Last Laws Home Local Next

Appeals Committee Forum 1

From the Australian Directors' Bulletin, August 99


Moderator: Laurie Kelso

Here are some ruling situations for reader and panel discussion presented in the last issue. Please note that, even though most of these situations are taken from real life, no guarantees are given that every relevant fact has been included. Since any minor factual variation could influence the deliberations, these problems should be regarded as purely theoretical exercises. It is therefore only to be expected that in some cases the majority decision will differ from the ruling made at the time.

Contributions from readers of interesting directing problems for inclusion in this column will be very welcome.

Once again, our panel give their views as both directors and appeals committee members on three problems presented in the last issue. The regular panellists for this issue are Richard Grenside, Arie Geursen, Nakatani Tadayoshi, Matthew McManus, Michael Kent, Rusty Court, Rich Colker, David Stevenson, Martin Wilcox and Richard Ward.


Hand 1
Senior's Teams - Submitted by Richard Ward
WestNorth EastSouth
1C* 2D 3H 3S
4HP** P4S
5HDbl AP.
* Precision.
** Hesitation.
Result: EW -200.
Board 16
Dealer West
E/W Vul
S 93
H K72
D AK1053
C K62
H AQ85
D Q9872
C 7
[ ] S 10
H J109643
D J4
C Q1093
S J876542
H ---
D 6
C AJ854
  1. D6-D2-DK-D4
  2. D3-DJ-S2-D7

E/W maintain that South is in possession of unauthorised information and that this made 4S an easier decision. South argues that he always intended to bid 4S if pushed.

Let us start with those that adjust:

Bad luck South. If your decision was to bid only 3S when it was almost certain that West would bid 4H, you cannot expect to justify a 4S call once partner has produced a huddle. Law 12C2 looks at the adjustment, and instructs the director to award the most favourable result that was likely to the non-offending side, in this case, 4H making 10 tricks. Whilst it is possible that the defence would be more alert, the fact of the matter is that a defence to a heart contract was played and it is reasonable to suggest that the same defence would occur against four. The wording of Law 16A states that if a player is in receipt of unauthorised information [UI], he may not choose from amongst logical alternative [LA] actions one that could demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information. In this case, South's argument that he always intended to bid 4S if pushed, does not enter the equation as "Pass" must surely be considered a logical alternative action. South needs to examine his standards in these types of situations.

This is quite an interesting problem. I'll assume North's 2D was intended as weak and that East's jump to 3H was also weak. Three issues need to be resolved: (1) Did North's break in tempo over 4H "demonstrably" suggest South's 4S call; (2) was there a LA to that call and (3) were N/S damaged by the 4S? Regarding (1) hesitations usually suggest extra values but here, with North having (presumably) pre-empted, the hesitation logically suggests a passive spade fit - maybe xxx. So in all likelihood North's break in tempo did make bidding on with the South cards more attractive. Regarding (2) many will argue that with seven-five distribution and a heart void, further action by South is clear. I disagree. The lack of a diamond fit is a contraindication for South. Even if North holds Sxx Hxxx DAQJ10xx C10x 4H may be beatable. Thus, I believe pass is a LA with the South hand. Try declaring 4S opposite Sx HKxx DKJ10xxx Cxxx if you believe South should bid again. As for (3) on the lead of a diamond 4H will normally go one down, however given the defence that actually occurred, 4H would have made. If we assume the same defence, it can be argued that E/W were damaged by South's 4S bid even though both major-suit games should (in theory) be beaten. This analysis suggests adjusting the score to 4H, E/W + 620. Was West's 5H bid sufficiently egregious (wild or gambling) to break the connection between the infraction and the damage, thus invalidating E/W's claim for redress? Not in my opinion. Opposite a modest hand such as Sxx HKJ10xxx ¨x Cxxxx, West can expect to lose no more than one trick in each minor. Thus, E/W deserve protection.

Some panellists, believe that West's 5H is bad enough to consider a split score:

In UI cases players often argue that they meant to do something. This is quite irrelevant, and we need take no account of whether we believe South or not. Was there UI? Yes, we are told that North hesitated. Are there LAs to the action chosen? In my view, definitely: not everyone would bid at the four-level with a bad suit and no fit: some players would pass. Did the UI suggest the chosen action over the LAs? This is the difficult one: partner might have been thinking of doubling. However, with a strong club and a jump response that seems fairly unlikely. So I believe that South's bid of 4S was illegal.

How about West's 5H bid: does it qualify as "irrational, wild or gambling"? Well, it seems pretty bad: 5H is not guaranteed, and 4S is unlikely to make when you have three trump tricks. For this to apply I generally believe the call has to be so bad as to give thoughts of a double shot: West's failure to double is at that level. So I let E/W keep their bad score. How many tricks are to be made in 4H? Well, the defence to beat it is quite routine, but since North produced this incredible effort for no apparent reason against 5H, I suppose he might do the same against four. I give N/S -620. As an appeals committee [AC] member I give a weighted score, N/S 40% -620, 60% +100.

I don't think much of anyone's actions on this hand. I don't really see that North has a great deal to hesitate with and he ends up putting ethical pressure on his partner. Pass is one of South's options and 4S could have been influenced by North's hesitation. Would North defend better against 4H than he did 5H? It was a terrible defense when given North could surely place all 13 trumps. I will adjust to N/S -620. West's action in bidding 5H smacks somewhat of taking a double shot after North's hesitation and South's 4S. I am sorely tempted to allow the table result to stand for E/W. West would need to provide some strong evidence of why he thought 5H would make.

Now for the reluctant adjusters:

To me, South seems close to having no LA other than the actual 4S bid. However, as long as I am not 100% sure, I will rule in favour of the non-offending side and adjust back to 4H. The real catch is to decide what score to award E/W, +620 or -100? I would adjust the score to +620 as it is reasonable to assume that North would again under-lead the diamond for South to ruff (with his non-existent heart). The same view upon appeal, but I would not be reluctant to agree to any reasonable claims.

This is a strange appeal at teams. What happened at the other table for E/W to be damaged? I believe that 75% of a moderately competent field would bid 4S on the South hand. Using that yardstick (in Australia or NZ) would mean pass was not a LA. If I could not persuade the rest of the committee to this effect, then I guess we would have to change the score to E/W -100. There is no way I am changing the score to E/W +620 as I do not think that score is at all "likely" (Law 12C2).

Saying one thing and doing another is:

It would help to know the systemic meaning of North's 2D overcall. The hand itself looks "intermediate" in which case South's actions at the vulnerability appear reasonable regardless of the UI. As the director I would adjust to E/W +620. On appeal I would consider a less favourable E/W score given that the defence to 4H may have been more effective than the defence to 5H.

Doubting whether the hesitation "demonstrates" any particular action are:

I feel the director had an advantage over us by being able to ask the strength of the 2D bid and 3H response. The hesitation by North indicates he was contemplating some action, however South could not know whether this was double, 4S or 5D. With poor defensive values and favourable vulnerability I feel the 4S bid is a 75+% action and would let the table result stand.

I am a little curious about East's bid of 3H - was there an alert? Partner's hesitation has not really given South any information as to what sort of action North was contemplating. I believe that South can bid 3S and then 4S. I think some players would consider 4S as a sacrifice even with North silent. Here North has bid 2D so I would allow the score to stand.

It would be easier to give an opinion if one knew the partnership agreements. I am assuming that North's 2D bid shows at least an opening hand and East's 3H bid is weak. Whilst there was an apparently undisputed hesitation, I would be inclined to leave the score stand in the light of the vulnerability and the fact that North has shown opening values. It would have been better, if West had allowed his partner to make the decision over 4S. Despite the fact that I seldom take notice of statements such as South's "I always intended to bid 4S if pushed", I do not think that the bid was indicated by the hesitation. I would certainly recommend an appeal and I reserve my rights to come to another conclusion as an AC member depending upon the arguments and system descriptions given by both parties.

Everyone complained about the lack of system information. The variety of opinions and adjustments are due to differences in judgement regarding issues such as: Is 4S demonstrably suggested? Are their LA actions? What of West's decision to bid 5H? How culpable was the subsequent defence? The tournament director [TD] adjusted the score to E/W +620; the AC gave a weighted score of +410.


Hand 2
Gold Coast Teams.
WestNorth EastSouth
1NT2D* Dbl2H
Dbl3D PP
3H P3S P
* Explained as Diamonds and a Major.
Result: EW -100.
Board 12
Dealer West
N/S Vul
S 43
H A7
D AQ9654
C A97
D K73
C Q102
[ ] S AJ62
H 43
D 2
C J86543
S 109875
H 10962
D J108

E/W feel the alert and explanation clarified the situation for North.

South maintains the N/S agreement is as described. North says he is unsure what the agreement is over a strong NT, but says that he had always intended to rebid 3D if partner responded in a major and that even in a totally natural auction, he will remove 2HX to 3D.

We will start with the majority view:

Law16A clearly states ".... the partner may not choose from among logical alternative actions one that could demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information." North knows that one of the partnership has got the system agreement wrong and is trying to rescue. With screens, North should welcome the 2HX contract having excellent controls and an honour in hearts, I would adjust to E/W +800. I would also point out to N/S that they have a responsibility to have a clear understanding in such a basic area as action over a 1NT opening: weak or strong.

At last: an easy one! North's argument is irrelevant: Pass is a LA, and I adjust to 2HX. If North is an experienced player I hit him with a procedural penalty [PP] as well: his argument stinks. As in Hand 1, his original intent does not affect what he is allowed to do in the presence of UI from partner. It is not easy to work out how many tricks to award in 2HX but since E/W got a negative score at the table, they won't worry too much. Give them 500 and let both sides try to get more tricks from an AC.

Another clear adjustment. What a game bridge would be if every time one was unsure if a convention was being played, you just experimented and then waited to see if partner alerted! If you wish to play conventions, at the very minimum, know your agreements. Adjust to whatever E/W are claiming in a contract of 2HX, around 800 I would expect.

North has certainly received UI. Passing 2HX is a LA and I doubt if more than 70% of the players without the UI would bid on over 2HX. North has already shown his good six card diamond suit with his vulnerable overcall against West's strong NT and Ax is very good support for South's voluntarily bid suit. Like Hand 1, the assessment of score adjustment is difficult. I would adjust to 2HX, N/S -500 under Laws 16A and 12C2.

Even if it could be incontrovertibly shown that N/S have the agreement that 2D shows diamonds and a major, it is still quite possible that North forgot that agreement, as evidenced by the fact that his hand does not conform. The UI from South's explanation clearly suggests North's pull of 2HX (as South could easily have two diamonds and three or four hearts). In spite of his self-serving statement to the contrary, North should be only too happy to sit for 2HX. Even opposite a hand as poor as Sxxx HJ1098xxx Dx Cxx, 2H could make. E/W could also be in the midst of a bidding misunderstanding which the alert and explanation now virtually rules out. I would adjust the contract back to 2HX. My analysis of the likely play suggests that South will get out for either one or two down. The former I judge to be the most "likely" and the latter I judge to be "at all probable." Thus, I would assign N/S -500 and E/W +200.

North's hand is good enough to make another call over 2H by South. A game try would not be out of the question in a totally natural auction. If South has a real 2H bid, then 2HX should be very close to making. Pass is a LA for North. If South has doubts about their agreement, he may go somewhere else (given his comments after the hand, this seems unlikely). As director, I will adjust to N/S -500. On appeal, there is more scope for N/S to argue that there was some indication from E/W that 2HX was an illogical contract. Their arguments would need to be quite convincing to sway this member of the AC.

Wanting to probe the N/S agreements further are:

This is a tough one. The problem for North is that if he is playing a natural system and his partner had explained it as such, then surely 2H is to play and why would he move with A7? However, the committee should explore with N/S how they show a single suited hand defending a weak 1NT. If the 2D bid shows either diamonds and hearts or a diamond suit, then this does support North's contention that he was unsure of the system over a strong 1NT and, having decided not to defend, was going to 3D anyway. In that case I would be inclined to let the table result stand. However, let's assume the committee cannot satisfy themselves of this (in the absence of evidence to the contrary, they should assume mistaken explanation) then the committee will have to decide if 75% of the field would still bid 3D rather than pass 2HX. They would also have to consider the likelihood that South, knowing partner has a diamond suit, would escape to 3D once 2H is doubled for penalties. I think an assigned adjusted score of N/S -500 seems about right in this case.

It looks as if the N/S systemic statement should be "D's and S's OR single-suited in D's" given that North feels quite comfortable with the sequence as described. Quite a few DONT-ers and SPLASH-ers bid like this without providing the complete explanation to the opponents. Shame on them. South can tell from North's bidding what was going on. I am prepared to accept North's statement about always removing 2HX to 3D. No adjustment. Congratulations to West on coming home with 7 tricks in 3NT! Must have been a remarkably inept defence.

In South Africa we would treat this as a misexplanation situation, which is what we do when partners have differing understandings of particular situations. This does not however mean that we automatically rule against N/S. South appears to have bid in accordance with the explanation of the 2D overcall. East must have some values for the double, so I believe that South's pass, holding three diamonds, is not due to taking any inferences. I also think that West's 3NT sitting under North's long diamond suit is somewhat risky. North is of course not allowed to "hear" South's explanation, however I am happy to accept the 3D rebid and would allow the score to stand.

This is a difficult hand. North is in receipt of UI (Law 16A). E/W have been given the correct explanation according to South - but North is not sure. North's removal of 2HX may have been influenced by the UI but it is not clear. Because of this I cannot predict the outcome of the hand and I will award three IMPs to the non-offending side (E/W).

I believe an artificial adjusted score (3 IMPs) on this problem is a cop-out since by using Law 12C1 we negate whatever result was obtained at the other table. A majority of the panel believe that 3D is demonstrably suggested by the UI and adjust back to 2HX. Assigned scores vary between -200 and -800. The TD awarded -500, however the AC later reinstated the table result (E/W having first declined an invitation to appear at the hearing).


Hand 3.
Junior Teams Selection Trials. Supplied by John Probst.
WestNorth EastSouth
... 2D*
..1D 1H
* Bid out of rotation (Multi - Weak in a Major or various strong options). The call was not accepted and thus cancelled - North must pass through-out the entire auction.
Result: EW -100.
Board 10
Dealer East
All Vul
S 3
H 986532
D 3
S 95
H KJ104
D KQ954
C 83
[ ] S AKQ2
D AJ1072
C 10
S J108764
H ---
D 86
C J7542
  1. C4- C8- CQ- C10
  2. East bans a spade return (Law 26B) and claims with the words "making unless South can ruff."

Is there a problem with the above scenario?

Many of our panellists didn't like the situation:

Well declarer is right isn't he? South can ruff - but in hearts, not spades! If declarer had waited there was at least a possibility that North might have tried a top club and he would have made his contract. With the heart coming back we are getting into some real murky legal territory. Not because of the defective claim but because of the 1H psychic bid by South when he knows his partner is barred from the auction. This I am quite uncomfortable with. At the very least it is against the active ethics of the game and at worst an infraction. In the last issue of the Directors' Bulletin the editor wrote "It is intrinsic to a psyche that partner will be equally misled as the opponents" and I agree with that and therefore I am inclined to consider an adjusted score. My enthusiasm for adjusting the score is, however, considerably tempered by the fact that I can't point to the relevant part of the Law book where it actually spells out that a psychic bid is not permitted when partner can't be mislead. This is compounded by the fact that even in the absence of the psychic 1H, after a club lead North might still have found a heart switch with six in his own hand and four showing in dummy. I vote for letting the result stand and educating this junior on the niceties of the game.

What's the problem? East has banned a spade lead and then claimed, North has every right to lead a heart to defeat the contract. I am puzzled as to why this problem was submitted? Any country that bans psyching of either conventional or weak bids will hate this, but I can see no impropriety.

I wonder if the director made the correct ruling as we only have part of it, however I cannot see any problem. South has managed to bid hearts later on in the auction. The correct lead penalties have been applied. South has psyched 1H, this is not illegal. Score stands.

What an interesting situation. South has tried to turn his initial error to advantage by psyching knowing that his partner would be banned from the auction. Thus his side could never get higher than 2H or 2SX. In addition, if partner was on lead against a suit contract a heart ruff is likely. Law 23 may be the one to refer to - can it be used in this situation? The wording would seem to require the offender to know at the time of the original irregularity that the enforced pass could cause damage. South's hand, while below the requirements for an opening two bid, does fit a multi 2D style and was probably just a careless mistake. If we refer to Law 72A5 we see: "That after the offending side has paid the prescribed penalty for an inadvertent infraction, it is appropriate for the offenders to make any call or play advantageous to their side, even though they appear to profit through their infraction." Declarer has made a careless claim while the defending side has the lead and North can sight nine of the hearts and is aware that West has bid 3NT promising a heart stop, thus exposing the psyche. I would allow the table result to stand.

In the previous laws, this situation would have been covered under Law 23B - Enforced Pass Damages Non-Offending Side. However, the 1997 Laws removed this law and now the director is only entitled to award an adjusted score if he believes that the offender could have known at the time of the (original) infraction that the enforced pass would be likely to damage the non-offending side. There is no suggestion that this is the case here. Law 72A5 appears to validate South's actions, enabling him to make a self-fielding psyche - to use Endicott's term. I can see no alternative than to allow the result to stand, much as I dislike it.

This situation generated much discussion regarding the legalities of the 1H bid, arguing either for or against an adjusted score. It highlights one of many situations that the Laws do not envisage and also that it is impossible for the lawmakers to anticipate every possible situation. Having read all the postings and studied lots of laws that I considered relevant, I can find nothing that convinces me that it was an illegal bid in terms of the Laws as they are at present. The dictates of Law 31 appear to have been applied correctly and South's action appears to be in accordance with Law 72A5. I don't like it, but I believe that the TD's decision to allow the score to stand was correct. I hope that he added the words "but watch out if you do it again, sonny."

The application of Law 26B is fine and so declarer is one down. However I have seen this situation before where a player is able to make a risk-free psyche because his partner must pass throughout. At that time there were lots of comments about "not being in the spirit of the game" and similar, but I cannot find a Law reference to forbid it. 12A1 talks about assigning an adjusted score but also mentions "violation of law" so it can only apply if the director can find a Law that has been broken. Law 23 - Damaging Enforced Pass - mentions the offender possibly knowing at the time of the irregularity that an enforced pass would damage the opponents. This is not the situation here unless a case can be made for South, holding only 2 HCP, being prepared to bet that the hand belonged to E/W. If pushed into a decision, as all directors are, I would allow the score to stand, but apply a PP of 3 IMPs, quoting Law 23 as justification.

Now for a couple of adjusters:

Bidding out of turn on a two count silences partner at a time when the player knows it could work to his advantage, so I apply Law 72B1 and adjust. Without the bid out of turn 6D is likely to make so I adjust to 6D making, though I might give a weighted score as an AC. When originally discussed many people disliked the idea of a psyche when partner had been silenced. In general, however, Law 72A5 makes it clear that this is legitimate. In this exceptional case, a player could have seen the advantage at the time of the infraction in silencing partner because of his extreme weakness: no such adjustment would have been suitable if the hand was stronger.

I will adjust the score to 6D making, E/W +1370 under Laws 40A, 75B, 23 and 72B1. So called "psychics" are allowed by the Laws on the condition that they may deceive all remaining players equally. The case in question is an infraction of 40A and 75B therefore one should adjust the score under Laws 23 and 72B1. (To be honest, I don't like the actual result, so as someone said - was it Kaplan? - I first made the decision and then tried to find the applicable Law!)

Our final panellist raises some issues about the TD's original application of Law:

If (and this is a BIG if) South could have known at the time of the infraction that it could work to his advantage (he could now psyche hearts - hopefully E/W's suit) then Law 72B1 allows the TD to award an adjusted score. I think the application of this law is a bit of a reach here. Law 72B2 also prohibits intentionally infringing a law (e.g., bidding out of turn to bar partner) even if one is willing to pay the prescribed penalty. While this law may be more relevant to the present situation, it still seems a bit strained in my judgement. Another possibility would be to consider South's 1H after his partner is barred from the auction as a "controlled psychic," a tactic which is illegal in the ACBL. However, if the original infraction (the bid out of rotation) is deemed to have been inadvertent, then Law 72A5 may take precedence over these issues.

South bid hearts legally during the auction. My reading of Law 26A1 says that there is no lead penalty in such a case. Laws 29C and 31A2 also appear to only enforce a single pass upon North. Had South known this he might have chosen a different action. While nothing is entirely clear to me here, I tend to think that the rulings that barred North for the remainder of the auction and imposed a lead penalty upon him were in error. Thus, both sides should have been treated as non-offenders (Law 82C) and awarded an adjusted score. My choice would have been to assign N/S +100 (E/W probably would have gotten to 6 anyhow and the club lead followed by a heart shift seems a likely defense) and E/W +1390 (a spade lead) or +1370 (a club lead and continuation).

A large majority of the panel can find no infraction regarding South's subsequent 1H action. Stevenson believes that the extreme weakness of the South hand opens up a Law 72B1 possibility, while Nakatani acknowledges his very liberal use of Laws 23 and 72B1. I believe the TD ruled correctly after the initial bid out of rotation, although I admit ambiguities do arise from the wording of Law 29C. Some panellists may wish to debate further the correct application of Law following the conventional (2D) call out of rotation.


Editor's note:

Last Laws Home top Local Next
Top of