By Prof. Tony Campbell

MANY club players now play what is called Benjy Acol.

Typically this means that opening two hearts or two spades is weak, showing six in the bid major and only 6-10 points.

In the UK this is known as Benjamin, and was invented by the Scottish international Albert Benjamin. He lived in Glasgow all his life, playing for Scotland 28 times, beating England in 1964. He originally studied medicine, but ended up running the bridge club he founded, and writing regularly for the Glasgow Evening Citizen.

He had a great reputation for encouraging young players, something distinctly lacking in Wales when I moved to Cardiff after finishing my PhD in Cambridge in 1970. He died aged 96 in 2006, but the legacy of his opening two bids lives on. Here is a typical hand that caused some problems after an opening Benjy two spades.

The Auction

North opened two spades, showing six spades and 6-10 points. Now East had a decision to make. He had sixteen points, a flat hand and a spade stop. Several players opted to overcall two no trumps, which his partner with ten points was happy to raise to three no trumps. However one East decided to double, which showed points and almost certainly four hearts. In this case West with points and four hearts himself bid four hearts.

The play

North led the king of spades, which was taken by East’s ace. West as declarer then drew three rounds of trumps. He could now count ten tricks, but if he could decide which way to take the club finesse he could make eleven tricks. North had already shown five points with the king and queen of spades. So West felt that the percentage play and easiest regarding the club distribution between East and West was to play the king of clubs and then finesse the second club with his ten.

This won. So he went back to East’s hand with the ace of diamonds and finessed against the queen of clubs a second time with the jack. West then discarded a losing diamond in East’s hand on the ace of clubs, and conceded the next diamond to North’s queen. North won the next trick with his queen of spades. But declarer then claimed the last two tricks on a cross ruff, making eleven tricks in all – one spade, three hearts and two heart ruffs, the ace of diamonds and four clubs for score of 450. This was a top, as those who played in three no trumps only made ten tricks for a score of 430. Well bid and played.

What have we learnt?

1. The Benjamin convention is ideal for club players. Two hearts or two spades are weak, and thus pre-emptive. Whereas two diamonds and two clubs are typically strong. Two diamonds is a game force, and two clubs shows either eight playing tricks in a suit yet to be declared or a no trump type hand with a very good nineteen or twenty points. If you have a nineteen count without any tens or a five card suit it is better to open at the one level.

2. You need a defence against the Benjy weak two opening. Two no trumps would show a stop in the opposition’s major and 16-17 points. Three no trumps would show 18 points. But a double would normally show points and four cards in the other major, as here. The two no trump bid would deny this.

Further information

When the local bridge clubs closed because of COVID a WhatsApp group was formed for players from the Penarth and Sully clubs to get in touch so that they could arrange games online. The secretary of Penarth Bridge Club, Peter Sampson, thought it a good idea to introduce a little bit of competition. So, taking an idea from his squash playing days, he formed a ladder competition. Play is on Bridge Base Online (BBO).

The ladder has been a great success, continuing for 16 weeks with 24 competing pairs. It just adds an extra bit of excitement and fun to the games, and Peter sends out the results weekly. If you would like to join, more details can be had from Peter at Current leaders are Angela and Rod Hudson, followed by Peter Millar and Mick Green, with Philip Bottrill and Carol Cochlin third. If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is also very good and may be open again for new registrations. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.