Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



Beginner and above

Rules for strong openings

To open with an artificial strong bid (such as a Benji 2, Benji 2, Acol 2, 2 the only strong bid, or Precision 1), the hand must satisfy both of the following sets of conditions:-

the partnership agreement (examples - ‘eight playing tricks’, ‘twenty three points’)


‘the rules for strong openings’ (below).

For most club and tournament play in England ‘the rules for strong openings’ are as laid down by the English Bridge Union (ebu), and are subject to alteration from time to time.  For an authoritative and up-to-date statement of this and other regulations go to the ebu web site and follow the links to ‘Laws and Ethics’ and then ‘Blue Book’.

As of 1st August 2017 the ‘rule for strong openings’ is as given below.

Natural strong opening bids

The only part of the regulation relating to natural strong two-level opening bids is that they must guarantee at least four cards in the bid suit - so no problem there.  They should be announced appropriately, and a full description of the associated strength should be provided, if asked.

Artificial strong opening bids

An artificial strong opening bid must satisfy one of the following two conditions:-

at least 16 points

at least 12 points and five controls (counting two for an ace and one for a king).

The second of these conditions boils down to:-

hands of twelve to fifteen points must contain either:-

at least two aces and one king (and another point)


at least one ace and three kings.

These conditions will be met by most hands which satisfy the partnership requirement, and by many more which don’t.

There will, though, be a few hands which meet the partnership requirement but which do not satisfy ‘the rule for strong hands’.

It is not permitted to open such hands with an artificial strong bid.

You are not, for example, permitted to open with a Benji 2 (or some other artificial strong opening) on the following hand:-

(Incidentally this hand was also illegal under the previous form of the regulation - the ‘extended rule of 25’).

Only the slightest of changes is required to produce a hand which may legally be opened with such a bid.


8 7 3

A K Q 7 6 4 2


Eight playing tricks, but neither sixteen points nor five controls.

You may not start with an artificial strong bid such as 2 or even 2.

Open one of a 1, 4, 5 or 3NT, according to partnership style and methods.

This page last revised 18th Feb 2019

A 5

8 7 3

A K Q 7 6 4 2


Eight playing tricks, more than twelve points, and five controls.

Open with an artificial strong bid such as 2 or 2 provided that it satisfies the partnership agreement.

(Note that this hand did not qualify for an artificial strong opening under the previous requirement.)

It should, though, be pointed out that even some hands which satisfy one of the simple partnership agreements as exemplified above and the rule for strong openings should not be opened with a strong and forcing opening bid at the two-level.

A requirement of some defensive potential (basically a few aces and/or kings) should be a part of the partnership agreement.

This is important for partner both in assessing the potential for a slam, and particularly if the opposition compete to a high level.

Announcing and alerting

Artificial strong opening bids should not be announced.

They should be alerted without further comment.

If your opponents then ask for an explanation it is not sufficient to say something along the lines of ‘strong’ or ‘Benji’.  Both of these concepts are imprecise and uninformative.

Instead you should give a full disclosure of the possible holdings, along the lines of ‘eight playing tricks in a single-suited hand or any hand of twenty three or more points’.

For a consideration of situations in which this rule might be relevant see

opening strong hands

Context  -  The opening bid.