Alerting a 5 card stayman bid of a major

A while ago this forum concluded that in the sequence 2NT - 3C (5 card stayman) - 3NT (no 4 or 5 card major), the 3NT should be alerted because it shows specific knowledge (<4M) rather than just a desire to play in NT (https://www.ebu.co.uk/forum/discussion/comment/4397/).

On the same basis, in the sequence 2NT - 3C (5 card stayman) - 3S (I have 5 spades), should the 3S bid also be alerted? If not, what's the difference?

Comments

  • @JeremyChild said:
    A while ago this forum concluded that in the sequence 2NT - 3C (5 card stayman) - 3NT (no 4 or 5 card major), the 3NT should be alerted because it shows specific knowledge (<4M) rather than just a desire to play in NT (https://www.ebu.co.uk/forum/discussion/comment/4397/).

    On the same basis, in the sequence 2NT - 3C (5 card stayman) - 3S (I have 5 spades), should the 3S bid also be alerted? If not, what's the difference?

    I think it should be alerted, I have always alerted it and I have generally known others to alert it. However, the alert of the 3C bid should make it unlikely that anyone would be unaware of the meaning of 3S being other than standard Stayman.

  • If 3!c is alerted as "5-card stayman" specifically, I'd expect 3!s to be unalertable unless it carried a specific message about hearts (or some similarly unexpected specific message). The bid shows spades, and neither the number of spades nor the strength of the hand is surprising in context, so it's a natural spade bid with nothing unexpected about it.

    If the description of 3!c is more vague (e.g. "asks about the majors"), then 3!s would be alertable because the specific message of "5 spades" is more specific than most players would be expecting.

    A comparable situation is 1NT, 2!h (transfer); 3!s. Obviously the nonalertable meaning (if any) guarantees 4 spades; but would showing a specific message about strength, or denying a specific message about strength, be alertable? (I've been in pickup partnerships before now where we disagreed on what the common meaning of a superaccept was; I thought it showed a maximum opening bid in addition to 4-card support, my partner thought it didn't convey any message about strength. We reached the best contract anyway, but the difference in practice made it very unclear as to what the correct alerting rules for the sequence were. I continue to find it frustrating that the alerting rules are expressed in terms of unexpected meanings for a bid, because alerting correctly requires you to have memorised the expected meaning for every possible bid, even if you play it to mean something different.)

  • @ais523 said:
    If 3!c is alerted as "5-card stayman" specifically, I'd expect 3!s to be unalertable unless it carried a specific message about hearts (or some similarly unexpected specific message). The bid shows spades, and neither the number of spades nor the strength of the hand is surprising in context, so it's a natural spade bid with nothing unexpected about it.

    If the description of 3!c is more vague (e.g. "asks about the majors"), then 3!s would be alertable because the specific message of "5 spades" is more specific than most players would be expecting.

    This is something that also intrigues me. You're assuming that the alerted 3C bid is inquired about. It doesn't have to be. Yes if someone asks and is told "5 card Stayman", they then know that the 3S bid shows 5 spades (assuming they know how 5 card Stayman works).

    Should the 3S still be alerted? I think so - it seems wrong that alerting rules would differ based on whether or not an explanation of a previous bid has been given.

  • A 3C bid won't be "alerted as 5 card Stayman" it will just be alerted. You know it is not normal Stayman because this would have been announced but it could, for example, be Baron. Its another "you know something they may not" so why not tell them.

  • @JeremyChild said:
    This is something that also intrigues me. You're assuming that the alerted 3C bid is inquired about. It doesn't have to be. Yes if someone asks and is told "5 card Stayman", they then know that the 3S bid shows 5 spades (assuming they know how 5 card Stayman works).

    Should the 3S still be alerted? I think so - it seems wrong that alerting rules would differ based on whether or not an explanation of a previous bid has been given.

    Actually I agree that there's something weird here.

    Consider the following two sequences:

    1!c (canapé), 1!h (natural, nonforcing, 6-11 HCP) – both bids here are clearly alertable
    1!c (10-12 HCP balanced or 16+ HCP any; forcing), 1!h (natural, nonforcing, 6-11 HCP) – now the 1!c is alertable but the 1!h isn't (Blue Book 4H2d)

    I agree with you, though, that it's weird for the alertability of the second bid to depend on the meaning of the first bid, when the bid is made in the same way at both tables (1!c + an alert) and nothing's forcing the opponents to ask. Of course, the "expectedness" of the two 1!h bids is very different (in the latter case, the bid is pretty much exactly what you'd expect for a natural 1!h, in the former case, it's going to be very alien to most players), so the difference in alertability makes sense, but the "expectedness" depends a lot on whether the opponents actually know what the preceding bids mean.

    Although I agree that it's awkward, I think that given an alerting system based on expectedness, it pretty much also has to be based on assuming that the opponents know what your previous bids meant; otherwise it's impossible to work out whether a bid would be expected or unexpected in context. Even when the meaning is obviously natural and nonalertable, it can vary a lot depending on what a previous bid showed. A comparison:

    2NT (weak both minors), 4!h (natural, to play)
    2NT (weak both majors), 4!h (natural, to play)

    Opener's made an alertable 2NT bid in both cases, responder has replied with a natural and highly expected meaning for their 4!h bid in each case, and yet responder's most likely hand is utterly different in the two cases; the opponents are likely to be highly misinformed about responder's hand if they don't ask what the opening bid meant and guess incorrectly. Does it make sense to alert the 4!h bid in case the opponents didn't know what the 2NT bid meant? If so, do you alert it in the former case, the latter case, or both? I can't see much of an argument for alerting it in one case but not the other; and if you alert it in both cases, that pretty much creates an alerting system of "once a bid is alerted, all future bids by the partnership must be alerted for the rest of the hand", which is not useful. (I guess the alert could mean "this isn't necessarily the sort of hand that would bid 4!h opposite a 2NT showing 20-22 balanced", but that doesn't seem particularly useful either, as there's no reason to expect an alerted 2NT to be strong and balanced.)

  • edited September 11
    4H2d doesn’t apply to the situation you propose, but in any case seems to me to say the opposite of what you claim!
  • The interpretations in Blue Book 4H are not meant to mean that these are the only circumstances where a call is or is not alertable.

    I think AIS is saying that 4H2 (d) says non-forcing respones to non-forcing opening 1-level suit bids are alertable, therefore non-forcing respones to forcing suit bids are not aletable. This latter statement is not true and does not follow from 4H2 (d).

  • I tried to pick the least alertable possible meaning of 1!h opposite a 1!c bid meaning "10-12 HCP balanced or 16+ HCP any; forcing". I guess you could argue that all possible bids are alertable in that context, but in that case the alerts don't seem particularly useful.

    I guess one resolution to the uncertainty would be an explicit rule "when a player makes a call whose meaning is very unusual, all future bids by that partnership must be alerted until the end of the auction or until 3NT is reached". Although that seems a bit ridiculous, it would probably work fairly well in practice: there would be no need to worry about what meanings were alertable once the bidding had taken a strange turn, and there would be no need for a partnership who were experienced with an unusual system to have to work out what inferences players using a more normal system would try to gain from their bidding.

  • We need to remember that the alerting system is a means to an end, and not an end in itself- which means it doesn't need to be perfect. If a bid has been alerted and not explained then I
    know that I have no understanding of what later bids mean and an alert is implicit in every one of them, so I don't mind which way this discussion ends.

    What I might care about is the difference between a bid showing length and a bid not showing length, as then my double of the bid changes meaning and asking gives a lot of UI. This comes up regularly with an alert of a game forcing 2/1 response, where after 1S-P-2C I really want to know whether or not that shows clubs. We need two style if alert.
  • @patricks said:
    What I might care about is the difference between a bid showing length and a bid not showing length, as then my double of the bid changes meaning and asking gives a lot of UI. This comes up regularly with an alert of a game forcing 2/1 response, where after 1S-P-2C I really want to know whether or not that shows clubs. We need two style if alert.

    I do like this idea, although it might be impractical to implement.

    I guess you'd need 3 types of alert:
    Shows the suit bid but carries additional information
    Does not show the suit bid (although does not deny it)
    Might or might not show the suit bid

  • @patricks said:
    What I might care about is the difference between a bid showing length and a bid not showing length, as then my double of the bid changes meaning and asking gives a lot of UI. This comes up regularly with an alert of a game forcing 2/1 response, where after 1S-P-2C I really want to know whether or not that shows clubs. We need two style if alert.

    This could be solved by making 2/1 GF bids announceable instead of alertable, which is a proposal that has been made though not yet adopted.

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