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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 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.


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’!


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.