionally try to work out the hand in the bridge column in the newspaper.

Usually I ignore the description of the bidding and go right to the opening lead. (Usually I can't figure it out how to make or defeat the contract, but it's sometimes fun to try anyway.) But in a recent column my eye did come across the following line, which seemed bizarre to me:

"[North] opened two diamonds, showing a weak two-bid in either major. Commonly known as the Multi, this bid enjoys considerable popularity around the planet, but is permitted in the United States only in major events." [bolding mine]

Does the writer mean literally that you are not allowed to bid two diamonds to start a bridge hand in the US (except of course in "major events")? Or that you are not allowed to bid it to show "a weak two-bid in either major" [whatever that means]? If not, why not? And who enforces the rule? Or does this ban cover a whole bidding "system" (convention?), and if so, again, why, and who enforces it? Or does the writer simply mean that it's frowned on for some reason?

Enquiring minds (ones that don't understand the bridge bidding system) want to know! Thanks.

Oh, the column was Phillip Adler's, and it appeared in my newspaper on the 5th of December 2012.

Last edited by Ulf the Unwashed; 12-08-2012 at 11:20 AM.. Reason: sourcing
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2012, 12:14 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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The so-called multi-two-diamonds bid as an opening bid (the first non-pass by any player) means either

a) I have a weak hand (something like 5-11 high card points) and either six hearts or six spades.

b) A strong balanced hand (20-21 HCP)

c) a strong three-suited hand (singleton or void in one suit)

It can also refer to a bid that just means (a) which is sometimes called a mini-multi

It is (or at least was) a "brown sticker" convention so named because you must have a brown stick on the convention card you carry to pre-alert your opponents that you use unusual bids. Bids are given this status because they are deemed particularly difficult to defend against. The are restricted to usage to some high-level tournaments. It would be enforced by the tournament director whom any player may summon at any time during the play.

However, I'm pretty sure the restriction is by the World Bridge Federation so it would not apply in just the U.S. though local opt-outs may be more common outside the U.S.

Clubs can make whatever rules they like.

Last edited by OldGuy; 12-08-2012 at 12:17 PM..
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  #3  
Old 12-08-2012, 04:18 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
Does the writer mean literally that you are not allowed to bid two diamonds to start a bridge hand in the US
I think the answer is no. The restriction is simply against using it to convey the non-standard types of meanings that OldGuy listed.
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  #4  
Old 12-08-2012, 04:35 PM
Giles Giles is online now
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
I think the answer is no. The restriction is simply against using it to convey the non-standard types of meanings that OldGuy listed.
In particular, if your partnership agreement is that a two-diamond opening bid means 6 diamonds and 6-10 points, that would be a very common convention and would be allowed at all levels in American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) games.
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  #5  
Old 12-08-2012, 05:13 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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Yes, I certainly did not mean to imply that you could not open 2 diamonds. Nowadays most players use an opening bid of 2 diamonds to mean either

a) a weak two bid with 5 - 11 high card points (HCP) and 6 diamonds. Some restrict this bid to have a good suit topped by AK, AQ or KQ.

b) a Flannery bid meaning 11-15 HCP with five hearts and four spades

c) a strong opening bid with 21+ HCP and a good diamond suit (now a bit old-fashioned)

in that order of common use. All of those and some others would be allowed at all levels. Though in every case your conventions should be listed on your convention cards which must be available for your opponents to look at and some bids must be alerted by your partner when you make them which can prompt them to ask for an explanation (from your partner not you).

Last edited by OldGuy; 12-08-2012 at 05:16 PM..
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  #6  
Old 12-09-2012, 11:16 AM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Thanks for the info. I had no idea there were permitted and not-permitted systems, or that you had to carry around a card with you telling the conventions you were using. It seems a little bit like requiring baseball teams to make available to the opposition all the possible signs they might use for calling pitches, instructing hitters whether to swing, deciding to put on bunt plays, etc., so from my perspective it seems quite peculiar. Then again, I am not part of the cardplaying culture, and if I were I'm sure it would make a lot more sense. Thanks!
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  #7  
Old 12-09-2012, 12:49 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
. It seems a little bit like requiring baseball teams to make available to the opposition all the possible signs they might use for calling pitches.
That's actually a pretty good analogy. Unlike poker, out psyching your opponents during the bidding phase is against the rules.
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Old 12-09-2012, 02:27 PM
fubbleskag fubbleskag is offline
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Originally Posted by Tapioca Dextrin View Post
That's actually a pretty good analogy. Unlike poker, out psyching your opponents during the bidding phase is against the rules.
It's not actually a very good analogy, and purposely lying to your opponents is not against the rules, provided you've also lied to your partner.

The auction in bridge is intended to be a level but flexible playing field; you are allowed to assign meanings to your bids (as noted, within the restrictions of the governing body of the event you're participating in), but the meaning of the bids is never a secret from your opponents. A better analogy would be that it's like requiring all participants of a card game to speak the same language at the table - to ensure that no one is having a secret conversation.

If my partner and I play that opening 2 Diamonds shows a natural Heart suit and is forcing to game (which we do), that's an acceptable agreement (even in the ACBL, shockingly); because it's a non-standard agreement, it requires an alert; it also has to be fully described on our convention card, so that our opponents know exactly as much about my partner's hand as I do (minus any extrapolations I can make based on my own hand, obviously). If my partner opens 2 Diamonds, knowing that I expect him to have a strong heart suit, and actually has something else, that's 100% acceptable. As will my anger at him when I find out he lied. (Note: if you know your partner has a tendency to 'psych' - either this bid in particular, or just in general - you're required to disclose this to the opponents.)
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  #9  
Old 12-10-2012, 03:24 AM
denquixote denquixote is offline
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Speaking of psychs, another unacceptable bid is the controlled psych, whereby your partner may make a bid which specifically asks you to tell him with your bid if you psyched. For some reason the ACBL in its infinite wisdom outlawed the convention (even though all bids were alerted and explained when requested), which was an integral part of the Kaplan Scheinwold system, a very popular system in its day. Decisions like this are one reason noone plays duplicate bridge anymore.
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  #10  
Old 12-12-2012, 09:22 AM
Busy Scissors Busy Scissors is offline
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Originally Posted by denquixote View Post
Speaking of psychs, another unacceptable bid is the controlled psych, whereby your partner may make a bid which specifically asks you to tell him with your bid if you psyched. For some reason the ACBL in its infinite wisdom outlawed the convention (even though all bids were alerted and explained when requested), which was an integral part of the Kaplan Scheinwold system, a very popular system in its day. Decisions like this are one reason noone plays duplicate bridge anymore.
Don't really get this example of psychic controls illustrating the ACBLs backwardness - they (pysch controls) seem a pretty fundamental contravention of bidding regs and how information can be exchanged in the auction. They're quite distinct from the ACBL limiting particular bids.

Anyhow, the ACBL has to cater for its membership - and the facts are that the old timers who make up the vast majority of ACBL players don't want to be dealing with the multi, ridiculous as that sounds, or having to deal with esoteric systems designed by bored CS students. Might not be a very progressive approach to the game, but it keeps the vast majority of the ACBL constituency happy. Pissing off the aforementioned 'system architects' has its own dangers, in the longer term, but they're a small minority and they have the option of getting really, really good at Bridge and then they can play what they want.

The multi 2D status in the US is clearly ridiculous - played by lols the world over. I assume it's just a slippery slope argument that keeps it from being rolled out in general.
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  #11  
Old 12-12-2012, 11:11 AM
brad_d brad_d is offline
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Could someone explain the mechanism (again, if I have missed it)?

Suppose player opens with two diamonds. Further suppose that this is a permitted bid (according to the player's documented conventions) if his hand meets some criterion.

If his hand does not actually meet that criterion, how and when is this detected and penalized? Immediately, by some neutral party looking over his shoulder at his hand? Later on, when the run of play reveals to everybody what his cards were?

I have only the most basic knowledge of bridge, and have never played it seriously. Like Ulf the Unwashed, I find this philosophy concerning openness of communication very different from those of other competitive activities I participate in or watch - and thus quite interesting.
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  #12  
Old 12-12-2012, 12:34 PM
robardin robardin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brad_d View Post
Could someone explain the mechanism (again, if I have missed it)?

Suppose player opens with two diamonds. Further suppose that this is a permitted bid (according to the player's documented conventions) if his hand meets some criterion.

If his hand does not actually meet that criterion, how and when is this detected and penalized? Immediately, by some neutral party looking over his shoulder at his hand? Later on, when the run of play reveals to everybody what his cards were?
Remember that tournament bridge is duplicate bridge, not "play this hand and score the result" casual bridge (so called "kitchen table" bridge). The real scoring is not the result on the deal, but how your result compares with other people playing the same deal at another table or tables. That's why it's very important to make the playing ground as even as possible.

In organized duplicate bridge, there is a tournament director (for larger, higher-level tournaments, multiple such directors and a review board) who runs the event. The director is summoned to the table to supervise any irregularity or infraction in the bidding or the play - bidding out of turn, an insufficient bid, etc.

As you say, someone "not having" their bid (what it was supposed to mean) is something that can only come out during or after the play of the hand. It is up to the opponents to decide if it was a severe enough infraction to inform the director about. In general, you're taught to tell the directors because even if no penalty is assigned, the partnership in question could be on a "watch list" of repeat offenders.

Here's an example: I am South and open 1S, which is supposed to have at least 5 cards in the spade suit due to our systemic agreement ("five card majors"). West passes, and my partner North bids 1NT, which is described to opponents as a very common "Forcing 1NT". However, I pass 1NT instead.

This puts the East, the person who could have bid over 1NT but did not, at a disadvantage as he could have chosen to pass on the assumption that he'd be certain of another opportunity to bid, since I was "forced" to bid over 1NT. The director would be summoned over and things could get tricky, depending on what East had in mind... East might even be asked to step away from the table and talk to the director about his hand, so as not to inform West of what he might have.

Further, let's say I now table my hand as dummy to 1NT and it turns out I have only 4 spades, not 5. This would also be Very Bad, even worse than passing 1NT. If I had either passed or opened in a minor suit, West might have wanted to overcall 1H but was unwilling to overcall 2H, or may even have had a five-card spade suit and a 1S overcall himself.

Neither of these treatments are illegal - 4 card 1S openings or non-forcing or semi-forcing 1NT responses to 1S are perfectly standard. But it is the responsibility of partnerships to (a) know their agreements and (b) inform opponents of them.

To some extent, partnership misunderstandings are part of the game, especially the "we just met at the partnership hookup desk" types of surprise disagreements ("When you said you played Bergen Raises, didn't you mean BROMAD agreements as well over a takeout double? Bergen Raises Over Major And Double? It's in Bergen's book.") But the victimized East-West pair in this scenario could be entitled to a scoring adjustment, at the discretion of the director. For example, if it turns out that 1NT by North is the only makable contract on the hand while all the othe E-W pairs are in (say) a heart or NT contract for a better score, he might decide that disagreeing on whether "Forcing 1NT" is "intended as forcing" or "100% forcing" is within the bounds of accident but that "forgetting 5-card majors" is egregious enough to warrant a scoring adjustment.

Finally there are outright "psychic" bids, like bidding 1S in third seat (after partner deals and passes and opponent also passes) with spade shortness and a very bad hand, inferring from the earlier passes that LHO (left-hand opponent, the next to bid) has a good hand with spades, so let's screw up their auction. This is something the ACBL historically is very prejudiced against, as a "purely destructive" bidding agreement.
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Old 12-12-2012, 12:36 PM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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Originally Posted by brad_d View Post
If his hand does not actually meet that criterion, how and when is this detected and penalized? Immediately, by some neutral party looking over his shoulder at his hand? Later on, when the run of play reveals to everybody what his cards were?
There is no penalty for making a bid that doesn't match your stated criteria for that bid, so long as your partner is just as mistaken about your bid as the opponents.

If you bid 2D on SAYC, you're telling your partner and your opponents that you have 5-11 points and long diamonds. It's not a penalty if it turns out you have, say, a Flannery hand instead (11-15 pts., 5H, 4S); what's supposed to happen is that the mis-bid will land you in a bad contract and you lose badly. On the other hand, if it becomes clear from the bidding that your side is actually angling for a 4H contract (rather than an expected contract in diamonds), and then play shows your side has the hands to make that contract with ease, your opponents will call over the tournament director.
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  #14  
Old 12-12-2012, 12:45 PM
robardin robardin is offline
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To clarify my last post, It's where opponents' bidding accidents influence your choice of bids that you may get a scoring adjustment at duplicate bridge. "Bidding misunderstandings are part of the game" means there is no scoring adjustment for an accident where opponents bid to a freakish game or slam due to a misunderstanding. For example, 1S - (takeout double) - 3S meant as preemptive (weak hand, long spade suit support). But the opening bidder has a great hand, thought it was meant as an invitational bid (a better-than-minimum hand) and jumps to a 6S slam which makes on two finesses working (a low-probability 25% slam).

You would be what is called "fixed", which is to say, unlucky. Your opponents had a bidding accident with a good result for them (bad for you), but your actions were not influenced by their accident, so you'll have to live with it. For that matter, 75% of the time such an accident would have benefited you as "a gift result", where they went down in 6S where everybody else is simply in 4S making game.

Last edited by robardin; 12-12-2012 at 12:47 PM..
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  #15  
Old 12-12-2012, 02:19 PM
brad_d brad_d is offline
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Thanks for taking the time to type those explanations - I struggled in places, but I think I mostly followed them.

It's obvious even to this layman that knowing what your partner has in his hand is valuable information. Simply telling your partner what you've got is a big no-no (in every partner game I've ever played), but it sounds as if bridge has developed a very sophisticated "language" in the bidding process* by which players tell each other as much as they can while avoiding bidding themselves into a bad position.

Players are free to adopt tweaks (many of which are widely known and commonly used) to the standard version of this language, but these tweaks have to be made public.

I guess I can see why that makes sense: The bridge community has decided that inter-partner communication needs to be subject to interception by their opponents (by virtue of being in "standard Bridge" or a variant that you make your use of public). To allow otherwise would drastically change the game in a manner that people don't want. (If your partner doesn't realize what the hell you're trying to say, either, though, then it's OK. )

Do I have the gist right?

* - and I suspect there are further cues taken from early card plays
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Old 12-12-2012, 05:23 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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This is basically correct. No secret signals are allowed. What you bid should give the same information to your opponents as it does to your partner (except for inferences that can be made from partner's own cards). The same is true in the play. For example, some people say that discarding (when not following lead) a high card in a suit encourages partner to lead that suit if given the chance, while a low card discourages. Others play that an odd card encourages and an even card discourages. Such information should be on your convention card. In addition, the declarer may ask the partner of a discarder what discards mean.
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  #17  
Old 12-12-2012, 05:40 PM
denquixote denquixote is offline
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Originally Posted by Busy Scissors View Post
Don't really get this example of psychic controls illustrating the ACBLs backwardness - they (pysch controls) seem a pretty fundamental contravention of bidding regs and how information can be exchanged in the auction. They're quite distinct from the ACBL limiting particular bids.

Anyhow, the ACBL has to cater for its membership - and the facts are that the old timers who make up the vast majority of ACBL players don't want to be dealing with the multi, ridiculous as that sounds, or having to deal with esoteric systems designed by bored CS students. Might not be a very progressive approach to the game, but it keeps the vast majority of the ACBL constituency happy. Pissing off the aforementioned 'system architects' has its own dangers, in the longer term, but they're a small minority and they have the option of getting really, really good at Bridge and then they can play what they want.

The multi 2D status in the US is clearly ridiculous - played by lols the world over. I assume it's just a slippery slope argument that keeps it from being rolled out in general.


This bid was an integral part of the K-S system devised by two of the most famous Hall-of-Famers in bridge history. It was an effort to make bridge easier for the masses and was very successful. So, of course, it was found by the ACBL to include bids, psychic controls, that were not in the best interest of all bridge players. The ACBL, of course had no problem allowing the Precision Club system, which is in large part artificial and was very confusing to most players when it was started, but since it opened up vast new regions of bridge players and those areas were committed to the system, the ACBL went along.

As to system creators getting really, really good so they can do what they want, where do they get this good? Well, usually in a foreign country.
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  #18  
Old 12-13-2012, 10:13 AM
brad_d brad_d is offline
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Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
This is basically correct. No secret signals are allowed
Thanks for the help - I've learned a lot from this thread.
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