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Disaster strikes after a misbid of an artificial opening

Hand played on:


Board number / section:

Board 13, computer dealt




Both vulnerable

The Hands and the Bidding

A J 7 5
A 6
A 4 3 2
A K 7
9 6 3 2
10 8 7 5 3
10 9 7
K Q J 8 5
Q J 8 4

The Bidding
K Q 10 4
9 4 2
10 9 6 5 3
2NT 1
3 2


  1. Alerted - a misbid: according to the system card it shows a pre-empt in either minor
  2. Alerted - the system card says it is 'pass or correct'


Obviously, the bid that needs to be examined here is North''s 2NT opening bid, which, according to the agreed system, shows a pre-empt in a minor, but which in practice showed a traditional 2NT opener, ie, a 20 - 22 HCPs, balanced / semi-balanced hand. South's alert drew North's attention to the fact that he had forgotten the system. When prompted, South described the 2NT opener consistently with the system card, but by doing so also drew North's attention to the agreed meaning of his opening bid. The 2NT bid clearly falls into the realms of a psyche / deviation / misbid, and my first task is to judge which of those situations applies. There is a page on the club's website at /Documents/guidance_what_is_a_psyche.html that examines this arena in detail.


  • North's opening bid clearly was a gross distortion of the hand according to the system agreement, though clearly it was not a deliberate distortion, so therefore the bid is classified as a 'misbid' rather than as a psyche. According to the convention card, North / South's method for bidding a traditional 2NT opener is via an initial 2D opening bid.
  • South bid the hand impeccably, and dutifully bid 3C, which is 'pass or correct' under the partnership's documented agreements.
  • North's attention has been drawn to the fact that he misbid the hand by South's alert, and has also had the agreed meaning of the bid drawn to his attention by the explanation given. North has therefore been passed 'unauthorised information', which North should ignore. North should continue to bid the hand as if he held a traditional 2NT opener. On this understanding, South's 3C bid is '5-card Puppet Stayman', and North's correct response to that bid is 3D, which denies holding a 5-card major but which promises one or more 4-card majors.
  • South would then interpret this 3D bid as a 'correct' as in 'pass or correct', and hence 3D should be passed out.
  • 3D by North is, of course, a terrible contract, and according to the hand analysis sheet even 1D would fail.
The hand was referred by the 'offender' to Jeremy Dhondy at the EBU for an opinion on the ruling. Jeremy supported the ruling, but additionally noted that:
  1. The use of the 2NT opener to show both minors is not allowed by 'The Orange Book' in events pitched at 'Level 4' or lower. It is very unusual for an ordinary Club Session to permit conventions rated at higher than Level 4
  2. Where the use of UI is not only established, but is also clearly interpreted as 'gross misuse', then in addition to a score adjustment the offender could also be subjected to a 'procedural penalty'. Such a view will inevitably be subjective, and that course has not been taken in this instance.

The Ruling:

The hand was thus re-scored as though North had played in 3D-3.

Lessons for everyone:

  • Take great care to avoid misbids, especially of an artificial bid. If you misbid a natural bid then you may get the opportunity to 'rescue' the situation by logical and natural subsequent bidding; however, if you misbid an artificial bid then logic will almost inevitably take your side to some ludicrous contract.
  • Some while ago, Mike Graham wrote some interesting articles for the website on the subject of 'Unauthorised Information' - see /directors.shtml and scroll to the three articles about 'Unauthorised Information'. It might be argued that we are 'just a club', and not in an international scenario, but the example that Mike quotes about bidding screens and the like is still pertinent.
  • In order to ensure fairness to other players at the Club, any unsusual systems should be verified by the players concerned as 'Level 4' or lower - seeking advice from the Director if appropriate.
  • Players should be aware of the additional sanction available to the Director to apply a procedural penalty if it is clear that gross misuse of Unathorised Information has been made.

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