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Rule of 20 query

#1 User is offline   shevek 

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Posted 2014-October-26, 19:26

I don't understand how Rule of 20 meshes with length points.

If I hold
xx xxx AKxx AJxx

I open because good suits and 12 + 8 = 20.

xx xxx AKxxx Axx

is a Rule of 20 pass becasue 11 + 8 = 19.

but AKxxx is very good.
By length points, this is 11+1 = 12. Does that make it an opening?

Seems to me that 5-cd suit 332 is often better than two 4-card suits, certinly in notrumps
but Rule of 20 treats them the same.
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#2 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2014-October-26, 20:19

The rule of 20 and length points are both means to the same end - encouraging you to give some value to distribution when making a decision about whether to open. Marty Bergen intended length points to be replaced by the rule of 20 in deciding whether to open your hand. When you are applying both length points and the rule of 20 in the same hand, you are effectively counting the length points twice.

BUT (a big but!), these rules are by no means cast iron, they should be subject to your judgement - you want to discuss with your partner(s) was constitutes an opening for you. If you want to open the 2nd hand, talk to partner about a style in which you can do that. The rule of 20 is just a rule of thumb about what to do to help shape your judgement, once you have actual judgement you should replace the rule of thumb!

I'd open both your example hands - touching AK combination is good, I want partner to lead a diamond if they contest the contract, and I like that my values are in aces and kings in the longest suits - but I'm sure the decision to open the 2nd hand would not be universal, not in the least because it is a balanced 11 count. Playing a 12-14 weak NT you cannot open this.. probably, and rebidding 1NT after a 1M bid from partner might be to much of a strain on your 1NT rebid, which will be 11-14 points.
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#3 User is offline   neilkaz 

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Posted 2014-October-26, 20:26

I play 2/1 or S/A (when I have to :o ) and happily open both hands. I have no rebid problems. As for my 1NT rebid being an 11 count, I am ok with it when the hand is this good and prime and worth 3 quick tricks. PD will not be disappointed to see this hand from me.

Of course I'd like to have some potentially useful 10's and 9's with hand 2. Make hand 2 a 4333 and I will not open in 1st or 2nd seat, unless there's good spots as well.
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#4 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2014-October-26, 21:08

if you want to pass all 12 balanced counts in first and second seat ok


you can still win at bridge.

See Rosenberg


But you must learn to play the hands very well.
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#5 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2014-October-26, 22:27

View Postshevek, on 2014-October-26, 19:26, said:

I don't understand how Rule of 20 meshes with length points.

If I hold
xx xxx AKxx AJxx

I open because good suits and 12 + 8 = 20.

xx xxx AKxxx Axx

is a Rule of 20 pass becasue 11 + 8 = 19.

but AKxxx is very good.
By length points, this is 11+1 = 12. Does that make it an opening?

Seems to me that 5-cd suit 332 is often better than two 4-card suits, certinly in notrumps
but Rule of 20 treats them the same.

The reason they don't mesh is that they are intended for different uses. The rule of 20, which is perhaps the worst rule in popular use today, is inrended to help you evaluate two-suited hands with borderline hcp. The problem is that it doesn't look at where the hcp are, so it is actually worse than useless...if applied blindly it is detrimental.

However, if you remember that for borderline hands you count only the hcp in your long suits, then it works pretty well

KQxxx KQxxx xx x is an opening bid Qxxxx Qxxxx Kx K is not

Meanwhile, the idea behind opening balanced 12 and 13 count hands, or 11 with AK/A, is that one has more than one's expected hcp and one should open because the odds are (slightly) that you can get a plus score.

Ignore the rule of 20 except when 5-4 or better. My real advice is ignore it altogether and learn a better valuation method, but it's not a bad crutch, if used properly, on the way to learning better methods.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#6 User is offline   GreenMan 

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Posted 2014-October-27, 00:02

View Postmikeh, on 2014-October-26, 22:27, said:

The reason they don't mesh is that they are intended for different uses. The rule of 20, which is perhaps the worst rule in popular use today, is inrended to help you evaluate two-suited hands with borderline hcp. The problem is that it doesn't look at where the hcp are, so it is actually worse than useless...if applied blindly it is detrimental.


If I understand you correctly, you're saying that no one who uses the Rule of 20 ever has or ever will apply any other hand evaluation adjustments. And you're not the only one who says this. Where did this idea come from?
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#7 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2014-October-27, 03:11

The original, stated objective of the rule of 20 was to get people to be less passive with shapely hands. If you're already more active, go crazy.
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#8 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2014-October-27, 07:32

View PostGreenMan, on 2014-October-27, 00:02, said:

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that no one who uses the Rule of 20 ever has or ever will apply any other hand evaluation adjustments. And you're not the only one who says this. Where did this idea come from?

from reading posts by people who think they have just learned the greatest rule ever
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#9 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2014-October-27, 12:19

View Postmikeh, on 2014-October-27, 07:32, said:

from reading posts by people who think they have just learned the greatest rule ever


I once had a director called because I or my partner had opened lighter than our CC indicated. Since both of us would definitely open suitable Rule-of-19 hands, we put this on our CC.

Also I believe that there is a ridiculous EBU regulation that states that an one-level opening bid must, by agreement, both have 8 HCP AND satisfy the rule of 18. If you open the most suitable 7-point rule-of-18 hand in the world and partner sys she would open it too, you are deemed to have an agreement.

So these rules do have uses.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones -- Albert Einstein
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#10 User is offline   rmnka447 

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Posted 2014-October-28, 04:27

View Postmikeh, on 2014-October-26, 22:27, said:

The reason they don't mesh is that they are intended for different uses. The rule of 20, which is perhaps the worst rule in popular use today, is inrended to help you evaluate two-suited hands with borderline hcp. The problem is that it doesn't look at where the hcp are, so it is actually worse than useless...if applied blindly it is detrimental.

However, if you remember that for borderline hands you count only the hcp in your long suits, then it works pretty well

KQxxx KQxxx xx x is an opening bid Qxxxx Qxxxx Kx K is not

Meanwhile, the idea behind opening balanced 12 and 13 count hands, or 11 with AK/A, is that one has more than one's expected hcp and one should open because the odds are (slightly) that you can get a plus score.

Ignore the rule of 20 except when 5-4 or better. My real advice is ignore it altogether and learn a better valuation method, but it's not a bad crutch, if used properly, on the way to learning better methods.


I very much agree with most of your comments. I might not be quite as harsh about its use though.

When Marty Bergen presented the rule in his first book, Points Schmoints, he didn't distinguish between any distributions. But by his second book, More Points Schmoints, he had become aware of some of the misuses of the rule and tried to offer some adjustments. These adjustments weren't very clear or easy to use, so have seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Among the hands he cited were:

K QJ Q5432 Q5432 which meets the rule, but he said would be a joke to open, and,
AQ1098 A1098 1098 10 which fails the rule, but would be a hand he would not pass.

These examples show that the rule isn't something that should be blindly applied. A little later, Marty says "It may be out of fashion to count Quick Tricks, but you cannot play good bridge without doing so." They certainly are important in the bidding process in evaluating the hands. In the context of the rule, almost the example hands that meet the rule and that Marty would open have at least 2 Quick Tricks.

Since this is a beginner's forum, I digress to explain Quick Tricks (also called defensive tricks). You look at each suit in the hand individually for the following honor combinations:
AK(x...) = 2 Quick Tricks
AQ(X...) = 1 1/2 Quick Tricks
A(x...) = 1 Quick Trick
KQ(x...) = 1 Quick Trick
Kx(x...) = 1/2 Quick Trick

The Quick Trick total for the hand is the sum of the Quick Tricks for the suits. For the original hands proposed by the OP, each of the hands has 3 Quick Tricks, 2 in the suit, 1 in the suit. For mike H's hand, the first hand KQxxx KQxxx xx x has 2 Quick Tricks - 1 in , 1 in . The second hand has only 1/2 Quick Trick, the Kx is the 1/2 Quick Trick. The K doesn't count for anything because the king must be accompanied by a small card to be a 1/2 Quick Trick.

A normal standard for opening balanced hands is 12 HCP and 2 Quick Tricks(QTs). With 2 1/2 QTs, you can open a point lighter and with 3 QT just open the hand. If you have 1 1/2 QTs, then you probably want a point more (13) to open. With 1 QT or less, you don't have a 1 bid opener. Back to the hands that OP posed, both have 3 QTs and should be opened. Using this criteria, you could also open xx xxx AQxx AJxx or xx xxx AQJxx Axx. They have 11 and 2 1/2 QTs.

I might add that the only other rule of 20 example hand that Marty opened without 2+ QTs was - x KJ109xxx AJ109x. But here you have 1 1/2 QTs and great intermediates. Generally, I follow the above approach, but would like to share a rule of 20 hand with a little less that I opened. It was from a Regional KO second bracket final quite a few years ago. It was xx - KJ109xx KQ109x very similar to the Bergen example hand. I opened 1 and even with some interference, my partner, who had about a strong NT hand and I, found the cold slam. My counterpart at the other table didn't open the hand and they never were able to find the slam.

Hope this helps!!!
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#11 User is offline   paua 

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Posted 2014-November-06, 15:52

A better rule is the Rule of 22, including Quick Tricks.
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#12 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2014-November-10, 10:39

Richard Pavlicek's site has a good discussion and recommendation concerning opening points
"Pass is your friend" - my brother in law - who likes to bid a lot.
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