No Agreement? Really....?

I have had cases, both as player and director,, where players claim "no agreement" about a particular bid. Suspicion is that they probably do, even if it is implicit and they don't realise. What can be done, both as player and director, to clarify the situation for opponents?

One recent example I had was (some details changed):
1h - 1N - p - 2c
p - p - p
....no alerts.

On pondering his lead, opener asked about the 2c bid "please confirm it wasn't Stayman", only be told vehemently that they had no agreement about this sequence. This appeared unlikely given that they had played together regularly for in excess of 10 years, and are decent club players who have played at or near county level. As director I was called and felt that I was rather copping-out by deciding "if they have no agreement then they have no agreement, please play on" whilst they continued 'to plead the 5th'.

As it turned out 2c was Stayman, and was effectively admitted as such in the post-mortem when demanding why partner had passed his Stayman bid. It went 3 off in a 3-2 fit so the opponents got a good score and didn't pursue it (2s made easily).

With full benefit of hindsight, what could be done when they claim "no agreement"? It might make a different the next time.

Comments

  • The most likely explanation is that the opponents have forgotten whether they play systems on after a 1N overcall. But is forgetting an agreement the same as "no agreement'?

  • Forgetting agreements is not the same as not having agreements.
    In this case, if 1NT overcaller had alerted and said he had forgotten, then the TD might be called and might send that player away from the table and ask 2C bidder whether they had agreements, and if so what. TD and opponents might also look at a system card.

  • Their card said nothing about systems on or off after a 1N overcall, although it says plenty about 1N openers.

    If a wheel had come I am sure they should be expected to notify opponents. For example, 2c bidder thought it was Stayman and partner didn't alert and then passed.

    OTOH could 2c bidder just claim "I'd forgotten the system, no idea what agreements we had, please treat it as a mini-psyche" and no comeback?
    ...even though his subsequent comments implied he reckoned it was Stayman, but when no alert appeared subsequently reckoned he'd got it wrong / forgotten.

  • The laws do say assume mistaken explanation unless evidence to the contrary. (Law 21), so you have three choices:- -see law 75D3

    1) 2!c (Stayman) is the partnership agreement and wasn't alerted - director will rule in the case of MI to oppos
    2) 2!c (natural) is the partnership agreement - director will rule on basis that there is UI one way. (unexpected failure to alert 2!c)
    3) There is no partnership agreement (as stated above). In which case you rule what the opponents would have done had they known there was no agreement e.g. affecting choice of leads/plays - and possible bidding.

    (Even if the opponents got a very good score they could still have been prevented from getting a better one.)

    (What is a mini-psyche? It should surely be a misbid (which is not an offence unless it has happened several times before in this situation, when partner might make allowances for it.))

  • The issue weejonnie is that they claim there was no agreement, but it was obvious that the 2c bidder who had a 4423 hand thought the agreement was that they were playing systems on, hence Stayman. So how to decide which of your 3 options to apply?

    As director can you require the 2c bidder to divulge to oppos that they thought they played Stayman, but partner's pass suggested otherwise?

    I have witnesses similar situations where doubts have been expressed about a double: takeout of penalty? On questioning some players will willingly divulge, usually having asked partner to leave the table, what they though it was based on their playing experience with that partner, similar situations etc.
    Others just clam up, and claim "no agreement", which might be the case but often similar situations have arisen and some indications can be given to opponents. How much are they required to divulge under full disclosure, and as director how can you encourage them do so, especially when convention card doesn't cover that case?

    It all just seems too easy to plead the 5th, and hide behind "no agreement".

  • I have also faced such situations, as I am sure many others have too, and would welcome any advice that would help cope with them.

    Would it be too simplistic to say that in the absence of an agreement both members of the pair should treat the call as natural and non-forcing and base further calls accordingly?

  • I do not like the actions of the player who bid 2!c , intending it as Stayman, and then claimed "no agreement" when partner passed it. I think he should have said words to the effect of "at the time I made the bid, I believed we had an agreement that this was Stayman - obviously one of us has mis-remembered what, if anything, we had actually agreed."

    If called to the table I would ask the 2!c bidder if, at the time he made the bid, he believed he had an agreement about it, and if the answer was "yes", I would then tell him to tell the opponents what that supposed agreement was. I guess I should send the 1NT overcaller away from the table first, in case the opponent in the pass-out seat wants his last pass back, but of course in practice this is unlikely.

  • First of all, if the overcaller was in any doubt that 2!c could have an artificial meaning they should alert it (BB2D2) and if asked say something like "I'm not sure we have an agreement, we play Stayman over 1NT openers, but we haven't discussed what we do over 1NT overcalls". Also if the 2!c bidder thought they could have an agreement, they should say something similar (after calling the director) before the opening lead is chosen. After that it's the director's problem, and it's not always easy to resolve.

    It's quite possible that the 2!c bidder was fully aware they had no agreement and just hoped that partner would pick up the message. In that case, partner might have been completely unaware of any possible artificial meaning, but I think I would probably rule that the opponents are entitled to the explanation that there is no explicit agreement, but natural and Stayman are both possible meanings and look into awarding an adjusted score on that basis if it looks as if the opponents were damaged.

    I would tell the offenders that they need to disclose any possible agreements where there is doubt, but I wouldn't be too hard on them, as this is something that lots of players find difficult to understand.

  • @VixTD said:
    First of all, if the overcaller was in any doubt that 2!c could have an artificial meaning they should alert it (BB2D2) and if asked say something like "I'm not sure we have an agreement, we play Stayman over 1NT openers, but we haven't discussed what we do over 1NT overcalls". Also if the 2!c bidder thought they could have an agreement, they should say something similar (after calling the director) before the opening lead is chosen. After that it's the director's problem, and it's not always easy to resolve.

    It's quite possible that the 2!c bidder was fully aware they had no agreement and just hoped that partner would pick up the message. In that case, partner might have been completely unaware of any possible artificial meaning, but I think I would probably rule that the opponents are entitled to the explanation that there is no explicit agreement, but natural and Stayman are both possible meanings and look into awarding an adjusted score on that basis if it looks as if the opponents were damaged.

    I would tell the offenders that they need to disclose any possible agreements where there is doubt, but I wouldn't be too hard on them, as this is something that lots of players find difficult to understand.

    If the discussion described in the first para takes place at the table would it not give UI from one to the other? Prevent them from carrying on bidding based on different understandings of the bid and consequently getting a bad result? I agree with you not wanting to be hard on them, but neither would you want to be helping them out with a bidding problem.

  • @SDN said:
    If the discussion described in the first para takes place at the table would it not give UI from one to the other? Prevent them from carrying on bidding based on different understandings of the bid and consequently getting a bad result? I agree with you not wanting to be hard on them, but neither would you want to be helping them out with a bidding problem.

    It shouldn't, because the player wouldn't be saying how he was taking the bid.

  • Giving MI is illegal. Giving UI to partner is not. So when a player knows opponents may be under a misapprehension he is duty bound to say so at the relevant time and trust his partner not to use the UI.

    As a TD the first question to ask is to ask the player who bid it why he bid it if there is no agreement. If the answer is that because of other agreements he thought his partner would read it they have an implicit agreement. My second question (answered in this case) is how long they had been playing together. At the Year End Blackpool the answer was eight boards!

    No agreement may be rare with a long term partnership but the more complex the sequence the more believable it is.

    @SDN said:
    Would it be too simplistic to say that in the absence of an
    agreement both members of the pair should treat the call as
    natural and non-forcing and base further calls accordingly?

    You cannot tell people what to play.

  • @bluejak said:
    Giving MI is illegal. Giving UI to partner is not. So when a player knows opponents may be under a misapprehension he is duty bound to say so at the relevant time and trust his partner not to use the UI.

    As a TD the first question to ask is to ask the player who bid it why he bid it if there is no agreement. If the answer is that because of other agreements he thought his partner would read it they have an implicit agreement. My second question (answered in this case) is how long they had been playing together. At the Year End Blackpool the answer was eight boards!

    No agreement may be rare with a long term partnership but the more complex the sequence the more believable it is.

    @SDN said:
    Would it be too simplistic to say that in the absence of an
    agreement both members of the pair should treat the call as
    natural and non-forcing and base further calls accordingly?

    You cannot tell people what to play.

    Of course not, maybe I phrased my comment loosely, what I meant to say is that if their subsequent calls are not based on the 'no agreement' call being natural, then the opponents may have cause to complain. I mean, if your partner makes a call for which you have no agreement, and you don't interpret it as natural, what do you interpret it as? Shouldn't any other interpretation be an indication, or suspicion, of a hidden understanding? I tell my partners, don't manufacture a (conventional) call on the table.

  • @SDN said:
    Would it be too simplistic to say that in the absence of an
    agreement both members of the pair should treat the call as
    natural and non-forcing and base further calls accordingly?

    You cannot tell people what to play.

    If partner makes a call and you don't know what it means, either because you haven't discussed it, or because you might have discussed it two years ago and partner's memory is much better than yours, or for whatever reason, then you are entitled to use your best endeavours and all the resources available to you (except any UI that may have been provided) to work out what partner has in mind and how you should respond. There is no presumption that a bid in an undiscussed situation must be taken as natural, or as forcing or not forcing, although often bridge logic will lead you to the conclusion that it is natural, and general principles and partnership style will lead you to treat it as forcing or not forcing.

    If I was playing with a pick-up partner and we had not discussed responses to 1NT overcalls, then I would treat a 2!c response as Stayman, because amongst the people I play with and against, "system on" is overwhelmingly more likely than "everthing natural". But of course I would be careful with my disclosure. Something along the lines of "We are a scratch partnership and I don't think we have discussed responses to 1NT overcalls, but we play Stayman over 1NT openings, and most people in the club play "system on"."

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