Join Bridge Winners
Do The Right Thing
The hand below is an actual hand played in a tournament this year. The names of the players have been withheld. South was a highly experienced player and a national champion. We welcome our readers’ views as the opinions given below are solely those of the authors.



Playing matchpoints with a new partner, the bidding proceeds:

South
Q4
Q8542
875
A84
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
?


Your partner has doubled a 10-12 notrump in the balancing seat. How many points should this show? Partner might have a strong hand or just something equal to the top of their range. If he's allowed to have a minimum opener for his action, bidding could easily be right. If he needs a strong notrump, then you should pass and hope for a better score on defense.

How do you show hearts here? Some people like to play their strong notrump system if they pull a double of 1NT. Others prefer to bid naturally. Since you and your partner haven't discussed what to do, you can’t bid 2. Your options are pass, 2 (an underbid) and 3, which might mislead partner about the nature of your hand. You choose to bid 2.

South
Q4
Q8542
875
A84
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
P
2
P
?


Partner bids 2. How good is your hand? You have an honor, an ace, and a suit that might be worth some tricks. 2 didn't promise any points at all. Your actual hand is a monster.

What calls are reasonable?
2NT - A forward-going bid. You are a little strong for this, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll make a game.
3 - Also forward-going, but stresses spades over notrump. Partner might flex with 3N, so this preserves notrump as a possible contract.
3NT - Right on values, although partner might have kept his spades hidden on some 5-card suits, so spades is probably a better strain.
4 - Partner did not bid 2 initially, which could be a decent hand. Instead he decided to double and bid spades. You have a very good hand for him. This is the right call on balance.

South
Q4
Q8542
875
A84
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
P
2
P
?


Uh oh.  Partner announced our bid as a transfer.  You were expecting this, weren't you?  Now there are some problems. What are your obligations in this situation?

Your partner chose to announce your bid instead of alerting it. ACBL announcement guidelines dictate that announcements are only for transfers in response to natural bids of notrump. Here the announcement has given you very specific UI. You could easily guess the meaning of an alert in this position, but here you know exactly what partner thinks you have.

Let’s go back to the four reasonable calls from before. How should the UI affect your decision? The rules of bridge are pretty clear here. You cannot merely take what you think is the best action. Rather you must choose from all reasonable actions the one which is likely to be the worst based on the UI.

2NT* - This is an action that is likely to benefit your side. You don’t have spades and your partner thinks you do. You still have 3NT ahead of you. Even if you thought this was a reasonable bid in the first place, it is now clearly suggested by the UI and thus no longer acceptable.
3 - At least you’re bidding spades here. However, considering that 4 rates to be a worse spot than 3 you should take the high road and bid game.
3NT* - This is worse than 2NT because it will look like a choice of games to your partner. He might pass holding a soft hand with three spades. You can’t make this call.
4 - Clearly the worst action to take based on the UI, thus the call you should make.

*Even worse than bidding either of these notrump calls is to do it angrily or while looking intently at your partner, thereby giving him a chance to realize that your 2 did not show spades.

South
Q4
Q8542
875
A84
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
?


There’s nothing good to say about how you handled the UI on this auction. Fortunately, your partner has karmically bailed out your partnership by accepting the invite in spades. At this point, even as a 2NT bidder you have breathed your last...or have you?

North
A10987
103
AK103
K2
South
Q4
Q8542
875
A84
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
X
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
X
P
P
P


4NT is completely inexcusable for a player with this level of experience. It is only a logical action in this sequence if you take advantage of UI. Partner ostensibly showed a strong hand with spades and accepted your invite. Without any extra information, you have no reason to bid again.

When faced with UI, we ask our readers to pretend that their partner alerted their bid exactly as they meant it and make subsequent calls accordingly. Our game has come a long way from the era of “That Old Black Magic.” We should all work to keep it on the right path.

{Site administrator note: Although we are leaving comments open, given the sensitive nature of this subject, any public allegations tied to specific individuals will be promptly removed.  The site policy for comment moderation is: we will only remove posts that can destroy a reputation or are deemed obscene.  It does not matter if the allegation is true or false: no names will be dragged through the mud in public.  This article was meant to educate and enlighten people about "the wrong thing", not to start a witch hunt.  Thanks in advance!)

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