Also see Director Tech
The objective of the Alert system is for both pairs at
the table to have equal access to all information contained in any auction.
In order to meet this goal, it is necessary that all players understand and
practice the principles of Full Disclosure and Active Ethics. Ethical bridge
players will recognize the obligation to give complete explanations. They
will accept the fact that any such information is entirely for the benefit
of the opponents, and may not be used to assist their own partnership.
This procedure uses the admittedly "fuzzy" terminology of
"highly unusual and unexpected" as the best practical solution to
simplifying the Alert Procedure. "Highly unusual and unexpected" should be
determined in light of historical usage rather than local geographical
usage. To ensure full disclosure, however, at the end of the auction and
before the opening lead declarers are encouraged to volunteer to explain the
auction (including available inferences).
According to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge: Law
40.B. Concealed Partnership Understandings Prohibited
A player may not make a call or play based on a special partnership
understanding unless an opposing pair may reasonably be expected to
understand its meaning, or unless his side discloses the use of such call
or play in accordance with the regulations of the sponsoring organization.
Bridge is not a game of secret messages; the auction
belongs to everyone at the table.
The bidding side has an obligation to disclose its
agreements according to the procedures established by ACBL.
When asked, the bidding side must give a full
explanation of the agreement. Stating the common or popular name of the
convention is not sufficient.
The opponents need not ask exactly the "right" question.
Any request for information should be the trigger.
Opponents need only indicate the desire for information - all relevant
disclosure should be given automatically.
The proper way to ask for information is "please
Players who remember that a call requires an Alert
but cannot remember the meaning must still Alert.
In all Alert situations, Tournament Directors should
rule with the spirit of the Alert procedure in mind and not simply by the
letter of the law.
Players who, by experience or expertise, recognize
that their opponents have neglected to Alert a special agreement will be
expected to protect themselves.
Adjustments for violations are not automatic.
There must have been misinformation.
An adjustment will be made only when the
misinformation was a direct cause of the damage.
Note also that an opponent who actually knows or
suspects what is happening, even though not properly informed, may not
be entitled to redress if he or she chooses to proceed without
clarifying the situation.
When an Alert is given, ASK, do not ASSUME.
An announcement is one word or a short phrase which tells
the opponents directly the meaning of partner's call. When bidding boxes
are used, the "Alert" strip is tapped also.
Announcements are required in the following instances:
1. After a natural one notrump opening bid.
EXAMPLE: A 15-17 1NT opening bid is made. The partner of the bidder will
say aloud, "fifteen to seventeen."
4. After a non-forcing opening 1 or 1
for which the opener could have fewer than three cards in the suit opened.
After the opening bid, the opening bidder's partner says, "May be short."
HOW TO ALERT
Using spoken bidding, the partner of the player making an Alertable call
Using bidding boxes, an Alert is made by tapping an Alert card on the table
or by tapping the Alert strip on the side of the bid box. In addition, the
Alerter must say "Alert."
Using screens, ALL Alerts are immediate - there are no delayed Alerts. All
Announcements become Alerts.
HOW TO ANNOUNCE
When Bid Boxes are not in use, the partner says aloud the required spoken
When Bid Boxes are being used, the Alert strip is tapped and the appropriate
spoken statement is made.
IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ALERTER OR ANNOUNCER TO ENSURE THAT
THE OPPONENTS ARE AWARE THAT AN ALERT HAS BEEN MADE.
WHEN IN DOUBT WHETHER TO ALERT OR NOT, ALERT!
FAILURE TO ALERT OR ANNOUNCE
If partner fails to Alert or Announce, a player may not
make any indication during the auction. Showing surprise or discomfort may
awaken partner to the error and would be a violation of Law. In addition, a
player may not make allowances for partner's error. The auction must
continue as if partner had acted properly.
When the auction is over, the declaring side
MUST reveal to the defenders, after first calling the Tournament
Director, any errors of explanation (including Alerts or Announcements that
were omitted) before the opening lead is faced. A defender MUST
reveal any of his partner's errors but may NOT do so until after the
play has been completed. A defender (or any other player) who
becomes aware of his own error or omission should correct it
immediately. Again, in either case the Tournament Director should
be called first.
TYPES OF ALERTS
Pre-Alerts are given before the auction period begins
on the first board of a round. Pre-Alerts are designed to act as an early
warning of any unusual methods for which the opponents may need to
prepare. (See Part III.) Additionally, a pre-Alert is required when
playing methods permitted by the ACBL Mid-Chart or SuperChart in an event
conducted using that chart. Pre-Alerts are given aloud by saying what the
systems or methods are.
Immediate Alerts are given at the time partner makes a
call which requires an Alert. These Alerts are given in the form described
under How to Alert above.
Alerts given after the auction is completed for
Alertable calls above the level of 3NT starting with the opening bidder's
second turn to call. The dummy or declarer Alerts the defenders before the
opening lead. The defenders Alert after the opening lead has been made but
before it is faced. (See Part X.)
PART I: NATURAL CALLS
Most natural calls do not require Alerts. If the call promises about the
expected strength and shape, no Alert is necessary. Treatments that show
unusual strength or shape should be Alerted.
As to length, ACBL accepts as NATURAL any offer to play in a
suit for the first time that shows:
(1)Three or more cards in a minor suit.
(2) Four or more cards in a major suit.
(3) Four or more cards for an overcall in a suit at the one level.
(4) Five or more cards for a weak two-bid.
(5) Six or more cards for a three-level preempt.
NOTE: Partnerships whose systems include extremely aggressive methods, such
as frequent use of four-card overcalls at the two level or higher, weak
two-bids with bad five-card suits, or three-level preempts with bad six-card
and/or most five-card suits must pre-Alert the opponents before the
A treatment is a natural call that carries a specific
message about the suit bid or the general strength of the hand. Agreeing to
open five-card majors is a treatment - when you open 1,
partner "knows" you have five or more. This is indeed a message but not an
unexpected one, so no Alert is required. Weak jump shifts, on the other
hand, are unexpected and therefore Alertable.
If the 2 bid promises a spade suit of five or more
cards, it is a natural call. The treatment involves the strength that the
bid promises. If the call is forcing to game, no Alert is required. If it
is weak or invitational, then it must be Alerted.
Natural bids that convey an unexpected meaning must be
Alerted. This includes strong bids that sound weak, weak bids that sound
strong, and all other bids that, by agreement, convey meanings different
from, or in addition to, the expected meaning ascribed to them.
If 2 is natural and forcing, promising three or more
clubs and 10 or more HCP (including those that are forcing to game), it
requires no Alert. This is the expected strength and shape of such a bid.
If 2 is non-forcing, it must be Alerted.
In general, when the use of conventions leads to
unexpected understandings about suit length by negative inference, a natural
call becomes Alertable. Some such agreements have become expected and
are fairly common, therefore no Alert is required.
PART II: CONVENTIONS
A convention is defined as any call which, by partnership
agreement, conveys a meaning not necessarily related to the denomination
named or, in the case of a pass, double or redouble, the last denomination
Examples of calls deemed to be conventional are: showing
support for a previously bid suit and shortness in the bid suit (such as a
splinter bid) and bidding your worst suit for takeout.
ALMOST ALL CONVENTIONS MUST BE ALERTED.
In general, conventional calls require an Alert. In ACBL-sponsored
events, however, there are some common conventions that do not require an
Alert during the auction: Stayman, ace-asking bids, most meanings of
cue-bids, strong artificial 2 openings and most doubles,
redoubles and passes. Some Alerts are delayed until the auction is
completed. (SEE PART X: DELAYED ALERTS.)
No Alert is required for any bid of 2
over partner's 1NT opening or 3 over a 2NT opening if it
requests opener to bid a four-card major, regardless of whether the Stayman
bidder promises a four-card major. Likewise, a 2 response
to Stayman (or a 3 response after 2NT-P-3
) is not Alterable if it denies a four-card major.
EXAMPLE: 1NT-P-2 and 2NT-P-3 Partnerships
do not need to Alert their Stayman bids in order to differentiate between
those that promise a four-card major and those that don't. Opponents may
assume that an immediate bid of clubs over a natural notrump opening is
conventional, asking opener to bid a four-card major, with no guarantee that
responder has a four-card major suit.
However, when it becomes evident that the two-club bidder
either does not have or tends not to have a four-card major, an Alert is
required at that time.
EXAMPLE: 1NT - P - 2 - P - 2(x) - P -
2NT If the 2NT is or is most likely a raise in notrump without a four-card
major, an Alert is required at the time of the 2NT bid.
NOTE: A 2NT rebid after a response to a strong 2
opening is deemed to be a strong notrump opening for the purposes of this
regulation, as is a 1NT or 2NT rebid after a strong, artificial 1
opening and response.
EXAMPLE: 2-P-2-P- 2NT-P-3
Alerts are still necessary when the bid is not obviously
asking for a major, such as a "checkback" auction where the club bid may be
mistaken for one showing a club holding.
EXAMPLE: 1-P-1-P- 1NT-P-2
If the 2 call is artificial such as asking partner to
show a four-card major, it requires an Alert.
2) STRONG, ARTIFICIAL TWO CLUBS
Forcing 2 opening bids, either natural
or artificial, do not require an Alert. Intermediate 2
openings, such as those used in Precision systems, must be Alerted.
After a strong, artificial 2 opening, an
artificial 2 response which is either negative or waiting
is not Alertable. Those who play a "semi-automatic" 2 bid
do not need to Alert. If 2 guarantees the values for game,
or has any meaning other than negative or waiting, it must be Alerted.
3) ACE ASKING BIDS
4NT Blackwood (any variety over suits) and 4
Gerber (any variety over notrump) and expected responses thereto do not
require an Alert of any kind. All other ace-asking bids and responses
require an Alert, but some of these Alerts must be "delayed."
Ace-asking bids at the level of 3NT or below and usages
on the first round (other than Blackwood and Gerber as described above),
require an immediate Alert. Unusual ace-asking bids above the level
of 3NT starting with opener's second turn to call require a delayed
EXAMPLES: 1-P-4-P- 4
If you have agreed to play 4 as an
ace-asking bid, make a delayed Alert! Furthermore, the responses to 4
and to subsequent asking bids require a delayed Alert.
If this is Gerber, the 1 opener should
say "Alert" immediately after the 4 bid.
If this 4NT is Blackwood, no Alert or delayed Alert is
Normal responses to any variety Blackwood do not require
REMEMBER! THE DEFENDERS ALSO HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY
TO MAKE DELAYED ALERTS.
Most cuebids are not Alertable. However, any cuebid which
conveys a very unusual or unexpected meaning still requires an Alert.
PART III: PRE-ALERTS
Pre-Alerts are designed to act as an early warning system
of any unusual methods for which the opponents may need to prepare.
Pre-Alerts must be given before the auction period begins on the first board
of a round or match.
1) "TWO-SYSTEM" METHODS
Some pairs vary their system by position, by
vulnerability, or a combination of the two. While this is legal, it is also
something the opponents may need to know ahead of time. One example of this
is agreeing to play a forcing-club system not vulnerable and "two over one"
Minor variations such as varying notrump range or jump
overcall strength by vulnerability do not require a pre-Alert. These methods
still require normal Announcements (notrump ranges; transfers) or Alerts
(forcing Stayman over some notrump ranges) when appropriate.
As an aside, please note that it is not legal to vary
your system during a session for subjective reasons, such as the skill level
of the opponents which you happen to be playing at the time or which member
of the partnership is making the call. You may, of course, alter your
defenses in response to the opponents' methods.
2) SYSTEMS BASED ON VERY LIGHT OPENINGS OR OTHER
HIGHLY AGGRESSIVE METHODS
If it is your partnership style to routinely open hands
with fewer than 11 HCP, preempt with very weak (frequently worse than Qxxxxx)
suits, and/or overcalls with fewer than 6 HCP at the one level, the
opponents must be pre-Alerted.
3) SYSTEMS THAT MAY BE FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAMILIAR TO THE
Players are expected to be prepared for the vast majority
of systems that they may encounter at the bridge table. Common methods
include either strong or weak notrumps with or without five-card majors. The
forcing opening bid will most often be an artificial forcing opening of 1
or 2 .
When you play a system structured along different
agreements than these, you should draw the opponents attention to your
convention card before the round begins. In short, if you play a system that
most players would not immediately recognize (such as a canapé system) or
one the opponents may wish to discuss before the auction begins (a 10-12 1NT
range with distributional requirements for minor-suit openings, for
example), you are required to pre-Alert the opponents.
PART IV: DOUBLES, REDOUBLES AND PASSES
Except for those doubles with highly unusual or unexpected meanings,
doubles do not require an Alert.
Passes or redoubles with highly unusual or unexpected
meanings require an Alert.
PART V: NOTRUMP OPENINGS, RESPONSES AND REBIDS
Conventional notrump openings and overcalls require an
Systemically unbalanced or conventional 1NT openings or
overcalls by an unpassed hand, when permitted, and openings at the two level
or higher with an unusual range or conventional meaning require an Alert.
Natural 1NT opening bids require an Announcement.
EXAMPLE: 1NT (showing 12-14 HCP)
Partner says immediately, "twelve to fourteen."
EXAMPLE: 1NT (showing 15-17 HCP)
Partner says immediately, "fifteen to seventeen."
EXAMPLE: 1NT (showing 14 HCP with a five-card suit to
17- without a five-card suit)
Partner says immediately, "fourteen plus to seventeen minus."
Natural 1NT overcalls in the range of 14 to 19 HCP require neither an
Alert nor an Announcement. If the top or bottom limit of the natural notrump
overcall is out of that range or conventional by an unpassed hand, an Alert
RESPONSES TO ONE NOTRUMP OPENINGS
1) 2: If it requires partner to bid a
four-card major it is not Alertable; all other uses must be Alerted.
2) 2: If natural and non-invitational, it is not Alertable.
A transfer to hearts is Announced. All other uses must be Alerted.
3) 2: If natural and non-invitational, it is not Alertable.
A transfer to spades is Announced. All other uses must be Alerted.
4) 2: If natural and non-invitational, it is not Alertable.
All other uses must be Alerted.
5) 2NT: If invitational to 3NT, it is not Alertable. All other uses must be
If natural, they are not Alertable. All other uses must be Alerted, or…
7) 3, and 4,:
If transfers to hearts and spades, respectively, must be Announced.
PART VI: OPENING SUIT BIDS, RESPONSES AND REBIDS
1) 1: Not Alertable if natural (three or more cards in
minor) and non-forcing. Announceable if fewer than three cards is the only
unnatural meaning. Any other meaning must be Alerted (e.g., a Precision
2) 1: Not Alertable if natural (three or more cards in
minor) and non-forcing. Announceable if fewer than three cards is the only
unnatural meaning. Any other meaning must be Alerted.
3) 1,1: Not Alertable if natural (four or
more cards in major) and non-forcing. (Note that canapé systems must be
pre-Alerted and canapé bids must also be Alerted during the auction.) All
other meanings are Alertable.
4) 2: Not Alertable if strong and forcing, whether natural
or artificial. All other meanings are Alertable (e.g., natural and weak or
5) 2,2,2: Weak, natural,
non-conventional uses do not require an Alert. All other natural or
conventional meanings are Alertable.
RESPONSES TO SUIT BIDS
Not Alertable if natural, forcing one round, and does not deny a four-
(or five)-card major. All other uses must be Alerted.
1-P-1 or 1-P-1:
Not Alertable if it shows four or more cards in the suit bid and is
forcing for one round. Note that the fact that you might bypass a longer
diamond suit is NOT Alertable.
1-P-1NT or 1-P-1NT:
Not Alertable if it shows a limited (maximum 11 HCP), balanced hand.
1-P-1 or 1-P-1:
Not Alertable if natural and non-forcing.
Announceable if it is
forcing or semi-forcing. Alert if it: 1) promises spades or 2) has some
other conventional meaning.
(Note: Semi-forcing in this case means that opener may pass with a minimum
and 5-3-3-2 distribution but otherwise will treat it as a forcing notrump.
Passed-hand 1NT responses, unless they cannot be passed, do not require an
Announcement. Also see
Not Alertable if natural and non-forcing. Announceable if it is forcing
or semi-forcing. Other conventional agreements require an Alert.
2-P-2 OR a 2NT response to a natural,
strong two bid:
Not Alertable if it asks for further clarification. Natural,
non-forcing 2NT responses to opening two bids must be Alerted.
NOTE: A non-forcing suit response to a weak two-bid requires an Alert.
A simple raise (2-P-3, for example) of a
weak two-bid that is invitational or better requires an Alert.
Game-forcing natural jump shifts are not Alertable. Other
jump shifts (either conventional or natural and weak or intermediate) not in
competition must be Alerted. A natural jump shift in competition does not
require an Alert regardless of strength.
A natural 2NT response which is invitational or better
does not require an Alert.
Two-over-one bids are not Alertable if they are natural
and forcing for at least one round. Note that natural two-over-one
game-forcing bids are not Alertable.
In general, responses by a passed hand are considered
non-forcing and do not require an Alert or Announcement.
A 1NT rebid if strong (may have 16 or more HCP) requires
A rebid in a suit that tends to be longer than the
opening bid suit (canapé) requires an Alert.
Opener's rebid of two of a minor over partner's forcing
or semi-forcing notrump response to a major does not require an Alert if it
shows three or more of the suit bid (4-5-2-2 does not require an Alert as
long as responder expects three or more cards in the minor).
PART VII: HIGH-LEVEL OPENING BIDS
Natural and preemptive (weak) opening suit bids at the three level are
not Alertable. If you commonly preempt at this level with very weak suits
(worse than Qxxxxx) or suits of fewer than six cards you must pre-Alert
your methods. Intermediate, strong or conventional usage must be Alerted.
3NT: A 3NT opening that promises a strong, balanced hand
is not Alertable. Gambling 3NT openings and all other conventional uses must
Natural opening bids at the three level or higher which
convey an unusual message regarding HCP range or any other information which
might be unexpected to the opponents must be Alerted.
A natural 3 opening which is stronger than expected
since the partnership has agreed to open 2 (a Mid-Chart
agreement so the Mid-Chart has to be in effect) with weak minor-suit
REMEMBER! Below game, non-forcing natural suit
responses to preemptive openings require an Alert.
PART VIII: OTHER CONSTRUCTIVE CALLS
Natural jump raises in competition are not Alertable regardless of
strength. In the same vein, natural jump shifts in competition do not
require an Alert regardless of strength.
PART IX: DEFENSIVE AND COMPETITIVE CALLS
A jump to 2NT to show the minors or the lower unbid suits
is not Alertable. A bid of 3NT as unusual must be Alerted. A bid of 4NT is
not Alertable as long as the prior bid was by an opponent. Non-jump unusual
notrump bids below 4NT, except those made by a passed hand, must be Alerted.
Natural jump overcalls that are weak do not require an
Alert. All other natural and conventional meanings are Alertable. Unusual
overcalls, including the tendency to overcall at the two level frequently
with a suit of fewer than five cards or with less than two-over-one values
(approximately 10 HCP), must be Alerted.
PART X: DELAYED (or POST) ALERTS
ALERTABLE CALLS ABOVE THE LEVEL OF 3NT STARTING WITH OPENER'S SECOND
TURN TO CALL
Once the auction has progressed to the point that the
opening bidder has had the opportunity to make a second call, conventional
calls at the four level or higher are not Alerted until the auction is over.
These DELAYED ALERTS are REQUIRED to be made by the
DECLARING side before the opening lead. The DEFENDERS are REQUIRED to Alert
declarer AFTER the OPENING LEAD but BEFORE declarer makes a play from dummy
(Alerting before the lead is turned face-up and the dummy is spread is
The declaring side must make their Delayed Alerts before
the opening lead. Defenders wait until they have made the opening lead
before they explain calls requiring a Delayed Alert. As with normal Alerts,
the partner of the person making the Alertable call is the person who makes
the Delayed Alert and explains the agreement.
UNUSUAL CARDING AGREEMENTS
Except for leading low from a doubleton which requires a
pre-Alert, carding agreements do not require an Alert of any kind. However,
the box on the card in the middle of SPECIAL CARDING [ ] PLEASE ASK must be
checked when playing a completely unexpected method or one that is not
easily or clearly described by simply checking a box.
DECLARER IS EXPECTED TO EXAMINE AN OPPONENT'S CONVENTION CARD WITHOUT
PROMPTING IN ORDER TO ASCERTAIN THEIR DEFENSIVE METHODS.
Director Tech File