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Should Michaels require an alert?

The May/2017 “Ruling the Game” column in the ACBL Bulletin touched one of my hot buttons. I’m going to vent a bit here. Apologies in advance.

The question in the column involved the auction 1 - (2) - 2 where 2 was Michaels and the 2 bid was a limit raise or better in diamonds. The ACBL’s answer in the column gave the opinion that the cue bid of 2 was not an unexpected action and did not require an alert. To protect himself, the Michaels bidder should have asked about 2. No problem so far. I am more concerned with the 2 bid.

Let’s go back a bit. Suppose you are responder. Partner opens 1 showing 3+, RHO bids 2 with no alert and you have to decide what to do. For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with ACBL alerting regulations, if 2 is either Michaels or a strong takeout, the bid does not require an alert.

Q1. If, in your opinion, you consider that you have a legitimate need to know, you must do one of two things. You must ask LHO whether 2 was Michaels or a strong t/o or you must glance at their card. Either action risks giving opener UI in breach of Law 16B1(a) or maybe 20F3. How can this possibly be fair to responder’s side when there would be no problem whatsoever if LHO had been required to alert Michaels?

Q2. If you and opener play that 2 is a strong takeout, does that require an alert? If yes, it’s odd that the opponents don’t have to alert their strong takeout but you do. Both are cue bids.

Q3. If you and opener play that 2 is natural even over Michaels, does that require an alert?

Now suppose you and partner play that 1 could be short (0+). You correctly announce and they bid 2 with no alert. Again, if it’s Michaels then no alert is required. But if they haven’t discussed a defence to a short diamond they will say nothing unless asked. My partner and I do play a 0+ 1. When this has arisen my usual strategy was to pass and let LHO guess. That carries risks though. If they guess right you may be pre-empted out of the auction. So suppose you ask and LHO says they haven’t discussed it.

Q4. Is it legal to use 2 to say: I think it’s Michaels, I have a good hand, what’s your minor and use 2 to say: I think it’s diamonds and I have a good hand.

Q5. Does any of this, including my (slightly) sarcastic Q4, make you think the ACBL should require an alert of Michaels?

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