Your Questions

I and my partner want to use the 1C opening bid to mean that we have 3 or more Clubs. Mostly we have 3 or more Clubs. Occasionally we may only have 2 Clubs in our hand. Can I still bid 1Club with 2 Clubs? Is this illegal or not allowed or can the Director be called? My partner may be a little misled but we will wear this. Do I have to use [1D to mean] 3 or more Diamonds if I use 1C to mean 3 or more Clubs. Thanks, Ross.

Good question, Ross, as it addresses an issue that seems to be misunderstood at a lot of club sessions.

Let me start with the common names and meanings of the two different bidding conventions that your question covers:

  • "Short Club" - Used by those that play five-card majors and use a 1C opening to show 2+ clubs. More often than not the 1C opening hand will have 4 or more clubs, but it gets its name as it is the bid used with an opening hand and four cards in each major, three diamonds and two clubs. It implies that a 1D opening shows at least 4 diamonds.
  • "Better Minor" - Used by those that play five-card majors and use a 1C opening to show 3+ clubs. More often than not the 1C opening hand will have 4 or more clubs, but it gets its name as 1D is the bid used with an opening hand and four cards in each major, three diamonds and two clubs. It implies that a 1D opening shows 3+ diamonds. With 4-4 in the minor suits most partnerships open 1D, and 1C with 3-3 in the minors, though as the name suggests other partnerships choose the suit with the better honour cards.

So the problem your question covers is that you can't mix incompatible bits of both conventions. You cannot note on a system card for instance that your 1C opening bid shows 3+ clubs, your 1D opening shows 3+, and your 1 major openings show 5+, unless of course you would choose to pass with:

S Axxx
H Qxxx
D Kxx
C Ax

Discuss this hand with your partner and decide how you would open it. If you decide 1C (as it seems you want to), then you are playing the "Short Club" convention. If you opt for 1D, then you are playing "Better Minor". 

Irrespective of which one you choose remember that an opening of 1C (or 1D) does not show a short suit, but rather a suit that could be short (but commonly is not). So it is quite in order for your partner to treat a 1C opening as normally showing a 3+ or even a 4+ suit, but he or she would still need to state that the 1C opening shows 2+ clubs.

There is one other part of your question that needs to be addressed: Is this illegal or not allowed or can the Director be called?

I am not sure if breaking one of the Laws of Bridge warrants an "illegal" descriptor, but in this case we are talking not about the Laws of Bridge but about bidding and alerting regulations promulgated by national or state bridge associations or by bridge clubs themselves.

The Australian Bridge Federation alerting regulations now require the partner of the 1C opener verbally to advise the minimum number of clubs that the bid indicates - with something like "at least two" or "three plus" being used to distinguish the two approaches. It is definitely a fundamental principle of bridge that your opponents should be able to know as much as you do about what your partner's bid means. Automatically advising the number of clubs shown by the opening 1C bid avoids an opponent having to ask the question and possibly implying an interest in the club suit.

So while I think "illegal" is far too strong a descriptor, it is important to agree with your partner what convention you follow (how you would open the above hand) and convey this clearly to your opponents.

Calling the director is the obvious thing to do if you are unsure what you should do or whether you are getting a clear answer from your opponents. A director should clarify what is appropriate while reducing any tension at the table. Thanks again for asking this question.