Alerting of negative inferences

Suppose a partnership is playing a convention which is fairly likely to come up (e.g. "1!s over 1!h is artificial and shows 2 or fewer hearts", which is often seen in 2-over-1 systems). Obviously, 1!s is alertable. If the opener bids 1!h and the responder bids something other than 1!s, and the opponents ask what it means, the opener would of course have to say something like "it's a natural bid, but my partner would normally bid 1!s with 2 or fewer hearts, so they likely have heart support"; the negative inference is part of the partnership agreement so it should be explained when the opponents ask.

My question is: in this sort of situation, should natural bids other than 1!s be alerted, so that the opponents know that there's something to ask about? (What about bids like a natural 2NT, which most players would interpret as denying hearts even in the absence of the negative inference?)


  • Alert : A notification, whose form may be specified by the Regulating Authority, to the effect that opponents may be in need of an explanation. (Definitions)

    Also - see law 20F

    1. During the auction and before the final pass any player may request, at his own turn to call, an explanation of the opponents’ auction. He is entitled to know about calls actually made, about relevant alternative calls available that were not made, and about inferences from the choice of action where these are matters of partnership understanding.

    So I think you would have to alert the calls (Especially if 2NT shows 3-card heart support) so opponents can exercise their rights under law 20F.

  • I am not sure I understand the method: are 2C/2D natural, GF - but a GF hand with a minor and only 2 H might bid 1S?

    If 1NT or 2NT (for instance) show 3 card support then they should be alerted - this is a positive inference.

    If 2C/2D are GF then they should be alerted.

  • In the simplest case, 2C and 2D are natural and have the usual meaning. The only difference from a "normal" bidding system is that a 1S bid is available to show short hearts, so 2C and 2D imply that the hearts aren't short.

  • Then they should be alerted as showing secondary hearts support.

  • I guess that makes sense. So whether you alert or not is based on how surprising the negative inference is (e.g. 1!c guaranteeing "not a balanced minimum" – as that hand would have been opened 1NT – is not surprising so is not alerted; but guaranteeing "not a 4441 hand" possibly is surprising and would need an alert).

  • Your opponents can't be expected to know the nuances of your various treatments and methods. If your partner makes a bid which holds a non-obvious/unexpected/possibly surprising meaning then you likely have information which you would be denying to them if you fail to alert.

    Of course, some treatments are normal and common and opponents can be expected to deduce the inferences, such as your 1C example likely not showing a balanced 12-14 when you play weak NT. Equally, it could hold a 5332 hand with five decent clubs and 12-14 and this might catch them on the hop but that's just bridge. What's more, you're as informed as they are.

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