Andre Asbury

Will you explain your bid for my partner

Friday at the Macon Sectional with Meg, which she and I dominated by the way, she opened 1NT and we had the auction: 1NT-(2S)-3NT-P-P-P. 3NT was alerted and LHO asked before passing over 3NT:

“Are you playing Lebensohl?”


“Okay.” Pass.

After the final pass, LHO asked: “Will you explain to my partner what Lebensohl is?”

Meg says “You can’t ask for your partner.”

“Well, then explain it to me.”

If she had just started with “please explain” from the very beginning, there would have been no issue but once it became clear that she did not need a further explanation but only wanted it for her partner’s benefit (so her partner wouldn’t lead into Meg’s AQ, maybe), it became unethical. I think Meg went ahead and reluctantly said that it showed game values without a spade stopper.

Moral of the story is that once it becomes clear that you understand the auction, you are not entitled to ask more questions about it. It is your partner’s responsibility to ask for herself. If your partner isn’t experienced enough to know that she has that option, you can kindly explain that after the hand or session.


Bill CubleyJanuary 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Just like the out of turn question to explain a bid to wake up partner. Maybe there should be a one round bar in asking by either partner [or wait until a face down lead] penalty with a recorder notice or a committee appearance for offenders.

Partners can ask for explanations. Themselves.

Paul ThurstonJanuary 24th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

What is unethical – or at least not in the spirit of fairness and proper disclosure – is answering a question by simply naming a convention – even though if, as your quote of the opponent suggests, the question may have been improperly phrased. With the possible exception of players who dominate Sectionals, not all players know or can be expected to know what “Lebensohl” means and may understandably feel awkward about asking – “Am I the only one in the game who doesn’t know what Lebensohl is?” – and the duty of those who do know is to make it as comfortable as possible for the less well-informed to gain at least some of the information they’re entitled to.

Linda LeeJanuary 24th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I am not sure that I completely agree with you. It is one thing to ask questions to influence what partner does which would be unethical and illegal but is it so wrong to ask questions so that partner who may be a very inexperienced player understands the auction.

On Passover we tell the story to the son who was not able to ask questions. We ask the questions for him. Let’s take another example. Suppose you bid 2S which showed spades and a minor. One of your opponents (perhaps the one on lead) knows that his partner, a novice, is not familiar with this convention. He asks what it is so that his partner will have the same information that everyone does.

The alert system was designed to help with this but some times you are not required to alert conventions which would be familiar to most but perhaps not to novices.

Andre AsburyJanuary 25th, 2011 at 4:28 am

The asker was clearly a well-seasoned tournament player and should have known the proper way to ask about the alert: “Please explain” or “What was the alert for?” I think the further question after the auction (but before the opening lead) then gave unauthorized information that she thinks her partner, a relatively new player, should not lead a spade. It was totally contrary to proper protocol for asking about alerts and set a bad example for the newer player.

PaulJanuary 25th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Lebensohl is a very popular convention but, in the UK at least, many people play FADS (fast arrival denies stop). Just saying that you play Lebensohl does not even begin to explain the meaning of the 3NT call.

The question was poorly phrased. The reply was worse. The accusation of cheating seems unjustified and inappropriate.

I understand how you might feel at the time in the heat of battle, but I’m disappointed at your position given time for deliberation.

Bobby WolffJanuary 26th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

While most has been said which needs to be said, let me add the following:

1. Bridge is a different game than probably all other card games, where other games seek advantage wherever available, bridge, being a partnership game with strict ethical rules regarding language, (bidding), requires updating the opponents on any unusual (or sort of) definition of certain bids.

2. A bid such as a direct 3NT (even though partner has opened 1NT) over an opponents 2 spade overcall may or may not be classified as such an action,

3. Since the convention played (Lebensohl) definitely and directly suggested to partner a special holding (e.g. in this case, no spade stopper) the opponents, according to the Marques of Queensbury rules (no such thing mentioned in the written bridge rules, but probably should be, but still certainly be imagined as applied to bridge) should demand that both opponents be told of that special understanding (not really, but in actual play, YES).

4. Thus the conclusion that the 1NTer should, when alerting, volunteer to the opponents that if they have any doubt about its meaning, they should please ask.

5. There is even more, and in some respects it is the most important single feature:

A. The 1NTer should (must, according to me, but not specifically covered in the rules, but perhaps mentioned in other areas of the law, by innuendo) do the above alerting with something approaching the above statement, whatever holding in the key suit (spades) the opener might hold, anywhere from AQ or KQJ10, plus down to Jxx or less.

B. When and if bridge ethics are raised in that direction, bridge as we know it will make a quantum leap upward, which will raise it to what has been the WBF’s motto for years, “Bridge for Peace” showing not only respect and honesty to those particular opponents (ranging from good to inexperienced) to mighty all around respect for the beautiful game we all aspire to play.

C. In actuality the 1NTer should volunteer what he needs to, his RHO should not ask (does not need to) for the benefit of his partner which in reality was probably to overcome the 1NTer’s fierce desire to get the best of it, and the 2 spade overcaller’s wimpy fear of looking unknowledgable, but probably better described as just willfully unequipped to compete, leaving only the 3NT bidder as the only innocent party, and probably that because he could just be a quiet fox (as he was proverbially approaching the henhouse) and be able to get away with it.

If I offended anyone or perhaps everyone, it was not because that was my goal, but rather that bridge deserves at least that and more and particularly while discussing it with players who apparently care for its future. It is NEVER too late for us to shout from the rooftops and join in a crusade for the betterment of the game, which would have the immediate advantage of us all knowing the answer to this particular bridge conundrum without any or certainly all of the rhetoric above.

Jeff LehmanMarch 16th, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Whether I declare or am dummy, I always try to explain any special inferences from the auction before the opening lead. This includes items such as opener in an auction such as 1m-1H-1S promising, in my usual partnerships, either or both of five or more of the minor and a singleton or void somewhere. When the defenders are inexperienced they give me sort of a blank look at my explanations, but it feels like the right approach to me.

I like the general approach of ACBL regulations where the auction does not have to be interrupted each time there is some sort of unclear, but still natural, inference from the auction. But it still seems right to tell the opponents what is going on before the defense commences.

In the instant case, I would explain what partner’s 3NT bid means before the opening lead.

Perhaps annoyingly to the opponents, I do try to teach some players (only some of whom are pretty inexperienced) how both to ask a question (broad-based “please explain …” as opposed to narrow-based “does that mean? …”) and how to answer a question (describing your partnership agreement as opposed to “I took that to be …”). I am not sure that I should get involved with this latter issue or not, but the legalistic approach is sort of in my bridge DNA.

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