Directing on BBO is, in a lot of ways, simpler than directing in an in-person game. I, as a game director, do not have to deal with leads out of turn, bids out of turn, revokes, or insufficient bids. I also do not have to deal with slow players. Bridgebase.com automatically handles those kinds of problems; however, there is one area that I have to continually deal with – Errors in the Alert Procedure.
You would think that alerting would be simple. In fact, the rule is simple. You alert and explain your own alertable bids. You announce and explain your own bids that require announcements. Your partner does not see your alert or announcement (a wonderful feature of BBO), but the opponents do.
Recent rule revisions and interpretations by the ACBL very plainly lay the onus of alerting on the bidder and not the opponents. Opponents are not longer obligated to ask about bids that were not alerted. They are no longer required to ask about bids that they think probably should have been alerted.
Real simple: You alert YOUR OWN bids. Always. Every time. Without fail.
So why am I getting a headache? Because many players are NOT alerting their bids when they should. Just this past Wednesday, I dealt with three instances of bidders who made bids that should have been alerted but were not. One was a Bergen raise. One was a Splinter Bid. One was a Jacoby 2NT response.
You may be thinking, “Everybody knows when a Bergen raise has been bid and everyone knows when a Splinter bid has been made.” NO, THEY DON’T. Contrary to what some people think, not everyone keeps up with all the gadgets there are in duplicate bridge bidding. Besides, it is the RESPONSIBILITY and OBLIGATION of the bidder to let the opponents know what their alertable bids mean without their having to ask.
When you alert a bid (by clicking on the Alert box), you must explain what the bid means. You cannot just say the name of the convention, no matter how common the convention is. If your partner opens 1♠ and you make a Bergen limit raise of 3♦, it is improper to type “Bergen” in the Alert box Instead you type in the alert box “4 card limit raise of spades.” It is okay to abbreviate as long as it is clear. You can say “4 cd lim raise of sp.”
If you open 1♥ and your partner makes a Jacoby raise of 2NT, she should not just type in “Jacoby.” She should type in “4 card heart raise” If you play the version of Jacoby where the 2NT bid denies shortness, type in “ 4 cd hrt raise, no shortness” If you now bid 3♣ after the 2NT to show a singleton or void in Clubs, you type in “club shortness.” If you fail to do that, the opponents have every right to assume that you are showing values in Clubs
Announcements work the same way except you do not click on the Alert box; you just fill in the blank beside the word ALERT. For instance, if your partner opens 1♠ and you bid 1NT forcing, then you type in the word “Forcing” without clicking on the Alert box (You need to do this before you make your bid). If your partner opens 1NT and you make a Texas Transfer bid of 4♦ (showing Hearts), you type in the word “Hearts” in the blank without clicking on the Alert box.
One further type of announcement. If you respond to a 4NT Ace Asking bid (whether it is Key Card or not), you are obligated to tell what your response means. Say your partner bids 4NT Key Card Blackwood and you respond 5♠, you must announce that as “Two Key Cards with Queen.” Remember that you are obligated to give that information without their having to ask.
So why does all this give me a director headache? If you fail to alert or announce a bid that you should have alerted or announce and the opponents argue that your failure to alert cause them to misdefend, then I, as the director, have to decide whether the opponents are damaged. Keep in mind that you cannot argue that they should have known. As stated earlier, the onus of alerting lies with the bidder. It is not always easy to determine damages and, regardless of the director’s decision, there are going to be two people who are not pleased. If there is any doubt about damages, the director will give the benefit of the doubt to the non-offending side.
It would be so much easier if all players alerted or announced when they are supposed to and gave a clear and proper explanation. The rules of BBO bridge would be followed and my ibuprofen bottle would get a rest.
To review the new ACBL Alert procedure - Click Here