Chuck Arthur


In comments on a previous post to this blog, there were references to changes to the alert procedure. I have just spent the past hour going through the ACBL website looking for these and could not find them. Does anybody know where these are documented for the benefit of the hoi poloi?

You are West, vulnerable against non vulnerable opponents at matchpoints.


West East


West North East South
  1 pass 1nt
pass 2 pass pass


1 notrump was forcing for one round. Perhaps you would have acted on the previous round. Would you? If so, what did you bid?

What do you bid now?


Andy RismanMarch 19th, 2010 at 11:26 am

Assuming North was dealer and south bid the forcing NT, with West’s hand I would double forcing NT right away. If partner can’t bid over 2 spades, I would defend. If partner does bid, he should have 6-9 hcp and we have enough for game. Now I don’t know if partner has any points and I would choose to defend.

don mcgillMarch 19th, 2010 at 11:44 am

Can we assume this problem was typed after one of the pub sessions where many earlier discussions took place?

David LindopMarch 19th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Assuming I hold the South hand, I would have doubled the forcing 1NT response to avoid the current problem. If I double initially, I’ll get some indication of partner’s distribution/values. If I double now, it will sound to partner as though I’m making a balancing double, so partner won’t move, even with the values we need for game.

Of course, passing might have worked out better…if North had rebid 2D followed by two passes.

If I were in the current position, I’d still take a chance on double. Partner rates to have a five-card suit somewhere, will give preference to hearts, and will, hopefully, bid 3C with 4-4 in the minors. It’s only matchpoints. I assume others in the field will have taken some action. Passing would be a better choice if they were vulnerable…we’d be getting 100 per trick.

Chuck GallowayMarch 19th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

In practice I passed throughout with this hand because I assumed partner had zilch and I liked where they were sitting. We scored 16/18 for +150. If I remember correctly we got 2 hearts, 1 ruff, 3 spades and 2 clubs. Sometimes silence is golden.

lewis richardsonMarch 19th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

as difficult as it is, my instincts vote for pass throughout. on balance it is probably the only way to get a plus.

Steve GoldinMarch 19th, 2010 at 5:09 pm


Are you sure that the hands are correctly positioned ?

Why am I, South, able to see the West hand ?

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 19th, 2010 at 5:56 pm


With reference to your opening quest, I’m not too impressed with the Alert Section you are in search of. According to those in command, when playing support doubles, it is standard procedure to raise with four and double with three — but there is no obligation to alert that a pass denies three, i.e., showing two or less. I contend “if that is your understanding — then your opponents are entitled to the same information.” Either you play it or you don’t. But the rule book begs to differ.

Chuck ArthurMarch 19th, 2010 at 5:57 pm

You’re right Andy and Steve. The problem was flawed as I originally presented it, since corrected.

Robert E. HarrisMarch 19th, 2010 at 9:19 pm

The ACBL alert chart, alert regulations, and a lot of other stuff can be found at

There is a search box at the top of the ACBL home page which can be used to find this and much else.

Ross AndersonMarch 19th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I pass and I would have passed the first time as well. I have no reason to believe that partner and I can make anything and if I take an action (double) my partner will bid diamonds or clubs and that will be followed by a double. Do I sound like a pessimist? Let’s just concentrate on good defense.I start with heart Ace & king and hope for ruff by partner.

Eric CaulfieldMarch 19th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

At matchpoints, letting the opps stay at the “comfortable” 2 level is simply the wrong thing to do. You take them out of that level, not because it’s the right thing to do, but rather move them out of that level because your probable score is not good so you risk very little to get a better result….meaning that your risk/reward is on your side. A good covention to consider is the “scrambling 2NT” where in this type of auction after the one in the balancing seat doubles, if partner bids a suit directly it shows a 5 card suit. If partner doesn’t have a 5 card suit he must bid an artificial “2NT” to scramble…which forces you…not partner to bid your first 4 card suit up the line in an attempt to find that 4-4 fit….any fit. In this case it would be 3 hearts. Worse case you end up in a 4-3 fit most of the time but this method will find your 4-4 fits if you have one. To double you should guarantee at least 3 cards in any other suit. However, it doesn’t really matter because you probably have a bad result already letting them play a comfortable 2 spade contract. If you think about it…balancing by bidding 2NT and redoubling the double and going for a few thousand would only cost you one or two more matchpoints because you already have a bad result. Plus…this will not win you tournaments if you do what everyone else does! This is the most important statement in matchpoints. So you push them away from the 2 level because the “probable score” of letting them play a comfortable 2 level contract with 1/2 the deck will give you a bad result” regardless. By the way….1/2 the deck is not 20 HCPs as most people think. It’s 18 HCPs! That’s because it’s now fashionable to open the bidding with 12 HCPs and when partner raises your major showing 6-9 HCPs…it only guarantees 6 HCPs… you only have 18 HCPs for sure and no more than 22 HCPs combined points most of the time if someone doesn’t “invite” to game. It’s a 100% surity! This means that when the opps open and raise and opener then passes, they only guarantee 18 HCps which means means your side has 18 HCPs also and nobody knows who has the other 4 HCPs. Maybe it’s divided 2-2 …maybe 3-1…maybe 4-0. Nobody knows. This is why you get bad results when you let them play a 2 level contract because you’re letting them play a contract when you could have more HCPs than they do. In essence they’ve stolen your contract when that happens. This is the real game of matchpoints…..pushing them out of the “comfortable” 2 level to the “not so comfortable 3 level”. Do they go on or do they double you or do they just let you play your contract or do you double them when they bid on rather then letting you play the 3 level. Decisions…Decisions. When you understand this concept them you’ve moved up the ladder in understanding this game. Too many times I’ve heard something to the effect of “we played all our games and made our part scores and doubled them when they got to high yet we end up only average at the end of the night. I don’t know how to win at this game”. This is because they’re bringing a knife to a gunfight! Said another way…they’re bringing the wrong tools to win except when the tumblers come together. This is why people leave the game. People will only play at something they have a chance to win at. If they’re not shown how to win…then they’ll eventually leave this game for something they can occasionally win at. It’s to our advantage to give them the tools to win so our games get harder to win but the game gets better. Your example opens the door to the fundamental strategy to winning this game.

Debbie BennettMarch 20th, 2010 at 7:54 am

Assuming partner is short in spades, I think I would make a t/o double on the first round. I know I only have two diamonds, but two honours are usually as good as three small. If 2 spades comes back to me with no action from partner, I pass. Many players at one of the clubs I play at would ALWAYS double on the first round, I HAVE HEARTS! That’s all it says. Too many times, a player opens a hand that they deem too good for a weak two bid (10hcp), their partner bids a forcing no trump with a sub minimum(5hcp) and it was my/our hand after all. I want to put partner in the picture right away, get in-get out. I believe it was John Carruthers that once stated that opposite a t/o double, most of his partners would bid if they think they have something to say. That’s why I would invite partner into this auction right away.

Phil RizzutoMarch 20th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

In this auction I probably even though I am vul. would double. Hopefully partner will be able to bid hearts but if opp continue in spades, part. can make a wise decision.

Abe BirenbaumMarch 21st, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I would certainly double the 1 NT which should tell my p-artner I have points thereafterb he can choose the final contract. The danger is a passout of 1NT dbl but it is unlikely my partner would pass the double.

NickMarch 21st, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I would have doubled on the last round, to show a good hand. When partner could not act over 2S after my double, I would pass.

Now I would have to double again for take-out, hoping my partner will bid H. Of course, he is allowed to pass the 2S doubled if he has some defensive values, and no good suit to bid.

Blair FedderMarch 22nd, 2010 at 6:00 am

I passed the forcing NT and now I get to pass two spades, it depends on whom I playing…… It’s tough after the 1NT bid to look at the opponent’s card to see what kind of jump shifts they make, so the pass of 1NT is correct. In reality, how many diamonds does partner go down doubled at the three level if he/she bids a four card suit. Partner could be booked at trick four if he/she ducks a spade. If partner bids three clubs or especially three hearts, what do you do if RHO bids three spades? If I double two spades I’m in a worse scenario than if I bid 2NT, especially at match points against a weak pair. Then 2NT could fetch all kinds of action by the opponents, all good for you and poor for them. Don’t try this action against Meckwell, because you might wind up saying to your partner what Rodman said to his partner (while playing against us) after overcalling one diamond over a strong club and taking his AKQ of diamonds for -1100 (yes, we led trump), “Don’t bid, they can defend.”

Daniel KorbelMarch 23rd, 2010 at 8:45 am

It must be right to double 1NT for takeout. You have so much here that you could still have a game, and this is the only reasonably safe entry point into the auction. Obviously at this point in the auction you must pass, but I would feel much more comfortable passing had I already invited partner to the party.

Fred GitelmanMarch 23rd, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I would have certainly DBLed the first time. This is especially important in this day and age when many players open light and respond with close to nothing when not vul.

IMO Passing on the first round amounts to wearing a t-shirt that says “please steal from me”.

Fred Gitelman

Chuck ArthurMarch 25th, 2010 at 12:10 am

It is a little difficult to do a summary since I asked more than one question, and the answer to one depends on the answer to the second. nevertheless, here is roughly what people thought.

Double 1nt, unspecified later action: 6

Double 1nt, pass later: 1

2nt 1

Pass throughout 4

pass 1nt, double now 1 (me)

For a look at the hand record and virtual traveller, visit

They are about to play on a 6 card fit; double dummy, WE can make 2 spades with our opponents on lead. There should be some way to punish them for their indiscretion, but it seems that there is not. The best result EW came from a pair who doubled them in 2 spades and were able to make it stick; although not the best defense, they scored +300. the next best was from 3 pairs who defended 2 spades undoubled and collected +150. I obviously erred by passing the first round, then doubling now. Partner could hardly be blamed for taking this out on

KJx xx 98xxxx 10x. They doubled us; partner did very well to hold this to -1, -200. I declined to double on the first round since in standard, this a takeout of spades. I have FOUR spades. I was hoping that by passing the first round and doubling now, partner might catch on that I held this hand. Alas, he was not a mind reader

John Cunningham and I discussed the ramifications of playing Vasilevsky. This convention (which I play in a number of partnerships) applies after (1Ma)-pass-(1nt)-__. Double is a relay to 2 clubs and might have a second suit; 2 clubs is a relay to 2 diamonds and might have a second suit; 2 diamonds shows the other major; 2 of the other major is a light takeout of their major; cuebidding their major is a strong takeout of their major. If playing Vasilevsky, there is absolutely nothing to do but pass on the first round. In the passout seat on the second round, double is undiscussed, but perhaps be strongly suggesting penalties. Not having worked this out, we would probably be endplayed into passing for a good (but not perfect) score.

Linda WynstonMarch 26th, 2010 at 9:59 am

I would double the forcing nt right away. I don’t want to force partner to bid on the three level later which we may not make. I agree there are alot of points in this deck but lets find out right away.

Chuck ArthurMarch 26th, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Bruce Gowdy makes the following comment

I would double 1nt- one needs avery good hand to x in this position-if N passes pard does not necessarily have to bid a bad 4 card suit-with some scattered values he could pass and hope for the best-if N bids 2 spades and pard and south pass then I would pass.

As to alerting a non support double or redouble there is no obligation to say alert when pard does not make a support x or xx. If you open say 1 club and pard bids 1 heart and the next hand overcalls 1 spade and you pass-this does not deny holding 3 hearts! I have never heard that there is an obligation to rebid on a weak opening bid at your first opportunity. To those who blurt out alert and announce”denies 3 hearts” they are wrong. Maybe the announcement should be”denies a reasonable 3 hearts” since most players using support doubles would use the bid holding, say,AKx but not do it with xxx and a weak opening.

Steve GoldinMarch 26th, 2010 at 10:38 pm


I guess I missed the boat on this one, too. But, I haven’t looked at the other comments just yet.

I wouldn’t have passed first time out. I’d have doubled. And, at this turn I’d have probably just passed, especially if partner couldn’t dredge up any sort of bid. Of course, in the auction given, I passed first time out, so partner can’t possibly have enough values to dream up a bid.

My feeling is that 19 HCPs is just too many points to pass, but once I’ve passed, I’ve missed the boat.

Tim CapesOctober 16th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

All your natural or light takeout bids would have bid already, so at a minimum double here should shows a fair amount of penalty tolerance.

I think its fair to say you would have made a strong takeout on this point range with say:

2-4(34). So the danger hand for partner is probably 2344

On the hand in question perhaps partner should be eager to convert on KJX of trumps at matchpoints, even with a raggedy 6 card suit?

I think the question becomes:


Are you ever going to balance with double to push the opponents up 1 level when they have anywhere from a 6 to 9 card fit (with 9 being extremely rare) when you already had the chance to make onshape takeout bids, and show two-suiters? Maybe you have to balance with 2NT when you have an offshape takeout with no penalty tolerance playing Vasilevsky?

In general I agree with Bruce Gowdy if X is natural you need a very good hand to do it because X gives the opponents lots of space.. for starters they can play in 1NT!

Mike HamiltonNovember 6th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

On the given sequence, what is any balancing bid going to sound like? Backing in with 1NT would show 11-14 HCP as in the previous round. I think 2NT would be some sort of 2-suited takeout bid. The only strength-showing bids left are a double or a cue-bid. I have no idea what these would mean following a pass which suggested an inability to act on the previous round.

I would have doubled on the previous round and who knows how the bidding would have gone after that? In the given sequence, I bite my tongue and pass. I don’t have a biddable feature I can show at the 3-level.

I pass because of the arithmetic of this deal. If we give North 11-12 HCP for his opening bid and South an 8-count or so for his forcing 1NT response, that leaves partner broke. I can’t be confident I can beat 2S from my hand and won’t take the risk of doubling them into game. I will be very happy to earn a plus on this board.

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