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Open+ Chart opens up new bridge territory

The Open+ Chart in team play is a big change from the past. As someone who actually filed all the forms to play Superchart methods, I can tell you it feels weird to have filed superchart disclosures for a half a dozen formerly Superchart only methods and not having to do so in the upcoming trials. Formerly Superchart and forbidden methods no longer require disclosures because of the new Open+ Chart. And the upcoming team trials have conditions of contest that require none of the following to have written defenses:

  • NT with 4441, 5431 or 6331 with a small singleton
  • Opening 4-7 point hands at the one level (but still following rule of 17)
  • Wide ranged preempts with conventions in 3rd seat
  • Relay systems that start with an invitational bid
  • Artificial bids at the two level that do not have a defense in the ACBL defense database that have at least average strength (Mid chart had a 15+ limit)

And not filing is important, not as much for me because I actually did file. The filing requirement (or the inability to play the system in pair games), meant that only one or two pairs would go to the trouble of filing (and only a couple more would play them anyway without filing). Four of the five things above can be played in 2-board pair games (the last four). Again, without defenses required. So conventions like those can be played by people who do not want to have two different convention cards one for teams and one for pairs. It's the paperwork requirement that made the midchart non-defense-requirement conventions the outer envelope of bridge creativity. It was not worth it for almost any pairs to carry defenses or to track down officials to file required paperwork. Now the outer envelope has expanded--a lot.

Will this result in boards that blind-side the opponents? My hope is that after playing against a few new conventions without needing a written defense, pairs will feel empowered to leave behind written defenses where the requirement remains. I am optimistic that there may be some more experimentation and more novelty at the table.

For some of the items, like the unlimited 3rd-seat preempt range, the old charts permitted you to do it if it was a "a psyche". If you are only dealt a 0-1 count less than 1% of the time, if you open every time, who will hold you to account? In some sense permitting the methods simply brings out into the open bidding styles that players were playing before but were labeling them "a psyche". I like in professional poker how they just tracked how often each player bid. Now, at least one can just disclose a wide range instead of making infrequent or frequent psyches. Maybe records will get good enough to bring up the last one hundred hands that a pair made the call so opposing players can draw their own conclusions instead of self-disclosure. In the mean time, encouraging full disclosure just makes the game more open without necessarily changing the actual calls that players are making.

There's more excitement in store that's still not allowed. I got a taste of it playing against Kyle Rockoff and his 1NT overcall over a strong artificial one level bid showing any one suiter (is that your invention Mr. Rockoff?). How would the game be different if players could overcall that against a natural opening if they and their partner passed, just their partener passed, or open that 3rd seat? Well we will not find out for a while--at least not in this country--but give it a try as your strong club defense, like I am*, if you want a glimpse of it--maybe it will be as dull as 2 any one suiter over a strong NT, but I think it will be more exciting. The new chart is permissive in one way, people can open formerly artificial bids lighter because they are explicitly natural now (e.g. opening one bids show that suit and the next higher), but restrictive in other ways, only those overcalls that are permissible vs. natural methods can now be made over the formerly artificial bids (not that you could make the opening bid at all in this example unless it was also 15+).

If you want to insist on being able to make a 1NT one-suiter overcall when you have less than an opening bid if your right hand opponent bids, you can change your system. E.g., make 1 either a natural 1 or any near average or better quasi-natural hand that you normally would pass. If you are already playing 10-21, how much bigger is 8-21? 2+ vs. 3+? It is annoying to partner who has one fewer bid available if LHO passes, but how often does LHO pass when you pass anyway? Maybe have 3 non-forcing one level responses and one artificial forcing one level response (e.g. 1 or 1) that shows at least invitational values vs. a hand that would have passed if 1 was natural and showed a full opening hand. When the bidding comes around to you again and RHO is the only one who bid, you will have an unrestricted rebid instead of a forbidden overcall (assuming you had 8-11 and 2+ bal or 3+, a bit less than half of 0-11s). Maybe the system design creativity will be fun. And maybe not. At least now, with the new chart, you have the option.

For the faint of heart, players can probably still find a limited event that uses the basic chart as long as they have less than 3,000 masterpoints. Since only 5% of ACBL members have this many, ( https://web3.acbl.org/mpholdings ), many players may be able to avoid the Open Chart altogether, if desired. If you are one of the 95%, I encourage you to live a little and try to win the X or the Y in the A/X/Y rather than the B/C/D once in a while. The older members remember when the novices played with the experts in the same events. You might win anyway. Even if you do not--and I did not--I always tried to enter the tough events and my impression is that it helps improve one's game the fastest.

Thank you to the people who worked diligently to get the new charts into the shape they are in. Thank you especially for doing all the paperwork so almost none of the players have to anymore, but still allow players to play powerful new and interesting methods.

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*The full defense to a strong is 1 of a suit 4+ of that suit & 5+ of the next higher suit, 1NT is any one suiter, 2 of a suit is 5+ of that suit & 4+ of the next higher, and double is & or & (5+4+).

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