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I'm playing in a tournament, and I fill out a convention card that says I will open with 13 or more points. I pick up a certain 14 "worst" point hand (per Milton Work's 4-3-2-1 count) and decide to pass. The tournament director calls me on it.

I found out yesterday that Kaplan and Rubens (K&R) (or some equally accepted authority) evaluates the hand as barely over 12 points. Is that an adequate defense for my apparent convention violation?

My convention card also says that I need 13 points for a takeout double. I do so with the following "11" point hand: KJT4-5-QJ98-AT93. But K&R evaluate it as 13. Am I OK?

Or is the best idea to write on the convention card: "I reserve the right to base my decisions on alternate hand valuations such as K&R?"

Finally, I make five or so of these decisions in a single tournament. Four out of five are on the money. In one case, I really didn't have my bid (per K&R), because I miscalculated. Would it be seen as such, or would people be thinking in terms of a violation?

  • What does "The tournament director calls me on it." actually mean? – Forget I was ever here Dec 29 '15 at 22:26
  • @PieterGeerkens: Probably ask questions. I don't think most directors would impose penalties unless they are quite sure that there is a violation. – Tom Au Dec 29 '15 at 23:34
  • The "R" in "K&R" is Jeff Rubens. Kaplan and Rubens described their method in a 1982 issue of The Bridge World. You can find out more about it here: jeff-goldsmith.org/#software – Adam Wildavsky Dec 30 '15 at 2:53
  • @AdamWildavsky: Ok, fixed. Thanks for the heads up. – Tom Au Dec 30 '15 at 14:59
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This issue was discussed on the Bridge Laws Mailing List a few months ago:

Do players have to describe what they play?

Cribbing from my own post there:

Edgar Kaplan (the "K" in K & R) wrote to the effect that the convention card is an understanding with partner, not an undertaking to the opponents.

HCP are an approximation of a hand's value. The laws do not mention them. Absent regulation to the contrary players must be allowed to evaluate their hands using their own judgement, promoting and demoting as they deem best. Some such regulations have been passed. While I consider them harmful to the spirit of the game they are lawful.

For what it's worth I use K&R evaluation at the table, as do some of my partners, but I don't do it on every deal. It is time consuming, so I use it only when I'm not confident how to evaluate the hand. I do not indicate this on my convention card, and I'm not sure how I would. It's a complex method that cannot be explained in a short paragraph.

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Update Jan 1, 2016

I think I let myself get sidetracked, missing the heart of the issue. The K&R evaluation method is merely an example. Tom does not use it at the table, nor I suspect is he likely to. More to the point, there is nothing magical about K&R. It was intended to reproduce the judgement of one particular expert, Edgar Kaplan. For instance he devalued a hand if it was 4333, as do most experts, so the algorithm does the same. Likewise for stray queens and a host of other factors.

The real point is that Tom, or any of us, can evaluate a hand as we please. If I list a range of "15-17" for 1NT on my convention card it does not mean that my partner, my opponents, or anyone can count on me to hold exactly that many points. Rather it's a shorthand for saying that I will open hands that I evaluate to be in that range. I might well hold an excellent 14 or an ugly 18. For me neither happen often enough that I would write "14+ to 18-" -- that would only be misleading. My partner plays me for 15-17 and he and my opponents are equally well informed.

Those who've read Victor Mollo will remember the Walrus, who blindly follows the point count no matter where it leads. Nothing in the rules or regulations of the game requires us to do likewise.

  • FWIW, I would just say that "K&R" is a widely accepted evaluation method supported by software" and then attach a link to the software itself. – Tom Au Dec 30 '15 at 15:01
  • I just looked at the example hand and I'm fine with opening one spade with it. To me, AKxxxx is worth at least AKQxx. And I think most people would open 1S with something like AKQxx Kxxx T xxx. Yes it's only 10 hcp but AK, side K is better quality than Axxx Kxx Qxx Jxx. And the sixth spade and singleton easily make up the difference to 13. – Tom Au Apr 18 '16 at 0:46
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Because the evaluation mechanism you have adopted is generating more variation than typical, I strongly recommend that you note its use on your (and partner's) convention card. I would also suggest typing a small summary of the mechanism to keep with your convention card for opponents to refer to.

Having done this, I see no reason for any concern; you are:

  • Not employing a technique that is intentionally destructive rather than constructive - which would be strongly discouraged when it could not be prevented.

  • Attempting to improve your bidding judgement through an algorithmic means, which is certainly allowed - it is the basis of all hand evaluation methods.

That being said, there may be places on your convention card where it would be appropriate to use K&RP instead of either Pts or HCP. You and partner should discuss this, and act on the agreement.

  • Pieter, I think you're remembering Law 16 B1(a). It's not relevant here -- it applies only when a player has received unauthorized information. – Adam Wildavsky Jan 2 '16 at 2:18
  • @AdamWildavsky: Perhaps you're right. – Forget I was ever here Jan 2 '16 at 6:24
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There are many ways to evaluate a hand, and you and your partner are at liberty to choose whichever you wish. But you are not entitled to insist that your opponents use the same system; if you tell them that you will open any hand with 13 points and then pass with 14 you have misled them, which is what the system is designed to prevent.

You also appear to be happy to mislead your partner; if one of the three possible evaluations allows this particular bid, you 'reserve the right' to make it? Are you playing with or against him?

If you think the K&R system (or any other) fits your needs, by all means use it and put it on your card (as Pieter says, a typed-up paragraph of explanation will avoid arguments). But then you have to use that evaluation every time; it is not reasonable to expect the other players to guess exactly what you mean by 'points'.

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