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McKenney questioned

#1 User is offline   swanway 

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Posted 2012-June-02, 06:22

English Bridge Union


In UK McKenney signals are used. This is a suit preference signal that is given different names in other parts of the world. A high signal/discard asks for a lead of the higher of the other two suits. Similary a low signal asks for the lower of the two suits. Quite often when opponents are asked what signals they play they just say 'McKenney' and nothing else
Am I then allowed to ask them the following questions:

1. What suit does your partner want you to lead?

2. Is a 5 or 6 a high or low card?
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#2 User is offline   gnasher 

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Posted 2012-June-02, 07:25

You're entitled to know their agreement, and no more. You're not entitled to know anything that an opponent infers from looking at his own hand.

Exactly what you're entitled to depends on what their exact agremeent is. Consider these two situations, with spades as trumps:

(1) Their agreement is that a 7 or higher asks for the higher suit, and a 6 or lower asks for the lower suit. RHO discards 5.
Their agreement tells them that this asks for a club, so you're entitled to know that.

(2) Their agreement is to discard the highest card they can afford to ask for the higher suit, and the lowest card to ask for the lower suit. RHO discards 5. 3 is in dummy. LHO has 2 and 4.
Again, LHO knows that the 5 asks for the lower suit, but this time the information comes from looking at his hand. Hence you're not entitled to know that a club is asked for - it's up to you to estimate the probability that 5 is RHO's lowest diamond.
If future responses could be on topic, i.e. comparing the two suggested systems, rather than some alternative nutjob method, that'd be appreciated, thanks. - MickyB
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#3 User is offline   mrdct 

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Posted 2012-June-03, 20:59

1. No.
2. No.

You can only ask what their carding agreements are.

Both questions are quite silly in any case as the relative "highness" or "lowness" will be dependent on which pips are seen and unseen.
Disclaimer: The above post may be a half-baked sarcastic rant intended to stimulate discussion and it does not necessarily coincide with my own views on this topic.
I bidding the suit below the suit I'm actually showing not to be described as a "transfer" for the benefit of people unfamiliar with the concept of a transfer
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#4 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 01:23

View Postmrdct, on 2012-June-03, 20:59, said:

Both questions are quite silly in any case as the relative "highness" or "lowness" will be dependent on which pips are seen and unseen.

It is not uncommon at club level for people to have strict rules about what high or low is. These players regard it as completely obvious that the 5 is low and the 7 is high that they will often forget to mention it. Naturally they are not strong players and there is often a long hesitation when they don't have the right card to discard.
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#5 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 02:26

You can ask whether they have clear agreements about what constitutes high/low.

You can also ask "So what does that ask for if it's a high one and what does it ask for if it's a low one ?". Occasionally people call something McKenney that isn't.
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#6 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 06:53

When the opponents' explanation is less than clear and, for example, the 2 is discarded, I have been known to ask "What would a low even heart discard mean?" Note also that answering "McKenney" is completely unacceptable, they should explain their agreements. When I get something like this I usually just ask what it means. Not only do some players mean something different from the norm but also there appears to be no standard, at club level at least, as to whether this applies only to the first discard or to all discards.
(-: Zel :-)
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#7 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 06:58

I once got an answer something like "it's Mckenney". I asked further "okay, but what does it mean?" "It's Mckenney. That's all I know." :blink:
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#8 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 08:38

Over the weekend, partner discarded a 2, and declarer asked me what it meant. I said "If it's a low card, he likes the suit."

#9 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 08:47

View Postbarmar, on 2012-June-04, 08:38, said:

Over the weekend, partner discarded a 2, and declarer asked me what it meant. I said "If it's a low card, he likes the suit."

I also say this but the opps always think I am just trying to confuse them.
(-: Zel :-)
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#10 User is offline   jillybean 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 09:37

View Postbarmar, on 2012-June-04, 08:38, said:

Over the weekend, partner discarded a 2, and declarer asked me what it meant. I said "If it's a low card, he likes the suit."

View PostZelandakh, on 2012-June-04, 08:47, said:

I also say this but the opps always think I am just trying to confuse them.

This happened at the club the other day. We were defending against a suit contract and on the 3rd heart trick my partner discarded the 7 of clubs. Declarer stopped and asked me what our signalling was and I dutifully told her, upside down count, attitude, discards. She then went on to ask what the 7 of clubs meant. I replied I don't know, but if you show me your hand I could tell you. She retorted “aren't you a regular partnership? are you usually confused about your partners signals?” To which I replied, “yes, often” and carried on playing.
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#11 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 14:25

I would prefer only using the "if you show me your cards, I can tell you" for a sarcastic answer to an obnoxious question. But I know I have to be careful with potentially sarcastic comments, because they sound a lot stronger than I mean them when I say them.

However, I will say "if the 7 is a low card, it means she likes the suit, and if it's a high card, she doesn't like it." If they ask if 7 is high or low, I'd start with "it depends on what other spot cards she holds."
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#12 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2012-June-04, 14:29

A former bridge partner of mine was unwilling to commit to telling opponents whether a signal was encouraging or discouraging. Instead, he described our agreements in the most generic manner possible.

We played odd-even first discards, which he also played with a number of others. Once, when his partner at the time played a 7 as her first discard in a suit, he was asked to explain the significance of the discard. "We play odd-even first discards. If you consider the 7 to be an odd card..."
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#13 User is offline   Jeremy69A 

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Posted 2012-June-05, 09:01

You are not entitled to any knowledge that is based on an opponent studying his hand to, for example, determine whether a pip is low or not but there are some players who are extremely reluctant to explain what they are doing and this is not because of inexperience.

If you ask what is your signal at trick one and the answer is "Attitude on the Ace and Count on the King but you actually play that you will give attitude on the King if dummy has xxx or perhaps Axx and ducks then the "standard" answer is insufficient. You are concealing part of your agreement. Similarly if you lead a top card and hold the trick and there is a singleton in dummy you need to answer the question properly and if you play suit preference here that needs to be mentioned.
The worst answer in these positions often given by players of some experience and dubious ethics is "we tell partner what he needs to know".

Of course there are times when you depart from your standard signalling but an experienced partnership know quite a few positions where this might be the case and I refuse to believe that there are many reasonable tournament players who don't know whether, for example, a first discard is most likely to be attitude, count or suit preference. They are hiding behind a fig leaf!
Other pet hates
"All our signals are reverse" Does this include suit preference? "No"
"We play count" Normal count? "No, reverse"
What do you lead from xxx? "It depends" On what? "How we feel!"
Oh and sometimes the answer "standard" seems to mean standard in Mongolia.
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#14 User is offline   FrancesHinden 

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Posted 2012-June-05, 10:00

View Postswanway, on 2012-June-02, 06:22, said:

English Bridge Union


In UK McKenney signals are used. This is a suit preference signal that is given different names in other parts of the world. A high signal/discard asks for a lead of the higher of the other two suits. Similary a low signal asks for the lower of the two suits. Quite often when opponents are asked what signals they play they just say 'McKenney' and nothing else
Am I then allowed to ask them the following questions:

1. What suit does your partner want you to lead?

2. Is a 5 or 6 a high or low card?


1. No. But you can ask, for example, 'If that card is a high one, what suit does it ask for?' or 'what suit does a high card ask for?'
2. Possibly. As gnasher says, some pairs have an agreement such as '5 and 6 are neutral, 7+ is high, 4- is low' and you are entitled to know that (you will also discover that a slow 7 in some cases is intended as neutral). Most good pairs instead treat all cards as relative i.e. a 3 might be high or a 9 might be low, just depends on what their holding is. But if you ask them that sort of question, you'll usually get a polite response along the lines of 'it depends what the rest of his holding in the suit is'


p.s. with my pedeantic hat on:a suit preference signal doesn't mean that they want partner to lead that suit. It might instead be indicating where they have values, which isn't the same thing.
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#15 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2012-June-05, 10:19

View PostJeremy69A, on 2012-June-05, 09:01, said:

What do you lead from xxx? "It depends" On what? "How we feel!"

With some partners, even though we have an explicit agreement to lead low, they still use the "how we feel" method. But since I don't find out that they chose to deviate until they fail to ruff as I expected, I don't feel the need to disclose that they occasionally do this.

#16 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2012-June-05, 20:01

View PostJeremy69A, on 2012-June-05, 09:01, said:

You are not entitled to any knowledge that is based on an opponent studying his hand to, for example, determine whether a pip is low or not


Sometimes I will ask what their discards are after they have already made a discard, and be told that "he likes diamonds". If I am not in a patient mood I may ask "so all discards show that he likes diamonds? Is he allowed to play if he doesn't like them?"
London, England
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#17 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2012-June-06, 02:36

View PostJeremy69A, on 2012-June-05, 09:01, said:

Other pet hates

My pet hate is players who usually play their cards quietly directly in front of them suddenly making a discard halfway across the table while staring intently at their partner and then not turning it over for several seconds at the end of the trick.
(-: Zel :-)
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#18 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2012-June-06, 09:10

View PostVampyr, on 2012-June-05, 20:01, said:

Sometimes I will ask what their discards are after they have already made a discard, and be told that "he likes diamonds". If I am not in a patient mood I may ask "so all discards show that he likes diamonds? Is he allowed to play if he doesn't like them?"

Because passive aggression is the best way to deal with players who are honestly trying to be helpful?

#19 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2012-June-06, 17:38

View Postbarmar, on 2012-June-06, 09:10, said:

Because passive aggression is the best way to deal with players who are honestly trying to be helpful?


It is not helpful for them to answer a question I have not asked, nor to inform partner how they have read his spot-card (which, incidentally, reveals something about their own holding in the suit discarded).
London, England
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#20 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2012-June-07, 08:30

I think they honestly misunderstood the question, interpreting it as asking what THAT discard means, rather than their discarding methods in general. ACBL regulations (and I expect many others) encourage trying to interpret questions when they say that the opponents don't have to ask the "right" question. Since you asked immediately after the discard, his mind was naturally on that trick, and I think it was an innocent mistake. But I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt -- is that a personality fault?

When they've obviously misunderstood, the appropriate thing to do is clarify, not be snarky. "No, I meant your discard system in general, not just that card."

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