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West
J
AK109
AJ8
Q7432
North
AK104
76532
63
109
East
Q72
8
Q107542
AJ6
South
98653
QJ4
K9
K85
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
3
P
3N
X
P
P
P
D
3NTX West
NS: 0 EW: 0

This hand arose in the penultimate round of a four-session, eight-round Swiss pairs event involving the then leading two pairs.  EW were playing 2/1 with a short club opening with transfer responses, a 14-16 1NT and a light opening style. 

The jurisdiction is Australia with the relevant extract from the ABF Alerting Regulations:

3.3 Alerts during the Auction

3.3.1 If a call is conventional, it must be alerted (unless it requires an announcement or is self-alerting).

3.3.2 Two classes of natural calls must be alerted (unless they are self-alerting), viz.

(a) The call is natural, but there is an agreement by which the call is forcing or non-forcing in a way that the opponents are unlikely to expect. Examples:

  • Responder’s first round jump shift on weak hands.
  • A non-forcing suit response by an unpassed hand to an opening suit bid (whether or not after intervention).
  • A pass which forces partner to take action (e.g. SWINE).

(b) The call is natural, but its meaning is affected by other agreements, which the opponents are unlikely to expect. Examples:

  • A natural NT overcall (or response) in the direct position, which does not promise a stopper in the overcalled suit.
  • A jump raise of opener’s one-level bid in an uncontested auction, which may be weak or preemptive.
  • A single raise of partner’s suit which may be strong or forcing e.g. 1 - 2 forcing.
  • The rebid in a canapé sequence where the second suit may be longer than the first.
  • A 1 opening, which denies holding 4+.

Prior to his final pass, North inquired as to the meaning of all bids in the auction at which point it was revealed that West was 15-16 and unbalanced with support.  South called the Director to draw attention to the apparent irregularity of the failure to alert both 1NT and 3, but was careful to not suggest what remedy he was seeking (although it was fairly obvious that changing his double to a pass was what he was looking for).

The Director ruled that neither 1NT nor 3 were alertable, would not allow South to retract his double and instructed that the auction and play continue.  North and East passed, North led A and continued with T which declarer successfully won in dummy with the Q and came to 12 tricks after South pitched a .

The Director was called back to the table with South contending that absent any alerts of West's bids, it was reasonable for him to presume that West was around 11-13 and with East being a passed with a light opening style, he was essentially doubling the auction which he would not have done had he been aware that West could be 15-16 unbalanced.

Table result stands: -850
South's double allowed to be retracted: -490
Split ruling: -850 for NS and +490 for EW
Other

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