Chris Hasney

Question for Bobby Wolff and Others

Two things came up at the club today.  Although I got a bad result on one of them by misjudging card placement, that’s not the issue.  The issue is the current rules on alerts.

Situation 1.  Partner opened 1D.  RHO doubled; no alert.  With KQxxxx, Kxxx, xx, x I passed.  RHO had two spades, four hearts, four diamonds and three clubs.  In post mortem a look at the card did not have min offshape TO checked.  They opined that they do this frequently, and what’ s the problem (I didn’t try for an adjustment, I just wanted to find out what was going on for future reference.) I later asked the director about this and he opined that it was not necessary to check the box even if this is normal for the partnership, provided that they also make TO doubles of 1D holding xxxx, xxxx, x, xxxx and 10+ HCP outside of diamonds.  Please opine on this in light of current alert rules and active ethics.  Please do  same with next situation

2.  LHO opens 15-17 1NT.  My pard bids a natural 2S.  RHO doubles.  No announcement, no alert (not in red on the conv. card).  They both later opine that yes, that was a neg for takeout showing four hearts.  I have no problem with that, but since it’s not standard (I think), how’s a boy supposed to know?  (And had I looked at their card and it wasn’t checked, then what?)



Bobby WolffMay 26th, 2009 at 5:01 am

Hi Chris,

Judy and I just arrived home after having a late dinner, and, of course, saw your blog to which I am responding. Although I do not intend to say anything special, I am, at least in my eyes, very sure of what I want to say.

With question #1, I (while not often the case) tend to agree with the director. T/O dbls are played with some degree of variance by many levels of players. During their heyday, the Italian Blue Team played very undisciplined T/O dbls, perhaps protected by other things they had going for them, but in principle they did not have the American requirement of having at least 3 in each unbid major suit and usually short in the opponent’s suit unless having a very good hand.

As I have gotten older, I have tended to think that the discipline associated with slightly off shape T/O dbls should be relaxed. 2d choice to me would be overcalling a 4 card major at the 1 level and last choice would be to meekly pass. So if I held Ax, KQ9x, Qxx, Qxxx and heard my RHO open 1 diamond I would overcall 1 heart, but if a little club of mine or even a little diamond gave way to a little spade, I would then double and feel not whit of guilt for doing that.
Therefore, since I think many levels of players are heading in my direction, not yet having reached the teaching books or bragged about by others, but still now done. I think that T/O dbls should be left to the imagination of the bidder. Before I leave the above example hand, suppose I heard RHO open 1 heart I would still dbl with the same approximate high cards and 3-4-3-3.

Again I do not think this tendency is worth an alert, although if anyone asked I would tell them at least as much as they want to know. Remember, Chris, most of the time when I double, I will have the same type of hand you and your crowd have come to expect, so why make a big deal out of expanding the hand types since one thing is 100% sure and that bridge is a bidder’s game and the more one can get in the bidding, especially early, the better he will do.

BTW, at the risk of seeming rude to you and possibly some of our readers, why would you pass with KQxxxx, Kxxx, xx, x having heard your partner open 1 diamond and your RHO dbl? That is the easiest 1 spade bid by you, with the probable intent of rebidding spades at your next turn, unless the bidding gets too high. At least to me, if that is what you usually do, your partner should probably alert (or have it on your card) that you do not bid naturally over the opponent’s T/O Dbl. It is your partnership that is taking the unusual action.

2. In the current game and even at the club level, at least in Dallas and Las Vegas, wherein dbls by the partner of a NT opener used to connote penalties, now that has changed to take out, because it has been determined and (to my mind proven) that playing them T/O will happen much more frequently and show an overall net plus over the course of many hands.
When Judy doubles an opponent’s overcall after my 1NT opening, I just say (perhaps illegally) T/O. It matters not to me whether that is not the official rule, and even though I am (in other walks of life) a law follower, I do not choose to abide by the ACBL’s rules since I have come to suspect that they are way off base and are being led around by people who are not qualified to make appropriate rules, especially in the alert arena.

The idea behind alerts is to unobtrusively update what the opponents need to know, and since it could be argued by some that speaking out, if done by players not practicing active ethics, there is a risk. Since Judy and I always practice Active Ethics, I appoint myself immune to doing things the exact way the ACBL mandates, but I can tell you, I do not lay awake nights feeling guilty about misleading the opponents. Different strokes for different folks. Have pure feeling when one plays bridge and not larceny in one’s soul and the game will fluorish, Omit that and eventually the game, as we know it, will die and with it. I’ll say good riddance since, without it being played by ladies and gentlemen, it is not worth playing.

In conclusion I suggest that you chill out, purify your heart which is probably unnecessary, and be a Johnny bridgeseed as you play and a role model for bringing out the best and brightest in everyone.

Your friend,


Chris HasneyMay 26th, 2009 at 6:08 am

Thanks Bobby. A well considered and well written answer, just what I was looking for. I will no longer trap with hand one, being forewarned of modern tendencies. As for hand two, I’ll discuss it with partners. Perhaps saving that double for penalties is not profitable any more.

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