UI from enquiring about the meaning of alerted bid

Dealer W, vulnerability unknown, MP Pairs.

(Apologies for not laying the auction out nicely, I can't remember how to do it.)

West Pass
North 1S
East 2C
South 3S Alerted
West then asked for the meaning of the bid and was told that 2NT would show a strong raise to 3 therefore 3S was a less strong raise (7-9 ish). The auction continues:
North Pass
East 4C Passed Out.

East's hand:
S 85
H A8
D AQ62
C KQJ86

I was asked for an opinion as to whether E's bid of 4C was affected by W's enquiry.

If E had hesitated I would have ruled UI and disallowed the 4C (Pass is clearly a logical alternative).

Against the UI from the enquiry, assuming E (as he should) only asks when he has a reason to do so, I would do the same (4C is a dangerous bid against a part score with no help from partner), but feel less comfortable about it.

E is in an unenviable position, If he does not enquire, then he risks working on a wrong assumption, but if he does, then he creates UI. The "simple" solution of enquiring for the meaning of all alerted bids is actively discouraged.

I am interested in other people's opinion on the 4C, but also on whether there is any difference in UI from hesitation (within the control of the player) and from enquiring about an alerted bid (outwith the control of the player).

Jeremy

Comments

  • I don't think the 3!s bid is alertable (which would have solved the problem). The vast majority of bidding systems have a stronger way to raise to 3 after interference than bidding at the 3 level directly (e.g. in Acol, a 3!c bid would show the stronger raise, with a direct 3!s bid being limited). So as far as I'm concerned, the meaning of 3!s here is unsurprising and the standard meaning.

    The answer to this question depends a lot on W's asking habits. For example, I play at a club where alerts are rare, so I've adopted a policy of asking about every alerted bid to avoid giving any UI via the distinction between asking and not asking. (Besides, almost any hand has some situations in which it would want to bid, e.g. to suggest a lead in the situation where you know opponents will want to bid higher.) I agree that this policy seems to be discouraged by some people, but it's been discussed here before and appears to be acceptable.

    The original question is hard to answer for "intelligence transfer" reasons; I expect most people would overcall more strongly than 2!c with a 16 HCP hand! Thus, it's hard to know what E was thinking upon bidding it, and hard to figure out the system in use. I can totally believe a system in which a 16 HCP hand that makes only a simple overcall would have to bid again no matter what (with a double if the opponents got too high), but E would need some sort of proof that such a system was in use. I also note that E was in balancing position, making the bid more attractive (especially with the explanation as to what S's bid meant).

    I'm also finding it hard to work out what the ask-and-pass suggests, if anything. If W was thinking of supporting E, hearing that S's bid was (in effect) a pre-emptive raise is the answer that's most indicative of bidding, yet W passed. So perhaps W wants to defend, in which case E's bid is counter-suggested and therefore legal.

  • ais523 has correctly said that 3S is not alertable, so by alerting unnecessarily West has created the problem, but I would like to question a couple of things you have said:

    "assuming E (as he should) only asks when he has a reason to do so". I know that this is widely believed within the EBU, but I don't believe it is correct. If you adopt this as a policy, it creates UI by telling everyone that you have a decision to make when you ask.

    You then say "The "simple" solution of enquiring for the meaning of all alerted bids is actively discouraged." By whom? Within your club?

  • "assuming E (as he should) only asks when he has a reason to do so". I know that this is widely believed within the EBU, but I don't believe it is correct. If you adopt this as a policy, it creates UI by telling everyone that you have a decision to make when you ask.

    You then say "The "simple" solution of enquiring for the meaning of all alerted bids is actively discouraged." By whom? Within your club?

    This is something I have always been told, including by at least one "senior"director. It always seemed a little odd to me, though.

    BB2016 2E2: "Players sometimes say, “I always ask whether I intend to bid or not”. This is not recommended because, in practice, players do not follow this approach strictly"

    Of course that has changed in BB2017, where 2E2 now states "Players sometimes say, “I always ask whether I intend to bid or not”. Players who do this must take care to follow their approach strictly, since they otherwise risk transmitting UI. There are auctions where it may be sensible always to ask (such as after artificial intervention following partner’s 1NT opening) as the player will always need to know before play starts."

    This seems to be suggesting that the safest (in UI terms) approach is always to ask. Is this something we want to encourage? Would it not lead to "100% announcements"? Also, always asking allows opponents extra "clarity" over their bids.

    Going back to the original situation. I had missed the fact that S's bid is not alertable. Since NS have put EW in a difficult position by incorrectly alerting, does that have any consequences?

    Jeremy

  • I would have thought if the players have systematic understanding/agreement/partnership experience of raising the partner's bid to show both strong or weak raise, then all of the calls covered by such agreed system are alertable. For example, Bergen or truscott or anything else similar convention , relays a specific meaning of the call made specifying the the range of HCP and the number of support for the partner's call (weak or strong or intermediate). So in this case I would have thought 3S is alertable. Clearly my understadning appears to be wrong judging by the comments of ais523 and Gordon.

  • I think there are some situations where asking always is a good idea. Opening 2D is one: both Multi and Benji are alertable, and there are those who might incorrectly alert it if showing a weak or intermediate natural call. The alternative is to ask randomly regardless of whether or not you have an interest, but this is much harder to maintain consistency about.

    As to your final question, yes, if a pair causes a problem for their opponents by failing to follow regulations correctly, then I think we should do all we can not to rule against those opponents.

  • It is not unreasonable to always ask about an alerted call on the first round: you are going to need to know now or later.

    It is not unreasonable to always ask about an alerted skip bid: you are supposed to look like you might need to know.

  • @rkcb1430 said:
    I would have thought if the players have systematic understanding/agreement/partnership experience of raising the partner's bid to show both strong or weak raise, then all of the calls covered by such agreed system are alertable. For example, Bergen or truscott or anything else similar convention , relays a specific meaning of the call made specifying the the range of HCP and the number of support for the partner's call (weak or strong or intermediate). So in this case I would have thought 3S is alertable. Clearly my understadning appears to be wrong judging by the comments of ais523 and Gordon.

    The way I think about it is that in most systems, the direct raise to 3 after an opponent's overcall is limited and somewhere between weakly constructive and pre-emptive. Most systems also have a stronger way to raise to 3 after an overcall.

    The stronger raise is nearly always alertable due to not being a natural bid (whether you're playing Unassuming Cue Bids, 2NT support, Bergen, or whatever). If a raise to 3 were being used as the stronger raise, that would also arguably be alertable due to being unusual (although many new players play it like that, so maybe it shouldn't be). However, if the raise to 3 has its usual meaning (of a limited-to-pre-emptive raise), then it makes the most sense not to alert it, because that's what the opponents will be expecting. If they care about the specifics of any stronger raises that might exist in the system, they can ask.

    As for "number of cards shown", it might be worth alerting if it has a specific meaning in that respect. A direct raise to three is most commonly made on exactly 4-card support, and I don't think there's an alertable distinction between "most commonly 4", "usually 4" and "always 4". However, promising (say) exactly 3 cards in support would be unusual and thus alertable.

    (On a side note, I still think it would be helpful for the alertability rules to be objective; as it is, different people can reasonably agree on whether a bid is alertable, as seen here. That in turn means that disclosure doesn't work as well as it should.)

  • @rkcb1430 said:
    I would have thought if the players have systematic understanding/agreement/partnership experience of raising the partner's bid to show both strong or weak raise, then all of the calls covered by such agreed system are alertable. For example, Bergen or truscott or anything else similar convention , relays a specific meaning of the call made specifying the the range of HCP and the number of support for the partner's call (weak or strong or intermediate). So in this case I would have thought 3S is alertable. Clearly my understadning appears to be wrong judging by the comments of ais523 and Gordon.

    BB 4H2(c)(2) says that a pre-emptive response to an opening bid is alertable if the next hand passes, so if playing Bergen raises in an uncontested auction in the traditional manner (where the direct raise to 3M is the weakest, whatever permutations are played for the others), then all the raises are alertable, the direct pre-emptive raise to 3M because of BB 4H2(c)(2), and the rest because they are not natural.

    A pre-emptive raise in competition, is, however, not unexpected and not alertable. I don't think it matters how many other raises are available (Bergen etc. in competition being less common than in an uncontested auction, but not unheard of). The other raise(s) of course remain alertable.

    @ais523 said:
    The stronger raise is nearly always alertable due to not being a natural bid (whether you're playing Unassuming Cue Bids, 2NT support, Bergen, or whatever). If a raise to 3 were being used as the stronger raise, that would also arguably be alertable due to being unusual (although many new players play it like that, so maybe it shouldn't be). However, if the raise to 3 has its usual meaning (of a limited-to-pre-emptive raise), then it makes the most sense not to alert it, because that's what the opponents will be expecting. If they care about the specifics of any stronger raises that might exist in the system, they can ask.

    If you play that a direct raise in competition is the only available raise to the 3 level and shows invitational values (rather than the common "pre-emptive to weakly constructive" which you mention), then that is not alertable.

    If, however, you play some sort of Bergen arrangement but swap the meanings of the direct raise and one of the artificial raises, so that the direct raise is stronger than the artificial one, then both would be alertable, IMO.

    @ais523 said:
    As for "number of cards shown", it might be worth alerting if it has a specific meaning in that respect. A direct raise to three is most commonly made on exactly 4-card support, and I don't think there's an alertable distinction between "most commonly 4", "usually 4" and "always 4". However, promising (say) exactly 3 cards in support would be unusual and thus alertable.

    I agree.

  • @ais523 said:
    On a side note, I still think it would be helpful for the alertability rules to be objective; as it is, different people can reasonably agree on whether a bid is alertable, as seen here. That in turn means that disclosure doesn't work as well as it should.

    I assume you mean that people can reasonably disagree, leading to uncertainty.

    I have said it before, but any system of an alerting rules has to be a compromise between simplicity, certainty and "appropriateness". (By appropriateness I mean that unexpected things are alerted and commonplace things are not - David Burn puts it well (if I remember his form of words correctly) - ideally an alert should say "what we are doing is not what you might think we are doing, so you might want to ask us about it").

    But quite apart from the fact that unexpectedness is in the eye of the beholder, it would be well-nigh impossible to construct a simple and certain set of rules where nothing commonplace got alerted and everything unusual was alerted. Whilst I totally accept that the potential for differences of opinion is not ideal in theory, I feel that it is inevitable in practice.

    I think the current rules are a pretty good compromise.

  • I think it depends a bit on the field. In some of our club sessions there are relatively inexperienced or primarily social players for whom a pre-emptive raise would be unexpected, and an unassuming cue bid a total mystery. I think there is a case for alerting pre-emptive raises in such a field.

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