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Director, that's not our understanding!

I've been wondering about a director’s authority to tell me what my partnership’s implicit understandings are. I’m aware of the Law that repeated deviations from announced understandings “lead to implicit understandings, which then form part of the partnership’s methods and must be disclosed in accordance with the regulations governing disclosure of system.” (Law 40C)

While my particular problem arose in a weak NT context, that context isn't critical to the poll questions.

The conventional 1 response in a weak NT context

The General Convention Chart says a “response is considered natural if in a minor it shows three or more cards in that suit and in a major it shows four or more cards in that suit.”

I try to get my partners to play a weak NT structure in which a strong NT hand opens the better minor and then either rebids 1NT or raises my suit response. To avoid wrong-siding some strong NT hands, one agreement I've found useful is a conventional 1 response to a 1 opening.  To allow the strong hand to rebid 1NT opposite a marginal response, the 1 bid is alerted and explained upon inquiry as a hand that may have the following features:

  • fewer than 9 HCP,
  • no four-card major, and
  • possibly fewer than three s. (For example, 964 K85 73 QJ852.)

A corollary of this convention is that with the second and third features, but 9-11 HCP, responder will bid 1NT after a 1 opening.  (For example, K64 K85 73 QJ852.)

The "unnatural major" response to a 1 opening

I’ve made no agreements like the 1 convention with any partner after partner opens 1 on the way to a strong NT rebid. Nevertheless, for the same reasons behind the 1 convention, with a marginal hand I’ll occasionally respond (frequency discussed below) with a three-card major that contains an honor. (I’ve even done this when we aren’t playing a weak NT.)

I rationalize, if partner rebids 1NT, no harm was done, and we’re back with the field. If partner raises me, most of the time we’re in a 4-3 fit and I can ruff in the short hand.

Let’s call this kind of three-card major suit response to a 1 opening an “unnatural major”. Because I haven’t discussed this tendency or style with any partner, my major responses aren’t alerted like the 1 response is.

The director call

Let’s assume my tendency to bid an unnatural major has become pretty consistent over the last ten years I’ve played in my local club.  Playing on a weekly basis, I've bid an unnatural major on the average of once every four months or roughly 5% of the time I'm responding to a 1 opening. One club director who is a former partner is aware of this tendency. Over the years, a few of my long-time opponents have commented on it and sometimes called the director.

A while back, I did it again while my latest partnership with a less-experienced player was just developing. She was focused on learning the 1 convention and other new agreements and apparently hadn’t noticed the first two times I'd made an unnatural major bid with her. (I probably ended up declaring one of them.)

When I made the bid for the third time with her, once my dummy appeared the opponents called my familiar director. My question for you is:  based on what information could this director determine that my new partner and I have an implicit understanding and that, until I abandon this tendency, my partner has to alert my major responses the same as our 1 responses?

1. My tendency to respond with an unnatural major to a 1 opening cannot amount to an implicit understanding until it is significantly more frequent than one time in 20.
2. The director can’t find that we have an implicit understanding until my new partner admits she has noticed my tendency.
3. Even though my new partner hasn’t noticed my tendency, the director can find that we have an implicit understanding based on my opponent’s familiarity with my tendency.
4. Even though my new partner and the opponents haven’t identified my tendency, the director can find that we have an implicit understanding based on the director’s familiarity with my tendency.
5. The director can find an implicit understanding for other reasons. It's her club.
6. This isn't my concern, as I have no implicit understandings with any partner.

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