The Laws

When your opponent makes an irregularity, call the Director. Many 99ers hesitate to do that when they should, feeling that it is mean or tough-minded to do so, and that a nice player doesn’t do it. This is not correct: as the Godfather said, “It isn’t personal, it’s just business.”

Unlike the Godfather, however, when the Director makes you an offer, you often can refuse it. Particularly, the player after the offender often (BUT NOT ALWAYS) has the opportunity to accept the action taken and let the auction or play proceed normally. Examples are:

  • A call out of turn.
  • A lead out of turn.
  • An insufficient bid unless the director rules it inadvertent.

For example, you are the dealer but before you can bid, your RHO opens 1♥. The director will ask you if you want to accept this bid. If so, it will be your turn to bid and there is no further penalty. If you don’t accept it, the bid will be taken off the table, and it will be your bid. The director will explain that if you do this, your LHO must pass for the rest of the auction. (The penalty is different when the person is the LHO of the correct bidder, and different when it is a pass not a bid out of turn.)

Causing the offender’s partner to be forced to pass is called “barring” them.

One case when this choice is not available: You open 1♥, LHO doubles, your partner passes, and RHO doubles. Oops. The director cannot let you accept this, it has to be removed.

Barring Only Sounds Like Fun

Anne Lindl was playing a hand when she opened 1N. Unfortunately her LHO was the dealer, not Anne.

Anne’s LHO, excited by the chance to bar Anne’s partner, refused to accept the bid, so, the 1N was picked up, and the bid reverted to him.

He passed. Anne’s partner passed, perforce. Third hand passed. Back to Anne. Anne bid 3N!

This is actually a good idea. If she has 16 HCP, the average for the other 3 players is eight points each. The fact that both opponents passed must up that a little. There is a very decent chance that partner has some points. And if not, they may have a good partscore or game.

Anne made 3N.

That’s the problem with barring. It sounds like fun, but really you are putting their back up against the wall and they may lash out – a top score for them can be a possibility, as well as a bottom score.

If, on the other hand, you accept an action out of turn, it is much more likely to turn out “normally”. It is the same hand as everyone else plays but with a different dealer, and many times that will make no difference.

Interference With Your Conventions

On another day, Anne barred her partner again!

Anne’s RHO opened 1N with a weak range, 10-12 HCP. Anne passed and the responder bid Stayman, 2♣. I was Anne’s partner and I doubled – I had five good clubs and some points, and the double of an artificial bid asks for a lead of that suit. Since it was a weak NT, I could be more aggressive than usual.

The opener passed, and Anne doubled me! The director of course had to tell her that she had to take that back, bid anything she liked, and that I would be barred.

Anne passed. After all, when I doubled the Stayman bid, I knew having to play 2♣X was a possibility. She had to trust me, and she didn’t have any obvious suit of her own.

Now the responder had a problem. Like most of us, He and his partner had never discussed what to do if someone doubled Stayman. He probably guessed that if opener had a major she would have bid it, and that passing meant she wanted to actually play it there. He passed.

Unfortunately, Anne had doubled me out of enthusiasm for her five good clubs. They went down 5, minus 1100.

If you play a convention, you need to agree what to do about doubles of artificial bids. If the opponents ask, you should be able to explain your agreement.

Do you remember what to do if your partner transfers and that bid is doubled? Pass shows you only have two in the suit; completing the transfer shows three or more. Redouble means you think you can beat it, typically because you have five quite good trump. (Remember, partner has promised zero or more points). If you pass, partner must take action if it gets to him. He can bid the suit, re-transfer, or do something else.

The same idea can apply to Stayman. Make a normal Stayman response with a four-card major, redouble if you think you can beat 2♣, and pass if, in addition to no four-card major, you have five diamonds. That lets responder decide what to do. If you’re 3=3=3=4, for example, you’d bid 2♦. The pass would be more like a 3=3=5=2 or 3=2=5=3.

One more thought: when your partner makes a lead-directing double, they are taking a chance. They could get nailed with that redouble and have no way out. So in a way they are investing with that risk in order to get the lead they want. If you don’t lead it, they took that risk for nothing.