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Walking the dog in the club teams

A club night has many pitfalls other than simply trying to play your best bridge. At the same time you have to keep the locals happy and avoid conflicts with sometimes troublesome contestants. In the following story this was not a complete success, which in itself is maybe not that remarkable. However the Laws part of the whole situation also seemed interesting.

In a recent club teams tournament (5 boards per round, round robin format), you meet a mixed pair with an expert male player and his advanced partner. Although the excitement happens on the final deal, I will set the scene by what happens before...

On the first deal, partner opens a Fantunes 2, showing 9+ - 12 HCP, 5 + 4+/ or 6+. You have agreed to avoid this bid on minimum 5422-hands, so that you can sure of a singleton, a 6-card suit or some extra values.

West
Q52
A98
Q932
A54
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
?

Testing the waters, you decide to bid 4 directly. After the opening lead, the expert loudly criticizes your bid but, as often happens in such situations, the contract makes on a less-than-optimal defense.

On the second board, the opponents miss a decent slam, mainly due to lazy bidding. Again, the expert is not happy.

The third board features a less-than-optimal defense against their nonvulnerable 1NT, allowing them to make. Still, you rate to be well ahead.

On the penultimate board, our auction is:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
3NT
P
P
P

The expert, who is on lead, fires a zillion questions at you about the 3NT bid, which you have already explained to be simply "to play". As partner could have rebid 1NT / 2NT with a balanced hand, he rates to be unbalanced. On the other hand, since you were white on red you would have opened almost all 10-counts (you had the options of a mini NT as well as a Fantunes two-bid in all four suits, showing 9+ - 12 HCP and an unbalanced hand), so basically 3NT could be anything. To make a long story short, partner's 4-1-5-3 20-count wasn't what North expected and the contract was made although it probably shouldn't have. The expert by now is really unhappy when we are coming to:

The final board

As this is a round robin and you need a lot of IMPs for the maximum score, you cannot relax. Also, as this team rates to score a lot in the other rounds, this is your last chance to put first place beyond reach of the expert's team, and you face the following problem:

North
952
K10543
A92
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
?

1 shows:

a) 13+ HCP unbalanced with 5+

b) 11+HCP with 5+ 4+

c) 15+ balanced with 5.

Your systemic choices are:

  • XX: Strong, GF in case of a fit
  • 2: 7 - 11 HCP, 3+ (less than a limit raise if it has 4)
  • 2: 3 - 6 HCP, 3+
  • 2NT: Limit or better, 4+
  • 3: Preemptive, 4+
  • 3NT: A 4 preempt with a defensive trick
  • 4: To play (weak)

Systemically, you can choose 2NT or 3NT, but since the expert is already steaming, you decide to up the ante and walk the dog: You bid 2! This is alerted by partner and correctly explained as a weak raise to 2.

The subsequent auction surprises you somewhat:

North
952
K10543
A92
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
2
3
3
?

Partner has shown interest in 4 opposite 3 - 6 HCP and although you cannot give him much help in , your values seem more than sufficient to bid 4, so you do. This gets passed around to the expert, who doubles this.

The full hand:

West
AKJ8
9
K654
QJ109
North
952
K10543
A92
43
East
Q7643
J7
J103
765
South
10
AQ862
Q87
AK82
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
2
3
3
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Apparently partner joined in the fun and wanted to mess around with his 3 bid also...

The opponent's problem is a bit as you expected: LHO made a 2 bid with long and little values, whereas RHO expected fewer and more values. Also since you had two more trumps than expected, the opponents cannot hurt you with a bad trump break. As soon as dummy hits, the expert angrily calls the director, stating this is now the second hand in a row in which he has been misinformed (remember that on the previous hand he was unhappy about the explanation of 3NT, which in fact just meant "to play").

Of course the hand should be finished first, and the contract makes without problems. Now the situation gets complicated:

1. Your hand doesn't match partner's explanation.

2. Partner (opener) has bid quite optimistically opposite what could be a 4-count with 3-card support.

3. You clearly state that you have not given misinformation, but there is no room on the standard convention card for such agreements.

The expert knows all this, and states that he expects the TD to adjust the score.

Which leads us to the Laws part of the story: When you are making a creative bid during a club night, you are basically put in a defensive position. Probably you haven't decided to put your system notes somewhere in the club, and your convention card only covers the most basic situations. This means that you have almost no defense in this situation and the TD will usually rule against you.

If you are ruled against in such situations, this is basically the same thing as a psyche ban, as you cannot deviate from your agreement which you cannot back up with documentation. In obvious situations like opening 1 in 3rd seat on a three-count this may be obvious, but other creativity will be taken away from you.

The remedy is simple: Document your agreements! Assume you play once a week with a regular partner and a game takes approximately 4 hours, that's 200 hours a year. Is it too much work to spend maybe 5% of this on system notes? Having such notes is not only great as proof of agreements, it is also helpful to avoid misunderstandings. Once something is in there, you know you are probably on the same page. And if you are not, don't hit your partner with it to prove your point, but instead use the notes as a starting point for a discussion.

 

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