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A curious auction Systems policy, Alert policy, Law 16

#1 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 11:56

You are directing a club tournament without screens and are called to table by EW, unhappy about opponents' auction to a slam which made.

All agree that the unopposed auction went 2NT-3NT; 6NT Pass.

N admits that she failed to announce the agreed range (20-22) as she was busy thinking how to reply with 9 HCP.
S says that with 25 HCP balanced he decided to open 2NT anyway as he wasn't comfortable with 2 then 2NT.
They seem genuinely puzzled about the fuss.
EW concede that there is no apparent damage, but remain aggrieved about the auction ("it's not bridge").

Would you leave it there?

You don't have video recording.
The national regulations don't give you much to go on as far as the sequence of calls is concerned:
- 2NT should be announced by range if balanced, alerted otherwise.
- 1NT in pairs tournaments must be natural non-forcing with a continuous range of at most 4 HCP.
Of course it's interesting how your own regulations would cover this too.
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#2 User is online   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 14:26

I rule it back to 3N+? - why, 2N-3N is unlikely to be 5-6 after a hesitation, yes it could be 4, but more likely borderline slam invite.

Unlike the somewhat similar auction 1N-2N-6N which is where the 1N opener fails to remember he opened his 11 count and raises partner's "21-22" 2N to 6.
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#3 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 14:58

I don't see any hesitation, just the failure to announce, in the OP.

Yes, North was "busy thinking about the auction" at announce time, and may have hesitated to 3NT (but we don't know). Given only the facts presented, there's nothing to rule on.

South decided to violate system, in a very strange way ("it's not bridge") and, without any UI, guessed to try slam after North raised. I agree, it's not bridge, and it deserved to go down (frankly, it deserved to go +210 opposite a Q), but unless there's a habit there, there's nothing illegal about deviations - even deviations that most would consider gross enough to be psychic. (Note: most would not consider this a psych, though, because "psyches are always bids without..." No, that's not the definition, and listen to the stories about "people who will not be beaten by the Weak NT" vs "decide to open 1NT with 18 this time".)

This will not be the first, nor the last, time that East/West have been Fixed - By Palookas!</Simon>

I agree with Cyberyeti if there was a hesitation in the actual auction. But I'd be happy, even with the UI, with 2NT-3NT; 4NT, even if partner raised to the cold slam. South is entitled to know that he has underbid by a king+, given that he deliberately did it.
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#4 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 22:04

It's problems like this that cause enormous difficulties for people trying to understand Bridge.
The director is called to the table because someone made a bid where it is required that the partner makes some kind of comment (alert etc depending on the jurisdiction).

Instead of making a ruling about the legality or otherwise of failure to alert/comment etc., the Director instead makes a ruling about whether or not the other side was 'damaged'.

Does this mean that alerts and announcements are optional where no damage occurs?
Is it incumbent on the party that calls the Director to be able to state a possible situation where damage may have occurred (e.g. I missed the opportunity to do 'insert xxx here') before the failure to follow the rules attracts a penalty?

This seems to be the case quite often in the swamp where I play and most stuff just slips through to the keeper.

The failure to have a consistent set of penalties for failure to provide adequate announcements or alerts for bids that mean more than either a natural suit or a non-forcing willingness to play at that level, appears to be unique to Bridge.

Every other sport that I can think of has prescribed penalties for not adhering to the rules: why is Bridge different?
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#5 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 22:59

The problem is not that the rules of the game do not provide adequate penalties for violations of the rules, but rather that directors, particularly at club level, are extremely reluctant to apply them.

I would put NS on notice that while this one instance does not provide enough evidence to rule that something untoward went on here, it is enough for the director to take note and be on the lookout for similar instances in future. In addition, I would issue procedural penalties for any failure to follow the alert regulations in force. But I would bet that not one club director in a hundred would do either of those things. :-(
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#6 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2022-November-11, 23:34

OK, I get it, you are hoping that after a stern telling off, the offending party will religiously adhere to the rules, fearful of your wrath.


What happens when they do exactly the same thing on the next board?

You write that "...this one instance does not provide enough evidence to rule that something untoward went on here...".
This seems to mean that alerting is basically a guideline, a custom observed more in the breach if you're to the manner born.
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#7 User is offline   sanst 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 02:58

View Postpilowsky, on 2022-November-11, 23:34, said:

OK, I get it, you are hoping that after a stern telling off, the offending party will religiously adhere to the rules, fearful of your wrath.


What happens when they do exactly the same thing on the next board?

You write that "...this one instance does not provide enough evidence to rule that something untoward went on here...".
This seems to mean that alerting is basically a guideline, a custom observed more in the breach if you're to the manner born.

If you as a TD have to act every time there was a failure to alert or announce, or there was an alert or announcement out of place, you would be running around in circles in the room, hardly having time to breathe :D. That would be the situation over here at an average club.
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#8 User is offline   jillybean 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 05:14

Failure to alert, unsolicited explanations, hesitations, missing convention cards, the use of all forms of UI, the list goes on. I long ago gave up hoping that the laws would be applied at club, even at the tournament level. I no longer use a CC or alert everything I should. At times I explain our nt defense as "Biggles" if asked. I do struggle to use or not feel constrained by uneven tempo but it only seems fair that I should.
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#9 User is offline   jillybean 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 05:30

View Postsanst, on 2022-November-12, 02:58, said:

If you as a TD have to act every time there was a failure to alert or announce, or there was an alert or announcement out of place, you would be running around in circles in the room, hardly having time to breathe :D. That would be the situation over here at an average club.

And this is why we all should just ignore the rules. Better still, don't unfairly constrain yourself by learning the rules in the first place.
Searching for your own mistakes is the only way to learn this game. - Fluffy

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#10 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 07:39

View Postpilowsky, on 2022-November-11, 23:34, said:

OK, I get it, you are hoping that after a stern telling off, the offending party will religiously adhere to the rules, fearful of your wrath.


What happens when they do exactly the same thing on the next board?

You write that "...this one instance does not provide enough evidence to rule that something untoward went on here...".
This seems to mean that alerting is basically a guideline, a custom observed more in the breach if you're to the manner born.


When blackshoe says "something untoward" I think he is not referring to the clear failure to announce but to the unclear way they reached the right contract.

We can (and probably should) penalize them anyway for the only certain offence, but it's a bit like releasing suspected bank robbers with a small fine because they left the getaway car on double white lines :)
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#11 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 10:26

1. Yes, you're required to Announce the range of 2NT openers (in OP's world); yes, North failed to do so. However, West knows that there was a failure to make a required Announcement (or Alert, assuming a non-Natural 2NT opener is Alertable. Pretty likely assumption). They chose to continue without the announcement (which I bet is common, given the number of 1NT (nothing said)-call (nothing asked) auctions I get here. Whether or not, or how strongly, I lean on North for the failure to Announce, the failure caused no damage to a pair that wasn't interested in asking about required information.

Bridge does not live in the "two minutes for cross-checking" world. There has to be damage.

2. If North had Announced, it would have been "20-21" or "20-22", which is frankly what East-West assumed their agreement was, so wouldn't have prepared them for the further auction. South Violated Agreement, deliberately. Sure, we check to see if this is something that happens with this pair frequently enough that it needs to be checked for legality/announcement changed, but seriously, what do you expect to hear? And what do you expect to be the factual answer?

Again, deviations are legal. Deliberate deviations are legal. Deviations gross enough to be psychic are legal. There has to be an infraction.

3. But let's assume that they do this a lot, because South doesn't like the 2...2NT auction (or has experience with North not remembering what it means?) and North's missing Announcement would have been "20-22, but more than once she's done it with 25". Okay, now we have to see if there's some OBM happening with North's 3NT raises, and an ability to distinguish between "well, this is going down most times, but partner is likely to have the big hand if I'm so weak", "I have an entry, we have game", and "I have a good hand, but not enough to make a slam try". But assuming that isn't the case - again, my comment about "OP didn't say there was a hesitation before 3NT, just 'thinking about the call and forgetting about Announcement'" - South is allowed to guess right.

The Rule of Coincidence does not exist in the Laws. It's suspicious, sure, but there has to be actual evidence of an infraction, or extraneous information that could have been used.

3a. Let's assume they do this a lot, and they did give the correct Announcement. How would this affect East-West? Would they have come into the auction? Would it affect their defence to the 34-point cold slam? Of course not.

No damage.

4. But all that isn't even the complaint. The complaint is that North-South, against *us*, no less, bid badly and didn't get punished for it. We didn't get our deserved top - in fact, we got A- probably - against these poor players. "It isn't bridge"; surely they can't be allowed to keep this result/why are we expected to keep this result? In other words, "Fixed - By Palookas!"

You have my commiseration. Why You Lose at Bridge is in our library, I think it's time for you to reread that chapter.


Specifically to "failure to have a fixed set of penalties for misexplanation" (whether it be missed or unneeded Alerts/Announcements, 'convenient' omission of information, or straight up misexplanation): we have a fixed set. Misexplanation is an infraction, and we will warn you about that infraction, and expect you to get it right in future. If the opponents are damaged by that infraction, we will rectify the score. If we believe you are deliberate in your misexplanations, and the warnings do not rectify that problem, then we start penalizing in currency you maybe will care about (score penalties or 'come back in a week/month' penalties).

Note that those penalties do not accrue to the non-offending side, deliberately, unless the infraction caused damage. This is because bridge players are petty entitled ---s, and if "two minutes for cross-checking" was the rule, my g-d there would be players who would try to get their 53% moved to a 60% by calling out every little mistake. Which, of course, would likely engender more mistakes from their nervous opponents, which would raise their chances even more.

Oh, and the pair that just got done for a "technical" failure to Alert? Is going to jump on all of their opponents' misses (even some that weren't) for the next month, because "if I get a penalty, there's no way in hell anyone else is going to get away with it". As I said, bridge players are ...

Does having chosen these decisions mean that there is a lower incentive to JFLearn what parts of your system are Alertable, and then JFDI at the table? 100% yes. Is that a problem? 100% yes (of course, I would say that, wouldn't I?) However, while I don't have experience with Australian Alerting, in the ACBL, we have tweaked the Alert Procedure to be "alert things that are non-Expert Standard, or are the expected alternate meaning in Expert Standard", which is good for Experts, but requires people who aren't Experts, or people who don't play Standard, to learn Expert Standard as well as their own system in order to JFL what they have to Alert. And not being full-time Experts, they'll get it wrong occasionally. Everybody (okay, maybe not Jeff Ford or Eric Rodwell) will get it wrong occasionally.

In the EBU, which I have a lot of anecdotal experience from these forums, but have never played, the Alert procedure is geared to be "easy to remember and easy to apply". And, I will admit that 90+% of the time (doubles, anyone?) they have succeeded. But it does lead to a number of Alerts that are zero-meaning ("everything is Alertable", or at least "everything anybody plays is Alertable"), and several situations where "yes, it's Alertable if you follow the rules precisely, but it's 'normal', so many players don't even think about it. And then get very surprised when it is pointed out to them that it is in fact an Alert") So again, what happens, is that those noise Alerts get skipped, or ignored and not asked about, and Everybody (okay, maybe not Gordon Rainsford or Frances Hinden) will get it wrong occasionally.

It's not like failure to Alert something is going to provide a girder to make Iron Rings, or kill a patient. Sometimes it will trigger a reminder, sometimes it will trigger an adjusted score. Next hand, please.
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#12 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 11:45

I agree with all of that, except for a reservation about 3a.

View Postmycroft, on 2022-November-12, 10:26, said:

3a. Let's assume they do this a lot, and they did give the correct Announcement. How would this affect East-West? Would they have come into the auction? Would it affect their defence to the 34-point cold slam? Of course not.
No damage.


No damage, but I'm reluctantly ready to rule that they are playing a forbidden special agreement, even if they correctly announce 20-25 (reluctant because the 4 HCP range is only mentioned for 1NT and because there is no prescribed penalty or gravity of infraction in the regulation, nor a body of case law yet).

From a glimpse at the Blue Book it looks as if EBU is less restrictive than Italy for once, with no limit on the continuous range for a natural 1NT and no discussion of a natural 2NT except to announce the range. Not sure where ACBL is on this.
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#13 User is offline   PeterAlan 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 13:29

View Postpescetom, on 2022-November-12, 11:45, said:

... and no discussion of a natural 2NT except to announce the range.

That announcement was removed in the latest revision of the Blue Book.
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#14 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 13:53

View PostPeterAlan, on 2022-November-12, 13:29, said:

That announcement was removed in the latest revision of the Blue Book.

I have the 2017 revision and did not check for any later, thanks.
So now one has to ask ("partner, I've got something")?
I always thought this was one of the better arguments for announcements.
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#15 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 19:07

Unlike 1NT, 2NT is usually strong enough that the <other country> defence is defanged; nobody really has enough to consider bidding, never mind consider bidding depending on if it's 19 minimum or 20, or 22. So it doesn't happen. In the ACBL, there never has been an announcement for 2NT openings, nor have I felt or heard anyone else feeling a need for one.

And I don't think you can argue that since there's a range maximum for 1NT, that it applies - or should apply - for 2NT. I would be more than reluctant to rule it applies without evidence or clarification. But I'm not reading the regulations; maybe it does imply that.

As far as regulation goes, I was actually surprised by my checks, because I would have said that there were never any range restrictions for a 2NT opening in the ACBL. And I would have been *amazingly* wrong. On the GCC, the same "no conventions allowed" rule applied to a wide-range 2NT as applied to 1NT; with the new charts, Basic and Basic+ limit all Natural NT openings to 5 HCP. It's only the Open and Open+ that limit that restriction to 1NT openings (okay, there are restrictions to 2NT if it could be <10 HCP, lots of them; but not for 16-22). On the other hand, that gives you some idea how desired that agreement might have been.
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#16 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 21:20

In Australia a 2NT opening could easily be weak with both minors.
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#17 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 23:55

View Postpilowsky, on 2022-November-11, 23:34, said:

OK, I get it, you are hoping that after a stern telling off, the offending party will religiously adhere to the rules, fearful of your wrath.

Pfui. I'm not hoping anything, I'm doing my job.

View Postpilowsky, on 2022-November-11, 23:34, said:

What happens when they do exactly the same thing on the next board?

I tell them that if they can't play the game by the rules, they should find another hobby. And I refer the case to the appropriate disciplinary body.

View Postpilowsky, on 2022-November-11, 23:34, said:

You write that "...this one instance does not provide enough evidence to rule that something untoward went on here...".
This seems to mean that alerting is basically a guideline, a custom observed more in the breach if you're to the manner born.

Nonsense. See below.

View Postpescetom, on 2022-November-12, 07:39, said:

When blackshoe says "something untoward" I think he is not referring to the clear failure to announce but to the unclear way they reached the right contract.

Exactly right.

View Postpescetom, on 2022-November-12, 07:39, said:

We can (and probably should) penalize them anyway for the only certain offence, but it's a bit like releasing suspected bank robbers with a small fine because they left the getaway car on double white lines :)

I did say that I would issue procedural penalties for failure to follow the alerting regulations. As for the bank robbers, there's this little unimportant legal principle that says people are innocent until proven guilty. What would happen in your example case is that the minor misdemeanor would probably be ignored as a distraction from the major felony offense -- although lesser offenses can be and often are included in the charges against alleged felons.

I am not going to hang a pair because they happened to get a good board here, unless there is enough evidence to make a case for cheating or other unethical behavior. If there is enough such evidence, they get referred to the appropriate body.
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#18 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2022-November-12, 23:56

View Postjillybean, on 2022-November-12, 05:30, said:

And this is why we all should just ignore the rules. Better still, don't unfairly constrain yourself by learning the rules in the first place.

No, we shouldn't ignore the rules. We should follow them. If we ignore them, we're no better than the deliberate cheats.

At the end of the day, you have to decide what kind of person you want to be — one who endeavors to do the right thing, or one who doesn't. And if doing the right thing in bridge means you can't enjoy the game, well, that's one reason I don't play any more.
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#19 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2022-November-13, 01:07

Not everyday I get to see 'pfui' used in a sentence - thanks for that.








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#20 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-November-13, 03:30

View Postmycroft, on 2022-November-12, 19:07, said:

Unlike 1NT, 2NT is usually strong enough that the <other country> defence is defanged; nobody really has enough to consider bidding, never mind consider bidding depending on if it's 19 minimum or 20, or 22. So it doesn't happen. In the ACBL, there never has been an announcement for 2NT openings, nor have I felt or heard anyone else feeling a need for one.

And I don't think you can argue that since there's a range maximum for 1NT, that it applies - or should apply - for 2NT. I would be more than reluctant to rule it applies without evidence or clarification. But I'm not reading the regulations; maybe it does imply that.

As far as regulation goes, I was actually surprised by my checks, because I would have said that there were never any range restrictions for a 2NT opening in the ACBL. And I would have been *amazingly* wrong. On the GCC, the same "no conventions allowed" rule applied to a wide-range 2NT as applied to 1NT; with the new charts, Basic and Basic+ limit all Natural NT openings to 5 HCP. It's only the Open and Open+ that limit that restriction to 1NT openings (okay, there are restrictions to 2NT if it could be <10 HCP, lots of them; but not for 16-22). On the other hand, that gives you some idea how desired that agreement might have been.


In my tournament this afternoon, there will be at least one pair playing 2NT as 18-19 (20-21 going through Multi). Some will not expect that and would probably not ask in absence of announcements, but if opener replies to responder that he has 4 Aces then it might help to know. It's not even inconceivable that a disciplined pair with the right cards could punish 18, come to that.

More in general, almost all our openings are announced, and I regard that uniformity favourably, the last thing we need is another exception (1M in silence is 5+ cards).

As for applying 1NT criteria to 2NT in absence of guidance either way, I share your reservations: but I raised this and other points when the regulation was written and I'm still waiting for an answer, so ruling and then hopefully being appealed might clear things up for all.
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