Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Honors bonuses

Since my post about opening hands in the 18-21 range provoked such an exciting range of responses, I hesitate to mention this next subject for fear of unleashing even fiercer bridge debate.

As you know, if declarer holds A-K-Q-J of trump in one hand and makes the contract, the side gets a 100-point bonus above the line. A-K-Q-J-10 of trump, or four aces at no trump, yields a 150-point bonus. BUT: is it proper/required for declarer to announce those honors BEFORE playing the hand, or not until AFTER, or is it a matter of choice?

Announcing beforehand mitigates the advantage of the honors, which could be considered either chivalrous or arrogant. Announcing afterward feels like a weird combination of gloating ("Ha, I won, and moreover give me a bonus!") and apologizing ("Yes, I made the contract, but I did have all the top trump honors.")

Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge both true and made-up, says "a player must claim the honors bonus, at the latest before the next deal starts," which sounds like it's up to the individual. Bridge World implies too that it's a matter of choice, even as they ungallantly caution "don't help the opponents out by excitedly announcing your windfall during the play; wait until the play is over and they cannot make use of the information."

I guess I like the idea of announcing up front. It'd be a curious game anyway, or at least one beyond my minimal experience level, in which the fact that declarer held all those honors remained secret long enough to sway the outcome. What do you think?

(While I have your rapt attention, here are some other fascinating facts about honors bonuses. 1. They don't apply in "Chicago" bridge (or in duplicate). 2. If declarer fails to mention them before the next deal, they are forfeit (also according to Wikipedia). 3. The ACBL says "As there is no skill in scoring for honors, players often agree to play without the honor bonuses." Aha, but if you announce them before playing, that calls for at least a little skill!)


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