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Lesson / Assisted Play
Lesson / Assisted Play

Thursday afternoons 1.30–4.00

Lessons (£10 pp) alternate with Assisted Play sessions (£7 pp)

Tutors: Christine MacFarlane, Trevor Purches

1st & 3rd Thursdays Lesson – all other Thursdays Assisted Play

For more information, contact Christine.macf@btinternet.com

Mini-lesson + Assisted Play
Mini-lesson + Assisted Play

Monday evenings 6.45–9.30

Each session starts with a short discussion of one of last week's hands, followed by 14 hands of assisted play.

Tutors: Christine MacFarlane, Chris Jones and Trevor Purches.

Cost: £7 pp, including refreshments

For more information, contact Christine.macf@btinternet.com or chris@boxbridge.co.uk

Gentle Duplicate

GD week 11: I hesitate to say this ...

... but it’s time to revisit a situation we encountered in GD week 5: You’re not allowed to know that!, which was about unauthorised information (UI).

You’re sitting West. After 1NT - pass - pass, would you pass too – or bid 2? You could go for either, though pass might be wiser: NS could, after all, have most of the points. 

Let’s do it again. The auction’s the same, but this time your partner ponders for 20 seconds or so before – a tad reluctantly, perhaps – reaching for the Pass card. Does this make a difference? 

Well, it does, doesn’t it? This time, from your partner’s hesitation, you know that she has points – probably opening points and no long suit. Which means that 2 from you is now an excellent bid – and pretty certain to score better than 1NT going off by NS.

The trouble is, your partner’s queered your pitch. If you bid 2 now (which maybe you were going to do anyway), it’ll look as if you’re taking advantage of the UI she’s just given you. What to do? And what does the law-book say?

Directors and mind-reading

Let’s suppose I’m directing. You do bid 2, get raised to 3 and make 9 tricks. At the end your opponents, quite reasonably, call me over.

Being a mere director, and not a clairvoyant, I don’t know what was going on in your mind when you bid 2. Would you have bid it if partner hadn’t hesitated? And if not, were you influenced by it subconsciously? Or did you ‘field’ (= deliberately take advantage of) the hesitation? I simply have no idea – nor do I particularly want to know!

Law 16 to the rescue ...

Fortunately for everyone concerned, the law-book doesn’t require me to make moral judgments; merely to protect NS from any possible damage arising from the UI – to restore equity. The wording of the law’s a bit abstruse *, but on this hand it comes down to this:

  • If 2 is a no-brainer – that is, if anyone in the room would have bid it in their sleep, partner hesitating or not – then the bid stands. If you held A5 AQJ964 9 J1083, for example.
  • But if there is more than one reasonable call for you to choose from, then you may not choose one that is suggested by your partner’s hesitation. On this hand, as we’ve seen, 2 is by no means a no-brainer. Pass is an eminently reasonable alternative. And since 2 is certainly suggested by East’s hesitation, and you have an alternative call available, you can’t bid it. Period.

So my ruling would change your 2 bid to ‘pass’ and adjust the score to 1NT by N going (say) 1 off: +50 for you instead of +140 **. Note that there’s no question of your having misbehaved in any way:
no-one’s accusing anyone of anything – you’re simply not allowed to bid 2
 and that’s that.

What to do, then?

This raises all sorts of questions. Can’t I stop to think before bidding? Can’t I bid on after partner hesitates? And if my opponent hesitates, how should I handle it? Answers next week.

cj 13 November 2019

__________________________________________________
* Law 16 C (2) A player of an offending side may not choose a call or play that is demonstrably suggested over another by unauthorized information if the other call or play is a logical alternative.

** I’m only intervening here because NS might have been damaged by the UI. If instead 3 goes off and NS end up with a good score, then good luck to them!

GD week 10: The other UI – Unwanted Information

‘We should have been in six.’

‘You’ve got an 18-count – you have to bid game!’

‘Sorry, partner – I didn’t realise your diamond was a singleton.’

As the hands end, the post-mortems begin and unwanted information wafts across the room. How far it wafts depends upon the timbre of the speaker and the general noise level, but it’s more than likely to reach the ears of the players at the next table – who are about to play those very hands.

Not all overheard remarks will be as damaging as those above, but you see the difficulty. If you know in advance that your hand’s worth a slam, it’s desperately hard to force yourself to ‘unknow’ it. If you bid the slam, you’ll never know whether you would have done without the UI. if you don’t, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s an impossible situation.

But isn’t UI authorised for innocent parties? Not in this case, no, as it gives you an unfair advantage over equally innocent opponents – and, indeed, over the rest of the room. The law book (law 16D, if you’re interested) rules out taking advantage of any accidentally received information, including overheard remarks.

What to do?

Well, they’re not intentionally setting out to spoil your morning’s bridge. People often don’t realise they’re talking loudly, especially if they’re hard of hearing – and let’s face it, some voices simply carry further than others … So initially, a polite request is in order:

Could you please not discuss the hands as we’re about to play them?

But if they’re at it again the next round, ask the director to have a word.

And if you overhear anything crucial, you must call the director – who, as always, will ensure that neither you nor your opponents are damaged. There might be a fine at the next table, though …

Partner to the rescue?  If the ‘voice’ happens to belong to your partner, you’re probably best placed to say something without giving offence. Just a thought!

Bridgemate readings

The ritual version of Unwanted Information is the reading aloud of all the previous results of the hand from the Bridgemate. This is quite unnecessary as they can be read by everyone silently, if the handset remains flat on the table. OK, not everyone can read the BM display easily – in which case sotto voce should be the intoner’s watchword. Talking of which …

‘I’m all right, Jack’

Between hands, the noise level rises slightly as players chat before starting the next hand, but it comes and goes, as tables finish at different times. At the end of the round, however, it rises and rises as more and more tables finish play and can reach a painful crescendo. And if you’re one of the tables still playing, it can be very difficult to concentrate on what you’re doing.

So by all means chat when you’re done, but quietly, please, so as not to disturb those still thinking.

Sitting out? If you’re sitting out, the same applies. You’ll probably want to chat, but at a volume that’s audible to your partner, not the surrounding tables. When I’m trying to make 4, I don’t want to be trying to block out the gory details of your latest holiday …

Pots and kettles …

Do I sense a raised eyebrow or three? As a well-known source of unwanted (and unauthorised) information, I can see I’ve just laid myself wide open. But from now on …

cj 06 November 2019

GD week 9: Alerting at the double

We saw in GD Week 3 that we alert bids that have a different meaning from what we’d expect. But what about doubles? What’s the ‘normal’ meaning for a double? The answer turns out to be pretty simple: just think what it means if your partner doubles their opening (a) 1 and (b) 1NT.

Doubling 1 is for takeout, isn’t it? While doubling 1NT is for penalties. And that’s about it:

  • The normal meaning of a double of a suit bid is for takeout. So that doesn’t need alerting.
    But if your partner doubles a suit bid for penalties, you DO alert it.
  • The normal meaning of a double of a NT bid is for penalties. So that doesn’t need alerting.
    But if your partner doubles a NT bid and it isn’t for penalties, you DO alert it.

This is good news, because it means that most of the time you won’t need to alert your partner’s doubles. Let’s see some examples.

Doubles of a suit bid

Which of these doubles do you think need alerting? Your answers will, of course, depend on what system you and your partner play. Those below are my answers – not necessarily yours!

A      South’s double is a ‘negative double’ showing 4+ hearts – it’s not for penalties, so no alert.

B      East’s first double is for takeout. Her second is simply a repeat – ‘Come on, partner, I thought I told you to bid something!’ Neither is for penalties, so neither is alerted.

C      This is a ‘reopening double’ – North’s got a strong hand and wants a bid from partner. No alert.

D      This shows a development of auction C. South has obediently shown her best suit (presumably she can’t support hearts) and West has s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to 3. North’s second double is surely for penalties – not the normal meaning of a suit double – and so must be alerted.

Doubles of a NT bid

And what about these? Again, these are my answers.

E       South’s double is for penalties – the normal meaning, so no alert.

F       Tricky, this one. I take the X in this sequence as a takeout double of the original suit bid. Technically, though, it’s a double of 1NT, of which is not the normal meaning: so alert needed.

G      It looks as if West has something like AQJxx and an outside entry and thinks she can take 3NT off. So it’s for penalties – the normal meaning of a NT double, so no alert.

Questions

The next bidder can, of course, ask the meaning of the double. We’ll have more about asking (and answering) questions in a future posting.

Meanwhile, BreXit looms (ish) … would that be for takeout or penalties?

cj 31 October 2019

GD week 8: Everyone on board

The reason we’re all here is to get our hands on the hands. These come our way in boards, which, if handled sensibly, will provide you with an enjoyable and seamless game of bridge …

If you’re North, it’s down to you to check that you have the right boards – and the right opponents. Easily done, as you’re in charge of the Bridgemate. I know, it seems obvious – but disasters DO happen, as I’m willing to bet you know from bitter experience … So please check – every round!

It’s also down to you to position the boards ready for play. Whether you prefer to have both on the table or just one at a time, make sure each one’s placed in the centre in the correct orientation. *

How many players need to be at the table before you can take out the hands? Well, at least one from each pair – otherwise skulduggery is possible. But courtesy would dictate waiting until all four players are present. Practicality, too: it’s not as if you can get far with a player missing …

Before you count your points count your cards. Without looking at them.** If a ‘misboarding’ is spotted before the cards are seen it’s simple to correct. Afterwards, it’s much trickier and may result in the board not being played.

When dummy goes down …

This is the big one. The law book says that the board must stay where it is – in the centre of the table and in the correct orientation. In practice, it’s often moved; sometimes just a few inches N, S, E or W to make more room for dummy, which is fine – and sometimes down towards a corner, which shouldn’t happen, even if it stays in the right orientation. Best not to do it.

What is absolutely NOT OK is to turn the board through 90° or remove it from the table altogether. This is just asking for the hands to be returned to the wrong slots – which, if it’s not spotted for a while, can invalidate the play of the hand not only at the next table, but for the whole room.

Very bad feeling – and penalties – can result. So play safe. Leave the board in the right place. You can insist on this, whether you’re North or not.

At close of play shuffle your cards before returning them to the slot you took them from. Much cleverer players than I am have been known to infer (unauthorised!) information from the order the cards were played at the last table. And if they’re sorted into suits, it’s no great feat to deduce that the hand was passed out the previous round.

And if there’s the slightest chance that any of your cards might have been mixed up with someone else’s, it’s best to count them again just to be on the safe side. **

At the end of the round it’s North’s responsibility to ensure that the boards go to the correct table for the next round. Even if you’re a ‘temporary’ North. And in order of play, please: board 3 on top, board 4 underneath – not the other way around!

Sitting out? The law book says you DON’T mess with boards you’re not playing, and that’s Bath BC policy, too. It’s so easy for the hands to be returned to the board in the wrong slots. Whether your director’s happy for you to practise your bidding on the sit-out hands, you can always ask. But if the answer’s yes, you sure as hell need to make sure they go back the way they came out!

cj 23 October 2019


* If you discover too late that the board’s done a NS flip, it’s not the end of the world. Just go ahead and play it – remembering to designate the declarer as indicated by the board (ie the partner of the actual declarer); otherwise the opening lead won’t be accepted by your Bridgemate.

** In the real world, there are penalties for ‘misboarding’, looking at hands before you’ve counted the cards, etc. These may be a couple of matchpoints or a 40% score for the guilty party. Whether your GD director will insist on these, I don’t know, but it’s good to get into good habits anyway …

GD week 7: Insufficient bid!

Which of these three auctions would you say is/are in need of intervention by the director?

Instinctively, you’d probably say ‘All of them!’ as they all contain an illegally made bid – an ‘insufficient bid’ of 1 by South. In fact, only A requires the director. The others are, oddly enough, perfectly in order and are probably the result of the director’s intervention.

How come?

Because if you’ve made an insufficient bid, the first thing the director will say is that the next bidder (your LHO – here, West) is entitled to accept the bid and continue as if it had been legal. *

So what you CAN’T do is say ‘Oh sorry, I’ll make it good’ and reach for the 2 bid. It’s out of your hands – it’s your LHO who’ll decide what happens next.

Why would the LHO want to accept the bid?

Well, it might be to her advantage to do so. If she’s very weak with no club support, for instance, passing over 1 lets EW off the hook, as in auction B. Or if she’s weak with club support, she can get that across with a ‘raise’ of partner’s clubs to 2 – as in the rather weird auction C.

Before accepting and bidding on, though, she’d be well advised to hear the director out …

What if the LHO doesn’t accept the bid?

Then you have to retract it and substitute a legal call.

  • If you can dredge up something that (in the director’s view) means roughly the same as the illegal bid – what the law book calls a ‘comparable call’ – then the auction can simply resume.
  • If you can’t, you can make any legal call you like, but your partner will then be silenced (ie will have to pass) for the rest of the auction.

What would be a ‘comparable call’ in this case?

2 would probably fit the bill.

What about X? Would that be a comparable call? Well, if your negative double merely shows 4+ spades, then it would, I think. But if it shows ‘spades and diamonds’ then it wouldn’t, because that has a wider meaning than the original bid. If in doubt, whisper in the director’s ear and ask.

Why all these options?

As always, it’s to do with transmitting unauthorised information (UI). The offending side isn’t allowed to profit by it, while the non-offending side is – hence the initial choice offered to the LHO.

One final i to dot (or t to cross):

What if the LHO doesn’t spot the insufficient bid …

… and bids or passes before anyone points it out? The answer’s simple enough: she’s deemed to have accepted the bid and the auction just carries on as if nothing untoward had happened. It’s still worth bringing to the attention of the director, mind. Just to be sure!

cj 16 October 2019


* This also happens when someone bids or leads out of turn, as we’ll see in future posts.

GD week 6: Bidding outside the box

The crucial thing about the bidding box is to make sure it clicks shut properly, so that if you pick it up the cards don’t all fall on the floor. Other than that, it’s simplicity itself: just lay your bids/calls on the table in front of you facing your partner, overlapping so as not to obscure your previous bids/calls, and hey presto – at the end you have a perfectly preserved record of the auction.

A bid is legally made …

… once the card is clear of the box. It doesn’t matter whether anyone has seen it yet – once there’s air between it and the box, it’s done.

‘Thinking with your fingers’

It’s only natural to fiddle while you’re thinking, and the bidding box provides a handy set of worry beads to play with. The trouble is, such fiddling can be a source of UI (unauthorised information) which might end up embarrassing your partner. If you start fingering the bids, for example, then plump for a PASS card, there’s a clear inference that you’ve nearly got a bid. Or if you half lift out a PASS card, then opt for a bid instead, you’re obviously at the lower end …

The solution, of course, is to keep your hands to yourself and reach for the bidding box only when you’ve decided what to bid. Yes, I know, it’s easy to forget, and at GD we’re very understanding, but it’s a good habit to start trying to get into.

Other body language

As with everything in bridge, the trick is just to do what you’re doing without adding anything into the mix. If you lay down your 3NT bid firmly, keeping your thumb pressed on it while giving partner eye-contact, you’re kinda telling her she should pass. A SLAMMED DOWN double is likely to be for penalties. And if, after a mere glance at your hand, you sigh and carelessly toss a PASS card onto the table, well … you haven’t got two points to add together, have you? So avoid the theatrics. They can make life difficult for your partner as well as telling opponents things they don’t deserve to know.

Oops!

We all pull out the wrong bidding card from time to time. What to do?

Often, it’ll be an insufficient bid. Just call the director, who’ll get it untangled for you.

Sometimes, you’ll simply have accidentally pulled out the wrong card. Maybe you meant to open a weak 2♠ and 2 came out instead. Again, explain that you’ve made a mechanical error and call the director. Providing partner hasn’t yet made her next call, you’ll be allowed to correct it.

What you can’t do, however, is change your mind. If you notice a hidden Ace in your hand – or an opponent’s unseen bid – after you’ve made your bid, that’s too bad. You just have to live with it.

When the auction is over …

… there’s a chance to ask questions about the auction. But you can only do that if it’s still there! So leave your bidding cards on the table until the opening lead is faced (ie turned over). Then put them back in the box.

The ALERT and STOP cards

The ALERT is simple enough: display the card until you’re sure that it’s been seen by both opponents.

The STOP card, however, is a topic in its own right …

cj 09 October 2019

GD week 5: You’re not allowed to know that!

Let’s start with the obvious. To play a bridge hand sensibly, you need information. For which the primary sources are the bids the players make and the cards they play. You already know your own bidding and carding systems, and you’re entitled to be told about your opponents’.

All fine. All of these things are information that you’re entitled to use: it’s all authorised information.

But as you’ll be aware, this is often not the only information on offer. People sigh, groan, bid or play excessively fast or slowly, fiddle with bidding boxes, roll their eyes, shake their heads – you name it. They also occasionally make slips: bid or play out of turn, make insufficient bids, inadvertently play two cards instead of one, fail to alert or alert wrongly … the list goes on.

These behaviours also convey information, but of a different kind: unauthorised information, or UI. And whole swathes of the laws of bridge are designed to ensure that no unfair advantage goes to the pair from whom unauthorised information comes. Here’s an outrageous example:

‘Another b**** Yarborough!’

Imagine that your partner picks up his hand and while sorting audibly mutters the above. Unforgivable! For some reason the director isn’t called. Your RHO is dealer and passes. You hold a balanced 13-count. What do you do? Partner has zero points, so the opposition have enough for game and your 1NT is certain to get doubled and may go for a huge penalty …

So do you open 1NT? Or pass?

You open 1NT. The fact that partner has zero points is unauthorised information to you, because it didn’t come from a bid or a card played. You’re ‘not allowed to know it’. So for you it didn’t happen.

If you pass instead, you’re ‘fielding’ the unauthorised information – that is, making illegal use of it – and your opponents should call the director at the end of play.

One further but crucial point: let’s say you pass and they end up in 3NT. Though your partner’s zero count is unauthorised information to you, it is authorised to your opponents. They’re entitled to know that you have every one of the missing 13 points and play the cards accordingly.

So an important distinction: information that is unauthorised to the ‘offending’ side is authorised to the ‘non-offending’ side.

Back in the real world …

… let’s take a quick look at two more typical UI situations.

  • It goes 1NT-3NT, it’s your lead … and your partner leads the 3. Simply call the director. Your opponents will be offered a number of choices which will ensure that you can’t use the UI you’ve received – that your partner fancies hearts – to your advantage (though declarer can). And this goes for pretty well any infringement during the auction or play: let the director sort it out.
  • They open 1NT, your partner goes into a huddle for 30 seconds … and finally passes. As does your RHO. You’ve got a fairly threadbare 2 overcall. Do you bid it? Difficult, isn’t it? Your partner’s entitled to take time to think, but in doing so has inadvertently given you UI (that she’s probably got an opening hand). If you bid your ropy 2, are you now fielding that UI?

That last example is a topic in its own right, and we’ll be coming back to it.

Implications for GD

At GD we’re playing ‘proper’ bridge and are therefore striving for fairness. So …

  • … go easy on the body language and do your best to bid and play ‘in tempo’. But hey – we’re all human: UI’s going to happen and we shouldn’t get too uptight about it.
  • … if you get UI from your partner, try to ignore it: bid and play as if it hadn’t happened.
  • … if you feel that you’ve been ‘damaged’ by UI, call the director – but gently does it. Less experienced players may have no idea that anything untoward has happened.

cj 01 October 2019

GD week 4 Dumb down as dummy

Bridge is a game that demands intelligence, initiative and imagination, but not when you’re dummy. All that’s required is that you lay down your cards neatly when the opening lead is faced, with trumps to your right, and then play the cards declarer tells you to play. Indeed, with a very few exceptions, that’s all you’re permitted to do.

But what if someone does something wrong? Can’t I point it out? Nope. Not your job. Not till the end of the hand, anyway. You can, however, try to ‘prevent an irregularity from occurring’. Which amounts to the following:

Dummy can (but doesn’t have to) …

  • … enquire ‘Having no (hearts), partner?’ if declarer shows out of a suit – to prevent a revoke.
  • … point out that declarer has the previous trick the wrong way round – but only the previous trick, not any earlier tricks. It’s up to declarer, not you, to keep an accurate trick count.
  • … warn declarer if it looks as if she’s about to lead from the wrong hand.

And that’s about it. Almost anything else is expressly forbidden. Don’t ‘tut’ or roll your eyes if declarer plays a card you disapprove of. If you want to count your tricks, do it in your head, not with your fingers: ‘Are you keeping count of the tricks so far, partner …?’ And if she’s already led (or specified a lead) from the wrong hand, it’s out of your hands: just go along with it.

In particular, dummy must not …

… anticipate which card declarer will choose to play next, either by actually playing the card, touching it or ‘hovering’ nearby. Obviously, any blatant hinting would amount to cheating, but it’s only too easy, if you’re following declarer’s line of play, to play a card inadvertently in auto-pilot mode. She’s started to clear trumps, so you assume she wants another trump … Or all the clubs have gone, so dummy’s ♣52 are good, and declarer will presumably want to cash them before leaving dummy … Uh huh – hands off! You may have been counting but maybe declarer hasn’t.

If it happens and the defence think they might have been damaged …

… the Director should be summoned forthwith and informed of the action. Play continues. At the end of the play the Director shall award an adjusted score if he considers dummy suggested a play to declarer and the defenders were damaged by the play suggested. (Law 45F)

Which card to play?

If she really wants to, declarer can prod the card she wants you to play, but she’ll usually just say it, preferably explicitly: ‘The Ace of clubs’, ‘the 3 of hearts’ … But what if she’s not explicit?

If declarer says …

it’s taken to mean …

‘play high’

play the highest card in the suit

‘play low’ / ‘play small’

play the lowest card in the suit

‘win the trick’

play the lowest card that will win the trick

‘lead the Queen’

play the Q of the same suit as the last trick

‘lead a diamond’

play the lowest diamond


So if the ♥ A K J 3 is on the table and declarer asks you to ‘lead a heart’, DON’T ask ‘Which one?’ – which could be taken as a hint to partner to lead the Ace. Instead, lead the 3. You’ll find out soon enough if that was what she meant. Declarers take note!

All pretty straightforward, really.

cj 24 September 2019

GD Week 3 – Announcing & Alerting: why, who and when?

The Why? and Who? are simple enough, but the When? takes a bit of getting used to …

Why? We announce/alert for the benefit of our opponents, who are entitled to know what all our bids mean – if a partnership had bids with ‘secret’ meanings, this would clearly be unfair.

Who? If I make a bid, my partner announces/alerts. (If I did it myself, I’d be tipping off partner as well as my opponents – which would be ‘unauthorised information’, of which much more anon.)

We announce …

  • the strength of certain opening bids,notably 1NT, 2NT and natural opening 2-bids.
    1NT/2NT openers: Partner announces ’12-14’, ‘20-22’ as per your system.
    Opening 2-bids: Partner announces ‘Weak’, ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Strong’. Mostly it’ll be ‘Weak’.
  • the commonest conventional bids over 1/2NT openings: 2♣ Stayman and 2/2 major suit transfers. (3♣, 3/ over opening 2NT). Examples:
    After your 1NT opening partner bids 2♣ – you announce ‘Stayman’.
    After your 2NT opening, partner bids 3 – you announce ‘Spades’.

This isn’t the whole story, but will get you through 99% of GD auctions. A couple of cautions:

  We ONLY announce OPENING BIDS and the BASIC responses to opening 1NT/2NT listed above.
We DON’T announce the strength of REBIDS (eg partner’s 1NT rebid) or OVERCALLS (eg partner’s 2♠ jump overcall over an opponent’s opening 1).
Similarly, Stayman and transfers over a NT rebid are NOT announced, but alerted instead.

 
 

DON’T FAIL TO ANNOUNCE when appropriate. If, for example, you don’t announce partner’s 2 response to your 1NT as a transfer to hearts, you’re actually telling the opposition (wrongly) that it’s a natural 2 bid. This can lead to fun and games involving the director …

We alert …

  • conventional bids other than the ones we announce. There are lots of these, including:
    – the strong artificial opening 2♣ (and 2 if you play Benji Acol) and any artificial responses.
    – the 2NT Ogust enquiry over partner’s weak 2 opening (and partner’s responses).
    – 2♣ Landy, Asptro, etc, over an opponent’s opening 1NT.
    – cue bids, splinter bids, Ghestem (ELH) bids, unassuming cue bids … the list goes on.

A conventional bid is any bid that doesn’t mean what it says (like those above) OR that contains extra meaning over and above the obvious. For example, in ‘Multi-Landy’ a 2/♠ overcall of an opponent’s opening 1NT shows 5 hearts/spades AND a 4-card minor. You therefore have to alert it.

As with announcing, DON’T FAIL TO ALERT when appropriate – before your RHO bids, if possible. And DON’T ANNOUNCE when you should alert. If an opponent needs more info, she can ask you when it’s her turn to bid.


Alerting: the small print

In case you’re thinking that’s all pretty straightforward, there are a couple of annoying exceptions:

  • Once the auction has gone beyond game level (3NT), bids are not alerted, even if they’re conventional (Blackwood’s the most common at this level). BUT
  • conventional bids in the ‘first round of bidding’ are alertable, whether above game level or not. So if you open 1♠ and partner goes straight for Blackwood 4NT, you must alert it. Such is life.

That’s plenty for now. Later we’ll look at alerting doubles, asking questions, and what happens when alerting/announcing goes wrong (which it will!) Meanwhile, happy announcing and alerting.

cj 16 September 2019

Gentle Duplicate Intro part 2: Directors, players and laws

When you first come to duplicate, there’s a lot to take in. Many of the rules and procedures will be unfamiliar – and some may at first seem downright daft. They’re not, though. The laws of bridge, together with the procedures that make up ‘best behaviour at bridge’, are designed to ensure a fair contest on a level playing field. If they’re respected, you get a fair and enjoyable game. If they’re not … well, that’s when the unfairness – and the resulting unhappiness and resentment – creep in.

So it’s important to get a feel for what’s expected and to practise getting it right, till it becomes a habit. Most of the things you need to know – of which more in future weeks – can be picked up at the table from other players without bothering the director.

The time you need the director is when something goes wrong. Which it does, whatever your level, quite often! And when it does, you simply call the director.

The director knows best

Most of the time, it’ll be a simple mistake in bidding (eg a bid out of turn, an insufficient bid) or play (eg a revoke, a lead out of turn). Easy peasy – directors deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis.

Sometimes, it’s a bit trickier. Maybe someone feels ‘damaged’ because a bid wasn’t alerted. Or because someone has inadvertently given away ‘unauthorised information’. Or declarer’s claimed the rest of the tricks and has forgotten an outstanding trump. Again, the director has the skills, experience – and authority – to resolve the problem, restore equity and smooth ruffled feathers.

Note the key phrase: the laws are not designed to ‘punish’ players for ‘doing something wrong’, but to get the hand going again and restore equity. That way, the ‘innocent’ parties get their issue dealt without feeling hard done by, and those that made the mistake can accept that things have been put right – and you may even have learned something useful in the process!

A couple of other important points here:

  • When a mistake occurs, the director must be called. Even if there’s an off-duty EBU director at the table. The (lead out of turn) has brought the hand to a halt, and only the director – there’s only one! – is authorised to bring it back to life again. Don’t try to deal with it ‘at the table’.
  • Other situations (eg where you’re worried you may have been ‘damaged’ or may have damaged your opponent) are a bit more fluid, but if in doubt, call the director anyway.

With Gentle Duplicate, I’d add another circumstance, expressly for less experienced players: if you’re feeling confused about something – maybe if you’re being told something that doesn’t seem to make sense – the director will be only too happy to sort it out for you.

How to call the director

I know. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But I can recall occasions when a player’s slammed his cards down on the table without warning and bellowed ‘DirecTAH!’ Talk about intimidating. Anyone calling me in that manner would be getting a yellow card. No GD player would dream of summoning Rita or John in such a way, I know, but here are some simple guidelines:

  • Quietly tell the other players you think the director should be called, maybe with a brief explanation: ‘I think there’s been a revoke.’ or ‘It was my lead, actually.’
  • Raise your hand and call the director in a clearly audible but calm voice, adding a ‘please’ at the end: ‘Director, please.’
  • If that still seems a bit sharp, try: ‘Can you help us here, John?’, ‘Rita, have you got a minute?’ …

The upshot of all this is that calling the director isn’t a way of browbeating people or assigning blame. It’s a normal part of your bridge game and in many circumstances the only way to go.

Cherish your director!

cj 10 September 2019

Gentle Duplicate revisited – an introduction

Thursday morning Gentle Duplicate, which started life on 19 May 2016 with just 4 tables, has grown steadily into one of our most popular sessions, these days regularly attracting 12 or more tables.

Now, as then, participants are a mixture of less experienced players seeking to improve and more experienced players who enjoy daytime bridge. It should be (and has been) a great mix – the improvers learning from the experienced – but there’s been a growing feeling in recent months that a bit of maintenance is needed to keep things on track.

What will this involve? Three things: a reclarification of our aims, education on specific points that will be helpful to improvers and the freeing up of the director to take a more prominent role.

Aims

Our main aim is to help less experienced players (for whose benefit the session exists) learn what they need to play in the ‘real world’.

A second aim – but just as important, if we’re to succeed – is that everyone has an enjoyable game of bridge, with emphases on ‘everyone’ and ‘enjoyable’.

How that pans out depends on where you’re coming from:

More experienced players: You’re a model for ‘best behaviour at bridge’. You’ll help out when a player isn’t sure what to do or commits a no-no, but in a constructive, positive way. Don’t let your manner be taken as intimidating. You’ll call the director when that’s appropriate, but nicely.

The other side of the coin is that you’re entitled to an enjoyable and fair game of bridge: improving players need to be receptive to your advice and help.

Improving players: You’re playing ‘real’ bridge in the company of more experienced players but in a protected environment without all the normal pressures of club bridge.

That said, we’re an EBU club playing according to EBU laws and ‘best behaviour’ guidelines and our job is to acquaint you with these – this is, after all, a learning session. So when something comes up (and it will) grab the chance to learn something new. Don’t just assume you’re being ‘told off’!

Education

For our part, we’re planning to introduce, week by week, a number of mini-topics – points of law and etiquette – to help improvers on their way to becoming fully-fledged club players. These will be built up into a library of topics on our website, accessible to all. Many of them will no doubt serve as a reminder of best practice to some of our more experienced players as well – me included!

The Director’s role – ‘Spares’

All this will involve more active participation on the part of the Director (of which more anon), which will not be possible if he/she is playing as well as directing.

To guarantee a non-playing Director, we need a rota of ‘spares’ as operates on a Tuesday morning – see below for what it involves. The most appropriate source of volunteers would be from within our own group. If we had 8-9 volunteers, each would be called upon just once every two months to be available if needed. If you’d be willing to help in this crucial role, please speak to Rita or John.

We’ll also need a volunteer to organise a GD Spares Rota every couple of months. Any takers?

Chris Jones, 3 September 2019


How to be a spare: You very kindly turn up in case someone is without a partner at start of play. If so, you partner them. If not, you get the morning off. If you play, you don’t pay table money and if you don’t play, you get a free session on another occasion.