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The current regulations for Alerting/Announcing 1♣/1♦ opening bids are as follows:
An opening suit bid or response is natural if, by agreement, in a minor it shows three or more cards in that suit, and if, by agreement, in a major it shows four or more cards in that suit. (An opening bid of 1♣ is natural if, by agreement, it may be exactly 4-4-3-2 with two clubs, three diamonds, and four cards in each major.) (GCC)
1♣ or 1♦ may be used as an all-purpose opening bid (artificial or natural) promising a minimum of 10 high-card points. (GCC)
State “may be short” for non-forcing 1♣ and 1♦ opening bids which may be shorter than three cards. (Alert Procedures)
1♣: Not Alertable if natural (three or more cards in minor) and non-forcing. Announceable if fewer than three cards is the only unnatural or conventional meaning. Any other meaning must be Alerted (e.g., a Precision opening 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 or conventional meaning. Any other meaning must be Alerted. (Alert Procedures)
The issue of whether or not an alert is required relates to whether the bid is considered forcing or non-forcing per partnership agreement and understanding.
1♣: Alert if playing Precision where the bid is “strong, artificial, and forcing with 16 or more HCP and says nothing about clubs” (or similar agreement).
1♣: Alert if playing Montreal Relay, Kennedy Method, or similar system AND partner is expected to respond (“forcing”). Partner should state something like “Could be as short as 1 or 0 clubs, promises only opening values, and I’m expected to make a response.” Announce “could be short” if responder could pass with a hand as bad as xxx, Qxxx, xxxx, xx. (When quizzing players who use the Montreal Relay system you’ll find that many of them really do consider the bid to be forcing except in the rare case where they hold practically a bust hand with long clubs. You’ll find that many of them will respond 1♦ with the example hand above. That in itself should make the 1♣ be considered artificial and forcing. In this case the opponents are due an Alert, not an Announcement.)
1♣/1♦:Alert if playing Montreal Relay or similar system where these two bids distinguish the size of the opening hand. For instance, 1♣ shows a hand with no five card major and a range of 10-13 HCP, and 1♦shows the very same hand but with 14 or more HCP. In each of these cases players may have zero cards in the minor suit bid and hold five or more cards in the unbid minor suit. Again, when quizzing players who play these systems you’ll find that most will scrape together any bid possible (by implication, “forcing”) for fear that opener may actually be void in the first suit bid.
1♣/1♦: Announce “may be short” if they could be shorter than three cards and are 100% non-forcing.
Systems used by defense over “natural” or “artificial/conventional” 1♣/1♦ bids.
The General Convention Chart distinguishes between defensive systems allowed over natural 1 level opening bids and conventional/artificial 1 level opening bids. The following systems are allowed over natural 1♣ bid (which includes the exact distribution of 4-4-3-2 where the two card suit is clubs) and all other natural one level suit bids:
1. CONVENTIONAL BALANCING CALLS.
2. CONVENTIONAL DOUBLES AND REDOUBLES and responses (including free bids) thereto.
3. NOTRUMP OVERCALL for either:
a) Two-suit takeout showing at least 5–4 distribution and at least one known suit (At the four level or higher there is no requirement to have a known suit.) or
b) Three-suit takeout (at least three cards in each of the three suits.)
a) JUMP OVERCALLS INTO A SUIT to indicate at least 5–4 distribution in two known suits and responses thereto.
b) SIMPLE OVERCALLS INTO A SUIT to indicate a minimum of 10 HCP, at least 5–4 distribution in two known suits and responses thereto.
5. TRANSFER ADVANCES (responses to overcalls) where the call shows length or values in the suit of the transfer.
6. CUEBID of an opponent’s suit and responses thereto, except that a cuebid that could be weak (fewer than 10 HCP) directly over an opening bid, must show at least one known suit.
These guidelines include such conventional bids as Michaels Cuebid (#6), a jump overcall of 2♦ that describes a hand much like a Flannery bid (#4a and 4b), Sandwich NT, etc.
In cases where a pair requires an opening bid of 1♣ where the distribution might include four diamonds and two clubs (the partnership must have five diamonds to open 1♦) this bid should be considered conventional and should be Alerted.
Only when the 1♣/1♦ bids are considered artificial/conventional may a pair employ conventional overcalls such as HELLO, DONT, CRASH, Suction or other non-destructive methods (Opening 1♦ with 4-4-2-3 distribution where the two card suit could be diamonds IS considered artificial; i.e. there is no “parity” with the 1♣ bid where clubs could be as short as two). From the GCC under allowable competitive calls:
7. DEFENSE TO:
a) Conventional calls (except see #10 RESPONSES and REBIDS above and #7 under DISALLOWED below)
When a 1♣ is announced as “may be short” it is the responsibility of the overcaller to ascertain just how short. If the bid always promises at least two then only standard competitive calls as described above are allowable. If the bid could be as short as one or zero then the additional non-destructive conventional overcalls are allowed.
When a 1♦ is announced as “may be short” the overcaller may use the full range of defensive bids as the bid of 1♦ here is considered artificial.
Responses to 1♣
A forcing, artificial 1♦ response where responder is denying a five card major and where he could easily not hold three diamonds must be Alerted.
1♣-P- 1♥ or 1♣ -P-1♠ : no Alert required for natural bids (four card+ major suits) even if the response promises a five card suit or longer as in the Montreal Relay system.
Whenever the 1♣ bid is considered strong AND forcing a full range of responses is available in responding and rebidding. From the GCC under allowable responses and rebids :
7. ARTIFICIAL AND CONVENTIONAL CALLS after strong (15+ HCP),
forcing opening bids
For players who use a strong, forcing 1♣ opening bid promising 15+HCP a full range of conventional calls is available (such as transfer responses). When players open 1♣ artificially and consider it forcing, but the point range may be less than 15 HCP, they may not use these artificial responses.