Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bridge Etiquette: Giving Partner Unauthorized Information By Asking The Wrong Questions

Last night I was in 3rd seat favorable vulnerability. Our auction goes P-P-1H-P-1S. At this point RHO says:

"Are you playing that system you were playing with that girl where you bid your weak suits first and then bid your strong suit later?"
"No, pretty much normal bridge today."

Guess what RHO's heart suit looked like. I raised to 2♠ and that ended the auction. What's funny is that I actually hand a canape hand that I decided to open in my GOOD 4 card heart suit instead of my 5 card club suit. While it is true that opening 1 on this hand type regularly would require a pre-alert (not an alert on the actual bid), this was a tactical deviation, not uncommon in 3rd seat, and our convention card does say we may open 4 card majors in 3rd and 4th seat, although that is meant for hands more like: ♠xxx, AKJx, Ax, ♣xxxx. Opening 4 card majors has always been in black on a convention card so it never requires an alert, just a pre-alert if it frequently has a longer side suit.

I have always been one to get annoyed with people easily, but some bridge things have started bothering me more lately, largely thanks to Sean. :( One of the most common times this happens is when people ask if a 2 opening showed diamonds but there are others, like asking whether a 1 opening showed hearts. It frequently gives away unauthorized information to your partner - that you have the suit they bid! Inexperienced players often don't realize this so I can usually answer their questions nicely and not think anything of it, but when a good player, or at least a player who should know better, does this, it is irritating.

On a related note, Friday, Meg opened 1NT and we had the auction: 1NT-(2♠)-3NT-P-P-P. 3NT was alerted and LHO asked before passing over 3NT:
"Are you playing Lebensohl?"
"Okay." Pass.

After the final pass, LHO asked: "Will you explain to my partner what Lebensohl is?"
Meg says "You can't ask for your partner."
"Well, then explain it to me."

If she had just started with "please explain" from the very beginning, there would have been no issue but once it became clear that she did not need a further explanation but only wanted it for her partner's benefit (so her partner wouldn't lead into Meg's AQ, maybe), it became unethical. I think Meg went ahead and reluctantly said that it showed game values without a spade stopper.


  1. I like that last story. I would definitely have declined to answer entirely after that exchange. Congrats on the strong showing.

  2. All beginner players should be taught to stop asking questions like this. They need to learn that if a bid is not alerted then the should assume it is natural and not ask a question (unless they are planning on bidding). They can ask after the auction is over and if there was a failure to alert call the director. An experienced player asking for their partner si really bad, especially when a pro does it for their client.

  3. Surely this is a case for getting the Director involved to ensure that opponents do not benefit from their actions - I wrote about this kind of thing on my blog at