The Three Golden Rules

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Bridge is a game of suits

Better not to enter the contest than not to be able to win

Don't tell the opponents how to play the hand

Correctly applying the Blue Team Club does not mean just knowing the bids. It is also important to adopt an approach to bidding that takes full advantage of the system. For this reason one should follow the three golden rules offered by Arturo Franco.

1° - Bridge is a game of suits

The cards don't all play the same way. On offense, a queen is somewhat useless with two low cards, but is a sure trick behind the ace and king. On defense a suit headed by all three top honors may not come to a trick, but a hand with two fits with honors concentrated in both suits, on offense, produces a number of tricks absolutely disproportionate with respect to its Milton Working Count. Two mirroring 4333 require a large number of honors to develop tricks, but the presence of a singleton or void drastically reduces the strength necessary for game or slam in a suit.

All these facts are known to any average player, but seem to be forgotten in bidding systems.

The 5-card major systems are among those that, more than others, seem to forget this simple principle. Requiring at least 5 cards to be able to open 1 or 1 makes the openings of 1 or 1 "preparatory". This approach encourages the opponents to interfere and hinder the discovery of the 4-4 major fit. Further, the responder does not know whether the minor consists of 3 small cards or 6 solid.

Study the hands from world championship play one can observe the frequency of game or slam swings in hands where the 5-card major partnership had to open 1 of a minor, but upon finding the major fit, not had the methods to describe the full distribution of the opening hand.

Also the blind adherence to the Law of Total Tricks is a clear sign of forgetting that bridge is a game of suits. Distributional features and types of high cards (singleton/void or lots of queens and jacks, a.k.a. "Quacks") are so significant to the play of the hand, that they often reduce the Law's effect to nothing. Larry Cohen in his books, gives such and so conditions for effectively applying the Law, making it obvious that it doesn't work well without distributional information.

To be able to take correct competitive action, in fact, it is necessary to know the suits and the distribution of partner’s high cards and to inform partner likewise of one's own high cards and suits. Otherwise the appraisal of the offensive and defensive potentialities of the deal could be based alone on absolutely generic considerations, and so often lead to wrong competitive choices.

Not always, obviously, does the auction allow the exchange of all necessary information. A good system, consequently, tries to anticipate the problem through a structure of openings and responses that permits a rapid transmission of the essential elements of the hand in terms of distribution, strength, and honor concentration.

So the Blue Team adopts the following schemes:

All openings other than 1 are limited to 16 points. In competition, therefore, the opener can hold an aggressive stance, if the makeup of his hand demands, knowing he isn't tricking his partner on the high card strength and defensive strength of his hand.
The openings of 1 and 1 since the system provides for opening a 4-card major on any normal hand. Competition over a major is handled more easily from the immediate knowledge of a 4-4 or 5-4 fit, which is very useful on offense and similarly useless on defense.
No-trump bids, whether by opener or responder, maintain almost always natural significance and describe balanced hands with distributed honors or concentration in the short suits, also sometimes with a 3 card fit for partner’s major..
Opening 2 and 2 place the opener with 6+ cards and at least 2 top honors. They constitute a robust foundation for competition in the minors, an area in which the natural systems, and in particular those with 5-card majors, show weakness.
The openings of 2 and 2 are always made with hands with a strength limit of 12 HCP. This action guarantees the fact that the opening of one of a major, followed by a bid which shows at least 6 cards in the opened suit, indicates non-minimum strength, on which partner may compete with modest hands. At the same time, the guarantee of decent values allows, in competition, the penalizing of an overaggressive opponent.

The limited nature of the opening permits direct and conclusive bidding that does not give out information, to the enemy side, of the actual distribution. It is possible, for example, to respond 1NT, to the opening of 1, with four of a major, where opener, when she has a 4-card major, systemically has a balanced hand with just 4 bad cards in the major. Or there is frequently the sequence 1 -2/3 , in a 4-4 fit, that hides completely a 5-card side suit in which, all the same, the defensive side decides to reopen (with bloody results) or lead.

The emphasis on the importance of the strength of the hands is illustrated by the different ways to bid the 12-16 HCP hands. The system makes the distinction between weak, average, and reverser hands. No hand can be characterized as a reverse unless it is in the position to take by itself 8 tricks (or 7 ˝ in a one-suiter). Thus, a reverse sequence shows a strong hand (15-16 HCP), with concentration of honors in the long suit.

It is difficult, moreover, for a one-suited hand with dispersed honor strength or a 2-suiter with 9 cards in the suits to produce 8 tricks with only 16 HCP. So reverse sequences guarantee long 2-suiters or strong 1-suiters, hands in which it is fundamental to value the honors that are “in” (high honors in the bid suits), and to devalue the honors "out" (Aces and intermediate honors on the outside of the declared suits).

For normal hands with good strong honors, the system allows the responder to know, in the second round, whether the hand should be considered minimum or maximum, always limited by the fact that it wasn’t opened 1 and a reverse was not made.

The precision that derives from this approach allows an accurate assessment of game and slam, superior to a number of natural systems. The huge range of opening strength is in fact handicap in natural sequences, where a same level change of suit can come from a hand with 17-18 HCP while reverses can be made with less than 19 HCP.

Because of this approach the system cannot include conventions like Multi 2D or Michaels that don’t show immediately the suits on which it is based, nor can it accommodate weak NT, that, often, ends with exercising against ones own side the preemptive effect that was meant to hinder the opponents.

In the Blue Team Club, finally, there will not be found relay sequences in which one of two players is completely passive and knows nothing of the distribution of the partner. Where the distributional relays are seen, the responder has the essential elements to judge if her own cards are "in" or "out" and therefore the ability to promote or hold back her partner’s ambitions.

2° - Better not to enter the contest than not to be able to win

In a competitive contest dominated by aggressiveness, this principle is an inviting reminder, for the effectiveness of proper bridge, to not forget good sense and knowledge of the fundamentals of the game.

In the Blue Team Club the bidding is not intended exclusively to destroy oppenents’ bidding. All the openings and responses are always with the objective of limiting the strength and precise distribution and the goals are, at the same time, constructive and destructive.

Openings should be solid, and the structure of responses is already aggressive enough and is oriented toward finding game "to the limit". The 2-level openings surely have a preemptive effect, but they do not expose the opener to excessive risks and guarantee a sufficient solidity to bid game or slam without fearing a nasty surprise in some suit length or suit quality of the opener.

The jump overcalls always show a solid hand, 1-suited or 2-suited, under the limits of a reverse, but with characteristics of strength and distribution to render improbable a heavy penalty and plausible the assignment of a final contract.

Playing Blue Team does not mean giving up disturbing the opponents’ bidding. Indeed, in the system, for example, is seen the overcall in a 4-card major, to permit interfering with hands where one can’t double and where a 5-card minor is to weak to be bid. The opening of 2NT is strongly preemptive, whereas as in overcalling is seen the use of Ghestem to show two-suiters that, in favorable vulnerability, can be very limited in high card strength.

Openings of 1 and 1 , used both in short-long and long-short bidding style, often constitute the base for a blocking barrage throughout the whole auction.

What is not encouraged by the Blue Team are the sub-minimum openings, the 2-level openings with no restriction on suit quality, the conventions that do not immediately name a suit, the weak jumps, the weak preempts, the weak NT and the myriad of gadgets invented meant only to create a chaotic situation, and to cost one’s own side disastrous penalties

The attitude suggested by the system is to take maximum advantage of the assets of the same system, without trying to win also where the Blue Team Club does not offer a particular advantage.

To win at bridge don’t expect to win points at all the hands; it is sufficient to score as well as possible for one’s own side and to punish the opponents each time they err.

3° - Don't tell the opponents how to play the hand

This principle should be applied not only to offensive bids, but to defensive bids as well.

In Blue Team each suit opening bid is limited to 16 HCP and the opener, in the second or third bid, is always in the best position to show her own strength, showing if she has a reverser hand, a maximum, or a minimum. The result of this approach is soon responder is in a great position, when he can exclude slam, to make the final call.

The system therefore encourages following direct sequences, that don’t allow the enemy into the auction and that do not give out distributional info.

Sequences like 1 -3 ;4 , or 1 -3NT, or 1 -2 ;2 -4 are typical of the system, that, often, doesn’t reward the opponents with a real indication of suits which are effective to attack. Using systematically this approach, sometimes (rarely) one will miss a slam, but it will always be a close slam, difficult to reach for the opponents too. The payback will come from the innumerable "stolen" games thanks to avoiding the good leads from other defenders who knew more about their opponents' hands.

The duo Hamman-Wolff, which has long played a variant of the Blue Team Club, has always avoided opening 1 with a good 4-card major to allow the responder to hide her own 4-card major and proceed directly to 3NT. A sequence 1 -3NT, in Blue Team, is extremely efficient in how much it reveals about opener's hand, about which only one thing is known, and can be carried out with a vast variety of distributions.

Also the four card major opening, always anticipating a fit, allows simple and rapid quantitative sequences, that reveal nothing of the presence of a 5-card side suit.

On defense, however, the system tries to facilitate overcalling in the auction without transmitting too much info to the opponents. The overcalls 1 or 1 , for example, can also be made in canape, and show a great variety of hands, some of which, in other systems, cannot properly overcall or must overcall as a weak jump.

The weak jump overcalls and responses are instead avoided, because, when the opponents get to NT, they can rapidly isolate the "dangerous" hand and play into the partner, certain of the fact that, most of the time, the only communications available is in the overcalled long suit.

In studying the system it is good to remember the three base ideas. One will discover very soon that each sequence, each architectural choice, each convention in fact, is always the application of one or more of these principles.