Judy Kay-Wolff


Today, we had an auction that proceeded: 1H by East followed by 2H by South (moi) — at which point my partner  (North) said ALERT and added that’s 4 spades and 5 or 6 clubs (top and bottom) to which my LHO beamed “Thanks for being so very ethical as I understand cue bids are not alertable.”   I’ve heard that before and I think it’s outrageous!   It is normally played as Michaels (Major and either minor) but not in our case.   To me there should be no question that the opponents are entitled to every bit as much information as the bidders.  I wouldn’t dream of our partnership NOT ALERTING – RULES OR NO RULES.   EVERYONE SHOULD BE ON EQUAL FOOTING!!!!!!!


JeffOctober 1st, 2011 at 3:24 am

I think the ACBL, in streamlining the alert procedures, has made forward strides in balancing the needs to inform opponents of the meaning of bids with the benefits of moving the game along by not interrupting auctions with time-consuming alerts (and the inevitably poorly phrased follow up questions). For example, I agree with the ACBL’s general approach of not requiring alerts of “negative inference” information (such as a partnership’s agreement that opener’s failure to have made a support double denies three of responder’s major, or that opener’s opening 1 minor and rebidding 1 major denies a balanced or semi-balanced hand).

That having been said, I totally agree with your partnership’s decision to alert the top-and-bottom cue bid. To me, the distinguishing characteristic that should produce an alert is your recognition that the assumption to be made by the opponents without the alert (that is, the assumption that the cue bid is Michaels) can quite often influence a change in the auction to be produced by the opponents. Here, for example, the opponents might have an established defense to Michaels that is in part based upon their defensive prospects against a diamond contract … a suit that you do not hold under your partnership’s agreement of the meaning of the 2H cue bid.

Accordingly, I agree with your partnership’s decision to alert the 2H cue bid, but I do believe that the burden to meet the laudable goal of providing the opponents with as much information as the bidders should, in order to speed the game, be substantively deferred until after the auction is over and before the opening lead is made. That is when I prefer to announce the partnership agreements of the negative inference type I discussed above.

I do not know how the ACBL can articulate the distinction between agreements that should be alerted during the auction and the other agreements that should be announced when the auction has ended — that’s a tough job. But until that happens, I think the policy for a highly ethical partnership to adopt for sharing all relevant partnership agreements is this: alert if you think it might affect the opponents’ auction, and then later announce anything else.

Gary M. MugfordOctober 1st, 2011 at 8:34 am


Back with my two-tiered alert plan. Alert for Non-Yellow Card Agreement situations, Alert-Plus for Non-Standard Agreement situations. Alert-Plus handles situations like yours, where a simple Alert would generally indicate a common expert practice, and that is NOT what your agreement is.

For example, my partners and I play Fishbein over third-seat pre-empts. Doubles and bids SHOULD have an Alert-Plus status. At least in my opinion.

I guess what I’m saying, is that Alert should mean you can expect the usual expert understanding (you won’t get many questions) and Alert-Plus means you, the opponents, should REALLY ask, before presuming wrongly.

Just a thought (well, the same thought again),


dannyOctober 1st, 2011 at 10:54 am

Directly from the ACBL website:

Most cuebids are not Alertable. However, any cuebid which conveys a very unusual or unexpected meaning still requires an Alert.

Therefore, your bid requires an alert. The alert procedures take care of this situation.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 1st, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Yes, Danny, I agree but you’d be shocked how many uninformed (and informed) experts will tell you “cue bids are not alertable.” So much for the intelligencia.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 1st, 2011 at 6:57 pm


The best explanation I have heard was when Bobby and I were in England at Andy Robson’s bridge club. His premise was that ALERTS ARE ON A ‘NEED TO KNOW BASIS.’ I think that is all encompassing and saves a lot of time and fuss.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 1st, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Hi Gary:

Most people in our club game do not use The Yellow Card. Although some are new to the game, there are many good and experienced players. Most of the ethics are quite acceptable but I think if it is a close call, they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

For example, Bobby and I play that over 1NT OPENINGS — 2C is NFS and 2D is FS AND we do not play transfers as most individuals. Therefore, after a 2H or 2S call, we immediately alert “natural and non-forcing”. That way all four people at the table are on level ground and the opponents are neither intimidated nor discouraged from bidding in a timely fashion if they understand the meanings of our responses.

I really care not what the rules say as they do not cover all situations. I would rather give the opponents a fair shake and have a clear conscience that they are not led astray by a bidding misapprehension. Just my style!

markOctober 2nd, 2011 at 11:43 am


I’ve only played a couple of times with ACBL rules (once on a cruise). What is the difference here between an alert and announcing? It seems in your situation the alerter announced the meaning of 2H. In NZ I think you would alert and wait to be asked, after all sometimes the opponents don’t want to know until the auction is over.

Thanks Danny for the information about “very unusual or unexpected” cuebid meanings. I still wonder whether most of us can work out if a treatment is (a) standard (b) somewhat unusual (c) very unusual or unexpected. If, for instance, you are in club that mostly plays Precision – quite a lot of precision players play suit responses in competition as non-forcing, doubles as penalties and the only forcing bid is a cuebid. What would constitute a very unusual cuebid?

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 2nd, 2011 at 5:22 pm


Unless people are familiar with your system, to most the auction 1N P 2H would be a transfer to spades which the next bidder may want to bid but assumes 2H is a spade transfer and has them just where he wants them with a bunch of trumps. This is not a normal, popular treatment and the opponents are entitled to know about it in a timely fashion – not after it goes Pass, Pass, Pass.

Few people we play against use Precision so I am in no position to pass judgment on your second discussion.

Georgiana GatesOctober 2nd, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I’ve only learned recently that pairs who play negative free bids must Alert the free bid, but do not have to say anything about the routinely off-shaped negative doubles that they have to make with a good hand. Thus, if the auction starts 1H-(2D) to them, they must double with something like one S and six C, if the hand is good enough. It seems like the opponents should be informed about this.

Bobby WolffOctober 3rd, 2011 at 6:25 am


Exactly and comprehensively discussed by all the above caring players who are only seeking the best, but most practical application of alerting without dumbing it down or raising it past the level of worthwhile understanding.

Indeed a tough task to achieve, making Judy’s mention of Andy Robson’s idea of “Alerting when the opponent’s have a need to know” in other words, applying life’s golden rule to bridge as the eventual method of choice.

Personally I think (but, of course, am not sure) that dumbing alerting down to such an extent will destroy our best and brightest beginner’s ability to grow in bridge. For example, although I enjoyed the leadoff comments by Jeff immensely, I questioned his summation of agreeing to not alerting the negative inference of not doubling when playing “support doubles” since when their opponents are privy to a support double followed by a return to another suit by the one of a (usually major) suit bidder it cries out to their opponents how that suit is splitting around the table making bidding judgment (and possible defense) much more accurate for their side followed by a reminder that the quiet passer in this case, or maybe another bid, but not a double, has usually denied three of partner’s suit. A best and brightest newcomer will be likely quick to understand the disadvantage of support doubles because of too much information passing to their opponents. This above fact is more likely to be known to players playing that convention so they are more likely to want as few alerts as is possible surrounding that convention.

While this may or may not be political, the fact that it is a law disturbs me and I do think that in the interest of growing the game (in trying to make it easy to understand how important knowing distribution is to both the practitioners AND unfortunately their opponents) I think it could then apply back to Robson’s practical all inclusive idea of the bridge golden rule.

Perfect, certainly not, since the players have to aggressively be required to think and sometimes come up with decisions contrary to their table interests, but in keeping with bridge thought of as “a gentlemens (and ladies) game” following my suggestion might point it in that direction again. It, at least in my opinion, is never too late to return to the right track and always be actively ethical, which in this case is to actually want the opponents to be supplied with what might be described as useful information.

Derek WardOctober 3rd, 2011 at 7:17 am

I don’t agree with Bobby alerting and then explaining your cue bid. As a matter of fact I think it is illegal under ACBL’s silly alert rules. I play a 10-12 nt (which we pre alert and I feel should be mandatory as our other opening bids are sound) with some strange responses. If one of these responses occurs my partner and I alert and say that the opps should ask. We also alert all neg inferences of support doubles saying (if asked) that they tend to deny 3 card support. I also think the acbl should bring back the special alert they had years ago.

JaneOctober 3rd, 2011 at 7:29 am

Hi Judy and Bobby,

On occasion, I explain a partner’s bid because I feel it is the right thing to do. It may not be a bid in red on our card, but a bid that we have an agreement on, so the opps have the right to know. I have been criticized by the opps a couple of times because I was told I was “reminding” my partner of what our bid meant. My partner did not need reminding, he knew exactly what we were playing. I think there is nothing wrong in clarifying an agreement whether it is a “red alert” or not, but not everyone seems to agree. I appreciate it when my opps let me know, so I plan to continue the courtesy. If I get a director call because of it, oh well. At least I did what I felt was the correct thing. I can’t imagine a director penalizing me for trying to be ethical, but I guess that could happen.

Anyway, one system I tend to forget on occasion is support doubles and all the inferences there are with the associated bids. A few weeks ago, my Saturday partner actually applauded when I alerted his double showing three of my major. The whole table laughed, including me! Perhaps I should forgo systems that often escape my memory, but I want to do better, and challenge myself to improve. Good brain food, and my partners are tolerant of my mistakes, thank goodness.

Interesting discussion, as always. See you both in the trenches.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 3rd, 2011 at 10:33 am


I always enjoy your candor. I tend to agree with your assessments wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, many of the directors are not so skilled to understand what is involved but no one said the world is perfect or club or tournament directors either. Some on the higher levels are just as in the dark. So be it!

My feeling is you do what is fair for the opponents. I can live with that rather than let them guess and find out when it is too late.

Bobby WolffOctober 3rd, 2011 at 11:11 am

Hi Derek,

While you are indeed correct, about my illegal activity of alerting a cue bid in spite of cue bids being self-alerting, I will risk being thought of as a cheater and trying to help my partner, while in reality only trying to improve and suggest to others how to try and be helpful to opponents and not comply to what I consider ridiculous and non-productive laws.

To me it is like running a red light after stopping at an intersection at 3AM when no one is in sight. Yes, some would consider me a criminal, but for me to comply to asinine laws makes me feel impotent and that is worse for me than being thought of as a poor role model.

To each his own, and although I have no idea of whether or not I have leadership instincts, I do know that whoever representing the ACBL and makes and then endorses these errant laws are either having private personal evil agendas, have no idea of what the game of bridge is supposed to be about, or just downright uninformed (my euphemism for stupid). Take your pick.

I do appreciate what you went on to say and, although I stand behind and practice what I claim, I am not prepared to go to court to prove that I am right, chiefly because, unless the judge (or jury) in the case were able to understand the game of bridge and the administrators who run it (or rather attempt to) I would lose the case, which would just make me angrier.

Bobby WolffOctober 4th, 2011 at 7:07 am

Hi Jane,

It is never right for anyone, especially myself, to ignore a person like you, who sees bridge rules and their reasons for existing or not, better than almost everyone else.

While you, at least IMHO are exactly right, in your alerting what you think the opponents need to know, and what you would like them to do for you (Bridge’s Golden Rule), yes one very ugly day, might actually be cautioned or even penalized for what you and I know is the right ethical thing to do.

Please continue to exercise your considerable leadership until, perhaps one fine beautiful day our heretofore very political, not to mention possibly unknowing administrators, will see the light of what our grand game must be about. Coming forth in truth rather than in chicanery and above all, appreciating what our game has always stood for, against what others have obviously considered it now to be, a game for miscreants, evil opportunity seekers, and others who do not belong.

Derek WardOctober 4th, 2011 at 7:28 am

Bobby – you misunderstood me (I could have phrased it better) – I totally agree with you alerting the cue bid, what I disagreed with was you explaining what it was without being asked (that is the illegal part under the ACBL rules). I then went on to say that I alert my unusual bids and then say to the opps that they should ask. This is probably illegal also but closer to following the rules.

Steve GaynorOctober 4th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

While everyone in this discussion and their partners KNOW all of ther agreements and implications, the sad truth is there are a lot of people out there who are helped when they or their partner alert inappropriately. The ensuing explanation (or the alert itself) helps people stay on track when they were about to be seriously derailed. That is not accepetable and is why some of the alert procedures are in place. To go against them in the name of ethics is unfortunately wrong. The rules should apply to all or they are useless.

I understand that after Jan 1, 2012 the club response to a NT opener as puppet will not be alertable. Those who are not sure if they are playing puppet, cannot bid clubs and know what is going on based on partner alert or lack thereof. This is a good change IMHO. From the above discussions, more are needed.

Bobby WolffOctober 4th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hi Derek,

In describing what happened, all I did was alert, but possibly my intensity (not usual) convinced my RHO to ask for an explanation, when I then blurted the other major and clubs, top & bottom. Nothing more, nothing less, except that many club directors think that cue bids should not be ever alerted and I am happy to hear that this application has emerged.

Probably much ado about nothing, except that I appreciate the worry about some people trying to make it easy for their partner to remember their system, but in my experience, especially from a recorder standpoint, the truth will come out if the proper questioning is offered.

Thanks for your involvement.

Bobby WolffOctober 4th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi Steve,

I do not want to be redundant to you about my recent experience which I hopefully cleared up in my comment to Derek, but your clear opinions, Steve, are certainly worth considering.

I would phrase my intention differently from you. My choice is that in the name of conniving bridge players I prefer that the superior ethics of our game still are upheld at the possible risk of “bad guys” getting the best of what could be described as allowing a dog in the neighborhood one free bite before muzzling down on him. If it is either repeated or worse after the first bite, if the bridge player either pretends to not pay attention or he does not have remorse about his first transgression. In other words, what has happened needs to be taken seriously by all involved.

A possible unrealistic approach of eventually cleaning up the game, especially at the club bridge level, has always been my goal during my long varied career which has included running a bridge club (in San Antonio, TX) for about 8 years during the 1960’s. When eventually I moved on to other bridge activity I was proud of where I left my original club in the way of bridge ethics.

Granted it doesn’t always work out that way, but like raising children, the role models in their life, tend to direct them in that path as long as others are there always being vigilant.

Summing up, I think proper bridge ethics should be discussed early in every bridge teachers curriculum as well as in duplicate bridge games and the unit and district publications.

IMHO. without strict bridge ethics our game, quite truthfully, is not even worth playing because it is so different from what I consider the greatest game ever invented, but only if the right bridge ethics are consistently enforced.

In actuality nothing more, at least as far as I am concerned, needs to be said except sloth apathy and the politics of being afraid of losing an errant bridge customer can reduce a normal bridge game to some sort of misery.

PaulOctober 5th, 2011 at 2:58 am

Andy Robson’s alerting rule works extremely well in his club, and probably would in most clubs. This is because clubs tend to be homogeneous environments where everyone is playing similar methods – so the rule is actually “alert things that are not the norm in this club”.

Unfortunately this rule works less well in a tournament environment, where there is no established ‘norm’ and you do not know all the players. It also works less well when there is a norm and you do not know it – try playing in Poland for example, where there is a very well-known and established system that is pretty unfamiliar to those from outside Poland.

Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2011 at 5:39 am

Hi Paul,

Kudos to you for adding and carefully and clearly explaining an important extremely relevant truth to our above discussion.

While I have not yet played in Poland, I am familiar with many Polish players and can readily understand what it may be like to play in their home environment. I have however, played in Andy Robson’s club in London, and it is exactly as you describe it, homogeneous in nature, coupled with an attitude of taking pride in being actively ethical.

Those two different type approaches may symbolize, but not necessarily improve, the seemingly worldwide variances (and within specific other countries also) which seem to be ever present in conflicting bridge environments.

However, at least to me, it makes it even more important for in the beginning stages of learning tournament bridge and its special type of competition for all players to, from the get-go, understand the special blend of bridge ethics, translated to responsibility which goes with all players needing to know what it takes to march up the ladder of success in both honing skills and, just as importantly, learning to compete fairly and in accordance with bridge’s generally unwritten ethics laws as well, of course, as bidding systems and other well known playing stratagems.

Little by little and together we may, as if by magic, understand what it takes to achieve what all writers here apparently are seeking, a very fair, consistent and cooperative bridge playing field.

We should all fervently wish that our current bridge administrators, all over the world, will take note of what is said here and carefully incorporate what is necessary to be successful in directing our great game in a steady upward path, instead of concentrating on trying the impossible task of making silk purses out of sow’s ears, appearing in the form of never to be reformed miscreant players.

Robb GordonOctober 6th, 2011 at 9:39 am

I think this is a difficult topic. What we are talking about is civil disobedience.

In my opinion many ACBL rules in this area are misguided, and I certainly agree that a non-Michaels cuebid should be alerted as it is an unexpected meaning.

But, notwithstanding the interpretation by Danny, if something is deemed “non-alertable” are we allowed to overrule the rule and alert it? In this case, there is no prescribed penalty for violation of this rule, but Law 16 may apply. We all know about people alerting their partner through alerts, non-alerts, and explanations.

So I think almost everybody would agree that the Alert system needs to be overhauled.

But the question is, do we have the right, in the name of “active ethics” or anything else to in effect make our own rules? What if one of us believes that 21 minutes is too short to properly play 3 boards, and she needs 24 minutes to maintain an ethical, even tempo?

I know it sounds silly but we can all see where this is going. Civil disobedience has done a lot of good, with the right publicity. Does it serve a purpose here?

Bobby WolffOctober 7th, 2011 at 8:33 am

Hi Robb,

As is always the case, you leap to the crux of the enigma.

Yes, a law is a law and since anarchy is unlawful the laws should be followed. Match that up with the contrary thought of the wise follow the law, but the very wise know when to not. The above reminds me of the conflicting bromides of “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind”.

The above suggests both what society is expected to do, but also the overwhelming need for the lawmakers to not make ridiculous mistakes.

It then follows that deciding which is worse, a sheep type who blindly follows what is demanded of him, or what God perhaps intended man (and woman) to be, a thinking and then reasoning person capable of sorting things out.

In the absence of dire consequences and particularly in the playing of bridge I prefer the latter course, trying to be a Robb Bridgeseed blazing a different trail and at the same time reminding our administrators of their responsibilities to better cover the waterfront in their legal thinking about our cherished game.

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Bill AshbeeJune 17th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

One of our directors has said the following regarding cuebids. Statement: Cuebids are self alertable. Enough said.