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An Open Letter to the Competition and Convention Committee
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Competition and Convention Committee

There has been a heated discussion about the Competition and Convention Committee on Bridgewinners recently. Here are two of the more pertinent posts. The first is from Steve Robinson, the reply from an offender, Paul Gipson:

From Steve Robinson:

The rules are very simple. If you play a midchart or superchart convention, you must download the defense and you must prealert them.

If you're playing a made up convention, you must look on the acbl charts and see if it might fall in the midchart or higher range. If it does you must download the defense. If there is no defense on the data base you can't play the convention.

If you want to play the convention, send it to the conventions committee with a defense and they will look at it and could place the bid with its defense on the website. If you play Multi you must download both option one and option two and have them ready for the opponents. In the world championships, you don't have to provide a defense to Multi, however, pairs are allowed to use their own Multi Defense.

There can't be anything wrong with following the rules.


Asking a Director is not the way to go when playing unusual conventions. There are many Directors who are not versed in conventions. In the Memphis Swiss, I played against a pair who were playing 2 diamonds to show a weak two in hearts along with a strong option. The pair said that we should use Multi defense. I called the Director and they thought that this modification was OK. I later talked to the chairman of the conventions committee and he said that Directors have no authority to allow modifications of conventions. If the pair had downloaded the tranfer preempt defense there would be no problem.

I've seen many abuses to the rules.

A well known player asked a Director if he could play an opening 2 diamonds to show a weak hand holding both majors. The Director said he could. Actually 2 diamonds showing a weak hand in both majors is not allowed in any event. He played this convention in a National Swiss team and got two good results. When a teammate who knew the rules found out about the bid, they called the Director and the committee gave their opponents three IMPs on each board.

In the sixth session of the Blue Ribbons in Seattle a pair came to my table and were playing a midchart convention. However, the defense they provided, was handwritten on a small piece of paper. This was against the rules and I was shocked that not one of the 71 pairs that they played against knew the rules.

From Paul Gipson

@Steve

"Asking a Director is not the way to go when playing unusual conventions. There are many Directors who are not versed in conventions. In the Memphis Swiss, I played against a pair who were playing 2 diamonds to show a weak two in hearts along with a strong option. The pair said that we should use Multi defense. I called the Director and they thought that this modification was OK. I later talked to the chairman of the conventions committee and he said that Directors have no authority to allow modifications of conventions. If the pair had downloaded the tranfer preempt defense there would be no problem."

This was my brother and I. I doubt if there are many other pairs who are more diligent in their preparation for the (our annual) trip to one of the nationals over the past ten years. We learn the ACBL alerting rules, we have fully completed ACBL CCs available, we have a page of pre-alerts including Mid Chart conventions and indications of our style, we have approved defenses and summaries of all our Mid Chart methods.

Over the years we have asked the ACBL, including Butch Campbell and Rick Beye, about our one-legged multi. The response from them, and from ALL the national TDs we have asked, has been that providing the standard Multi defense is appropriate. When I asked this Butch and Rick were closely involved with the conventions committee.

I also email the Competition and Conventions Committee every couple of years, including requesting approval for a defence based on the transfer pre-empt defence. They have never replied to me.

So it is incredibly frustrating, having done everything we possibly can as a pair coming from another country, to get the fuss at the table that we got from Steve and some others.

When we played Meckwell at the last Spingold, they also commented that the transfer defense would be more appropriate. To be honest I don't care what we have to provide, except I wish someone in authority would talk to us (or just REPLY) and resolve our frustrations and the frustrations that some players have with this defence.

OK, those are the posts.

The debate continued on, but this is the gist of it. What strikes me here is that our current rules and guidelines are often ambiguous and sometimes terribly inconsistent. This is a matter that the C&C committee must address. Let me give four examples of the inconsistencies currently present.

(1) We sometimes play a Schenken 2NT opening, preemptive, both minors. This is General Convention Chart, legal even in a novice game, and requiring neither an announcement nor a suggested defense (though we usually announce our methods and offer a defense). Let’s consider two other pairs. The first, we’ll call them the Looms, use a 2 spade opening to show a preempt with both minors. This is mid-chart, requires a pre-alert and downloadable defense, even though it is easier to defend against than the 2NT opening. Here they could use 2NT as natural and double to show 13-15 balanced (or a very strong hand), or double to show a balanced take-out. The other pair, the Booms, use 2D to show the minors. My grandmother could defend against this – she would double for takeout, bid 2H,2S, 2NT natural, and cue-bid for Michaels. But the Boom 2D is illegal, even in National events. Can this make sense?

Obviously the Booms could submit their convention to the committee and get approval in a year or so. Maybe. Gipson has been trying for years to get his multi approved, and has never even received a reply. Six years ago, I submitted to the C&C a 2NT opening showing both majors. In the suggested defense, I proposed using a double to show 15+ balanced or any very strong hand. After double, 3M, double would be card-showing, tending towards penalties opposite a strong notrump. Several committee members thought this double should be takeout, (why would we want to compete to the four level in a minor??), and rejected the proposal. The bid is still illegal. Waiting for C&C approval turns out to be a very, very long wait.

(2) The example barred, with glee, by Robinson – 2H for majors is legal but 2D for majors is not. How can this make sense?

(3) I have a lot of sympathy for Robinson regarding the Gipson convention, particularly if the strong component might be a three-suiter, short in hearts. If I have to worry about competing against long or short hearts, then I need a better defined defense. But, consider this hypothetical: A pair plays their opening 1C as either clubs, or balanced. The 2D response shows either 5-8 with a six-card major, or any game-forcing three-suiter short in a major. This is mid-chart, requires a pre-alert, but not a suggested defense (see item #3 on the mid-chart). I would hate to come up with a defense on the spur of the moment.

(4) A pair uses their 2H, 2S openings as either a six-card suit, or a five-card suit with a side minor suit. They announce this and offer a suggested defense. Robinson comes to their table, and notes that this is a modification of an approved mid-chart convention, and hence is illegal. He gets the treatment barred, and they are penalized for every other time they used the bid. 50 other pairs in the room use the same treatment, but consider it a matter of style and do not pre-alert. Their methods are legal. Full disclosure is penalized, non-disclosure legal.

We clearly need much better definition, and a way to allow simple modifications without years of delay. I suggest these changes:

(1) Once a convention is approved, then any lower-level bid showing the same thing is automatically allowed, provided the pair supply an appropriately modified defense.

(2) We distinguish between calls with multiple meanings including weak components and calls that show very specific holdings. Any opening bid promising 10+HCP with either a known long suit or two known suits should be GCC. Any call in competition showing either a known suit or two known suits should be GCC. Any weak opening bid showing either a known long suit or two known suits should be mid-chart, but legal without the database requirement.

(3) Multiple meaning actions on the second round of an auction should always be legal, but multiple meaning responses to an opening bid, like my example 3, particularly if they include less than game-forcing values, need regulation.

Common sense should dictate this. If a call is trivial to defend against, like the Boom 2D, it should be legal. But calls that require very complex defenses, such as a bid that shows long hearts and weakness, or short hearts and strength, must be controlled.

Yours,

Steven Bloom

I sent this to the C&C and to several of its members in the spring. Only Joan Gerard responded, and after quite a lot of work on her part, I finally got a response from the committee itself on Friday. They have asked for formal proposals, and I have submitted the following:

Formal Proposals to the C&C Committee

Proposal 1: Once a convention has been approved, then any equivalent lower-level convention becomes automatically approved, providing that the pair using the modified convention supply an appropriate defense. Likewise, once a convention has been approved, then any completely equivalent convention, or any simplified version of that convention is also approved, given an appropriately modified defense.

Examples: 2S = minors is legal, so opening 2H for the minors should also be legal.

2H = 3-suiter, short in diamonds (Precision) is legal, so 2H = 3-suiter, short in clubs should also be legal.

2C = weak with diamonds, or 22-24 balanced would be legal (a simplified version of the multi 2C currently approved).

The Gipson brothers one-legged multi 2D would be legal (but they would have to supply modified defenses).

Proposal 2: Changes to the General Convention Chart.

a. Any opening bid (promising at least 10 HCP) which shows a known suit (of at least 5 card length) should be legal under GCC.

b. Any opening bid (10+HCP) showing two known suits (of at least 4 card length each) should be legal under GCC.

c. Any response to an opening bid showing a known suit (of at least 4 card length) should be legal under GCC.

d. Any competive action showing a known suit of at least 5 card length or two known suits of at least 4 card length should be legal under GCC.

e. Any weak opening bid showing at least 5 cards in the bid suit should be legal under GCC.

Examples: 1C – 1H response, showing spades, would now be legal.

1C – 1S response, showing diamonds – legal.

1C – 1S response, artificial, denying a 4 card major, not legal under GCC.

Opening 2H showing 5+ hearts, with a minor on the side, legal.

Proposal 3: Changes to Mid-chart

a. Any weak opening bid showing a known suit of at least 5 cards, but not the suit bid, would be legal under Mid-chart rules, requiring a pre-alert, but no supplied defense.

b. Likewise for any weak opening bid showing two known suits.

Examples: 2H = weak with both majors would no longer require a supplied defense.

2NT = weak, with two known suits would be legal. Currently, 2NT can only show one or both minors. If it shows both (Schenken), it is GCC. I would move that to Mid-chart.

Multiple meaning calls, like 2NT showing a preempt in either minor would still need approval, and a downloaded defense.

I put forward my arguments for these in my earlier letter, but let me reiterate the key point:

Convention approval should be based on the problems such a convention creates for other pairs.

New players are used to transfers, and normally double to show the (artificial) suit bid. So allowing a 1H response to an opening 1C to show spades would hinder no one, and should be GCC. Likewise, a 2H opening showing a weak hand with long spades is fairly easy to defend against, but does require some discussion, so should be Mid-chart, and pre-alerted. This type of opening should not be GCC.

Steven Bloom

I would appreciate any feedback from this forum. The C&C Committee will take up these ideas at the Fall Nationals, and any ideas or suggestions would be very helpful.

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