My partner and I play a weak 1NT (12-14 HCP) and 1C can be real (5+ card) or 15-19 HCP. If we have a 5 card major, we open it.

Because we have a bid promising a balanced hand with every range. This has lead to our 1D opening always promising an unbalanced hand.

The Dutch (I think they are just the international) rules say that every bid which your opponents might not know the correct meaning of should be alerted.

I have been alerting the bid saying "my partner promises real diamonds either 5+ or any 4441 (with 4 diamonds) and always an unbalanced hand".

Is it nessecary to alert this in regular contract bridge?

4 Answers 4


Rules on alerts are specified by the sponsoring organization, and may well be different for games played under different organization.

The ACBL alert chart does not specifically mandate an alert for a 1D bid wqhich promises an unbalanced hand, but does require an alert for "Natural Calls Not Specifically Noted" which show "Unusual strength, shape, etc". The ACBL Alert procedure says:

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.

This procedure uses the admittedly "fuzzy" terminology of "highly unusual and unexpected" as the best practical solution to simplifying the Alert Procedure. "Highly unusual and unexpected" should be determined in light of historical usage rather than local geographical usage. To ensure full disclosure, however, at the end of the auction and before the opening lead declarers are encouraged to volunteer to explain the auction (including available inferences)

In light of that, I would be inclined to alert the 1D opening. Or I might ask a local director before the game if such a bid should be alerted. If in doubt it is always better to alert than not.

Note that one should never say more than "alert" until and unless an opponent asks for an alert to be explained. Offering an explanation unasked can itself be a violation.

In an informal game not sponsored by any organization, procedures are whatever the players agree on.


The 1D bid should not be alerted.

The 1C bid should be announced as "May be short".

Note that rebids of 1N after the 1C opening should be alerted (because it's 15-17). I don't know what your rebid of 1N after a 1D means, but quite possibly it should be alerted even if natural.

As a courtesy to your opponents, you should tell your opponents that you're playing weak NT with 1D unbalanced before the round starts, but this isn't required.

You are playing a fairly standard weak 1N (12-14) system; putting all your balanced hands in 1C isn't all that strange, particularly if you open 1D when you have a balanced hand with 5 diamonds.

  • 1
    Note, OP says 1D "promises" an unbalanced hand, either 5+ or 4441, no other 4-card pattern. a balanced hand with 5 D would be opened either 1NT or 1C, depending on strength, as I understand the OP. Aug 5, 2019 at 21:05
  • I too believe you are misunderstanding the system. OP clearly states that 1D promises an unbalanced hand, namely an unspecified singleton or void, in many hands w/o 4D - much like the old Precsion 1D opening. This is definitely unexpected, in the extreme, so requires an alert plus a pre-alert so I can adjust my defense. In particular, the odds of 1C being a 15-19 NT are much higher than it being a 15+ hand with 5+ Clubs, so I really want to enable my 1NT defenses against that. Bonus - I can adjust them by strength to play weak / strong at 1 and 2 level. Aug 5, 2019 at 21:34
  • Adding in 11-14 unbalanced hands with clubs (which are 1C openers in this system), I'm pretty sure that 1C is still more likely a club hand. Systems with a weak NT and normal minor openers don't have any alerts (except for the 1N rebid). Systems with strong NT but 1D unbalanced don't have any alerts (unless you count the 1C announcement). It's hard to see why having both would suddenly require an alert. Aug 5, 2019 at 23:06
  • I know pairs that play 10-12 1N, with 1D diamonds or 12-14 balanced, and 1C clubs or 15-17 balanced. (1D can be 5 clubs and 2 diamonds in a balanced hand, and vice versa for 1C.) They have been almost universally told by directors to announce, not alert, their 1C/1D openers. Aug 5, 2019 at 23:08

The ACBL Alert Chart states (line 1) that:

Natural Calls Not Specifically Noted [with] Unusual strength, shape, etc

must be alerted. Both your 1C and 1D opening bids imply unusual strength and shape requirements, and so must be alerted.

In addition the ACBL Alert Procedures guide states:

Systems that may be Fundamentally Unfamiliar to the Opponents

When you play a system structured along different agreements than [those described in the preceding paragraph], you should draw the opponents’ attention to your convention card before the round begins. In short, if you play a system that most players would not immediately recognize ... or one the opponents may wish to discuss before the auction begins ...), you are required to pre-Alert the opponents.

In my opinion your 1C and 1D openings are such a system agreement, and I would expect a pre-alert along the lines of:

  • All non-forcing openings intending to rebid 1NT or 2NT are opened with 1C.
  • Unbalanced hands of the same ranges with no 5+ Major or Club suit are opened 1D.

I am adamant on the pre-alert because the very advantage that you receive from this agreement is one that the opponents may wish to mitigate by modifying their defenses for.

I can easily conceive of defending your 1C opening as a 15-19 NT, and competing at the 2 level with our 1NT defense. This will interfere with your ability to distinguish between your 15-17 and 18-19 NT openings, and reduce your game bidding accuracy on 3NT and 4M contracts. I would enjoy seeing how that works out for you and partner.


TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

  • 2
    "Unbalanced hands ... with no 5+ Major are opened 1D." does not describe the specified system. A unbalanced hand with 5C, a 4-card major, 3D and a singleton in the other major would not be opened 1D, nor would other unbalanced hands lacking a 4+ card D suit. Some such hands would be opened 1C, with no intent to rebid NT. Aug 5, 2019 at 21:03
  • I wonder how this system opens a hand with 6D, 5C, and opening strength. I rather suspect 1D.Also your wording suggests that 4441 hands are opened 1D even if the short suit is D, but the OP says not. Aug 5, 2019 at 21:21
  • @DavidSiegel: Nope. My suggested pre-alert doesn't say or imply that. My comment to Alexander Woo's post does though. Aug 5, 2019 at 21:32
  • "Unbalanced hands of the same ranges with no 5+ Major or Club suit are opened 1D." seems to imply that ALL such hands are opened 1D , and possibly that ONLY such hands are opened 1D. It seems that neither of those are correct. Why not pre-alert in terms of what 1D promises rather than what it denies? Aug 5, 2019 at 21:47
  • @DavidSiegel: No, that is a logical fallacy. When one states "A imples B" there is never a valid deduction that "B imples A". I have described a type of hand, and the bid that will be made with it. I have made no statement restricting that bid to those hands. Aug 5, 2019 at 22:00

"Regular Contract Bridge" doesn't really have a meaning, especially when it comes to Alerting. In rubber bridge, you usually are playing cut-for-partners, so the system is specified by the Club (what happens at informal rubber is up to the players). In duplicate, L40A1b assigns how players make their system known to the opponents to the Regulating Authority. So any question on Alerting depends on your RA.

As you said, the Dutch use pretty much the World Bridge Federation rules (note that these are not "what the WBF tells people to use", these are "what is in force for games run specifically by the WBF"; i.e. where the WBF itself is the RA). Those are really designed for high-level play with screens, and say a lot of "Alert what should be Alertable"; which works for their players, maybe not so much at a regular club. But it works for the NBB, so what do I know? Under those regulations, as you also said, you should Alert it as it is uncommon enough to be unexpected.

Side note: "Alert what the opponents are likely not to understand" leads to a lot of Alerting, which in face-to-face play leads to a lot of Unauthorized Information passed by partnerships, even if it is just "I remember our system, partner". With screens, each player Alerts their screenmate, without passing information to the other side of the screen, so "overAlerting" is safe. This also applies online with self-Alerts, which is why most RAs have an "if online, explain anything that you think should be explained".

Most of the answers here use the ACBL as the RA. If you're not playing ACBL events (North America, or the online NABCs), that's only relevant as an example of how "where you play matters", as opposed to "there's a global answer". However ACBL regulations are relevant to a lot of this stack's players, and the Alert Procedure has changed for 2021, unfortunately invalidating the other answers. Here's how it works as of January 2021:

  1. The system is now pre-Alertable (because 1C is not Natural to the definitions); at the beginning of the round, you will explain that your 1C is "clubs or balanced". It's probably best in the pre-Alert to also make clear that 1D is "always unbalanced". Note: you should know whether for you, 2=2=5=4, or 5D332, 6D322 or 7D222 are balanced or not, and if it's quick to explain, then do that here too.

  2. Your Announcement for 1C is now "could be 2" (which is what all the "could be short" people were doing anyway). If asked, of course, you explain "real clubs or balanced 15-19", with explanations of what is balanced again if asked.

  3. 1D is not in the list of Alertable Natural bids. However, the Alert Procedures do not make it wrong to Alert something that "feels wrong not to Alert" as long as it's not on a list of "do not Alert" calls. I would feel uncomfortable having not either Pre-Alerted it (although it is technically not Pre-Alertable) or Alerting it when bid (although it is technically not a required Alert). My feeling is that one is sufficient, and the pre-Alert is better. Again, if asked, you explain "5+ or 4D441, always unbalanced" (again, with your definition of balanced).

  4. Online (Appendix O), you explain when you bid, whether it's Alertable or not: "You are encouraged to explain calls even if those calls do not require alerts." Pre-Alert is still required.

Finally, with all RAs, remember that the primary goal is L40B1a: "Each partnership has a duty to make its partnership understandings available to its opponents" (my emphasis). You are required to do it the way the RA requires, but using the technical letter of the regulations to minimize disclosure is a violation of the Law.

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