NEW ACBL “Charts” of Allowable Bidding Agreements

Late in 2018, the ACBL officially implemented new “charts” describing bidding agreements that will be allowed at various types of tournament events (the new “charts” don’t apply to club games unless a club decides to adopt them).  For our upcoming 2019 Sectional tournaments:

  • For our non-Life-Master Sectional February 23-24, all events will use the new “Basic” chart.
  • For our Open Sectional May 3-4-5:
    • Events limited to 750 masterpoints or less will use the “Basic” chart.
    • Events with a limit that is above 750 masterpoints and up to 3000 masterpoints will use the “Basic+” chart.
    • Other events will use the “Open” chart.

This article will discuss the “Basic” chart.  Thanks to Bill Koehler (who directs our Monday afternoon games and who is an accredited ACBL Tournament director) for his technical assistance in preparing this article.


Q: Why Does the ACBL Have Charts? 

A: Two reasons.  First, so that less experienced players don’t have to face unusual or complex bidding methods at the table.  Second, so that more advanced players have a full opportunity to prepare defenses in advance, when their opponents are using unusual or complex bidding methods.


Q: Where Can I Find the New Charts?

A: On the Santa Fe Bridge Club website or on the ACBL website.


Q: Have There Been Any Changes to the Convention Card Format?

A: No.  The ACBL permits players to use any reasonable convention card format.  At tournaments, each partner is required to have a convention card; its format and its content must be identical to partner’s convention card.


Q: Are There Any Surprises in the new “Basic” Chart?

A: Not really. However, there are some methods that we’ve seen played in Santa Fe that aren’t permitted under the “Basic” chart; those are discussed later in this article.


Q: What Would Happen, if I Competed at the February Non-Life-Master Sectional, and I Used a Method that is Prohibited Under the New “Basic” Chart?

A: If an opponent called the director, the director would rule that you cannot use that method for the remainder of the tournament.  If the opponent called the director after the prohibited method had already been used, the director would be authorized to award an adjusted score if the director decided that your opponents had been damaged.


Q: What Else is New, For Players Competing in Events for 750 Masterpoints or Less?

A: There are some changes about how players advise their opponents about bidding agreements; those changes are discussed later in this article.


Methods Sometimes Seen in Santa Fe That ARE NOT Allowable Under the New “Basic” Chart

Words that appear in Italics have specific definitions in the new ACBL Charts. In the ACBL’s Convention Charts document, the Definitions section starts on page 4.  Following are examples of methods that we have seen used in Santa Fe local games that are not allowable under the ACBL Basic chart:


  • 1C and 1D Opening Bids That Could Be Especially Short.
    • A 1C or 1D opening bid that could be made on a singleton Jack or lower (or with a void in the suit opened) is not allowable under the Basic chart.


  • An Artificial 1D Opening Bid That is Artificial, Strong and Forcing.
    • A 1C opening that is Artificial, Strong, and Forcing is allowable; a 1D opening bid with those characteristics is not allowable under the Basic chart or under the Basic+ chart (it is allowable under the Open chart).


Examples of Relatively Advanced Methods That ARE Allowable Under the Basic Chart

  • A 1C opening bid that is Strong, Artificial, and Forcing.
  • An Artificial 1D response to any 1C opening bid.
  • An Artificial jump raise (of any strength) of a Natural opening bid.
  • Light opening bids of 1H and 1S, 10 high card points and up (or at least ‘Rule of 19′ = at least 19 when adding (a) high card points and (b) length in the two longest suits).
  • A 1NT opening bid on as few as 10 high card points.
  • Any game-forcing response at the two level or above, even if the response is Artificial.
  • Weak Two Bids that have a Range of 7 high card points or fewer. That is, a range of 4-10 high card points is acceptable, while a range of 3-10 high card points is not acceptable.
  • Any response to a notrump opening bid.


Current Requirements for Notifying Opponents about Bidding Agreements


Q: Why does the ACBL have Alert and Announcement procedures?

A: So that both pairs at the table have equal access to all information contained in any auction.  Opponents are entitled to know the agreed meaning of all calls.


Q: Where Can I Find Current Information about Alert and Announcement Requirements?

A: On the Santa Fe Bridge Club website or on the ACBL website.


The Alert Procedure.  The alert procedure generally applies to bids that are shown in red on the Convention Card.  These generally are bids that do not show the suit that is bid, bids that sound strong but that are weak, or bids that sound weak but are strong.

  • The correct procedure is for the bidder’s partner to do both of these things (ideally, immediately after the alertable call is made and before the opponent has selected a call): (1) say “Alert” and (2) remove the Alert card from the bidding box and tap it on the table.
  • Q: When it is my turn to bid, and my left hand opponent says “Alert”, what do I do?
    • A:  You may choose to ask for an explanation (the proper procedure is to speak the words “please explain”), and you may choose not to ask for an explanation.  If you ask for an explanation, the opponent who said “alert” must give an explanation; otherwise, both opponents must remain silent.
  • Q: If I don’t ask for an explanation when the alertable call is made, can I ask later?
    • A: Yes, except if you end up being the dummy. After the auction is over:
      • The opening leader may ask questions before making the opening lead (face down).
      • The opening leader’s partner may ask questions after the opening lead is made.
      • The declarer may ask questions once the opening lead is made (face down).
      • Dummy is not entitled to ask questions after the auction is over.
  • Delayed Alerts: alerts are normally given immediately after partner has made an alertable call. There is, however, an exception for alertable calls where both of the following are true: (1) the call is at the four level and above and (2) the opening bidder has had a second opportunity to bid. These are called ‘Delayed Alerts’. Do not Alert at the time the bid is made; instead, provide a Delayed Alert after the auction is over. The declaring side makes its Delayed Alerts after the auction is over but before the opening lead is made. The defending side makes its Delayed Alerts after making the opening lead (face down) and before declarer calls for a card from dummy.


The Announcement Procedure.  The correct procedure is for the bidder’s partner to do both of these things: (1) speak the required explanation (see below); and (b) remove the Alert card from the bidding box and tap it on the table.

  • This procedure is used in exactly four instances, where the ACBL has determined that opponents should be notified immediately. The four instances are:
    • A natural 1NT opening bid (partner must speak the high card point range, for example “fifteen to seventeen”). Note – this requirement is only for opening bids of one notrump; it does not apply to other notrump opening bids, to 1NT rebids or to 1NT overcalls.
    • A diamond or heart response to a natural notrump opening, overcall or rebid (at any level), whenever that bid is a transfer (partner must speak the word “transfer”).
    • A 1NT response to a 1H or 1S opening bid with no interference (partner must speak the word “forcing” or the word “semi-forcing”).
    • A non-forcing 1C or 1D opening bid for which the opener could have fewer than three cards in the suit (partner must speak the words “may be short”).


Q: If I have questions about the new ACBL Charts or about the Alert and Announcement procedures, how can I get those questions answered?

A: Please contact either Tom Carr or Charlie Wilkins using the contact form below.