Active Ethics 1

By Larry CohenEddie Kantar

Courtesy of

One of my favorite teaching/story deals features this hand:


Many years ago, playing with Marty Bergen in a major event, I held the above cards. Marty opened 1 and RHO doubled.

I considered Pass or 1, but instead decided to show my club suit. I bid 2.

Ooops. Marty alerted. He took my bid as conventional. He was right. I had forgotten our methods. This was a brain a child of Marty’s (he had many of them) called BROmAD. Instead of showing clubs, I had shown 7-10 points and 4+ diamonds! At least I had the 7-10 points.

Now what? I prayed.

It didn’t work. Marty jumped to 5! Bury me, why don’t you.

RHO doubled. What should I do? Should I run?

Here is the point of the article. I must not run! To do so would be unethical. Can you understand why?

I am not allowed to be woken up by Marty’s alert. When I bid 2, I thought I was showing clubs. I must ignore the fact that he alerted and explained it as diamonds. (Even had he not explained it, I am not entitled to all of a sudden ‘remember’ after the alert.) Let me repeat: when I bid 2, I thought I had shown clubs. Armed with that information, my partner jumped to 5. Who am I to overrule him? I still have what I’ve shown. I showed clubs, I had clubs. Removing to 6 would be taking advantage of the alert.

This is a hard concept to understand, and most inexperienced players would fall from grace and run from the impending disaster.

Before I show you a new deal with this theme, I will tell you that the above story had a remarkable ending. You can read about it in Marty’s book Points Schmoints, or hear the full story at one of my lectures (sorry for the tease).

Now, on to this deal from the 2007 Nationals.

My RHO, Daniel Levin, held:


With neither side vulnerable, he saw a 1 opening by my partner, David Berkowitz. This was a Precision diamond – it could be short. It is important to discuss with your partner if you treat such a 1 opening as anything special. Is 2 still Michaels? Daniel elected to bid 2NT, unusual. This showed the two lowest unbid suits — clubs and hearts.

His LHO (that would be me) doubled, penalty-oriented. Daniel’s partner chose 3.

What’s that? Partner didn’t choose one of Daniel’s 5-card suits. He must want to play in diamonds. Maybe he has six or seven of them. Daniel’s singleton king is actually good support. RHO doubles. Everyone passes. The lead is made and you table your dummy.

Now, as Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story.

After Daniel bid 2NT, I asked what it showed. Some players, especially over a Precision diamond, choose to use 2NT as minors (as opposed to clubs and hearts). Daniel’s partner answered, ‘I think 2NT shows the minors.’

Do you see the difference? Daniel now had (unauthorized) information that his partner was interpreting 2NT as minors. When his partner bid 3dx, Daniel knew that he was choosing between clubs and diamonds. He also knew that 3dx doubled was going to be a total disaster.

But he did the proper thing. Review the thinking before you knew the ‘rest of the story’. You bid 2NT, thinking you were showing clubs and hearts. Partner then, for whatever reason, chose diamonds. End of story. Who are you to overrule him with your ordinary hand? Sure, if you were 7-6, you would be entitled to try something else. But not with this hand. The ethical (and correct) move is to pass and take your medicine.

The medicine was a bottom. (Daniel’s partner was 3-3 in the red suits and went for a huge number, whereas 3 would have been down only two tricks). But Mr. Levin earned my respect. He did the right thing.

Incidentally, had he unethically removed 3dx doubled, the director would have been summoned and would have had an easy time rolling the contract back to 3dx doubled, anyway. Those are the rules of bridge. You are not entitled to take advantage of ‘unauthorized information’.

I know this is a complex matter for newer players, but it is a lesson worth learning.