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The unfortunate effects of a delayed alert

Board 8, Teams of Four Format, Played on 16th June 2011, Dealer West. Computer dealt

The hands:


J 5

K Q 10 6 2

K 10 6 4

10 9


A 8 6 3

A J 4

A Q 9 8

5 2


Q 4

9 5 3

J 7

A Q 8 7 6 3


K 10 9 7 2

8 7

5 3 2

K J 4

The bidding:

North East South West


1NT (1)
3D (4)
4S (6)

2C (2)
2S (3)
3S (5)
  1. Described as 12-14, but in fact it was 15.

  2. Not alerted - bid as, and interpreted as, natural

  3. Not initially alerted, after North’s bid it was described as ‘Transfer to a minor’

  4. After a delayed alert, and explanation, assuming partner holds diamonds. (The Director should have been called at this point)

  5. No I don’t have diamonds!

  6. Partner has announced a diamond / spade two suiter; East can see a double fit, and has one more HCP than announced

The East / West system is that without an intervening bid a 2S response means a transfer to a minor. There is a lack of clarity as to what effect an intervening bid has. West assumed that after the 2C bid, 2S would be natural; East assumed that it still implied a minor.


There is clearly unauthorised information available to West.

From West's perspective: West has made a free non-forcing take-out into 2S, which East has chosen to convert to 3D. In the absence of the comments, what should West infer about East’s hand? West – who believes her bid to be natural - should infer that East has noted that West is a passed hand, but felt able to make a bid over the 2C, so therefore holds enough values to compete and must have a 5-card spade suit (rather than 6 - else surely the hand would have been opened a weak 2?) When East shifts to 3D this must surely be saying that East holds a good 5-card diamond suit (possibly even it was an off-beat 1NT opener with 6 diamonds) and probably a low doubleton spade. It ought to be interpreted as “I don’t much fancy spades, 3D may be a much better spot”. With 3 small diamonds, a not particularly inspired spade suit, and a side-suit doubleton, West should be happy to accept the suggested alternative berth, and pass.

From East's perspective: Partner originally bid 2S to show a minor – which must be diamonds, given both opponents bid clubs naturally – and now bids spades. East has every right to assume that West holds 5 or 6 diamonds, 4 spades, and some values, in which case 4S would be automatic.


It appears that West has received and acted upon unauthorised information – the fact that partner has not interpreted the 2S bid as it was intended. Taking all the bids at face value, and ignoring the Unauthorised Information available to West, the contract should be ‘wheeled back’ to 3D by East. According to the analysis on the hand sheet, this contract makes exactly.  I therefore rule that West’s 4S tick should be changed to 3D tick by East.

Follow-on Action

The issue was referred to a County-Level qualified Director, whose opinion was:

The analysis looks good to me. West has to continue bidding as though she thinks partner has understood her bid as being natural, and should view his bids as though he knows she has spades. She cannot try to "correct" his misunderstanding of her bid which she knows he has done from the point at which he alerts it.

So she has to assume he prefers diamonds, and with support she has to leave the bid


East has not made any invalid bids on this board – well, apart from the slightly off-beat initial 1NT opener. East is entitled to interpret partner’s bid in accordance with his understanding of the agreements, even if they differ from partner's. If East assumes that partner has followed the system, then West surely holds five or six diamonds and four spades, and so the final raise to 4S is fine. If West interprets East's bids in accordance with her understanding of the agreement, then West's bidding only makes sense if the hand holds five, (and possibly even six) diamonds, and a low doubleton spade.

The problem arises due to the fact that East has alerted partner to the fact that the system has been misremembered, and therefore the 3S bid is deemed as having made use of the ‘unauthorised information’. It is very common for a misbid to result in unauthorised information and hence to trouble!

Former club member and highly respected player Mike Graham wrote some very interesting articles for the club’s website some years ago – on the revamped website they are now available via - scroll down to the bottom of the list and look at the last three articles.

It is far easier for the East/West hands to reach 4S (if you are playing a 12-14 NT) if East opens 1S. When South overcalls 2C, West can upgrade the hand and bid 3S, and especially at teams, 4S is automatic from the East hand. It is a somewhat fortuitous 4S – if things go badly for Declarer he could lose one trump, one heart, two diamonds, and one club. In practice South may lead the Jack of diamonds, and then when the trumps break 2-2 Declarer will be looking for a possible overtrick.

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