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A list of "Just bridge" situations

This article is motivated by Sabine Auken's post (although I realize the situation she describes was actually different). I wrote some of how I feel about these things in a comment below her article, but felt it was appropriate to create a separate post on the subject.

Below you will find a list of bidding situations where I have seen people - either at my own table or in descriptions by others - make a call that deviates from, shall we say, "traditional" methods. Based on what people write, in each case there were people who consider the call in question normal (hence "just bridge") or at least to be expected, and at the same time there were people who found the holding for the call unexpected and would not think of making the same call themselves.

This raises the question of whether we should consider certain treatments as "general bridge knowledge" or as unorthodox and therefore sufficiently unusual so that it is desirable - if not required by law and regulation - to explicitly point out the possibility when giving disclosure. As I see it, more thorough disclosure is recommended whenever this situation is doubtful. What seems to happen instead, to put it bluntly, is the "when in doubt, it's just bridge" effect.

Some examples I find downright sickening, others only moderate. I will not pretend that I can easily draw a line myself. Sometimes I have been wondering after a hand if my explanations of our methods were adequate because an opponent took a wrong view; I think we have all been there before.

Here is a list (not complete, of course) of "just bridge" situations:

  • Opening light, especially in third seat (also style of preemptive openings in general). Responding light, including a forcing 1NT response to 1M with fit and possibly zero points.
  • Overcalling light, or with fewer cards as expected in the suit (including two-suiter conventions).
  • Upgrading frequently, without downgrading on the other hand.
  • Opening 1NT with hands that are far from balanced - to show the strength of the hand, because of rebid problems or just in order to hog the hand.
  • Passing bids described as forcing.
  • Bidding the shorter of several possible suits, for example when selecting the opening bid of 1m, or responding 2 instead of 2 (in 2/1 context) because it is less space-consuming.
  • Improvising reverse bids or jump shifts in order to create a force. Also bidding 3-card suits, because the alternatives are not appealing.
  • Psyching strong responses with weak hands and a huge fit.

I am not asking that people abandoning certain bidding practices or stop improvising their calls when the situation demands it. What I would like to see, though, is a bigger awareness that what we consider normal is not automatically normal for everyone, and that we make a larger effort to disclose our partnership understandings instead of hiding behind "just bridge" excuses.

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