Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ruling the Game

This month's ACBL Bulletin has arrived (i.e. February's) and I was pleased to see photos of several players that we know well: Pat McDevitt/Rich DeMartino and the McNamaras.  Congratulations to them for their outstanding WBF results in Philadelphia last year.  And while I can hardly claim to "know" Brad Moss, it was interesting to see him as 2010 player of the year after facing him (and Gitelman) for two boards in the Reisinger.

I generally take a look at Mike Flader's column fairly soon after receiving a new bulletin.  But I think he's a little off his game this month.  In the third question, the opponents have the auction 2NT—4; 4♠—4NT.  Opener now picks up his bidding cards and starts to put them back in the box.  The questioner asked if it was appropriate for either his partner or himself to point out that the auction wasn't over.  Maybe space was limited but Mike's answer addressed the simple fact that no call had been made (no card was placed on or near the table) so the director (none had been called) should allow the auction to continue and that was about that.  I think he missed the point entirely.

First, the most obvious point.  The writer (who has already passed in this round) should not be saying anything at all since it is not his turn to bid.  Second, writer's partner should, in my opinion, wait a reasonable time and then call the director (or writer could call the director).  Otherwise they'd logically still be sitting there.  Clearly an infraction has occurred (it is incumbent on opener to make a call and he has not).  And if I was that hypothetical director, I would rule, notwithstanding the laws, that opener had made the physical equivalent of a pass (removing his cards rather than placing one on the table amounts to the same thing).  I would allow play to continue in 4NT (assuming that writer's partner also passes as any sane person would) and let the result stand if it was favorable for the defenders.  If it was not favorable to the defenders, I would probably assign an adjusted score: give the defenders the table result and assess a procedural penalty against declarer, awarding his side an average minus.

If I were Flader, I'd point out that the laws were not well written in this case [to quote from The Mikado: That's the slovenly way in which these Acts are always drawn. However, cheer up, it'll be all right. I'll have it altered next session. Now, let's see about your execution — will after luncheon suit you].  Actually, this issue is not covered in the "Laws of Duplicate Bridge" because it is up to the regulating authority, the ACBL in our case.

But most of all, I'd criticize all those players who, not being the last to call in an auction, simply pick up the cards to indicate that the auction is over.  It ain't over until the third pass in rotation is made!  This particular behavior drives me potty.  One of these days, I'm going to be the last to call over, say, 1NT—2NT—3NT and I'll be thinking of a lead-directing double when partner makes the opening lead.  I certainly hope that partner will be allowed to replace his/her face-down lead if I do make that double.

The first question is more of a judgment call and maybe Mike Flader is correct for a table ruling, but in practice this would likely be referred to a committee (of players, rather than directors).  Holding ♠9875 A862KQ74 ♣T, our hero hears his partner open 1♠ (at favorable vulnerability) and RHO bid 2♣.  Being an old-fashioned sort of player (but having, in a moment of weakness perhaps, agreed to play weak jump raises), he bids 3♠ meaning it as a limit raise.  After ascertaining from opener that the jump is "weak", LHO bids 4♣ and partner passes as does RHO.  The question is this: is said hero allowed to bid 4♠?  Flader points out that pass is a logical alternative and that he may not choose another logical alternative that could have been demonstrably suggested by partner's explanation—he must decline the invitation that he thought he was making.  But wait a moment!  The situation is now quite different.  Is it really a logical alternative to pass when our side is known to hold at least half the deck, nine spades and we have a singleton in the opponents' suit?  I think not.  Surely, we're still allowed to bid our cards!  After all, the original 3♠ supposedly said "I think that, if you have a minimum hand, we have a better shot at making nine tricks than ten".  But now, we're not even going to declare the hand.  Surely our hero is allowed to try for -100 rather than suffer the likely -130!

This is one of those very tricky areas of bridge that unfortunately end up making somebody upset when the director rules a certain way.  I'm not sure that I have a solution, other than screens, or electronic bidding with pre-loaded convention cards.


  1. I'm not sure that I have a solution, other than screens, or electronic bidding with pre-loaded convention cards.

    The solution is to play with computers, like BBO. You don't hear partner's Alert and can do what you want. Computers have other advantages, as well, but that's another thread.

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  3. Ruling the Game is one of my favourite columns too. Re: 4NT auction, it's really unfortunate that the writer gets the bad end of this "behaviour", but I think Flader is correct in that no call has been made and the auction should proceed. I agree it's not fair, but I don't think it's correct to rule that it was a pass. I'm not sure there's any basis for an adjustment. I was thinking that the bidding should proceed, and a procedural penalty be given, but there is no real infraction.

    I hate when people just pick up their cards prematurely as much as you do, and also those who "tap" the table as their "pass" call when they're not in the passout seat. "It ain't over until the third pass in rotation is made!" It's even possible to argue that it's still not over after 3 passes, given Law 22B-1 states that "the auction period ends when, subsequent to the end of the auction as in A2 above, either defender faces an opening lead." I wish this rule were observed better in the US, and that people would leave the bidding cards out until the opening lead is faced. People in England do it, why can't it be done here. As an added benefit to following the rules, it would eliminate the need for reviews...