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Forgetting your system

When are you allowed to wake up?

An opinion

by QQSV (Dick Wagman), Marlborough, Massachusetts, USA


This question was posed:

We had an "interesting" wakeup situation yesterday.

  1. LHO bid 2NT,
  2. alerted and explained (as it was written on both cards) as 0-12 HCP, both minors.
  3. RHO bid 3C.
  4. LHO raised it to 5C having opened with a 20-21 HCP square hand.

Now to me, I thought it was just a lucky make, especially since if they were playing normally they'd have been in 4S.

  1. LHO violated system,
  2. realized it,
  3. and took a shot that happened to work.

And that was the initial ruling, based on the notion that 4S should make 5. In short, we were likely to win an IMP or two.

But 4S went down two at the other table. And our team captain (who's in law school) argued that there was clearly UI that was acted upon, and that there were defenses and declarer plays that could set 4S. So the director adjusted it to 4S down 1, which wound up winning instead of losing the match.

But I still think the ruling was a bit more favorable than we deserved. LHO violated system, forced RHO to pick a minor, and holding only 4 cards in that minor leapt to game.

  1. Oh well. Usually screwy bids don't work out, but they're allowed to getlucky.

Was this the correct ruling?


QQSV (Dick Wagman) replied:

In my opinion it was at least reasonable (I'd need to see the actual hands to try to make a final judgment.) Let's consider the actions in order:

  1. It's legal to goof and forget your system. No problem.
  2. You are entitled to an explanation of your opponents' agreements, not a peek into their hands. The explanation is thus exactly correct.
  3. Assuming RHO had clubs and wasn't trying Stayman, this is no problem.
  4. This one is the key problem.

You are allowed to remember your methods if

But you must be able to demonstrate that you didn't remember as a result of anything partner told you (including, for example, a failure to alert, or, in this case, the actual alert).

Once pard alerts 2NT, you don't get to bid as if it were minors until the bridge logic is absolutely inescapable. For example, if over a strong balanced 2NT 3C were an impossible bid, you could argue that the 3C bid itself (authorized information) woke you up and told you that you had better get back to clubs. However, I'd never believe that; Stayman 3C is just too standard to persuade me that 3C was impossible. So I would conclude that it was indeed unauthorized info that reminded the 2NT bidder about his method. Thus, I would rule that 5C bid was based on unauthorized information.

  1. So, this is OK,
  2. and this is OK.
  3. But he doesn't get to do this! I'd rule that he has to bid as if partner were responding to a strong balanced 2NT until partner makes an impossible bid.

The next part can't be done without seeing the actual hands. But the director (or, better, a committee) has to determine what the likely result is absent the unauthorized information, and roll it back to that. If they can't determine the likely result, they have to award an adjusted score. (-3 IMPs is the common equivalent of a matchpoint average minus.)

So if 4S down one was a likely result, then rolling back to that is plausible.

  1. I think you misunderstand the situation here. LHO wasn't lucky; he took advantage. Luck would have him respond to Stayman, partner drop him in a silly contract, and then find that it makes while the more normal contract goes down on a ruff, or something like that. This was much better than a shot: he got to bid 2NT with a strong balanced hand and then find out that his partner had a few clubs! That's information that's very unlikely to be dug out by ordinary methods.

What happened to you was fair.


Editor's note:

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