Your right-hand opponent opens 2, which he alerts and tells you shows 6-10 points, five spades and a four-card minor. During the play you misdefend, not playing him for four hearts and no minor. "What's going on," you ask. "I psyched," he says smugly. What is happening?
What you have run into is one of the few disadvantages in the normal online system of self-alerts and self-explanations. The Laws of bridge require you to tell your opponents about the agreements you and your partner have, but the Laws do not require you to follow them. Players get very upset over this, and even make accusations of cheating. But if your right-hand opponent really does play 2 as spades and a minor, he is completely correct to tell you this is his system.
It is easier when explanations come from his partner, since now it seems more believable that he has either psyched or just forgotten when his hand does not match the explanation. Of course, there is always the possibility in either case you are being taken for a ride, but you should not assume it.
It is not very easy online to check whether a player is telling you the truth, and perhaps in future articles we shall look at what you might do in such circumstances, but for now let us just make sure we know the Laws: players have a legal requirement to tell you their agreements, but they have every right to breach that agreement if their partner is going to be misled as well. So do not go mad when this happens: it may be perfectly legitimate. Sometimes he will have posted a convention card, and it is certainly worth a look, or he might have something about it in his statistics. The main point is that he has not necessarily done something wrong when his hand and his explanation do not agree.
Hello. I am David Stevenson, and I believe Henry has introduced me. While I have succeeded Tuna in writing about the Laws of bridge, regulations, etiquette and ethics for this newsletter, I intend to adopt a broader approach, considering not just online problems, but other facets as well. One problem is to think of subjects, so I am asking the readership to send in their problems. I am afraid I will not guarantee to answer each query personally, but I shall look at everything sent, and will write about some subjects submitted this way.