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Another negative inference alerting question

The opponents open 1NT, transfer to hearts and complete the transfer. At this point, my partner overcalls 2S.

In the partnership in question, the requirements for overcalling 1NT directly with 2S are very low – most hands with 5+ HCP and 5+ spades will overcall (and we alert this direct overcall because it can be so much weaker than pairs typically expect, and it is also mentioned on the system card). As a result, the delayed overcall was a bit of a surprise – it had never come up before so I wasn't immediately sure what it meant, but partner had the only hand they logically could have (a very good hand that didn't overcall because it was hoping to take a large penalty against 1NT, but wasn't expecting the same sort of penalty against 2H).

The question is, should this happen again, should the 2S on the second round be alerted? On the one hand, it's an entirely natural bid, just showing spades. On the other hand, the number of hands that have been excluded via the previous bidding makes the meaning potentially quite hard to predict.

(We have experimented with alerting the pass over 1NT in the past, given that it can occasionally be a very good hand looking to take a penalty and most pairs double with such hands, but stopped doing it as it seemed more confusing for the opponents than useful – after all, it is almost always a normal pass, and people don't normally alert passes over, say, 1H as "could be a good hand with hearts".)

In general, it seems difficult to work out whether or not a call should be alerted due to the information gained from the fact that alternative calls that were not selected. Are there any guidelines to decide whether or not the rest of the system makes a particular call alertable, in cases where the call itself has the expected/normal meaning in the context of the rest of the system, but the opponents might not have the same expectations about the context in which the call is made?


  • By default, I think the delayed 2S would expected to be weaker than the direct bid. If according to your agreements it has to be a strong hand I think this would be unespected information about the strength of the bid, on that basis I'd alert it I think.

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