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Self-Alerting Time for a change?

#1 User is offline   Xgasman 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 06:16

My first post: apologies for any improprieties.

Self-alerting my bids is alien to a normally face-to-face (f2f) player like me. Was it adopted by BBO because of software coding problems? In the Windows version?
I can see that for experienced regular partnerships this will make little difference, but with a pick-up partner you often have to guess what your partner will guess your bid means.
That’s Bridge!
If I alerted such bids it would be as “No Agreement”.
And recently I was admonished (relatively politely) by an experienced regular partner opponent for giving such an explanation. There was an expectation that I should give a description of my hand to opponents that would not be available to my (still guessing) partner.
Well, to misquote Dickens, “if that’s the (BBO) Law, then the Law’s an ass”!

A DIY solution to allow “normal” alerting by partner (works on HTML5 version on Mac/Safari)…

• Use Chat Manager to set up an “Alert!” message (and maybe “Stayman”, “Hearts”, “Spades” announcements)
• Keep the Chat Manager window open (OK, a problem on an iPhone…)
• At the start of the auction select “Opponents” in the Chat window

Two mouse clicks when partner bids and you’re done!
And better than f2f as bidder doesn’t get unauthorised information.

Couldn’t BBO incorporate something like this?
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#2 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 11:57

If you search through the forums you will see you are not the first to have this issue. And the answer is "yes, they could, and no, they won't."

Note that Alerting in BBO is patterned off of Screen regulations (where you explain both yours and your partner's calls to your screenmate) rather than F-T-F. Frankly, the "normal" method of Alerting is bad, because of the situations where "partner tells you how he's taking it" and "when partner misexplains, now what do I do?" - but it's miles ahead of "tell your partner what your bid means in case he's forgotten". In BBO, Alerts and explanations aren't seen by partner, so that is all ignorable.

But what about "No Agreement"? Well, you've hit one of my bugbears. I am quite convinced that "No agreement" is never full disclosure - yes, even when you and I are sitting at a table in BBO because I just parachuted in. You can see from my profile that I am Canadian, so you can probably guess how I'm going to take 1NT, for instance. And you use that "guess" to make your decision on what to do with that 4=4=3=2 16 count in first seat.

"Why do I have to tell the opponents what I meant when I can't tell partner?" Well, you don't really have to do that. But you did do some guessing and hoping about what partner will take it as, and the opponents are entitled to the information you used to do that. "new partnership, but I'm assuming basic 2/1 here." If they don't know 2/1 at all, they are entitled to the basics of "basic 2/1" relevant to your auction.

You sit down to play against two people who tell you in very broken english that they've never played together before. You believe them. They manage to have a beautiful auction to 6 on the first board after 1 - 1; 2... (with no Alerts, and when you ask for explanations, "no agremeent"). How did that happen, you may ask? Well, Dariusz Kwiecien and Elena Klimowicza just guessed. "It's standard bidding".

Standard Polish Club bidding, that is...and they probably have just as bad guesses in your auctions with your Canadian partner.

And when it happens with a pair from Taiwan ("doesn't everyone play Precision?") or England ("we have no agreements, but we both know that 1NT NV shows 13-ish"), you'll start to see.

With your solution, the opponents get what partner thinks it means. Which could easily be "no agreement". What now? Which could be *wrong*. What now? And what if the bidder never gets to see the explanation? How does she tell them "yeah, you were misinformed"? And when the auction goes 1NT-(2)-X-p-2 and you get asked what partner's 2 means, what are you going to say? Oh, partner said "double is penalty", not "double is stayman" when he was asked about your double. A) how do you think this is all going to be resolved? B) how are you going to feel as the opponents? C) how is this any better than Self-Alerting?

Except that "why should I tell the opponents what my bids mean when partner doesn't know?" Well, that's just one of the things that makes pickup partnerships less successful at bridge than established ones.
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#3 User is offline   Xgasman 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 16:03

Thanks for your comments, Mycroft, many of which I find almost convincing. I had actually browsed the forums for several hours before posting, but it seemed there was no consensus, and little recent comment on, the matter.
Hence the question mark in “Time for a change?”

You have convinced me not hold my breath in the hope that BBO will feel it’s “time for a change”.

I’ll try to translate “No Agreement” into Polish, Mandarin, and other languages
for the Chat Manager, if I ever stray from the Acol Club :).
Where you'd be most welcome to parachute in if you like playing in your mornings!
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#4 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 16:27

Hi Xgasman, welcome to the forum and happy new year!

You raise an important issue which no doubt confuses and/or annoys many people on BBO. My personal take:

Tempo is different on BBO
When you alert partner's bid IRL, the alert card often hits the table a second or two after the bid itself. And RHO will notice that you start reaching for the alert card immediately.

On BBO, slow connections and toilet pauses are frequent, so RHO will often have made his call before you get to alert partner's bid. Then RHO may request an undo with all the nuisance and UI related to that (and some tournaments don't allow undo anyway so a lot of TD calls would be needed).

Self-alert rocks
The BBO self-alert rules are superior. People just (well, "just", easier said than done) need to get educated about how to use it. Yes, if you genuinely have no partnership understanding at all then you have nothing to disclose, but often you will have some kind of partnership understanding, for example because you have agreed to play something vague like "Acol" or "SA", or because you have some experience or agreements that apply in vaguely similar situations, or because you fly the same flags so are likely to share some broader culture.

People don't understand international IRL alert rules anyway
If you tell people to alert as they would do IRL, we will have US players following ACBL alert rules and Dutch opponents expecting NBB alert rules.

The TD or table host can set their own rules
So you could define partner-alerts as the table rules. But as per above, I don't think it's a good idea.
... most of the new ideas I get are pretty "boring", mostly focusing on constructive methods rather than destructive ones --- Kungsgeten
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#5 User is offline   Xgasman 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 18:18

Thanks, Helene_T.
I'm beginning to see the light!

However you say "often you will have some kind of partnership understanding, for example because you have agreed to play something vague like "Acol" or "SA", or because you have some experience or agreements that apply in vaguely similar situations, or because you fly the same flags so are likely to share some broader culture".

In the Acol Club where I usually play such understandings are available to opponents as well as to me and my pickup partner.
I suggest (at risk of angering Mycroft) this renders a "No Agreement" response to interrogation appropriate. And I am reluctant to start self-alerting my bids thus.
I suspect it would cause confusion!
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#6 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 19:28

View PostXgasman, on 2020-January-14, 18:18, said:

In the Acol Club where I usually play such understandings are available to opponents as well as to me and my pickup partner.

Yes, that I would agree with. The Acol Club is very friendly and you all more or less have the same culture, and you have few table hoppers.

What I think you should do is to clarify the extent of your agreements to opps whenever an opp arrives. Usually something like "we play transfers and 3 weak twos and no further agreements".

It is still prudent to alert transfers, as a non-alert might otherwise be taken as an agreement not to play transfers.

But generally I agree, there should be very little to alert in the Acol club.

My experience is that the Acol Club is quite informal and that people will use table chat more than the alert system.
... most of the new ideas I get are pretty "boring", mostly focusing on constructive methods rather than destructive ones --- Kungsgeten
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#7 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2020-January-14, 20:34

View Posthelene_t, on 2020-January-14, 16:27, said:


The TD or table host can set their own rules
So you could define partner-alerts as the table rules. But as per above, I don't think it's a good idea.

You don’t? The bidder can’t see it, and what is partner thinks it is must be more important, because it will inform her further bidding.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just better to allow pickup partners to ask each other. BBO will have records on whether they have actually played before. It’s no fun winning against some pair because they have no idea what they’re doing.

But I thought BBO had preloaded convention cards. Pickup partners could choose one and agree to follow it to the letter. Then they, and their opponents, could refer to it when needed. this is likely off the topic of who alerts calls, but I do think it would make for a better game.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones -- Albert Einstein
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#8 User is online   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-January-15, 00:48

The alert box in BBO is wonderful - I use it all the time: Pass Oh, G-d, no; Aaargh; seriously; 😀etc
Please don't take it away.
non est deus ex machina
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#9 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2020-January-15, 02:25

View PostVampyr, on 2020-January-14, 20:34, said:

You don’t?

No, self alert is much better imho. But as you said, for casual play you can also just chat.
... most of the new ideas I get are pretty "boring", mostly focusing on constructive methods rather than destructive ones --- Kungsgeten
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#10 User is online   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-January-15, 05:02

te mea iti ake
non est deus ex machina
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#11 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2020-January-15, 20:21

heh, in the Acol Club (here or London), you have the case that I don't mind very much - pretty much everybody plays the same thing, so "we just sat down and agreed Acol. Your guess is as good as his." Translating to Calgary, "We agreed Calgary Flight A 2/1 with no Flannery." Of course, I also have, usually:
  • It's either *this* or *that* normally (and yes, this situation with self-Alerts, you pick one and tell the opponents and hope partner's on the same page. If not? Well, you're not losing the Spring 4s on this board, are you?)
  • We both play with J, and with J *I* play X, so I'm hoping it's what she plays too
because the pool is a little more insular than the Acol Club.

I do remember one time I was playing online against [now well known pro] and [good friend of both of us], partnering [other good Canadian junior that was a bit wild]. I had been kibitzing until her first partner left, then sat in - but it was the kind of game where I started by saying "well, if I'm playing at this table, I'll need to get a beer." Partner refused to discuss *anything* about system...second hand in, I'm asked what our carding is. "I don't know, she won't tell me." About 6 hands in, I get a PM from [pro].

"Have you worked out what your carding is yet?"
"No. I think she's changing every hand, for fun."

Would I want to play that all the time? Of course not. With good friends, and good players, and some - assistance, it was fun. As a regular course, with people who respond with the language that was everpresent at that table, but these randoms actually mean it - well, there's a reason I only play BBO with people I know or people they know.
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#12 User is offline   Xgasman 

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Posted 2020-January-16, 05:38

My original (doubtless naive) query: “Is it time for a change” was answered succinctly in the first paragraph of Mycroft’s first response. And Helene_T convinces me Mycroft was right.
As to the subsequent (off topic?) suggestions of what should be (pre-) alerted, time constraints (for a slow typist) render most of them impractical for me.
A software suggestion I would NOT make, would be an “improved” Full Disclosure feature with automatic translation to the opponents’ chosen language(s): a BBO/Google hybrid version of Douglas Adams’ Babel fish. Remember…
“Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars …”

Thanks to the contributors to this thread: it’s been interesting.
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