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7 posts
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Answering Queries ( 05:24:29 WedDec 18 2002 )

Hi there

There are two situations that I'm not clear on (especially relating to online bridge):

Case 1: Answering an opponent's question on a "normal" bid. For instance my partner opens 1 and I respond 1. LHO says "Please explain your bid" or words to that effect. I believe this to be an inappropriate question, but still, if it's asked, what is the best way to reply? The question could perhaps have been asked by someone who "knows no better", but in my experience, it's been known to carry somewhat more unethical connotations.

Case 2: My pard and I have a fairly involved bidding sequence and at some point, my LHO queries my last bid. Let's assume we have no clear cut agreement on the meaning of that bid - in other words, it's not part of a specific convention or agreeement, it's "just bridge". I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, what's the best way to answer that one?

I don't want to answer the question in an unhelpful manner, but at the same time, don't feel I should have to disclose my interpretation of a bid, given that it might differ considerably from my partner's interpretation and might well be influenced by my actual hand! I always used to repond "we have no specific agreement about that bid" but I've been told that I *shouldn't* say that.

In face to face bridge, I don't think I've ever (nor do I expect to) get questioned on a simple one over one bid, as in the first case above.

The second situation crops up fairly regularly in f2f bridge though (except that this time, I'm asked about my partner's bid of course, rather than my own. My own interpretation of the bid depends to a large extent on (a) my hand, (b) the previous bidding and (c) by bidding "experience" (in the general sense, not specifically with this partner). Again, my feeling is that I should be able to answer "no special agreement", but is this the right thing to do?


427 posts
Forum Host

Re: Answering Queries ( 11:55:35 WedDec 18 2002 )

People ask questions of simple auctions for three basic reasons.

First, not everyone plays things the same, and there is a lot of ignorance. For example, in the sequence you quoted, 1 P 1, are you playing Standard American? If you are playing Acol, for example, it means exactly the same as in Standard, but the asker may not know that.

Of course, the nuances may be different to you. I asked not so long ago about a fourth suit sequence. I know exactly how I play it, but I had no idea whether my opponents played it the same way. They refused to answer, which was unacceptable.

Second reason for asking is just to put opponents off. While this is very rare, if you find opponents are always asking on every hand, how about looking for new opponents? In F2F the Director will stop harrassment.

The third reason is to establish a case for misinformation. There is little you can do about this sort of bridge lawyering except to grin and bear it. The Director will stop it in F2F bridge but you have no way of dealing with it in OLB.

So my advice is just answer the question, however inane, and do not worry unless it is continuous questioning.

As for your second question, answering "We have no special agreement" is absolutely fine, and several authorities have made this clear. If opponents moan, tell them they are wrong. But be clear, if you do have information, eg a similar sequence last week, tell them so, even if the sequence was not the same: that's partnership experience, and they have a right to know that.

David Stevenson <>
Liverpool, England, UK
James Vickers

Re: Answering Queries ( 20:02:18 ThuDec 19 2002 )

Many players have difficulty answering questions on the basis of their partnership agreement alone, and let their own feeling for what is going on, or the cards they are holding influence their reply. This is partly because they feel uneasy about misleading their opponents if partner has most likely deviated from their agreed system, and partly because inappropriate questions are often asked.

E.g. your agreement is to play gambling 3NT opener based on a solid minor, but opposite partner's 3NT opener you find yourself holding high honours in both minors.

My mother (not accostomed to telling lies), would shift uncomfortably if asked, and say "Well....our *agreement* is...." leaving it clear to everyone that she knows her partner does not have the advertised hand.

My advice is to apply the "Zettel test" (German: Zettel = piece of paper). You should put out of your mind the cards you are holding or any other irrelevant information, and imagine someone had written the bidding sequence down on a piece of paper and asked you "What would this call mean in your system?" Answer accordingly (bearing in mind what David said about implicit agreements), and if the answer would be "undiscussed" or "no partnership agreement", so be it. This removes the temptation to try to interpret the call for the opponents when you don't have an agreement. You cannot say "I'm taking it to mean..." when you are faced with an abstract sequence on a piece of paper.

I also try to discourage inappropriate questioning. My partner has an unfortunate habit of pointing to the opening lead and asking "Fourth highest?" rather than "What are your lead styles?" This encourages unwary opponents to provide more information than he is entitled to. (They might reply "No, I don't think *that* card could be fourth highest, it's more likely to be...")

Likewise every time I play the game I hear the question: "What does the ten of hearts discard mean?" rather than "What system of discard signals are you playing?" or better still, finding out the opponents' methods from their convention card before the round begins.

I know I'm fighting a losing battle, but I keep trying.



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