16 May 2011

ACBL Convention Chart: 1

I'm not a subject of the ACBL but I read bridge blogs and so I end up hearing quite a lot about it. One thing the ACBL seems to be famous for is system regulations; so I thought I'd look them up. Wow. I've got several posts worth of material there. I'll qualify all of this by saying I'm not familiar with the treatments of these rules I'm just going off the link here. To start with lets have this sentence from the "Disallowed category":
Conventions and/or agreements whose primary purpose is to de-
stroy the opponents’ methods.
Destroy opponents methods is an interesting phrase. Assuming the opponents are playing a sane system their methods are probably designed to get them to the right or par contract. I know the systems I play have that as an unshakeable goal. From that it would seem that we're not allowed to use anything that's is designed to inhibit our opponents ability to use their agreements and therefore get to the right contract.

Superficially that would include light openings in 3rd seat. After all if we're not getting to game the reason to bid is to try to buy a cheap contract by taking space and time away. Facetiousness aside (not really) I assume that I'm allowed to bid my own hands but using only methods are designed to get to the par spot. That would surely ban pre-empting. The name says it all, we are trying our very best to eat up all the space so that our opponents can't describe their hands.

There's more depth to this though. If my opponents have a discussed defence to a convention, say the multi 2, comic NT or wonder bids, then their methods are being enabled, rather than destroyed. Thus if my opponents have a defence to my outrageous convention, either in general or specifically, I'm being a good guy by allowing them to use it. In fact when I see that I'm allowed to present my opponents with a prepared defence, well now, all things are possible.

In all seriousness this stinks of being written by whiny strong club players who can't be bothered spending the time required to cope with interference. If methods can't handle a bit of targeted aggression they deserve all they get.


  1. It is very easy to snipe at the ACBL system regulations, especially when you play in a freer environment like Australia, NZ or the UK. I even do it myself occasionally, as an alien who does play in the ACBL once a year.

    However it is important to appreciate that the vast majority, and this includes almost all the professional players, are very happy with the regulations. In fact, aside from twenty or so US posters on the BBO Forums there is little dissent (of course this is a very vocal minority).

    There are a couple of reasons for this. The average age of the ACBL member is late sixties and is increasing year on year. Americans, of any age, do not like change.

    And, just as important, bridge in the ACBL is very homogeneous - Standard American, SAYC, 2/1 and a few Precision players; it really lacks the diversity you find in other countries.

    Although their regulations stifle some creativity, I don't buy the argument that it causes youngsters to leave the game. The US junior scene has never been so strong and the previous generation has just made the final of the US trials.

    Where it does harm US players is experience when they play abroad or in international competition. With the Multi 2♦ only permitted in a couple of team competitions, how can you be familiar with your defence?

  2. The problem is, you both speak the truth. More late when I have time.

  3. For my part, my major gripe with the ACBL GCC is an insane interpretation of the GCC to inhibit TREATMENTS rather than just CONVENTIONS.

    As a simple example, consider opening Two Spades to show five or more spades. This is perfectly allowed. What if, however, you only open Two Spades with five or more spades if you also have a 4+ minor?

    To me, this is a mere treatment. However, the ACBL has for some reason determined that this is a convention and have not only regulated it but have actually banned it.

    This gets silly when the directors then acknowledge that treatments are in fact allowed but that this treatment is not. If you instead define Two spades as showing an unbalanced hand, and if you happen to have a means to show a major two-suiter with a different route, then Two Spades as "unbalanced" is OK. But, they then want you to be forced to open Two Spades with 6331 hands.

    So, you then restrict it to 7+ spades or 5 spades with a 4-5 card minor, explaining that this parallels in theory a Precision 2C, which is an allowed treatment. You end up with reluctant concession.

    This is stupid.

  4. Ken is one of the most vocal, eloquent and interesting system designers in the ACBL.

    I think he lives in the wrong place and would be a lot happier in somewhere like New Zealand :)

  5. The ACBL regulates against systems whose PRIMARY purpose is destruction. We all use bids that interfere with constructive bidding like pre-empts, but our main bidding structure is to find our best fit and level. We've all bid 3N with no points but with a big fit for partners pre-empt. This is a tactical bid, not a psych, highly destructive, but totally legal in the ACBL. However, random jumps, complicated agreements are too much for the local players and they respond by quitting the game or going to play in non-sanctioned games away from all of the 'innovators'.

    I agree that in flight A events at the Regional level and above, especially NABC+ events, all should be allowed. I think it would be fun to combat these systems and come up with some of your own, but I'm just 62 a mere pup in the ACBL. I look forward to some bridge action outside the USA after I retire and have time for extended travel.