The latest Bridge Brouhaha
Spain defeated USA today in the World Bridge Games in Wroclaw (in the Round of 16) but the big news was that Spain accused a US Pair (Bathurst-Lall) of having an undisclosed agreement and refused to start the 5th set (racking up penalties until they were seated, at which point the 32 IMPs of Penalties were lowered to 10).
The agreement in question (according to Spain) was “B-L always open 3rd seat Non-vulnerable.” I do not assume B-L are doing anything unethical (I think I’ve probably Kibitzed Lall in a local regional), and always is an overbid (a counterexample has been found), but “almost always” is probably right. An exhaustive analysis is ongoing.
There are a lot of issues here. But even at my level, I stretch to open 3rd seat NV (and V, but not nearly as much) and players who are stronger than I am typically stretch more. Playing Polish I am protected somewhat because if I don’t open 1C partner knows I’m capped at 17 and can’t bury me (since he’s probably capped at 10, or ugly 11-12s).
Last weekend I held the following in 3rd seat
S:Jxxx H:AQ9x Qxx xx (approximately, the minor shape may be flipped)
I opened 1 Heart. (We play 5 card majors, but our convention card marks that 1 Heart and 1 Spade could be 4 cards in 3rd/4th seat. ACBL cards don’t show differences for 3rd seat and 4th seat). That was the first time I’ve opened a 4 card major and a 9 HCP hand in a long time, but it does have a lot going for it.
- Lead direction. I’d love a heart lead
- I also have spades. If partner has spades, thats fine and I can pass. If they have spades I have defense. And if spades are even around the table, I’ve preempted the auction nicely. I’ve prevented a one of a minor opening and may steal the hands. In short, my stealing chances went way up.
Is this an undisclosed agreement? Well, we disclose it. We aren’t totally safe (unlike, say, the 1D precision opener) since responder can bury partner … we can respond 2N or mini splinter and drive the bidding to the three level (or higher). On the hand in question, partner did drive to the three level in the competitive auction, as it went
P-(P) - 1H- (2m) 2S-(3m)- P - (P)3H-(P) - 3S- AP
But 4m was cold and 3S off one or two was a decent score.
Now — I would have no sympathy with a world class opponent (or even a random expert) who accused me of cheating. That really isn’t my point.
The interesting question is: how much sympathy should I have for random club game opponents? The old S.J. Simon advice is not to psyche against weak players, because you do better than they do. Why make it a guessing game? But playing a system where partner is (unlikely/unable) to hang me for opening hands like this (or lighter) and being in a partnership where both partners are capable of opening hands like this (or weaker) in 3rd seat and knowing that this opening gives me a lot of upside with minor downside, why should I not press my advantage? But the opponents may (sometimes later) feel like they have been bullied. If a Flight C player argues that I should alert this, that’s not an argument I feel like I can dismiss lightly.
At what point does it become alertable? Even if it isn’t, should I alert against weaker opponents? Technically not, because the alert itself may fluster and be considered a bullying maneuver. In fact, at what point does alerting do more harm than good?
The ambiguity in the procedures themselves seems to be part of the problem. I’ll have to pull out my Convention Card and examine it. Should I list this under Psyches as “3rd seat — light openers possible?” “Very light?”
Hm. I will ask this at Bridge Winners, I think.