M J Bridge
Beginner and above
Levels of play
In English club and tournament play bidding conventions are subject to various regulations laid down by the ebu (English Bridge Union).
At the time of writing this these rules are to be found in ‘The Blue Book’ which can be found in the ‘Laws and Ethics’ section of the ebu website. On the following pages any reference to these regulations relates to the version valid from 1st August 2015 with some modifications to bring it in line with the revised regulations as from 1st August 2017.
These regulations are graded by level -
Originally five such levels were defined.
Level one basically defined a ‘simple system’ approach. Nowadays anyone organising a starter event will probably define their own set of permitted bidding methods -
Level five permits almost anything and is basically appropriate to international play and tournaments of comparable standing.
Everything in these pages, and almost everything most of us are even likely to consider, will be permitted at level four, and so level five is of no real concern to us.
Levels two, (three) and four are the ones which matter. These are the levels which are adopted by most clubs and which are used in most tournaments.
Typically tournaments will be set at either level two or level four, and clubs may set their own rules at any one of these three levels.
As the ebu no longer runs tournaments at level three this level is no longer defined in ‘The Blue Book’, but a few clubs continue to use this definition and so I shall refer to it below as if it still exists.
These regulations apply in particular to the strength of opening bids of one of a suit, and to artificial opening bids at any level (be they all weak, all-
The minimum strength permitted for an opening bid is defined in terms of a number of ‘rules’, in particular, the:-
and the ‘rule for strong openings’ replacing the earlier ‘rule of twenty five’, for artificial strong opening bids.
will be the usual level defined for tournaments targeted at less experienced pairs, and for ‘no fear’ events. It will also be the choice for some clubs, or possibly for some club sessions.
The relevant regulations in the present context relate to the minimum strength required for an opening bid.
is substantially the same as level two except that the ‘multi 2♦’ bid is now included.
This includes both the all-
(Level three is no longer defined in The Blue Book.)
is now the level most commonly defined for club or tournament play in England.
The minimum requirement for an opening bid is relaxed to ‘rule of eighteen’.
There is a little more flexibility in the versatility of an opening bid, but any strong meaning attached to an artificial opening bid at the two-
For most of you these considerations won’t matter
But, if your methods include something such as a Benji 2♣, you should appreciate that it is not sufficient just to have ‘eight playing tricks’ or whatever the partnership agreement might be -
And, if you are considering incorporating any weak/strong multis other than 2♦ into your system, or giving any meaning other than a strong balanced hand to an opening bid of 2NT, then you should ensure that level four methods are acceptable in the particular context in which you are playing -
This page last revised 1st Mar 2020
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