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An overcall in NT which is natural

#1 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 05:05

WBF-like Systems and Alert policies, low level tournament where Red systems and Brown Stickers are not allowed.

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NS are playing 2/1 GF with 15-17 NT. N opens 1 in third seat announced as 2+ cards. E overcalls 1NT, S doubles (not alertable). W frowns for a whole minute and bids 3, not alerted by E (thus natural by agreement). All pass.

3 makes and is a top for EW. S looks at EW system card which says that an NT overcall is natural 15-18 with Systems On, and a 3 response to 1NT shows both minors GF. S calls the TD and argues that E had no business making a natural NT overcall with no clubs stop and 5 spades and that passing 3 was suggested by UI from his partner (W says he only took time to think). E replies that his 1NT opening with a 5332 is natural and it was evident that Systems On after intervention only refers to Stayman and Transfers, with 3 level bids natural.

Do you give credit to the arguments of S (or see some other infraction) and is there consequent damage? How do you proceed?
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#2 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 05:40

View Postpescetom, on 2023-May-21, 05:05, said:

How do you proceed?

First I would like to find out what the E-W agreements are in the analogous situation, where East opens 1NT, South makes a penalty double and West bids 3D. Even if the card says "systems on" I would not expect 3D to have the same meaning after the double as in an uncontested auction. My guess is the system card doesn't cover this auction, so I need to ask E-W. But we do have some evidence (the 3D bid and the lack of an alert) that suggests it would be natural and non-forcing - as it would be for many pairs. If they really are playing transfers over the double, 3D might even be the only way they can play a diamond partscore.

I would also like to ask N-S about their agreements about the double and whether it's forcing. My guess would be that it's not forcing at this level even if it is in some auctions. So there's no reason to think that N-S violated agreements in a way that might jeopardise an adjustment in their favour.

How about South's objections? East is certainly allowed to bid 1NT on this hand, and East is allowed to choose an action that doesn't meet South's approval. If it doesn't show a club stopper, then it probably deserves an alert. Was there damage from the failure to alert? I'm struggling to see it - clubs only has 8 tricks and I don't see a way N-S stop in 4 even if it's matchpoints. Did East have UI? Let's presume there was a hesitation, but particularly at the experience level you've given us it's not clear what it suggests. Logic tells us it's not forcing since West could have redoubled or bid clubs with a good hand. So even if there was UI that suggested passing the same message seems to be reflected in the AI.

So unless I'm missing something I think all the TD needs to do is tell E-W to alert their 1NT overcall if it doesn't show a stopper. Less experienced players sometimes have more variation in their actions, and there's nothing wrong with that.
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#3 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 06:27

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-21, 05:40, said:

First I would like to find out what the E-W agreements are in the analogous situation, where East opens 1NT, South makes a penalty double and West bids 3D. Even if the card says "systems on" I would not expect 3D to have the same meaning after the double as in an uncontested auction. My guess is the system card doesn't cover this auction, so I need to ask E-W. But we do have some evidence (the 3D bid and the lack of an alert) that suggests it would be natural and non-forcing - as it would be for many pairs. If they really are playing transfers over the double, 3D might even be the only way they can play a diamond partscore.

It turns out EW have no real agreement in the analogous situation: E plays Lebensohl with one partner but knows W would probably bid 3D as natural after the double. So it looks like the UI is not relevant, agreed.

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-21, 05:40, said:

I would also like to ask N-S about their agreements about the double and whether it's forcing. My guess would be that it's not forcing at this level even if it is in some auctions. So there's no reason to think that N-S violated agreements in a way that might jeopardise an adjustment in their favour.

Their agreement is that it says they have the balance of the points, not forcing.


View Postsfi, on 2023-May-21, 05:40, said:

So unless I'm missing something I think all the TD needs to do is tell E-W to alert their 1NT overcall if it doesn't show a stopper. Less experienced players sometimes have more variation in their actions, and there's nothing wrong with that.

That is exactly what TD did.

But:
1. is it certain that S would have doubled given the correct explanation that 1NT might not show a stopper?
2. are you comfortable that an overcall in NT which does not show a stopper is alertable (therefore not natural) yet does not qualify as a Brown Sticker under WBF Systems Policy 2.5B (by not being an overcall in no trumps which is natural) ?
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#4 User is offline   bobtehnoob 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 07:54

my partner and I play that in a contested auction where both opponents have made calls (ie 1x - 1n - (any) - ???, all systems are off REGARDLESS OF LEVEL (even over x), but there is nowhere for this to be marked on a convention card so we just don't alert or announce the bid made in the fourth seat when it happens, because they are natural and not alertable

I think asking e-w their agreements on this is most appropriate, but in general I see nothing wrong with this auction since it should be relatively clear that West's bid could not be gf based on the points everyone else was advertising in their hand

I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that a no trump overcall has no requirements in terms of stoppers, and while a spade overcall is probably better bridge, my understanding is that a no trump overcall does not necessarily need to show a stopper

I think this situation begs the question "would north-south have taken a further action if they knew definitively that 3d was just "to play"? also, did north-south ask about the 3d bid at any point? you can't always go off what's written on the card because there's a lot of nuance that can't be covered in a cc so you need to ask questions sometimes
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#5 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 09:10

View Postpescetom, on 2023-May-21, 06:27, said:

But:
1. is it certain that S would have doubled given the correct explanation that 1NT might not show a stopper?
2. are you comfortable that an overcall in NT which does not show a stopper is alertable (therefore not natural) yet does not qualify as a Brown Sticker under WBF Systems Policy 2.5B (by not being an overcall in no trumps which is natural) ?

1. What is the logic behind the implied suggestion that South would be less likely to double if 1NT may not show a stopper (I would have thought it slightly more likely, if anything)? I can see an argument that responder may be talked out of competing later in the auction on some hands, but that doesn't look plausible here.
2. Yes I'm comfortable that the potential lack of stopper does not stop it being natural. Particularly at the level of competition you're talking about, suggesting this is anything but an "overcall in no trumps which is natural" seems like punishing advancing players. Especially given that it's a 2+ 1C opening.

I'm not arguing 1NT is the "right" bid. But that's not the question the director needs to answer.
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#6 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2023-May-21, 14:36

View Postpescetom, on 2023-May-21, 06:27, said:

2. are you comfortable that an overcall in NT which does not show a stopper is alertable (therefore not natural) yet does not qualify as a Brown Sticker under WBF Systems Policy 2.5B (by not being an overcall in no trumps which is natural) ?

As I read the ABF regulations, a 1NT overcall that shows a stopper in the suit overcalled is conventional because it says something about the suit overcalled.. A 1NT opening or overcall that is balanced and says nothing about any particular suit is natural. Therefore, a 1NT overcall that does not show a stopper is alertable (Alert reg 3.3.2b), but is not Brown Sticker (System Reg 2.5b(i)).
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#7 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-22, 11:28

View Postblackshoe, on 2023-May-21, 14:36, said:

As I read the ABF regulations, a 1NT overcall that shows a stopper in the suit overcalled is conventional because it says something about the suit overcalled.. A 1NT opening or overcall that is balanced and says nothing about any particular suit is natural. Therefore, a 1NT overcall that does not show a stopper is alertable (Alert reg 3.3.2b), but is not Brown Sticker (System Reg 2.5b(i)).

This is not ABF but FIGB. The only thing the Italian regulations say about a 1NT overcall is WBF System Reg 2.5b and the only relevant thing about alertability is to alert "conventional calls". There is no attempt to define natural in any context, although there is a fairly strong national consensus on what is natural and what is not.

FWIW, I have not found a local certified Director who would not require an alert here, although not many would go the Brown Sticker route either. Not sure I can honestly reconcile the two, so I was curious to hear outside opinions on this aspect of the incident.
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#8 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-22, 14:30

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-21, 09:10, said:

1. What is the logic behind the implied suggestion that South would be less likely to double if 1NT may not show a stopper (I would have thought it slightly more likely, if anything)? I can see an argument that responder may be talked out of competing later in the auction on some hands, but that doesn't look plausible here.

The agreement that a 1NT overcall neither promises nor denies a stop had some diffusion in Italy and is still played by some of our older players. To be honest I have never analysed it fully nor given it much attention: I never saw it mentioned in a bridge book or reputable online source and my instinct is that it makes little sense if disclosed. I imagine however that if S doubles then EW are off the hook, as West can now pass with almost any hand and East can redouble to require takeout. So I'm not sure that South would have done well to double given a correct explanation, just as I'm not sure that West did well to bid after double, although I have less doubt that it was wise to do so slowly :) Would a number of peers of South (not a bidding theorist, but pretty smart) have passed with this hand, given the correct explanation, and if so what would have happened? I don't know, but it probably is relevant.

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-21, 09:10, said:

2. Yes I'm comfortable that the potential lack of stopper does not stop it being natural. Particularly at the level of competition you're talking about, suggesting this is anything but an "overcall in no trumps which is natural" seems like punishing advancing players. Especially given that it's a 2+ 1C opening.

Thanks, I was asking for such opinions about whether or not it stopped the call being natural, which is one core question. Although East advanced decades ago (unlike West) and I don't share your confidence that a 2+ 1C opening can be cheerfully overcalled NT without a stop (there is 50% probability a priori that it has 5+ cards, more if you hold 2 cards like East).
But you elude another core question: if the potential lack of a stopper is natural, was there any reason to alert the agreement as conventional?
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#9 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2023-May-22, 23:47

I guess I mixed up two threads, or two RAs.
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#10 User is offline   sanst 

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Posted 2023-May-23, 02:17

If you really follow the WBF alerting policy, this 1Nt overcall shouldnít be alerted, assuming itís natural. Of course Ďnaturalí should be defined, but itís not, so itís anybodyís guess whether this is 1NT natural or not. I would say it is, but who am I to say so?
From the WBF Alerting Policy:

Quote

2. Policy
The following classes of calls should be alerted:
i Artificial bids should be alerted, natural bids should not.
Ii Those calls (i.e., bids, passes, doubles or redoubles) which have special meanings or which are based on or lead to special understandings between the partners. (A player may not make a call or play based on a special partnership understanding unless an opposing pair may reasonably be expected to understand its meaning, or unless his side discloses the use of such call or play in accordance with the regulations of the Regulating Authority). See also Law 40B.
Ö
Players must also respect the spirit of the Policy as well as the letter.

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#11 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2023-May-23, 09:47

View Postpescetom, on 2023-May-21, 05:05, said:

3 makes and is a top for EW.
Yeah, so?

Quote

S looks at EW system card which says that an NT overcall is natural 15-18 with Systems On, and a 3 response to 1NT shows both minors GF.
Okay. The ACBL CC has a place for "systems on after", and one for "other", usually used to describe what they do after double. Not sure about the FIGB card.

Quote

S calls the TD and argues that E had no business making a natural NT overcall with no clubs stop and 5 spades
"They bid like crazy people and got a good score! Against us! No fair!"

Quote

and that passing 3 was suggested by UI from his partner (W says he only took time to think).
Okay, sure. But let's see what happens after double of a NT opener. And then take it to anybody to see if, after an opening, 16 high, and a penalty double, they would say "well, of course, it's still game forcing." What kind of hand would bid that - and not 5 (say, on AK-ninth), or "transfer and second suit GF" (say on AT-sixth KT-sixth) so they must want to keep 3NT in play - that wouldn't send it back? Or is South wanting the clearly imaginative (or just hidebound and bad) pair to SB their way to stupidity?

Quote

E replies that his 1NT opening with a 5332 is natural and it was evident that Systems On after intervention only refers to Stayman and Transfers, with 3 level bids natural.
I'm not sure I agree with this one, but it could be true. But after the double, there just aren't enough points in the deck.

Quote

Do you give credit to the arguments of S (or see some other infraction) and is there consequent damage? How do you proceed?
If 1NT not guaranteeing a stopper is Alertable, then they didn't Alert it. I don't see the damage there, though - as others have said, doesn't that make double *safer*?
What is their defence to opening 1NT-X? And (yeah, sure, but ask) do they have a different agreement after 1m-1NT-X?
I think 3 is insane, but maybe it plays better than 3 from the strong hand, because West gets to hide exactly how bad their hand is. Certainly sitting seems silly (even if it is only -1,with the lucky spade split).
Sure East has UI that West doesn't know what to do with his bad 2-5 count. But where is she going to go? Or are we going to argue that "it's possible that North psyched his opening, and West does have a GF, and an immediate, simple 3 would have shown that"? Again, remember the blue card is in the box (and if they're not playing a runout after double, then XX is to play).

Sure, try to convince me otherwise. But I'm thinking more and more that someone should photocopy that chapter of Simon and give it to all the "experts" in this club.
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#12 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2023-May-23, 16:59

View Postpescetom, on 2023-May-22, 14:30, said:

But you elude another core question: if the potential lack of a stopper is natural, was there any reason to alert the agreement as conventional?

Isnít there something about alerting natural bids with potentially unexpected meanings? Thatís why I would expect an alert for 1NT. After all, a stopper is rarely required to make 7 tricks if you have enough in the other suits. The reason most people show a stopper is because their real target is 3NT.

If you really think about it, having 1NT show 15-18 (or whatever range you want) is itself conventional. Itís just so common that the collective bridge world has redefined it as natural and defined a truly natural interpretation (I think we can take 7 tricks) as conventional. And we even regulate which types of hands can make this natural bid. But thatís a different rabbit hole to fall into.
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#13 User is offline   peterb001 

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Posted 2023-May-23, 17:29

I do expect a 1NT overcall to show a stop in the opponent's suit. However since this is a potentially a short club, you don't yet know what suit that is, so I wouldn't have a major problem with partner bidding it without a club stop. However I would go with others and overcall 1S with this hand.
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#14 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2023-May-23, 18:13

View Postblackshoe, on 2023-May-22, 23:47, said:

I guess I mixed up two threads, or two RAs.

They're both derived from the WBF regulations, but I think the ABF has added some detail in areas like this. Given that the person in charge of the ABF regulations is also heavily involved at the WBF-level, the detail is likely to be consistent. But they aren't quite the same.
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#15 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-24, 08:02

View Postpeterb001, on 2023-May-23, 17:29, said:

However since this is a potentially a short club, you don't yet know what suit that is, so I wouldn't have a major problem with partner bidding it without a club stop.

Not a key issue for this discussion (EW have the same agreement after a 1 opening), but FWIW as mentioned to another poster I think it is unwise to assume that a short club will likely be short: the probability that S holds 5+ cards in clubs is 50%.
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#16 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-24, 08:11

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-23, 18:13, said:

They're both derived from the WBF regulations, but I think the ABF has added some detail in areas like this. Given that the person in charge of the ABF regulations is also heavily involved at the WBF-level, the detail is likely to be consistent. But they aren't quite the same.


The person who made the few important FIGB modifications to WBF policy is also heavily involved at WBF-level. But they don't (I think by choice) add any detail to the Natural/Artificial dichotomy nor attempt to define natural in any way. There's a strong national conviction (right or wrong) that natural is self-defining.
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#17 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2023-May-24, 08:57

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-23, 16:59, said:

Isn’t there something about alerting natural bids with potentially unexpected meanings?

Not quite. What is there is calls that are artificial and calls that are based upon a special partnership understanding. Law 40B1b says that the RA may designate an understanding as special if it retains that the meaning may not be readily understood and anticipated by a significant number of players in the tournament. But nowhere does the RA designate this as a special partnership understanding that I can see.

View Postsfi, on 2023-May-23, 16:59, said:

If you really think about it, having 1NT show 15-18 (or whatever range you want) is itself conventional. It’s just so common that the collective bridge world has redefined it as natural and defined a truly natural interpretation (I think we can take 7 tricks) as conventional. And we even regulate which types of hands can make this natural bid. But that’s a different rabbit hole to fall into.

Yes and no. I agree that natural is one huge rabbit hole, particular when you get to bids that have no natural justification and therefore must be artificial (but with an 'obvious' meaning). And of course it's hard to avoid the short-circuit natural = what we think is normal. But I don't find the basic idea that natural is self-definining absurd, FWIW.
I think of natural as how two expert whist players would bid (playing for money) if bridge had been invented that morning and the laws and scoring system carefully explained. So open 1 in a 4+ card suit with about a quarter of the honours, counting to make 7 tricks more often that not, and so on. Yes I agree that setting an arbitrary HCP range on a 1NT overcall is conventional, but the strength needed for it to make 7 tricks probable is naturally defined (almost half the pack) and I don't think our whist experts would risk their money without a stop even then.
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#18 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2023-May-26, 17:02

A NT overcall is usually assumed to have a stopper because if you don't have one, there will usually be a better alternative, such as a suit overcall or a takeout double.

But I'm pretty sure I've bid 1NT occasionally over 1 with 3=3=4=3 and no club stopper, even when it wasn't a short club. "Stoppers are for wimps."

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