Saturday, 13 September 2014

( An article by Dr. Sigmund T. Schukelgruber )

Irregular and infrequent partnerships. Regular partners who all choose to play a different system. Playing with complete strangers by virtue of partners not turning up , or the operation of a stand-by system. Welcome to the world of duplicate bridge.
Even agreeing to play stayman might not that simple of straightforward. Is it promissory , non-promissory or what?  And if there's an intervening bid what does a double mean?  " Yes , I can play the multi-diamonds.... but as to a full understanding of the responses , and/or what to do after the opponents stick in an obstructive overcall , I'm not so sure ". Welcome to the world of duplicate bridge.
Passes, forcing passes, take-out doubles, penalty doubles, 4NT asking bids, 4NT sign offs : the scope for ambiguity and uncertainty is infinite. Questions about bids which confuse opponents often confuse partner, who inevitably can only answer their questions " We have no agreement ! ". Yes , this is a world riddled with convention disruption.
Whether CD occurs because of lack of pre-match discussion, ignorance or poor grasp of conventions, loss of concentration or forgetfulness , the offended or injured partners get frustrated , irritated and angry. The problem is so serious it blights the game , often leading to allegations of cheating , which in some cases are well founded.
Take for instance the four scenarios which can occur when the opponents ask for an explanation of an alerted convention bid . It might be (a) woefully incomplete, (b) muddled or confused, (c) misleading by default , and (d) hopelessly incorrect. So why do players elect to play conventions they don't fully grasp or understand ? God only knows.
Yet the forms of CD seem endless.  Pairs can be at cross purposes as to what situations a convention should be used or not. Many players wrongly believe a convention has been included into their hastily agreed system , or has been left out. In some instances , despite agreeing on a convention , they completely forget about it , or worse still forget to alert the bid. Sometimes when asked about a convention bid , the realisation that they don't know what it actually means suddenly dawns upon them. Add to that the possibility they might invent an answer they think is correct  ,  the auction can then descend into a complete farce. 
However, one must never overlook the fact that the opponents , by raising questions about convention bids , alerts and doubles , are themselves looking to pass on unauthorized information , or seeking to gain an unfair advantage. "2C stayman ? "....." Yes.... so is it promising a major ? " often comes from an opponent who is holding one or both majors himself. 
Sadly , duplicate bridge with its dozens of irregular pairings,  players who love to toy with new and exciting conventions they don't fully understand , and players who are genuinely forgetful or prone to lapses of concentration , the problem of CD will never go away. 

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