John Myles of Leicestershire, England wrote an email to the EBU asking the following:
This was a bidding sequence:
* 4 was alerted. It was doubled by opponent on left of bidder and this was followed by two passes.
The 4 bidder then reached for score card and made an entry..the doubler then placed first card down ..asked..and then played.
After 4 tricks, declarer gave up lead and received a trump from defender, played one of the doubleton in dummy and promptly showed out..not having any trumps on enquiry!!
4x-6..not a good team's score! But declarer was horrified, not having seen the double
Does declarer's entry in score card constitute a Pass (which he did not make physically with bidding card) and has his partner the right to observe that bidding is not complete? Or has the player on opening lead got any responsibility?
Let me say that this is extremely tricky, and has been intriguing some of the best legal minds around the world! Max may have had two seconds to spare, but this is not easy and took a long time.
Let me go through it. You say that "The 4 bidder then reached for score card and made an entry..the doubler then placed first card down ..asked..and then played."
At this stage the auction has not been completed. No doubt the 4 bidder did not realise he was doubled, so he wrote 4 on his score-card: the other players assumed he had passed by his notation on the score-card.
You may be interested to know that the Dutch Bridge Federation have decided that any such action by the last player to call instead of a pass will be treated as a pass - but there is no decision of this sort in this country.
One thing that interests me is whether the player often does this rather than pass. When I played in the Schipol tournament in Amsterdam I found that players frequently took the cards away rather than make a final pass, but this habit [a very bad one, in my view] does not seem common in England. Many players tap the table, say pass out loud, or tap their own or an opponents earlier pass card, but a positive action such as this is far less likely to lead to misunderstanding: while against the regulations such actions are understandable.
If the player concerned never passes without playing a pass card it seems very harsh for this to be treated as a contract of 4 doubled. But what of his partner? His partner put the dummy down knowing that he had never passed positively.
Anyway, in the absence of the Dutch regulation, legally the auction is still in progress when the lead was made. This leads to all sorts of penalty cards and other things, and I believe that the board has been made unplayable.
Who is at fault? Both sides, certainly. Even if the 4 bidder never passes without a pass card, his partner is definitely at fault for putting the dummy down without even saying something like "Was that a pass, partner?". If he frequently passes in this way then dummy's actions are more reasonable, but then declarer must bear some of the blame: his failure to consistently pass in the way that the regulations require has made matters worse.
I cannot believe that any rectification is possible that will allow the board to be played normally. Thus I rule under Law 12A2 and give both sides Average Minus.