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As I understand it, in the "precision" bidding system in bridge, you open one club with 16+ points (a greater than minimum opening hand), while all the other "one" level bids show 13-15 (a minimum). That includes 1NT, making it a "weak" 1 NT.

I was taught that "higher bids mean higher points." Precision blatantly violates this rule. Besides, I don't like the "weak" 1 NT because it's too hard to have all suits adequately covered with 12-14 points.

If you feel the system has merits, what are they? Or do you see a lack of merit like I do?

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I've noticed in a couple of your questions referring to "having all suits covered" with 1NT bids. That is a very old-fashioned way of looking at things. It turns out that narrowly limiting the range and shape of your hand for your partner is extremely valuable even without promising all suits covered, and that usually things work out (e.g. you play in a suit, between the two hands you actually have all 4 suits covered, the opponents lead one of your safe suits). In particular, weak NT openers don't need to have all 4 suits covered, and in fact have a weaker hand if their honors are divided. –  ruds Jun 13 '13 at 7:41
@ruds: I was taught to play bridge in the 1960s by a teacher born in 1896. Played most of my bridge before 1973. That explains my "old fashioned way of looking at things." –  Tom Au Aug 28 '13 at 21:56
Culbertson, Schenken, Goren, Sheinwold, and Kaplan were all advocating looser rules for no-trump openings long before 1973. All the beginner books I read in the early 1970's, a decade or more from initial publishing, were advocating this. The Precision system itself was invented by C.C.Wei (et al) in the late 1960's. –  Pieter Geerkens Feb 9 at 4:56

7 Answers 7

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I think Precision is - with some caveats - an absolutely brilliant system, and one that everyone should try out at some point.

I used to play Bridge with, not to put too fine a point on it, a group with players of various different levels of skill. Playing with standard systems, some of them would just not get it quite a lot of the time. Presented with anything other than a balanced 1NT hand, they just wouldn't really know how to bid it, much less respond, or deal with an overcall!

The beauty of Precision is that it takes a lot of the mystery out of at least the early game. A junior player can't fail to alert you to their strong hand if they are in first seat with 20 HCP. Likewise, they tend to have less trouble finding the correct suit and level, because of Precision's tightly circumscribed bids.

Is Precision better than other systems in the long run? No, because once you have a genuine feel for the game you don't really need a system with so little room to maneuver. Your talent and ability to think quickly will fill in any games in a looser, more economical system. But don't underestimate Precision's value to beginners.

As for your problems with the 1C opening bid to indicate a strong hand, you might as well say you have problems with conventional bids in general. Conventional bids are shortcuts to success, taking the place of bids that would otherwise have little value. 1C is a terrible bid, in a literal sense - I have not especially good points, no good majors, and strength in clubs? Well, that's not going to get me very far, really, is it? Unless I have 80 below the line or something. It's almost never useful in actual practice though. So being able to indicate a strong hand while retaining a whole level of bidding space is usually much better. It gives you an extra bid and response to accurately describe your hand to partner, and reach that slam that a 16+HCP hand is often capable of making!

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The main thrust behind the precision 1C is that it keeps the rest of the one level open for descriptive bids. Their argument is that the standard bids used to show strength (jump raises and so forth) take up too much room in the bidding, room that could be used by you and your partner to hone in on exact strength, distribution, etc. The downside to this is that it keeps that low level open to your opponents, and many strong players will do whatever they can to take that bidding room that the Precision system would otherwise use.

I did once play a weak NT system (outside of Precision), and I thought it worked very well. You really didn't need to worry about having suits covered. Even if you were left in 1NT and your opponents could run a suit before you could get a word in, you could usually still find 7 tricks, or at worst go down one. Plus, your partner knows exactly what you have when you bid 1NT, and will take you out if he has a oddly shaped hand that will not play well in NT. It also acts as a pre=empt for opposing bidding. A good number of players have no real idea how to overcall weak NT openings, and you've taken away the entire one level, so they would have to start on the two level to try and find a fit, and may end up too high too soon.

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Despite the disapproval precision players receive at club level, many top pairs in north America, Europe and Asia play modified precision systems or multi-way club systems. In bermuda bawl 2009, 2 out of 6 American pairs played precision, and 10 out of 18 European pairs chose either precision or multi-way club systems. They must have seen some merits.

This is not a good place to lecture on precision, so you can search the web for hints. Also you can find many good points in previous posts. I just want to add a point that is missing in that post, and i think it is important.

In strong 2C systems, all 23+ hands will be opened 2C. This is a poor design. Why should we assign a bid to hands that occure once in 200 deals? In fact 2C in natural systems is a bid that you rarely use, so it is a waste. Let's look at natural systems and precision basic structure designation with some statistics:


0-12: frequency: %73.2 --- either pass or open with a pre-empt

13-22: frequency:%26.3 --- one of a suit is opened. but still 1C/D openings does not promise any length and next rebid for clarification is required. Also, the exact point range should be clarified with a second or third bid (weak: 12-15, intermediate:16-18, strong:19-22). Responder still is in the dark after the opening bid. The mandatory second clarifying bid by opener makes these openings vulnerable to overcalls and usually awkward guesswork and overbiding starts at intermediate level and sometimes experts miss too

23+: frequency: 0.5% --- do you remember the last time you opened 2C?


0-11: frequency: %56.2 --- either pass or open with a pre-empt

11-15: frequency: %34.0 ---a limited bid will be used. There is no need for a second or third bid to clarify the exact point range. Partner knows more at this stage compared to a natural system. Less opportunity for overbiding. overcalls are not disturbing at all (they will only help us), but sometimes distributional games can't be found at intermediate level who play just on HCP count. This is the safe and pleasant part of the system

16+: frequency: %9.8 --- 1C opener takes the control of the auction. opener does not show his hand to opponents and just asks. The drawback is sometimes you play the contract wrong sided compared to a natural system (but this problem is solved by top players). It is sensitive to pre-emption and a pair must employ methods to overcome dificulties, might be hard for intermediate players. (But there are times that the deal is a misfit and those anti-precision players who jump carelessly in the auction and go down, give us a top board)

For years, and all around the world, experts have worked hard on natural systems and made them playable by adding gadgets and giving exact meanings to many sequences. But still they could not overcome the inherent flaw in the main structure, specially meaningless 1C/1D openings.

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Personally, the reason I use Precision is not because of the 1C opening directly, though it is much more useful than the old-style Strong 2s or the newer, Standard American Strong 2C just due to the frequency with which it comes up. Rather, I like the fact that using 1C to open all hands of 16+ HCP (except for 22-24 balanced) limits all other openings to 11-15 HCP. This allows responder to decide right away the level the partnership can safely explore. Yes, there is plenty to learn as far as conventional bids in the system, but if you look at the top partnerships in the world, most of them play some kind of Forcing Club system like Precision, and most would probably say that it's because of the tight limit it places on all the other openings. Benito Garozzo, one of bridge's greatest theorists, said just that, in fact.

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In addition there is not one standard system where higher bids means higher points- either you were taught badly or weren't really listening to your teacher. 2 level bids in traditional ACOL with strong 2s were stronger than 1 level bids but 3 level bids are preempts and are weaker than 1 level openings. Any system where higher level means stronger is difficult to use.

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I find only 2 disadvantages of precision.

  1. Opponents frequently interfere & sometimes psych with the only the desire to interfere. By using control count responses that take into account that interference, that interference is welcome. Thus the disadvantage becomes an advantage.

  2. Finding a Precision partner even in a very large club is a challenge. Most locals have years if not decades of experience with various forms of SA, play with with many different partners, fear that a whole new system would compromise their ability to remember which nuances of SA are played by whom, & are unwilling to partner someone with fewer master points. BBO doesn't make it easy to find a Precision partner. Therefore, a good deal of time crunching numbers, research, & thought are probably wasted.

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That does not answer the question of why people use Precision Bidding in Bridge, while it may be good reasons to not use it. –  Joe W Feb 9 at 1:52
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  Toon Krijthe Feb 9 at 7:56
sorry. i meant to imply that i like everything else about precision. turboirc.com/precision/ is the best description of precision advantages i have found. you might also want to google larry cohen on the subject. –  keng Feb 11 at 17:28

There's a big clue in the name. Playing Precision allows you to get a precise picture of the hand early in the bidding, at the expense of not being able to be creative. This suits some pairs, but not others. It works better, I think, in tournament play; normal club players feel they're being deliberately confused (and I'd never consider playing it in a rubber bridge evening).

BTW, what most people consider Precision nowadays wouldn't be recognisable to the inventors: the principal feature of the original was that Pass showed 14+ points. Sadly, that was so successful internationally that it was effectively banned...

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