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ACBL club policies - extremely light actions

The ACBL club where I am the head (game) director has had a serious issue gradually effect the enjoyment of the players and has caused some club members to stop playing and encouraged our novice/intermediate players to not want to ever play in our open games. Our club table count is significantly down over the last few months, partially due to this issue.

So what is this serious issue?

The bidding of a small minority of our players (all with more than 2500 masterpoints) is highly unusual (very/extremely light or bidding suits with significantly less than expected length or quality) which is making many of our members unhappy, causing some to no longer be playing at our club.  (I am not aware of this bidding style being used more against the weaker players.)

Three examples:

1. Opening the bidding with 8 or 9 HCP in first or second seat with no redeeming feature to the hand, e.g., 5-3-3-2 average looking hands opened with 8 or 9 HCP as dealer. (We are not talking about two-suiters with great spot cards and playing strength.) It's as if this player, who has more than 4,000 masterpoints, says to herself "I paid my $7 so I'm going to bid and who cares what happens." This doesn't happen on all hands of this type. But often enough that our members are complaining about it. And it sometimes turns the game into a crapshoot depending on which hands she decides to do this, since her partner has to guess whether this is the time not to force to game if this player opened extremely light.

2. Opening weak 2-bids and 3-bids, or making weak jump overcalls, with extremely weak hands and/or suits much shorter and weaker than normally expected. For example, 2-level bids with very poor 5-card suits, 3-level bids with very poor 6-card suits (and sometimes 5-card suits when non-vulnerable).

3. Making takeout doubles with close to expected shape but much weaker in HCPs than expected, such as 5 to 8 HCP 4-1-1-1 type shapes.

Note that simply requiring consistent pre-alerts before every round is not much of a solution, since most opponents are aware of the tendencies of these players - that is why they are either unhappy playing against these players or not playing in the game at all.

I have some questions regarding possible options (other than simply requesting these players to tighten up their bidding):

1. CAN TWO MEMBERS OF A PARTNERSHIP HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT STYLES? IF SO, WHAT MUST THIS PAIR DO TO FULFILL REQUIRED OBLIGATIONS? (I believe this is generally allowed, but needs to be pre-alerted before each round, likely with the "Very Light" boxes checked on the convention card. And weren't Bergen-Cohen in the late 1980s a good example of this?) Note this refers to "style", not "system", "conventions", or "methods".

2. CAN AN ACBL CLUB VARY THE INFORMATION I HAVE QUOTED BELOW IN DUPLICATE DECISIONS? (EXAMPLE: WHETHER THE "8 HCP RULE" CAN BE CHANGED TO A "10 HCP RULE" BY CLUB POLICY.)

3. AN ACBL CLUB CAN RESTRICT CONVENTIONS/METHODS. BUT CAN AN ACBL CLUB RESTRICT "STYLE" (INCLUDING POSSIBLY PREVENTING ANY STYLE WHICH WOULD IN TOURNAMENT PLAY FORCE THE "VERY LIGHT" CHECKBOXES ON CONVENTION CARDS TO BE CHECKED WITH PRE-ALERTS BEFORE EVERY ROUND)? (Important to realize any restrictions can't be in place for some special games such as STAC and NAP games.)

I would appreciate any advice or information which could be provided, and please, if possible, reference any source of information. I will need to produce written documentation showing justifications for any actions. For any significant changes, an appeal to the Unit is a strong possibility.

Relevant quotes from the Laws and ACBL's Duplicate Decisions are included below.

Bud Hinckley

Head Director, South Bend (Indiana, USA) Bridge Club

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From the Laws of Duplicate Bridge:

The Regulating Authority may prescribe alerting procedures and/or other methods of disclosure of a partnership’s methods. It may vary the general requirement that the meaning of a call or play shall not alter by reference to the member of the partnership by whom it is made.  Such a regulation must not restrict style and judgment, only method.

From ACBL Duplicate Decisions (2008):

ACBL has established for all sanctioned events:

b. ... requirement that both partners use identical method. This requirement does not extend to style and judgment.

c. ... partnership must have the same point limits for an opening bid of 1NT. (NOTE: One partner could play that he never opens 1NT holding a five-card major. Since this is style, the sponsoring organization has no control over this under the Law.)

d. a regulation barring opening one bids which may, by agreement, be made on fewer than 8 HCP (not applicable to a psych).

f. a regulation barring conventional responses or rebids of any kind when the agreed range of a weak two-bid is greater than 7 HCP or the suit could contain fewer than five cards.

Both members of a partnership must use the same system. They must use identical methods. [b]Style may be different and, of course, judgment may vary.[/b]

Deviation … a bid in which the strength of the hand is within a queen of the agreed or announced strength, and the bid is of a suit of ample length or of notrump… the length of the suit varies by no more than one card from the agreed or announced length and the hand contains ample high-card values for the bid in the system being played. If either of these situations occurs, it is easy to see by repeating the definition of a psych (a deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength or suit length) that a deviation is NOT a PSYCH. However, frequent deviations may indicate that the pair has an undisclosed implied agreement acquired through experience.

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