Claim early, claim often!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some etiquette suggestions specifically for online playing. Several of them addressed slow play, aka the bane of BBO. (see for example the October 2020 editorial in ACBL’s Bridge Bulletin). Scroll down the right sidebar to read them.

Left unmentioned was a very important aspect of online play: claiming in a timely fashion,  as soon as the conclusion of the deal is obvious. This is not only courteous for your opponents and partner, it shows you actually know what you’re doing. Opps can also concede under the same circumstances but they often cannot be sure that their partner does not hold a winning card, so it’s usually up to declarer to make the call.

The title of this post is actually taken from an article by District 18’s Advocate in which he argues the case convincingly.

Here are a couple of his tips for online players:

  • Playing online, saving time is very important, so always claim or concede as early as possible. Your cyber opponents and your partner expect you to click the “Claim” button as soon as you know the likely result, even in cases where there may be a chance for an overtrick.
  • If you’re playing against beginners or known skeptics, it may save time to actually play out a few extra tricks before you make your “obvious” claim. Choose a point where the end position will be clear and simple and, best, all the trumps have been drawn.
  • Don’t insult your opponents’ intelligence by running an Idiot Squeeze, where you have an obvious-to-everyone loser, but you play out all 13 tricks in the hope that the defenders will make a bonehead discard or, even less sportsmanlike, that one will revoke. Accept that they aren’t going to pitch their ace and just concede the trick. You may need the time for a tougher problem on the next board.
  • Never play out all the tricks when you know you have the rest. This is actually a violation of bridge proprieties. According to Law 74, a player should refrain from “prolonging play unnecessarily (as in playing on although he knows that all the tricks are surely his) for the purpose of disconcerting an opponent”.



Online bridge etiquette

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed some changes in our sidebar bridge etiquette column.

The suggestions are now more relevant to online playing.

As Paul Linxwiler aptly noted in his November 2020 Bridge Bulletin editorial, slow play online is the most common topic of complaint from Bridge Bulletin readers.  Accordingly, several bullet points address aspects of this topic.

Enjoy and keep on playing online… in tempo!

And if you have any word of wisdom you’d like us to add to our etiquette column, please send it via the Contact Us button.





Self-alerting on BBO

ACBL states that “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.” (from ACBL Alert Procedures)

Self-alerting of bids is one of the unexpected benefits of playing on BBO. Only opponents get to see your self-alert. Your partner is unaware that you even alerted, thus minimizing unauthorized information. Of course you have to do it the right way, which means NOT using the chat box.  Click here if you’re unsure of how to do it.

You should therefore have no qualms about alerting a possibly ambiguous bid since you are not conveying unauthorized information to your partner by doing so.

Larry Cohen in a 2015 article gives some interesting examples of possibly alertable bids.

With self-alerting, no need to keep track of ACBL rulings – just alert every not-so-obvious bid. Once you get used to self-alerting, you will find it becomes a natural part of the bidding process. Don’t forget that announcements, such as transfers, are also alertable.

Finally, if you’re unsure of the meaning of an opponent’s bid, click on it to elicit a response from the bidder.



ACBL Unit 431, Victoria