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Touching suits opening bidding

#1 User is offline   keithhus 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 05:07

hi all,
I was taught that one should open with the higher of touching (4 card) suits. However, watching play on the Acol site, I often see players opening with the lower suit. Is there a nuance here that I may be missing?
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#2 User is offline   wank 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 06:05

as i wrote previously, there is very little good material on acol. people do largely what they like and if you asked them why, they would have no idea what you're talking about; this includes teachers. lest anyone thinks i'm making this up, i play the national tournaments and sometimes need to know the opps' style. a question normally gets a blank stare and reveals the opps don't know their own style or that there might even be a choice of style.

i won't bore you with the explanation but i suggest the following:-

with 44 majors you should definitely open 1 heart.

with 44 minors both styles are fine and have their strengths and weaknesses, but i think for a beginner it's probably easier to open 1D.

the interesting one is 44 reds. fwiw, i think it's much better theoretically to open hearts if you're playing a strong no-trump and diamonds if you're playing weak no-trump. 4 card majors works much better with a strong no-trump imo, but weak no trump is far more popular, again the people playing it will have no idea why they do so.

in case i've not made it clear enough, i think the standard of bidding is very low in UK compared to other countries and compared to the quality of the card play.
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#3 User is online   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 06:59

The rules about touching and nontouching suits are simewhat outdated. As Wank says you will find all kind of styles, including the "no agreement" style, but a modern textbook or teacher will probably tell you:

- with 4432 and both majors, always open hearts. If you open spades you can't find a 4-4 fit in hearts unless you pretend to have five spades so that would be very bad
- with a 4441 pattern you have to be prepared for a rebid if partner bids your singleton. That sometimes give you multiple options but a simple rule that works and which most recommend is to open clubs when the singleton is diamonds and otherwise open the middle suit.
- with 4432including a major and a minor the modern trend is to be consistent ie either always open the major or always open the minor. And make sure to discuss this with partner.
- with 4432 and both minors it doesn't matter so much.
... I am not at all keen on arriving at the 4 level with no idea of where our fit(s) might be. --- Zelandakh
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#4 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 07:45

And, as Monty Python would say, now for something completely different (well, not very different): EBU basic advice - see page 7
"Pass is your friend" - my brother in law - who likes to bid a lot.
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#5 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 08:35

Acol means different things to different people and there are a wide variety of methods floating around under the general umbrella. The standard in the UK with a 44332 hand outside of NT range is to open 1 if you have hearts and 1 with spades and a minor. As wank mentiones the both minors case is less sure but the majority will open this 1.

In some other parts of the world the norm is to use an "up-the-line" style where Opener starts with their lowest 4 card suit. The advantage of this style is that 1 is always 5 unless precisely 4=3=3=3 and a very common addition to this form of Acol is to open this shape 1 meaning that the 1 opening is always a 5+ card suit. Where I live, the rules for opening 4432 hands in the local version of Acol are so complicated and silly you would almost be better off flipping a coin and opening at random!

4441s are even more often misunderstood, in part because the advice to Acol players has changed so often over the years. The most common form these days for the English style is to open the suit below a red singleton or the middle suit if the singleton is black. Playing the up-the-line style it is more common to open a 4=4=4=1 hand 1 rather than 1 but this is also not at all universal.

Finally, the standard of play in the Acol Club on BBO is similar to other parts of the site. There are plenty of intermediates and occasionally even a genuine expert comes along - last week a Camrose international was playing, for example. It would be bad if such comments put you off playing, so please do not take them to heart. If you keep thinking about different aspects of the game, as it seems you have a mind to, then you will improve quickly.
(-: Zel :-)

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#6 User is online   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 09:10

View PostZelandakh, on 2015-January-15, 08:35, said:

The standard in the UK with a 44332 hand outside of NT range is to open 1 if you have hearts and 1 with spades and a minor.

I think UK should read "England and Wales" here, or maybe even London/Midlands. In Scotland, most open the lower suit and here in the North it's about 50/50 if you exclude those who seem to clip a coin.

Quote

Playing the up-the-line style it is more common to open a 4=4=4=1 hand 1 rather than 1 but this is also not at all universal.

In the Netherlands, most have been taught always to open the lower suit but this is in the context of a strong notrump system. Playing a weak notrump you need to decide what you are going to do if partner responds 2 and you have 12 points.
... I am not at all keen on arriving at the 4 level with no idea of where our fit(s) might be. --- Zelandakh
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#7 User is offline   keithhus 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 11:08

Thank you everyone for your comments, plenty of food for thought but I think the concensus is that I should consider amending my current practice to bidding the lower suit rather than the higher. I am happy with the bidding for 4441. Generally, I am guilty as Wank says - I am following rote what I have been told rather than really understanding why. I think beginners are keen to learn the systems and get playing. I think it is only with a little experience that one starts to get the confidence to perhaps question why one is playing a certain way. Thank you all once again.
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#8 User is offline   fromageGB 

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Posted 2015-January-15, 20:23

I would endorse Zel's post, and suggest you bid the lower of two 4-card suits, and 1 when 4333, so that 1 is ALWAYS a 5-card suit. This makes it much easier for responder, and for finding the right contract. Then, when your partnership is more confident at a future time, switch to making hearts always 5-card as well, and play a 5-card major Acol. You'd be surprised how easy it is to respond if you know opener's major is 5-card.

To clarify, until you are playing 5-card majors, open 1 on any {4333} when not in the range of your 1NT open, regardless of what the 4 card suit is, but open 1 if you are 3433 and your partner would bid diamonds if he has hearts as well in a weak hand : 1 1 1 would imply at least 4 clubs, so on a 3433 you would rebid 1NT and miss a 4-4 heart fit. If in range of your 1NT, of course a {4333} hand should open 1NT.

This post has been edited by fromageGB: 2015-January-15, 20:41

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#9 User is online   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 02:16

The advantage of opening the lower of any two four card suits is that you give responder space to show hearts when you have spades and a minor. Also, it becomes easier to find a minor suit fit. Suppose you have spades and a minor and open 1sp. P responds 2c and now you can't raise because you are too strong for 3c. And you can't bid 2d because that would show five spades. Also, notrump contracts will be played by the strong hand more often.

The advantages of opening the major are:
- you don't need Crowhurst so badly since partner knows that you you don't have a four card major when you rebid 1nt or 2nt after having opened a minor
- opener tells the opponents less about his distribution
- major suit contracts played more often by the strong hand
- responses to negative doubles become simpler because you don't have the dilema of either showing your balanced shape or your major
- you prevent the openents from bidding 1h when you open 1sp.
... I am not at all keen on arriving at the 4 level with no idea of where our fit(s) might be. --- Zelandakh
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#10 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 03:03

There are other reasonable strategies too - for example one can open the lower of touching suits and the higher of non-touching suits. This avoids the issue of whether to bypass a suit to rebid NT. Within the Acol Club I would recommend using th approach I described above as "standard in the UK" as it is the most common one played there (yes even by the Scots). If you want to play fromage's suggestion you really need to agree "Swiss Acol"...but the majority will have no idea what you are talking about. From my experience, a fair few of the Anzacs prefer to open the lowest 4 card suit though, so that might be a good place to start if looking for a partner for this style. For information, the style where 1 guarantees 5 is often known as "Swiss Acol". You can google this for more information or perhaps see it in someone's profile. It is quite a common form of Acol here in Germany. Again, there are a few Germans playing in the Acol Club so they might be worth sitting opposite to form a partnership with.
(-: Zel :-)

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#11 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 04:27

View PostZelandakh, on 2015-January-16, 03:03, said:

There are other reasonable strategies too - for example one can open the lower of touching suits and the higher of non-touching suits. This avoids the issue of whether to bypass a suit to rebid NT. Within the Acol Club I would recommend using th approach I described above as "standard in the UK" as it is the most common one played there (yes even by the Scots). If you want to play fromage's suggestion you really need to agree "Swiss Acol"...but the majority will have no idea what you are talking about. From my experience, a fair few of the Anzacs prefer to open the lowest 4 card suit though, so that might be a good place to start if looking for a partner for this style. For information, the style where 1 guarantees 5 is often known as "Swiss Acol". You can google this for more information or perhaps see it in someone's profile. It is quite a common form of Acol here in Germany. Again, there are a few Germans playing in the Acol Club so they might be worth sitting opposite to form a partnership with.


In my experience few (in England) will understand what "Swiss Acol" means, but many will understand "5 Card Spades".

Nick
"Pass is your friend" - my brother in law - who likes to bid a lot.
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#12 User is offline   campboy 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 06:52

View Postwank, on 2015-January-15, 06:05, said:

the interesting one is 44 reds. fwiw, i think it's much better theoretically to open hearts if you're playing a strong no-trump and diamonds if you're playing weak no-trump. 4 card majors works much better with a strong no-trump imo, but weak no trump is far more popular, again the people playing it will have no idea why they do so.

I've heard this said before, but don't feel I've ever understood it. What's the reasoning? I'd imagine if playing strong+4 you'd need to be doing something very different to Acol-style 2/1s; perhaps that's why weak+4 is more popular in the UK.
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#13 User is online   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 07:43

View Postcampboy, on 2015-January-16, 06:52, said:

I'd imagine if playing strong+4 you'd need to be doing something very different to Acol-style 2/1s; perhaps that's why weak+4 is more popular in the UK.

My impression is that weak notrump became prevalent in the UK in a time when there was little negative inference from the failure to open 1NT anyway because people used all kind of excuses for not opening 1NT. In that situation, the weak notrump opening itself has some tactical advantages so it became popular. The idea that you can use a 2NT rebid as a general force, giving you a comfortable rebid with a hand that would like to make a forcing raise of responder's minor, came later.

Conversely, Dutch Acol (i.e. with strong nt) never made use of the fact that opener had denied a balanced 15-17 when opening in a suit. Responder was still supposed to bid 2/1 on any 10-count. Opener would now rebid 2nt nonforcing so presumably that is 12-13 while 3nt is 14 or 18-19 :(. Presumably the designers of the system simply wanted to avoid opening 1nt with weak hands because they were scared of -1100 and didn't realize that the consequence of this is that they can't play Acol anymore but have to play a 2/1 response as (almost) gf.

The reason for opening 1 with balanced hands with a four card minor and a four card major hearts were given in older editions of the "Start to Finish" books used by most teachers in the Netherlands in the 1980's. The argument was that if the oponents bid spades, responder can't show four hearts as 2 would show five. So maybe the idea goes back to the pre-sputnik time. You could say that this is mostly a strong-notrump thing but really, playing a strong notrump, opener with 44 reds will have either enough to bid the hearts himself (18-19) or sufficiently little that we will probably be outbid anyway (12-14).

OTOH if the rule is specifically about 44 reds (not hearts+clubs), I think the rule was that since you may have to bid a 4432 as a two-suited hand, you should always open the higher of touching suits (at least, if you don't have reverse strength), while with nontouching suits there is a case for opening the lower as responder may bid the suit in between. Those old books also recomended 1 with 5-5 blacks, for the same reason.

Henderson (weak notrump context) recomends opening the lower suit unless specifically diamonds+hearts. I am not sure why. He rebids notrumps with all balanced hands so presumably he would have to play Walsh so responder couldn't introduce diamonds anyway with four spades and longer diamonds, so it seems backwards to me.

Basically, most of those strange rules have evolved in times when basic bidding theory was very different from what it is now (treating some 4432 as two-suiters, lack of sputnik doubles) so if they sometimes happen to agree with modern design principles it is probably accidental.
... I am not at all keen on arriving at the 4 level with no idea of where our fit(s) might be. --- Zelandakh
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#14 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 07:45

Strong+4 works well with canape but I have personally never been convinced in it as an Acol method. Similarly, 14-16 usually seems to have the best synergy with a natural 5 card major system. The losses from playing a weak NT here seem to outweigh the gains. My system does happen to be weak+5 but that is in the context of a strong club. I do think that those espousing strong+4 and weak+5 are often including strong club methods in their thinking but those hearing the statements tend to be thinking only in terms of natural.
(-: Zel :-)

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#15 User is offline   wank 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 08:17

View Postcampboy, on 2015-January-16, 06:52, said:

I've heard this said before, but don't feel I've ever understood it. What's the reasoning? I'd imagine if playing strong+4 you'd need to be doing something very different to Acol-style 2/1s; perhaps that's why weak+4 is more popular in the UK.


yes if you're playing strong NT and 4cM you have to have much stronger 2/1s, otherwise you'll have a problem over opener's 2NT rebid to show a weak NT and you'll lose minor fits when responder responds in a middle ranking suit. basically a 2/1 should have enough to force to game opposite a weak NT, or to get out into 3 of responder's suit if you want to play that as nf. this entails playing 1nt response as including most 11s, a la 2/1 etc.

the big advantage of this method though is you're opening 1M on all your crappy balanced hands (best to play de facto 5cM when 18-19). this is pretty pre-emptive (not just directly, but responder is bidding 1NT often or raising and making it difficult for 4th hand), but considerably less dangerous than opening a weak NT.


if you're playing weak NT and opening the major as many people do in england, as helene alluded to, the rebid for strong NT hands becomes very awkward. 1H-2C and you've got a 2434 16 count, what to do? rebid 2nt to start a force and most likely never end up showing your 4 card support? bid 3c and play there with 16 opposite 10 because you could also have a 2524 12 count? jump to 4c and bypass 3nt which is your most likely game?

opening 1m solves that problem because you have more useful space to raise partner's major response - you can conflate some of the hands (unbalanced minimums and low end strong NTs) into the simple raise, knowing that responder has space to unravel what you actually have, and the jump raise is now a valid option as it's not taking you past anything critical (be it 4M itself or the space required to investigate slam).

my aversion to weak and opening the minor though is because your 1M becomes rare and normally 5 cards, without actually promising it. in fact, the times when you only have 4 are the ones when you're least likely to want to bid up (4333 and 44 both majors), which puts you in a poor position in competition. yes you can do start doing something like fromagegb said and playing 5 card spades, but that's obviously an extra layer of complexity.
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#16 User is online   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 09:15

View Postwank, on 2015-January-16, 08:17, said:

if you're playing weak NT and opening the major as many people do in england, as helene alluded to, the rebid for strong NT hands becomes very awkward. 1H-2C and you've got a 2434 16 count, what to do?

Even worse:
1-1NT
?

Now you pass with 15-16, bid 2nt with 17-18 and 3nt with 19. Responder may never get the chance to show his hearts. If he does, who knows if
1-1NT
2NT-3
is to play or COG.
... I am not at all keen on arriving at the 4 level with no idea of where our fit(s) might be. --- Zelandakh
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#17 User is offline   campboy 

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Posted 2015-January-16, 18:37

Thanks for the responses, that makes a lot more sense now :)
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#18 User is offline   keithhus 

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Posted 2015-January-17, 08:46

View PostfromageGB, on 2015-January-15, 20:23, said:

I would endorse Zel's post, and suggest you bid the lower of two 4-card suits, and 1 when 4333, so that 1 is ALWAYS a 5-card suit. This makes it much easier for responder, and for finding the right contract. Then, when your partnership is more confident at a future time, switch to making hearts always 5-card as well, and play a 5-card major Acol. You'd be surprised how easy it is to respond if you know opener's major is 5-card.

To clarify, until you are playing 5-card majors, open 1 on any {4333} when not in the range of your 1NT open, regardless of what the 4 card suit is, but open 1 if you are 3433 and your partner would bid diamonds if he has hearts as well in a weak hand : 1 1 1 would imply at least 4 clubs, so on a 3433 you would rebid 1NT and miss a 4-4 heart fit. If in range of your 1NT, of course a {4333} hand should open 1NT.



F- thank you, this seems a good template to use.
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#19 User is offline   1eyedjack 

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Posted 2015-January-18, 05:28

It helps to understand the underlying logic behind a recommendation. For one thing it aids the memory. For another it helps you to judge any limitations of the recommendation, and perhaps when to consider dis-applying it. That applies generally, not just to the OP of this thread.

The reason that you are sometimes advised to open the higher of touching suits has to do with the anticipation that opener will next rebid the second suit (if a fit has yet to be found). Preparing for that event, and lacking (say) the strength to force to the 3 level, opening the higher suit and then rebidding the lower suit is a more efficient use of bidding space than opening the lower suit and rebidding the higher.

However, if you have a balanced hand with two 4 card suits you should as opener be preparing to show a balanced hand with your rebid (sans fit). You may have to open a suit because the values are outside the norm for an opening bid in NT, but the incentive to choose the higher suit for the purposes of efficiency in bidding the second suit dissipates. By itself that is not sufficient justification for choosing the lower suit, which may or may not be right as discussed by others in this thread. But the fact that the suits are touching does not generally feature in that debate.
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#20 User is offline   keithhus 

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Posted 2015-January-18, 07:55

View Post1eyedjack, on 2015-January-18, 05:28, said:

It helps to understand the underlying logic behind a recommendation. For one thing it aids the memory. For another it helps you to judge any limitations of the recommendation, and perhaps when to consider dis-applying it. That applies generally, not just to the OP of this thread.

The reason that you are sometimes advised to open the higher of touching suits has to do with the anticipation that opener will next rebid the second suit (if a fit has yet to be found). Preparing for that event, and lacking (say) the strength to force to the 3 level, opening the higher suit and then rebidding the lower suit is a more efficient use of bidding space than opening the lower suit and rebidding the higher.

However, if you have a balanced hand with two 4 card suits you should as opener be preparing to show a balanced hand with your rebid (sans fit). You may have to open a suit because the values are outside the norm for an opening bid in NT, but the incentive to choose the higher suit for the purposes of efficiency in bidding the second suit dissipates. By itself that is not sufficient justification for choosing the lower suit, which may or may not be right as discussed by others in this thread. But the fact that the suits are touching does not generally feature in that debate.



Thank you for your response. Your 2nd para States the reason why I though we were advised to open the higher suit but my question was prompted by the fact that I had noticed many people opened the lower. The consensus is to open the lower. I am also considering doing as further advised and changing to 5 card spades (I think also referred to as a Swiss Club). On the face of it, this seems a good way to identify a major fit. I am interested to know how I will go this week, that is if someone agrees to play it with me.
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