Bridge Articles

Locally written bridge articles about Duplicate Bridge, Bridge players, or other similar material.

Match Pointing Two Sections

[Director Paul Lauer asked me to re-publish this article, since he found it informative and it answers questions he has been asked recently. It was originally published on April 7, 2015.]

When there are two or more Sections in an Open game, the scoring software's standard method is to match point each section separately and then to combine the two sections to arrive at an Overall result. Master points are then awarded for doing well in the pair's section as well as Overall. (See Note at end of article.)

Cheating Scandal

The Bridge world is being shaken by revelations in the past few days of cheating by the two players ranked number 1 and 2 in the world. Apparently the scandal is spreading fast, as Sri Lanka has now withdrawn from a major event. Other involved countries seem to be Italy, Monaco, and Israel.

Local world-class player Jeff Meckstroth hinted on an online bridge forum that he is aware of other cheating that will be revealed in due time.

Here are some links to good reporting. (Note that the Newsweek link is sometimes behind a "pay-wall" but apparently is reachable from a Google search. I was given a link which required payment, but using Google worked.)

1♣ Alerts

1♣ is no doubt the most common opening bid in ACBL-sanctioned games. In Standard American bidding, it means bidder has an opening hand with 3 or more clubs. There are three other things meant:

  1. opener usually has no 5+ card major (1♥ or 1♠);
  2. opener does not have a strong balanced hand (15 or more HCP), except he may hold 18-19 HCP intending to jump to 2NT at his next turn to bid;
  3. and opener does not have a very strong unbalanced hand (2♣).

The ACBL's Alert Rules say that any time a bid is "highly unusual and unexpected ... in light of historical usage," it must be Alerted. They also state that when in doubt, Alert, since there is no penalty for alerting unnecessarily, but there can be penalties for failure to Alert.

The phrase "in light of historical usage" presents a serious problem for players new to the game -- they are learning the current game, and have all they can do to accomplish that -- they do not know historical usage so they don't know when to Alert. For example, there are historical bids that are artificial and sound peculiar to a new player, but which are not Alerted. Stayman, Gerber, and Blackwood are examples that come to mind -- they are historical bids that "everybody" plays now, and need not be Alerted.

Also, there are natural bids that newer players would not notice which carry meanings that Standard bids do not, and these are not Alerted, to the detriment of the new players. For people playing 2 over 1, a 2 over 1 response is unlimited in strength and is game forcing -- newer players do not know this and can "walk into" a bad board without knowing why.

In addition, there are artificial bids that "everybody" plays, that are Alerted -- Transfers come to mind.

All in all, it's a confusing mess to newer players.

So here are my recommendations for Alerting 1♣ for bidding that newer players use. Remember, if your bid always shows 3+ clubs and an opening hand and is not Forcing, no Alert is needed. That is, 3 may seem like a pretty short suit to be bidding, but it's Standard.

Also, note that you cannot make up your own system. (Advanced players can, in fact, make up their own system, but very strict rules apply.)

Montreal Relay:

1♣ should be Alerted. Do not merely announce "Could be Short." Mike Flader, the "rulings" guru at the ACBL has said, in print: "The 1♣ opening and the 1♦ response ... must be Alerted."

The explanation, if asked, is "Partner has an Opening Hand but may have as few as 1 club. He denies holding a 5+ card major or a NT opener or a 2♣ opener, and is asking me whether I have a 5+ card major. I am Forced to answer unless I have a very weak hand with clubs."

1♦ response to 1♣ should be Alerted. The explanation, if asked, is "Partner denies holding a 5+ card major, but may hold a 4-card major. He does not hold a very weak hand with clubs, or else he would have passed."

1NT response to 1♣ should be Alerted. The explanation, if asked, is "Partner has 11+ HCP.  He denies holding a 5+ card major, and does not hold a 4-card major."

Short Club:

1♣ need not be Alerted. Merely announce "Could be Short." Here, the shortness is the only unnatural aspect of the bid.

The explanation, if asked, is "Partner has an Opening Hand but may have as few as 2 clubs. He denies holding 5+ in a major, or 4+ diamonds."

Other Systems:

Advanced players may be bidding with a system that requires Alerts. They should know what they are, or else they may not play that system.


Remember that players may ask for an explanation of any bid opponents make, whether Alerted or not. But also remember that you may not ask for an explanation for your partner's benefit rather than your own or to call attention to a bid. Further, it is unwise to ask for an explanation if you intend to pass regardless of the explanation.


Opening 1NT/2NT with a Singleton

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax — of [singletons] and kings." (from ACBL's Directors' Handbook and Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll.) [Ed. For the nit-pickers out there, it comes from The Walrus and the Carpenter.]

How many times do you know of an opponent opening 1NT / 2NT with a singleton? (I know of at least three in the last ten years at our club, and I can name all three players who committed this suspected egregious act — well, it seemed so at the time.)

Yes, a no trump opening is predicated on a balanced hand with a predetermined point count and everyone at the table expects the opener to have such a holding.

Maximum Enjoyment

The choice of words in naming a concept is unexpectedly important.

Quoting a Swedish writer, Rick Falkvinge, "One particularly enlightening example was the abolishment of the estate tax in the United States in April this year. The estate tax – sometimes called an inheritance tax – is a tax paid on a deceased person's estate before the rest is inherited by their heirs. Estate tax sounds kind of academic and theoretical, when it's a levy on [dead] people [who had] large estates...

"So a couple of bright people reworded it as death tax, and talked about it in those terms everywhere. The new term caught on, and the concept stood no chance of survival once it was called a death tax instead."

Peculiarly, Zero Tolerance, turns a positive concept, tolerance, into a negative by prefixing it with zero. I have no particular gripe with Zero Tolerance's aims, but the title turns me off.

We need another name.

I'm not alone in recognizing this defect – the Play Nice campaign for example. But Play Nice is not quite right. It connotes a simplistic, even childish concept.

Previously, I have espoused the title Maximum Tolerance, but I could see even then that its not right either. While I believe an occasional lapse is to be expected and tolerated, it implies that bad behavior can routinely be tolerated.

I now think Maximum Enjoyment would be better. But I suppose other wordsmiths can come up with something even better. What do you think?

"Hello, Jeff, are you still available?"


I spent a pleasant four days in Chicago last week playing in the 2015 Summer NABC with Scott Roland. The following is one of those hands that makes me come back for more – pleasant or not.

Playing against a formidable pair (Sallie Meckstroth and Scott Hiller) I declared in a 4-Spade contract after the following auction: P-1♣-P-1♠; P-2-P-4. After Sallie led a Diamond, Scott tabled the following dummy: 
-Kxxx; -Kxxx; -Ax; -Jxx.

Sallie looked at the dummy and said with a gasp; “You opened with that?” Scott replied: “If we were playing Precision I would have opened 1 Diamond." Sallie nodded in agreement and play continued.

I used my convention card holder as a telephone and said: “Hello Jeff, are you available?” After many smiles and chuckles around the table, Scott said, “Have I put you in a bad contract?” Not really. I had 17 HCP and I decided to play Scott Hiller for most of the missing points.

This line of play was prompted by none other than Jeff Meckstroth. At a seminar during a Clearwater Sectional, Jeff said, “Sometimes you just have to single out one opponent and place them with the bulk of the missing points.”

I took the A, finessed the ♠J, cashed the ♠K (finding a 4-1 split) and went on to make four. Sallie nodded her approval and Scott Hiller complimented me on my play.

I still wish Jeff was available!

Sincerely, Jim Somma


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