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Cutting through "obscure" agreements So, on *this* hand, what is it?

#1 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-July-30, 13:30

Several threads on BW are talking about "obscuring" your agreements in "legal" ways exist. For example:
  • we play "15-17" 1NT on prime boards, and "12-14" on non-prime boards.
  • we play UD if dummy has a piquet, standard otherwise"


For Reasons, I don't post there, but this all is an interesting question.

My response to this is the same one I use with Obvious Shift players: "So, on this auction with this dummy, what's the obvious shift suit?" There's 12 rules, they know how it works, and there is a single specific answer. I'm not asking if they're asking whether the 6 is high or low, or anything else that requires knowledge of their hand.

It's the same response I give to the symmetric relay pairs who say "he showed hearts, then diamonds, then longer lower suit, then equal shortage, then 8 QP with either no controls or two controls in the longest suit, one in the next longest, then none or two in the highest of the equals." "So, give me shape, and which suits controls have been shown. I understand what queen points are, but partner might not."

I've always got a contented answer to this question from people playing these unusual systems requiring different analysis (but no bridge judgement) than standard, because they're not trying to confuse the opponents. I assume the people who are doing the "15-17 if prime" are hoping people won't or can't work it out (sure, 1NT will be announced when bid, but this hand they opened 1. I *still* want to know their NT range on this board, don't you?) and may not be so welcoming.

So, legally, given the concept of Full Disclosure and the Laws and (common) regulations pertaining, is "so, on this deal [with this auction and dummy], what is [your agreement]?" a question I can require an answer to? As a player? As a Director? Can the players insist this get explained to the Director in a way he can understand, and then get that understanding from the Director? If the last, and the Director misunderstands what was explained, do the players get protection from the "misexplanation"? Should there simply be a quarter-board penalty for attempting to avoid disclosure by insisting they work it out (not, I want to make clear, for playing this weird variable in the first place - that's perfectly legal)?
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#2 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2021-July-30, 15:27

View Postmycroft, on 2021-July-30, 13:30, said:

Several threads on BW are talking about "obscuring" your agreements in "legal" ways exist. For example:
  • we play "15-17" 1NT on prime boards, and "12-14" on non-prime boards.
  • we play UD if dummy has a piquet, standard otherwise"


For Reasons, I don't post there, but this all is an interesting question.

My response to this is the same one I use with Obvious Shift players: "So, on this auction with this dummy, what's the obvious shift suit?" There's 12 rules, they know how it works, and there is a single specific answer. I'm not asking if they're asking whether the 6 is high or low, or anything else that requires knowledge of their hand.

It's the same response I give to the symmetric relay pairs who say "he showed hearts, then diamonds, then longer lower suit, then equal shortage, then 8 QP with either no controls or two controls in the longest suit, one in the next longest, then none or two in the highest of the equals." "So, give me shape, and which suits controls have been shown. I understand what queen points are, but partner might not."

I've always got a contented answer to this question from people playing these unusual systems requiring different analysis (but no bridge judgement) than standard, because they're not trying to confuse the opponents. I assume the people who are doing the "15-17 if prime" are hoping people won't or can't work it out (sure, 1NT will be announced when bid, but this hand they opened 1. I *still* want to know their NT range on this board, don't you?) and may not be so welcoming.

So, legally, given the concept of Full Disclosure and the Laws and (common) regulations pertaining, is "so, on this deal [with this auction and dummy], what is [your agreement]?" a question I can require an answer to? As a player? As a Director? Can the players insist this get explained to the Director in a way he can understand, and then get that understanding from the Director? If the last, and the Director misunderstands what was explained, do the players get protection from the "misexplanation"? Should there simply be a quarter-board penalty for attempting to avoid disclosure by insisting they work it out (not, I want to make clear, for playing this weird variable in the first place - that's perfectly legal)?
Many partnerships do appear to use complex descriptions to frustrate adequate disclosure.
  • Many years ago, Sven Pran suggested that opponents be legally obliged to answer the question: "What do partner's conventional choices actions tell you about his hand?" This would save you the bother of trying to disentangle a chain of deliberately confusing inferences,
  • Anyway, these methods are often illegal, in principle, because they facilitate asymmetric agreements. For example, suppose you're a professional and your client partner is dealer on an even-numbered board in the next set. You cunningly announce that you've agreed to play transfers over 1N openers, except on even-numbered boards.

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#3 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 02:00

I think (hope) law 20F is some help

During the auction and before the final pass any player may request7, at his own turn to call, an explanation of the opponents’ auction. He is entitled to know about calls actually made, about relevant alternative calls available that were not made, and about inferences from the choice of action where these are matters of partnership understanding. Except on the instruction of the Director replies should be given by the partner of the player who made the call in question. The partner of a player who asks a question may not ask a supplementary question until his turn to call or play. Law 16 may apply and the Regulating Authority may establish regulations for written explanations.
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#4 User is online   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 02:46

We had an example of this, a pair decides whether they open 1 or 1 on balanced hands outside their no trump range basesd on whether the sum of the lowest cards in each suit are odd or even. This is entirely legal. They also play 4 card majors.

I asked the question "What makes you more likely to open the 4 card major than the minor on a balanced hand" and at this point they try to hide behind GBK, ignoring the fact that there is none, I wouldn't have a clue from GBK whether the fact that the polarities suggest you should open a 2 card diamond rather than a 4 card club makes you more inclined to open a 4 card heart instead.
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#5 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 08:39

View PostCyberyeti, on 2021-July-31, 02:46, said:

I asked the question "What makes you more likely to open the 4 card major than the minor on a balanced hand" and at this point they try to hide behind GBK, ignoring the fact that there is none, I wouldn't have a clue from GBK whether the fact that the polarities suggest you should open a 2 card diamond rather than a 4 card club makes you more inclined to open a 4 card heart instead.
The apparent reluctance of partners to divulge agreements is a by product of the lax attitude of regulating authorities to defining/enforcing disclosure regulations and their failure to penalize transgression. For example convention-card rules. IMO the WBF needs to adopt a strict, simple, consistent approach, so that players know where they stand.

Jim Forsyth and I play 4-card majors, explaining that, with equal length: we tend to open a major rather than a minor; and rather than .
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#6 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 09:25

View Postnige1, on 2021-July-31, 08:39, said:

The apparent reluctance of partners to divulge agreements is a by product of the lax attitude of regulating authorities to defining/enforcing disclosure regulations and their failure to penalize transgression. For example convention-cards rules. IMO the WBF needs to adopt a strict, simple, consistent approach, so that players know where they stand.

Jim Forsyth and I play 4-card majors, explaining that, with equal length: we tend to open a major rather than a minor; and rather than .


I agree.

A similarly clear explanation by cyberyeti's opponents would be longer, but is certainly due and not just GBK. I would also want to know if they ever deviate from the parity rule in the choice of minor and why, what a reverse into the other minor says about distribution and so on. This looks suspiciously like another agreement that is advantageous mainly because poorly disclosed.
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#7 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 09:36

View PostDouglas43, on 2021-July-31, 02:00, said:

I think (hope) law 20F is some help

During the auction and before the final pass any player may request7, at his own turn to call, an explanation of the opponents’ auction. He is entitled to know about calls actually made, about relevant alternative calls available that were not made, and about inferences from the choice of action where these are matters of partnership understanding. Except on the instruction of the Director replies should be given by the partner of the player who made the call in question. The partner of a player who asks a question may not ask a supplementary question until his turn to call or play. Law 16 may apply and the Regulating Authority may establish regulations for written explanations.
I'm not sure it is. Their response will be totally accurate: "we play 15-17 1NT on prime number boards, and 12-14 otherwise."[*] This is board 23 - have they met the requirements of 20F?

If this is too artificial, given that too many auctions will (at lease with ACBL Alerting) give it away, change to "we play standard on prime number boards, and UDCA otherwise."

* I usually call this "Microsoft accurate" after the famous joke. But here, there's an element of deviousness where the joke just implies cluelessness.
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#8 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 10:51

There are rarely more than 36 boards in a set. In the set of integers from 1 to 36, 11 are prime: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31. Not hard.
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#9 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 11:35

Yes. It's an example, and something that maybe 70% of bridge players would know (well, maybe 50% would make one mistake after 20). But if I'm not one of the 30%, does that put me at a disadvantage, or do they have to tell me the range on this board?

Let's go maybe a little more obscure. Fibonacci numbers? Numbers in the first 8 rows of Pascal's triangle? Oh, but today, it's just the 8th row. next week, it will be rows 5-8.

How about "15-17 if the last digit of the board is in an ASL German first-line squad's stats?" That's knowledge everybody has equal availability to, too.

I'm not even going into "15-17 if the board number is the age of any of the family grandkids" or anything like that that isn't completely public.

The point is, does a player have to work these kinds of things out, even if they do know how? Or, assuming it is something that does not require knowledge of hidden information, is a player allowed to ask for the results of the "calculation" without all the intermediate BS?
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#10 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 11:58

Suppose that someone asked me to describe my bidding agreements.
I decide to answer in German, knowing damn well that they don't know German.

No one would tolerate this.

Hiding your agreements behind a hashing algorithm (even if you happen to describe it in English) is no different.
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#11 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 15:40

View Postmycroft, on 2021-July-31, 09:36, said:

* I usually call this "Microsoft accurate" after the famous joke. But here, there's an element of deviousness where the joke just implies cluelessness.


I don't know the joke, but have long term experience of Microsoft. Apparently clueless messages are often as devious as one can get.
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#12 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 16:39

View Postpescetom, on 2021-July-31, 15:40, said:

I don't know the joke, but have long term experience of Microsoft.


Its a reference to the accuracy of the floating point instructions used in Excel
it was a popular joke at MathWorks
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#13 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 18:36

Ah, no different joke. Actually, I always thought that one was for Intel with their Pentium bug. I was thinking of:

A pilot was trying to land in Seattle and had got lost in the fog. Finally, there was a break, and he could see people out on the balcony of an office tower.

"Where am I?" he asked them.

"You're in an airplane."

And he thanked them and turned onto final.

After landing, his passenger asked how he was able to figure out where he was from that answer.

"I was given a response that was both totally accurate and functionally useless. Therefore she must work for Microsoft, and from Microsoft headquarters, a sharp left and you're on approach to SeaTac."
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#14 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-July-31, 19:19

View Postmycroft, on 2021-July-31, 18:36, said:

Ah, no different joke. Actually, I always thought that one was for Intel with their Pentium bug. I was thinking of:


MathWorks doesn't compete with Intel

We spent a LOT of effort trying to migrate people off of Excel...
It's possible that there was some drift
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#15 User is offline   weejonnie 

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Posted 2021-August-02, 11:58

""So, give me shape, and which suits controls have been shown. I understand what queen points are, but partner might not.""

Asking questions for the sole benefit of partner is an infraction - Law 20G1
No matter how well you know the laws, there is always something that you'll forget. That is why we have a book.
Get the facts. No matter what people say, get the facts from both sides BEFORE you make a ruling or leave the table.
Remember - just because a TD is called for one possible infraction, it does not mean that there are no others.
In a judgement case - always refer to other TDs and discuss the situation until they agree your decision is correct.
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#16 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-August-02, 15:32

View Postweejonnie, on 2021-August-02, 11:58, said:

Asking questions for the sole benefit of partner is an infraction - Law 20G1


One of the momentous changes of 2017.

(Not against it, just think the lawmakers had and have much bigger problems to address)
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#17 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2021-August-08, 02:05

View Postnige1, on 2021-July-31, 08:39, said:

The apparent reluctance of partners to divulge agreements is a by product of the lax attitude of regulating authorities to defining/enforcing disclosure regulations and their failure to penalize transgression. For example convention-card rules. IMO the WBF needs to adopt a strict, simple, consistent approach, so that players know where they stand.

Jim Forsyth and I play 4-card majors, explaining that, with equal length: we tend to open a major rather than a minor; and rather than .

A reluctance that you seem to suffer from yourself, since this is nowhere to be found on your latest system card for use in international trials.
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#18 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-August-08, 10:50

View Postweejonnie, on 2021-August-02, 11:58, said:

""So, give me shape, and which suits controls have been shown. I understand what queen points are, but partner might not.""

Asking questions for the sole benefit of partner is an infraction - Law 20G1

If the TD wanted to penalise me for something like this I would tell them with complete honesty that what I really meant is "I understand what queen points are but I am not sure that you do," but did not want to cause offence. It happens very often that opponents think they are playing something with as well-known title but are actually playing something completely different. As an example, how many QPs is a singleton A, K or Q? Just because I know what QPs are does not mean that I do not have a bridge reason for asking; and saying something more polite than "I think my opps might be idiots" is, I would have thought, acceptable.
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#19 User is offline   pran 

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Posted 2021-August-08, 14:47

View PostGilithin, on 2021-August-08, 10:50, said:

If the TD wanted to penalise me for something like this I would tell them with complete honesty that what I really meant is "I understand what queen points are but I am not sure that you do," but did not want to cause offence. It happens very often that opponents think they are playing something with as well-known title but are actually playing something completely different. As an example, how many QPs is a singleton A, K or Q? Just because I know what QPs are does not mean that I do not have a bridge reason for asking; and saying something more polite than "I think my opps might be idiots" is, I would have thought, acceptable.

This is one of the reasons why an explanation should not name an agreement but fully explain it.
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#20 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2021-August-10, 11:20

View Postpaulg, on 2021-August-08, 02:05, said:

A reluctance that you seem to suffer from yourself, since this is nowhere to be found on your latest system card for use in international trials.
PaulG's criticism is valid. :( Over the past month, Mike McGinley and Jim Forsyth have been gradually editing our system-card, It's still imperfect but now clarifies basic agreements and declares new agreements in previously undiscussed areas. We'll benefit from improved partnership rapport :)
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