I am concerned about a ACBL rules that says that an opening "one" bid cannot be weaker than the top of a "weak two" bid. With this hand, many might open with a "weak two, " and many others might preempt at the three level.

The hand has only nine points according to the Milton Work count but I can get to 12-13 in one of two ways: 1) Counting 1 point for each of the three doubletons brings me to 12. 2) Alternatively, I add two points for each suit card over five, so the sixth and seventh give me four points, bringing the total to 13?

The rules also say that a slightly stronger hand of only 10 hcps, AKQxxxx JTxxx x void is allowed to open with a "strong" two clubs. The reason is that it can make game with "minimal" help from partner, e.g. a low eighth trump and the Q above the JT.

Finally I don't want to weak bid when I have such a good suit and my hand is "average" in high card points (for defensive purposes). AKQ are nine points and I add a tenth for the long sequence, because the J is likely to be swept up by my three top cards.

Am I, in fact, allowed to open this hand with one of a suit?

See the section on allowed bidding agreements.

  • Nothing in the ACBL chart says "that an opening "one" bid cannot be weaker than the top of a "weak two" bid. Jan 22, 2021 at 18:36
  • @DavidSiegel: This question arose out of a discussion I had with "Forget" boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/49481/… He first said that my weak two was "illegal" because it was stronger than the minimum opener. It was the other way around, that an opener could not be weaker than the top of a normal weak two.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 22, 2021 at 18:43
  • @Forget was incorrect in this case (although s/he is usually very accurate). See my recent answer to this Q for detail. Jan 22, 2021 at 19:21
  • This is too strong for a weak two. Open 1S if your judgement tells you that is the best bid. I doubt there can exist a rule saying that this would mislead the opponents. I don't know about ACBL, but I doubt they would tie the players hands like this. Having said that, I think allowing a 2C-opening with AKQxxx, JTxxx, x,- WITHOUT AN ALERT should be a violation of rules. As that grossly deviates from the 20+hcp and more quick tricks than losers expectation I would have. If an opponent did that to me, and I misjudged, I would call the sheriff. Jan 29, 2021 at 18:06
  • And, locally, we are quite permissive, but strict about alerts coming from partnership experience. The weakest hand (in terms of hcp) I recall opening with 1S was QJxxxxx, KQxxx,-,x. My partner agreed with my assessment. I wanted to mention both suits, and couldn't think of another way. Switch the majors add 1 point into one of them, and my current partner will introduce both suits in competition if I passed on his opening, reversing!. Having seen that happen, I will, of course, duly alert the bid. Jan 29, 2021 at 18:15

4 Answers 4


The ACBL Convention Charts are a list of allowed agreements in the ACBL (but not necessarily other organizations). You would need to determine which convention chart was being used by the particular competition you were involved in.

Let's check a few. Please note the following applies to 1H and 1S and not to the minors, which have different rules related to them (though in this case, likely the same - just being clear it's slightly different spots in the rules.)

On the Basic chart, the rule that would control what you may mean by "1 Spade", is the following:

Opening Bids

  1. Any Natural opening bid in a suit, as long as it shows at least Average Strength.

Further, let's define terms:

(1c). “Average Strength”: A hand that has at least 10 HCP or meets the “Rule of 19”.

(17). “High Card Points (HCP)”: The total number of points in a hand based on honors, counting 4 for an Ace, 3 for a King, 2 for a Queen, and 1 for a Jack.

(27). *** “Rule of N”: A method of determining hand strength computed by adding the High Card Points of the hand to the number of cards in the two longest suits. To meet the “Rule of N”, this total must be at least N. *

There is no relationship to the Weak Two range here; what is specifically controlled is whether the "1 Spade" bid is considered permissible.

So we must evaluate your holding here, and see if it fits the range for "Average Hand".

  • HCP: It has 9 high card points, and does not meet this standard.
  • Rule of 19: The distribution is 7-2-2-2, and with 9 HCP, it is evaluated at 9+7+2 = 18. Thus, it does not meet this standard.

Thus, it is not permissible under the ACBL Basic Convention Chart to have an agreement to open this hand 1S, as a natural bid.

On the Basic+ chart, the rule is:

Opening Bids

  1. Any opening bid in a suit which is Natural, as long as it shows at least Near-Average Strength.

Defining Near-Average strength:

(1b) “Near Average Strength”: A hand that has at least 8 HCP or meets the “Rule of 17”

This hand is "Near Average Strength", both because it has 9 HCP and 18 "Rule of N" points. This would be allowed on Basic+ to be opened 1s.

On the Open chart, the following rule applies as to what is disallowed - Open allows all agreements other than what is disallowed.

  1. *** A Natural or Quasi-Natural 1-level opening bid in any seat that could contain less than Near-Average Strength.

This hand is Near-Average Strength, as previously discussed, and so is permitted.

Open+ is more permissive than Open, and so also permits this hand to be opened 1s.

In summary, here are the options:

Chart 1S permitted?
Basic No
Basic+ Yes
Open Yes
Open+ Yes
  • Note that from my understanding, the "Basic" convention chart shouldn't be particularly commonly used in tournaments or even in club play except where you're playing 0-100 games and such; Basic is, well, very basic, and has a pretty limited range of agreements available. I don't know what's common right now in general, but I'd think most club play is at least Basic+ if not Open.
    – Joe
    Jan 22, 2021 at 18:24
  • OK, under "Basic" I need a distribution of 7-3-2-1 to qualify under "Rule of 19." Would they accept an argument that some experts make that AKQ-7 in sequence are really 10 (because you would capture the J assuming normal 3-2-1 division of cards between the other 3 players)? The other argument is that even though my hand is "only" 9 hcps, I have seven tricks in hand, assuming a Yarborough but at least one spade for partner. So why shouldn't I bid a contract I can probably make?
    – Tom Au
    Jan 22, 2021 at 19:10
  • 1
    @TomAu No, on Basic you are limited to the rules as written. If your convention is to open 7-2-2-2 as 1s, then it is illegal (and that includes if you would commonly open that way, written or not). The point of "Basic" is to make it somewhat less complicated for beginners and casual players, for the most part, and so it is much more rigid. Open, which is probably what you're more likely to play under, is not this way, and is closer to what GCC was before (in terms of permitting most things).
    – Joe
    Jan 22, 2021 at 19:22
  • @Joe. Tournament events with master-point limits up to 750 may be under the Basic chart. Jan 22, 2021 at 19:24
  • 1
    @TomAu I'd argue that "I can make my bid" is not very relevant - for the most part bidding is about accurately identifying game contracts (most important), slam contracts (slightly less important), and much lower down the line part scores, plus somewhere adjacent to that interfering with opponents' abilities to do same safely. The main question is, what bid gives you the best chance to identify the 3NT/4S hands; and secondarily, what bid gives you the best chance against opponents when they have a game?
    – Joe
    Jan 22, 2021 at 20:44

If you're playing on the Basic Chart (0-"750 or lower" limit game) then you have to be careful. Otherwise you're fine. If you're thinking about opening much lighter than standard in the first two seats, the under-750 games aren't really for you.

As others have said, there's nothing regulatory about top of "weak 2" being higher than lower of "1". There are hands that could be opened 2, or 1, depending on state of play, opponents, vulnerability, differing styles between the partners, or what side of the bed one got out of today. And that's fine.

One thing I would warn you of is Walrus thinking. AKQxxxx Txx 9x x is not a 9-count even the way KQJxxxx Kxx 9x x is (to me that's an obvious 3S opener). X-counts are not alike, and some get upgraded and some don't.

The only "too strong for" thing the Charts talk about is "if two hands are exactly the same except that an honour is replaced with a low card in the same suit, you cannot open the hand with the low card and pass the hand with an honour." This stops all the complaining that "it's ludicrous that I can't open AKxxx QT9xxx x x if I pass QJx QJx QJxx QJx". But that's only for the Open charts, related to passes rather than weak 2s, and not relevant to the question.

To discuss the second half of your post: yes, the Open chart says that you can agree to open an artificial 2C on any hand, provided it promises Average Strength. Yes, that means that you can decide to open xx AKQJxxxxx xx -, 2C. This is a common agreement, usually by weaker players, that 2C doesn't promise defence. It causes two problems, one that it goes 2C-(2S)-p-(4S) and neither player knows if 4S will make or go -1100; and when the star player opponent finds out that they opened 2C and he can make 6H, a meltdown of catastrophic proportions occurs. It's a bad agreement, but it's legal.

The problem has always been disclosure - how do the "strong, doesn't promise defence" people make their "obvious 2C" agreement known to the opponents?

Now, there's two solutions:

  • 2C Artificial, not Very Strong (which requires AAK or AKKK minimum for it's distributional versions) is not allowed on the Basic or Basic+ chart. I'm guessing the regulators hope that if newer players can't play this poor agreement, they won't.
  • for Open(+), the new Alert Procedure now explicitly states that if your 2C opener isn't guaranteed Very Strong, you must Alert it. Every time. And explain that it may not have defence. Now, the strong opponents are on an equal footing.
  • If I bid 2c with AKQxxxx JTxxx x void, I'm saying that I can make game in my rebid suit (spades) if partner has as little as one spade and Qxx of hearts. I'm saying nothing about defense. (Even so, with so many spades and hearts, there is no way that the opponents can bid game in a major.) One reason the ACBL allows this 2 club bid is because I have more than five "controls" (2 for the void, 1 for the singleton, 2 for the ace and 1 for the king). And when I bid 1 spade with the other hand, I can make it, barring freak distribution, even though my AKQ are technically "below average" in hcps.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 22, 2021 at 22:04
  • P.S. AKQxxxx xxxxx x void,is considered "very strong" (despite its few hcps), because of all the controls (6 vs a minimum of 5) alluded to in the foregoing.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 22, 2021 at 22:16
  • 2
    Control Count of 3. A=2, K=1. You have to read the definitions carefully. That restriction is in there explicitly to exclude hands without defence. You are allowed to have whatever agreement you wish, provided it's legal in the game you play. But if you're in the ACBL, and you agree that your first hand is a 2C opener, you have to Alert your 2C openers - all of them, even the flat 22s. If you don't, and the opponents have game or slam on and you "preempted them" out of it, it will be adjusted. If you have that agreement in a Basic or Basic+ game, it will be adjusted for two reasons.
    – Mycroft
    Jan 23, 2021 at 19:13
  • Taking my director hat off, it's a bad agreement, as I mentioned in my answer. It's an agreement weaker players have, because their weaker opponents treat a 2C opener as shutout. It loses when the stronger players compete - hard - and your side doubles for -590 into -420 or pulls the double for -100 into +100.
    – Mycroft
    Jan 23, 2021 at 19:15
  • Where do you stand if I do the control count "your" way, 2 As and 1K, 11 hcps, 5 controls, all from high cards?
    – Tom Au
    Jan 23, 2021 at 19:37

Nothing in the ACBL chart of allowed conventions says "that an opening 'one' bid cannot be weaker than the top of a 'weak two' bid. Under the Basic chart, any natural bid showing at least average strength (defiend as 10 HCP or rule of 19, slightly stronger than the specified hand) is permitted. The rule for a weak two in the Basic chart is:

Any Weak Natural opening bid in a suit at the 2-level showing at least 4 HCP and has a Range not greater than 7 HCP.

This would clearly include a hand with 10 HCP, as a range of 7 with its lower limit at 4 has its upper limit at 10. But it would seem that a range of 5-11 would also be permitted under this rule.

Thus a hand of

AKQxxxx Jx xx xx

would be legal as either a 1S or a 2S opening under the ACBL Basic chart rules. A hand of

AKQxxxx xx xx xx

would be legal as either a 1S or a 2S opening under the ACBL Basic+ chart rules.

In general a natural Hand including 10 HCP will be legal at either the 1 or 2 level in ACBL Basic (and all higher charts), and one with 9 HCP will be legal at either the 1 or 2 level under ACBL Basic+ rules (or any higher chart).

Any statement that a weak two bid must be weaker than any opening bid under ACBL rules is incorrect. It might be advisable for a pair to agree to such a rule as part of their system, but it is not required. In fact there is no length requirement for a weak 2, although most systems include such a requirement.

A hand of xx KQxxx KQx xxx is valid as either a 1H or a 2H bid under Basic+. (I personally would pass this except in third seat, however.)

If an event is being played subject to the ACBL Basic conventions chart (and not any higher chart) then an agreement to open AKQT987 T9 T9 T9 with a bid of 1S is illegal.

The definitions of HCP in the charts is strict, with no room for interpretation. It refers to the classic Work-count of 4, 3, 2, 1 for A, J, Q, J with no adjustments.

Under the Basic chart players may not agree to make a 1-level bid unless it contains 10 HCP, or passes the rule of 19 (HCP plus length of two longest suits is at least 19). This hand does neither. The chart says:

If an Agreement would be disallowed unless it satisfies a specific High Card Point or shape requirement, a player may not use judgment to include hands with fewer High Card Points or a different shape.

  • Would a player be penalized for regarding e.g. AKQT987 T9 T9 T9 as being worth an "extra" point compared to AKQ5432 32 32 32 since the former would be able to run the spades in many more situations than the latter, and the tens would have some likelihood of interfering with opponents' finesses?
    – supercat
    Jan 23, 2021 at 21:17
  • @Super If an event is subject to the ACBL Basic conventions chart (not any higher chart) then an agreement to open AKQT987 T9 T9 T9 at 1S is illegal. The definitions of HCP in the charts is strict, with no room for interpretation. Under the Basic chart players may not agree to make a 1-level bid unless it contains 10HCP, or passes the rule of 19. This hand does neither. The chart says "If an Agreement would be disallowed unless it satisfies a specific High Card Point or shape requirement, a player may not use judgment to include hands with fewer High Card Points or a different shape." Jan 23, 2021 at 21:42

That hand counts 21 playing points so is short of a two demand and must be opened at the one level.

A better question is whether one club would be reasonable to open with then jump shift into the strong spade suit.

  • 1
    This is referring to the "requirements" of a particular bidding system, not what ACBL rules require. Opening this 1C with a plan to JS to 3S would in my view be bad bridge, unless playing some form of a strong club system.But it would be legal.What bidding system does this answer assume? Jan 23, 2021 at 17:59
  • I played American Standard with my son before 5 card majors came into vogue. And I saw many other pairs open 1S with that hand in their assorted systems.
    – almost LM
    Jan 24, 2021 at 0:15
  • That was a long time ago. 5 card majors were already fairly common, although recent, when i started playing duplicate in 1980. The rules on permitted bids were quite different then, and not as well enforced. Even now the rules are not always enforced, esp at the club level. Jan 24, 2021 at 1:14
  • @DavidSiegel: To paraphrase: 5 card majors were already fairly common, although recent, when i started playing duplicate in 1972. Even players who started playing competitively in the late 1960's were aware of K-S and Walsh variants of 5-card Majors, on the East Coast and West Coast respectively, by then. Lawrence and Goldman played an early 2/1 Game Forcing system from at least 1968, playing on the Dallas Aces. Jan 24, 2021 at 8:31

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