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8-10 1NT and the convention charts
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The current set of convention charts were initially written before Duplicate Bridge Law 40 changed to permit regulating authorities to prohibit special partnership understanding such as playing an 8-10 NT. The old Law 40 allowed them to prohibit altogether understandings permitting one openings a king lighter or more less than average. (Here are both versions of Law 40 https://www.bridgehands.com/Laws/ACBL/Duplicate/The_Auction.htm#law40 ) The next rewrite of the convention charts may well ban the 8-10 NT altogether. That would be sad as world play permits them. Unlike ACBL, WBF even permits conventions over a 7-9 NT without losing seating rights associated with a "Highly Unusual Method". ( http://www.worldbridge.org/Data/Sites/1/media/documents/official-documents/Policies/WBFSystemsPolicy.pdf ) 2.2 c) "By partnership agreement an opening bid at the one level may be made with values a king or more below average strength."

#7 on Disallowed list on the General Convention Chart (GCC) deters playing even the 8-10 range, "7. CONVENTIONAL RESPONSES, REBIDS AND A CONVENTIONAL DEFENSE TO AN OPPONENT’S CONVENTIONAL DEFENSE after natural no trump opening bids or overcalls with a lower limit of fewer than 10 HCP or with a range of greater than 5 HCP (including those that have two non-consecutive ranges)..." ( http://web2.acbl.org/documentLibrary/play/Convention-Chart.pdf ) 

The midchart does not have the GCC Disallowed item #7 (except perhaps by a reference to a reference). But it does explicitly not add conventional responses and rebids to an 8-10 NT as permitted conventions. It says, "All other [than GCC] constructive rebids and responses are permitted - except for ... conventional calls after natural no trump opening bids or overcalls with a lower limit of fewer than 10 HCP or with a range of greater than 5 HCP (see #10 under RESPONSES AND REBIDS and #7 under DISALLOWED on the General Convention Chart) – however, this prohibition does not extend to no trumps that have two non-consecutive ranges neither of which exceeds 3 HCP." And the exception in the GCC Allowed item #10 is "ALL CALLS AFTER A NATURAL NOTRUMP opening bid or direct overcall, EXCEPT for natural notrump opening bids or overcalls with a lower limit of fewer than 10 HCP or with a range of greater than 5 HCP (including those that have two non-consecutive ranges). See #7 under DISALLOWED."

The superchart also misfiles this attempted prohibition in the what-would-be-called allowed section of the super chart (except that the title's missing). It reads, "The prohibitions contained in item #10 under RESPONSES AND REBIDS on the General Convention Chart are effective for this Chart. (However, this prohibition does not extend to notrumps that have two non-consecutive ranges neither of which exceeds 3 HCP.)" (The exception to the prohibition is a little ambiguous as it may permit two non-consecutive ranges 8-8 or 10-10 HCP 1NT but not 9 HCP.)

The GCC specifically calls out what conventions are permitted and lists the opening bids and responses singly. It does not call out any conventions that can be played after an 8-10 1NT. The GCC specifically disallows all such conventions to the extent it permitted one. (Although the hierarchy of allowed vs. disallowed is as follows "Unless specifically allowed, methods are disallowed." so one could read that Allowed #5, #8 and #9 are still permissible after an opening 8-10 1NT). The midchart and superchart, in contrast, have a curious hole that I discovered when prepping for the team trials this year.

Neither of the midchart and superchart prevent an 8-10 artificial NT and conventional responses thereto. Disallowed item #7 on GCC and the exception to Responses and Rebids item #10 are only after a "natural no trump". This wording is incorporated in an exception to what's allowed on the midchart and superchart. Nowhere do these two charts specifically disallow 8-10 artificial NT. E.g., any balanced hand or 4441 8-10 appears to be permissible. Nowhere do they specifically disallow artificial responses to an artificial 8-10 notrump. Directors can call responses to 8-10 artificial NT destructive methods. But the superchart specifically omits the one level from requiring artificial weak bids to have "a known suit or no more than two possible suits not to include the suit bid". This omission implies that weak artificial bids and conventional responses thereto are permissible at the 1-level. It is hard for me to see 1 8-10 unknown suit as constructive and 1NT 8-10 natural or 4441 as destructive. If the directors do rule that way, consider playing on superchart 1 balanced 8-10 with an unknown 4+card suit and 1NT showing spades. That neatly sidesteps the spirit of not permitting conventional responses to a natural 8-10 1NT also.

I asked Cenk Tunçok if he was interested in adding singletons to our NT for the team trials like we did in the Spingold in Chicago last year (the only superchart convention filed for that event). I also asked him if at the same time we should add the ability to upgrade 9 counts to our 10-12 NT. He said, "Don't bother." So Jan Martel and the USBF conventions committee narrowly avoided needing to address the question of whether a 9+-12 artificial NT with conventional responses and rebids is permissible.

Next: Natural calls and natural and conventional rebids after 1NT 8-10

Let's suppose I decide to play an 8-10 NT in a GCC event (or in an event governed by a presumably soon-to-be-rewritten midchart and superchart). Suppose further that the chart bans conventions after an 8-10 NT. There is little language to go on about what "natural" means after the first round of bidding. The GCC defines natural as follows: "An opening suit bid or response is considered natural if in a minor it shows three or more cards in that suit and in a major it shows four or more cards in that suit." The Alert Chart gives a little more information when it tells a little about what a natural bid is not by defining a conventional bid. A convention is defined as: "A bid or call which, by partnership agreement, conveys a meaning not necessarily related to the denomination named...." ( http://web2.acbl.org/documentLibrary/play/AlertChart.pdf )

So natural bids on the second round of the auction may include showing or denying a feature, showing or denying an honor, showing or denying a stopper or showing a specific length--even shortness. These meanings are not necessarily considered conventional according to the alert chart. Natural bids can also be forcing and not tell anything new about a previously bid suit as long as the suit is being bid naturally. It seems overly restrictive to only permit cue bids only in 3-card minors and 4-card majors on the second or third round of the auction. As an example, consider 1NT-3 (natural GF setting as trump); 4 (cue bid of A). My read of the GCC definition of "natural" is that there's an implied "initial" before the word response. The GCC doesn't bother with defining rebids by opener or second round responses by responder given that GCC allowed #8 is "ALL CONSTRUCTIVE CALLS starting with the opening bidder’s second call." Separately, the midchart and superchart do not define natural so there's little guidance about what constitutes a constructive non-conventional response to an 8-10 NT. My guess is agreements that they show 3-card or longer minors and 4-card or longer majors are permitted.

Since the Midchart and Superchart do not have GCC Disallowed item #7, GCC Allowed item #8 appears to allow constructive conventional calls on the second and subsequent round after an 8-10 NT. GCC Allowed item#8 is incorporated into both the midchart and superchart. So for now, the regulation of the ACBL appears to permit conventional rebids by opener and responder after an initial natural response by responder to an 8-10 1NT on the midchart and superchart.

For example, if you agree with my reading, one could play 1NT-2 is 3+ forcing one round. Opener can then rebid normal Stayman or puppet rebids. One is dealt 3 only 70% of the time. So this work around does not restore Stayman for every hand. But 3NT often plays as well as a 4-4 major fit if you want to do without Stayman. If you want to forgo Stayman without clubs, it may be no great loss. A 2 response to 1NT is 3+ and forcing one round is another option. Playing both minors 3+cards and forcing covers all the situations where responder does not have a 5-card major to bid. One can also play a 1NT-4 natural and forcing with 3+. Opener can rebid his zero, one or two aces. Transfer-like sequences are probably impossible with a couple of exceptions. A 2NT natural response is not defined. If responder bids 2NT "natural" and forcing, 3 can then be artificial as short as 2 or 3 and 3 can be rebids like "fast denies" on the ACBL standard card. Since "I like diamonds" could be of interest to a hand with no diamond stopper, there need not be any implication that the 2NT bid is conventional showing long diamonds. A 2NT forcing "natural" relay is very useful--especially since no conventional calls are permitted on the first round. So if 2NT "natural" and forcing functions as a puppet to 3 there is no implication that the 2NT implies anything about . It must be permitted for some hands that do not have a suit. The only other convention I can see overloading into a natural intital response routinely is 2 3+ forcing in lieu game forcing Stayman. Smolen would be OK because it's a second round responder rebid.

Even if conventional rebids are ultimately banned on midchart and superchart, playing 1N-2 forcing 3+ may still be effective. The NT opener rebids 2M natural showing a 4-card or longer major. And a 2 rebid shows 3+. If 2 is a lower priority natural response, it does not directly say anything about the majors, except by negative inference. An unnamed expert once called this "Cheat Stayman". If you buy my inference about the word "initial" in the GCC definition of a natural bid or response, then the 2 rebid could show either 3+ or a diamond control. Or 2 could even be an offer to play 2 if partner happens to have 5 to go with the 3+.

Antagonize your favorite directors, opponents and conventions committees at your own risk.

(I'd love to hear in the comments the experience of any 8+ or 9+ NT players about how directors tend to rule about what a natural call can mean on various rounds following the opening NT in midchart or superchart play.)

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