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Appeals Committee Forum 2

From the Australian Directors' Bulletin, November 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. As a guest we also welcome the highest scoring reader who submitted his answers in the last issue (Tony Musgrove).


Hand 1
Congress Open Pairs - Submitted by Ian Smith.
WestNorth EastSouth
P 4H P4S**
P 5C P5S***
6H DblAP 
* Incorrectly explained as
a transfer to 4H.
** Explained as first round control in Spades.
*** North now corrected his initial misexplanation by indicating that 4D was actually a transfer to 4S.
Result: EW -800.
Board 9
Dealer North
E/W Vul
S A72
H AJ84
D 983
C A65
S ---
H K97532
C 73
[ ] S Q985
H Q106
D 1075
C Q42
S KJ10643
H ---
D 64
C KJ1098

At the end of play West called the Director and claimed he had been disadvantaged by the original explanation of 4D.

We begin with West's actions under the microscope:

West's 6H is a no cost call: if it makes, no director call; if it goes down, the director will surely adjust as there is no question in West's mind that the law is there to protect him. Not with me buddy, an appeals committee [AC] may take action, but for my money, E/W got what they deserved and it might even teach them in future to play bridge rather than trying to win later in the "director's court".

I believe that West caused his own problem. West knows that South cannot have a transfer to hearts (having six of his own) and that North must have at least two. These high level transfers are not likely to be on only a five card suit so West should at least have doubled 4D. To bid 6H now is insane with the NT bidder sitting after you. Even though South has heard his partner's mis-explanation, he is entitled to bid 4S because North cannot have a long heart suit having first opened 1NT. No adjustment.

I have no sympathy for West. He must have known that the wheels had come off the N/S auction and should have had little difficulty in diagnosing what was going on. Here he executes the classic double shot hoping for the director to adjust the score if it turns out that 6H is not a good vulnerable save against a non-vulnerable 5S. One should also examine the N/S bidding to see whether there has been any infraction of Law 16, owing to the mistaken explanation. South is the one with unauthorised information [UI], however his bidding seems OK to me. The mis-explanation was corrected at the first legal opportunity, so in the end I would allow the table result to stand for both sides.

No one likes West's 6H bid, however the rest of the panel are also concerned about the initial mistaken explanation given by South.

The incorrect explanation made it almost impossible for West to show his strong two-suited hand at a reasonable level. The options were to overcall with 4H, bid 4NT, or perhaps even double. Have E/W been damaged? The best they could hope for at the five level was to play either 5D or 5H undoubled, an unlikely scenario. South will bid 5S for a possible make (on a non-diamond lead) or North will double for a minimum of E/W -500.

What of the 6H bid? At last a bid has come along which I feel has broken the much discussed nexus. I quote from an ACBL Appeal Committee ruling, "Once there has been a suspected infraction by an opponent a player may not attempt a call, or play, that is not consistent with the context of the hand (minus the infraction). He may not make a wild, gambling, game or slam bid on the off-chance that it might work and call the cops for an adjustment if it does not." I would let the score stand for E/W but adjust the score back to -50 for N/S, as I do not think N/S should profit from their infraction.

I fully sympathise with West for the difficult position in which he/she was placed due to the N/S misinformation. However I have no sympathy for West's action: a typical "wild, gambling" effort, which could be called a "double shot". I will allow the table result to stand for E/W and lecture West about his actions in this case and advise him not to appeal. For N/S, I would adjust the score to 5S down 1, N/S -50, as I believe they do not deserve +800 after the infraction. Same on appeal, except I would forfeit the deposit (if E/W are the appellants).

There is a clear infraction by N/S of Law 75 (mis-explanation). Therefore N/S should not be permitted to benefit from any of their opponents' later actions. I will adjust the score for N/S to -100. West's failure to call the director before taking an action at the six level is suspicious, even though the Laws place this responsibility primarily upon N/S. It seems to me that West has decided to take a wild foray at the six level and to then call the director when it doesn't work out. No adjustment for E/W.

6H! Wow, that's a breathtaking bid! Welcome to "double-shot" world. West, on hearing the true meaning of the 4D bid decides on a vulnerable launch into the stratosphere, no doubt confident in the TD's ability to adjust the score if it turns out badly. Not this little black duck. E/W can keep their -800. Meanwhile, back in the real world, if E/W are given an immediate and correct explanation, I can envisage them competing in hearts to the five level and then selling out to 5S - which looks like 1 down. So I would award a split score: N/S -50, E/W -800.

I do think West was disadvantaged. With the correct explanation, he would surely have taken some action over 4D. So there is no question the N/S score should be changed to -50. But what is one to make of West's 6H bid? Is it a normal error of judgement after the infraction, or is it irrational, wild or gambling? I think it's the latter. Therefore, I would argue that the E/W score should stand.

There is an acknowledged mis-explanation. Could North's 4H and 5C have been cue-bids agreeing spades? South's subsequent spade bids might then be considered legal. My inclination, not having access to other information, is that they were not taken as cue-bids and that South 'could' have been using the misinformation.

Was West's 6H bid justified after the correct explanation of the 4D had been given? I don't believe so, especially at the adverse vulnerability. Passing would probably have given E/W a reasonable score, even if only after adjustment. As tournament director [TD], I would adjust the N/S score to 5Sx, down 2 for -300 (at all probable) but I would not be inclined to adjust the E/W score, which I feel falls into the double-shot category. On an AC, I might be persuaded to amend the N/S score to down 1, but would need a very persuasive argument to find that West's 6H bid was not 'dangerous'.

West does not have a hand that should be bidding at the six-level, vulnerable against not. This appears to be a classical case of the "double-shot", or to use the WBF's terminology, West has taken an action that is "irrational, wild or gambling", so no redress is offered to E/W and they keep the score obtained at the table.

For N/S we assume that E/W were not misinformed. West might then bid 4H over 4D, which will probably allow N/S to subside in 4S; or he might double 4D, which would probably lead to a sequence ending in 5S. Against 5S West would cash two diamonds and leave declarer to find at most one of the black queens. So, as a TD, I would rule N/S 5S -1, -50, and E/W 6Hx -3, -800.

Our lone American voice sees things differently. Is West a true "Non-offender"?

E/W were clearly damaged by North's mis-explanation of 4D. While West must have known from his own hand that North's explanation was incorrect, he could not have bid 4H and expected his partner to read it as natural. Had 4D been properly explained, West would likely have bid 4H and North might have doubled. Some South players might pass a small but non-negligible portion of the time. Thus, "the most unfavourable result that was at all probable" for N/S would have been 4Hx. Since E/W made ten tricks in 6Hx that would be the trick total I would assign in 4H; so -790 for N/S.

As for E/W, what was the "most favourable result that was likely?" Well, North would double West's 4H still thinking South had hearts (I know it's hard to imagine North correctly telling E/W that South has spades, then bidding as though he thinks South has hearts, but that's what the laws tell us to do in such situations). It seems likely that the bidding will go: South 4S, West 5D, North 5H, East will then pass and South will sign off in 5S. North read that as a spade signoff in the actual auction so I would allow him to do so again. A double of 5S by E/W seems unlikely and on a diamond lead and continuation South hasn't enough dummy entries to finesse East twice in spades and once in clubs. Thus, 5S will fail by one trick, +50 for E/W.

With one exception our panel all agree that West's 6H is bad enough for E/W to forfeit their right of redress. While some do not adjust for either side, the majority award a split score because of the original N/S infraction.


Hand 2
Open Teams (Flight A) - Submitted by Nakatani Tadayoshi.
WestNorth EastSouth
* 10-14 HCP at least 5-4 in the minors.
Described by East as Spades and Clubs.
Result: EW -400 (8 Down).
Board 24
Dealer West
Nil Vul
S KQ1062
H A8654
D 5
C 32
S 93
H 9
D AK1064
C K10875
[ ] S A54
H Q1072
D J72
S J87
D Q983
C J64

N/S confirm that the double was for penalties, but South believed North was marked with a strong 3-suiter, hence she judged 5D would be more profitable than one or two down in 4S doubled. She insists that without the misinformation, she would not have bid 5D.

Let's start with some background to this situation:

I submitted this problem because I would like to know if South's action was egregious enough to break the nexus between infraction and remedy. The TD in charge adjusted the score back to 4Sx down 5, N/S +1100. I was on the AC and we quickly resolved to give E/W -1100, which they graciously accepted (West is an occasional director). After a considerable discussion regarding South's 5D, we came to the conclusion that N/S were not entitled to remedy under the given circumstances and let the table result of N/S -400 (8 down in 5D) stand. At that time, I was not confident about this AC decision (hence the submission). However, after reading the comments by Stevenson and McManus on Hand 1 in the August 1999 issue, it seems to me that this is a clear-cut case of "breaking the nexus". I am anxious to see the comments of the other panellists.

Agreeing on all issues is:

Given that her partner has not taken immediate action over 2NT, why should he now be a strong 3-suiter? I can't see this 5D bid for love nor money, but who knows what goes on in a bridge player's head! Nevertheless, if I understand the recent WBF interpretation correctly, for E/W the score will have to be adjusted. I doubt that West, not hearing his partners mistaken explanation, will move over 4Sx, which will be some horrendous number (6 or 7) light. For N/S, I think 5D falls in the "irrational, wild or gambling" camp. So for them I would be inclined to let the table result stand.

Seeing the parallels with the previous hand but coming to a different conclusion are:

As in Problem 1, the offenders obtain a good score at the table because of an action taken by their opponents subsequent to the infraction. For E/W the score will be adjusted to the likely result in 4Sx (5, 6, or 7 off?). Can South's action in bidding 5D be classed as wild, irrational or gambling? Misguided, definitely, but would South have ever countenanced bidding 5D with a correct explanation? I can see no reason not to award the same score to N/S.

N/S were misinformed. Would South have pulled it if she was not misinformed? Probably not. With some reluctance I rule 4Sx -6. I think that South's bid of 5D is awful, but is it "irrational, wild or gambling"? Probably not.

Again we have an infraction caused by the mistaken explanation and I would compliment West for passing the 4S bid after receiving UI. We will never know whether this resolve would have survived the double. I believe N/S were damaged. South's action cannot be described as a wild gamble but rather an attempt to improve their score without the knowledge that an infraction had occurred. It cannot be considered a 'double shot', as the infraction is unknown to South. I adjust to N/S +800.

N/S are entitled to know E/W's systemic agreements so the TD must give N/S the most likely result in this situation where East has forgotten the system. North took a big risk that after the penalty double East might wake up, but at the table East passed. West should be commended for his fine ethics but I agree with South's contention and so will score the hand as N/S -800. Kaplan once wrote an article on this type of situation where he depicted each player having access to a computer terminal with the precise detail of the opponents systemic agreements but not their own. In such an ideal world E/W would be playing this hand in 4Sx and so it should be here.

I'll start by pointing out that West was ethically quite correct to pass 4S. Next, I agree with South that North is likely to hold a 3-suiter including both minors (given South's hand and the auction) and this makes the double more co-operative than penalty. I would therefore adjust the contract for both sides to 4Sx. On a trump lead N/S can easily come to eight tricks and so I would award both sides +/-1100.

Our final group allow the table result to stand.

West's pass of the 4S bid was very ethical but I find South's basis for bidding 5D to be flawed. East has jumped to the four level vulnerable after West opened a 10-14 HCP 2-suiter. Although he did so on a misunderstanding of the opening bid, he must have a fair hand. Given the points around the table, South's 8 HCP leaves a maximum of only 12 or 13 for North, so how does this translate to a "strong" 3-suiter? I would leave the score stand and encourage N/S to appeal.

I would let the score stand. South is one of those players who think their partner cannot see the vulnerability on a board and hence they believe they must make all the decisions. Here partner doubles to stop South from bidding. As a director I would not be surprised if this hand went to appeal. There is an unfortunate growing belief that once misinformation has been given then the offenders should automatically be penalised. I do not share this opinion.

When my partner doubles for penalties, I trust partner, especially at the game level, equal vulnerability and with a flat 4-3-3-3 distribution. Naturally the player is going to give any reason to justify her 5D call, even one as ludicrous as this. Heaven help us if we believe such rubbish. The truth of the matter is that South had a doubt whether the X was for penalties or take out, panicked, and called the only suit she had. No adjustment. I may well take a procedural against E/W for 'not knowing' their system.

How does one view South's 5D call? Those that see a direct relationship between the table result and the E/W misexplanation adjust to +/-1100, while those that consider the explanation was only partially responsible, award a spit score. Finally the non-adjusters see 5D as a pure bridge error and unrelated to the initial E/W infraction.


Hand 3.
Club Mixed Pairs Championship - Submitted by Tony Howes.
WestNorth EastSouth
Dbl 4S 5H 5S
6HP** P6S
* Spades and a minor, less than an opening hand.
** Hesitation
Result: NS +1660 (CA lead).
Board 31
Dealer South
N/S Vul
S KJ9854
D 9
C 107543
S A3
H A9654
D Q8
[ ] S ---
H QJ10872
D K105
C Q982
S Q10762
H 3
D AJ76432
C ---

E/W are unhappy about South's decision to compete further following North's break in tempo.

Let's start with our guest panellist:

North's hesitation constitutes UI to South. North may have been considering a double, or 6S. It seems unlikely that a pass in this situation is forcing. For South, the logical alternatives [LAs] in the absence of UI are pass and 6S, and perhaps double if that would indicate a club lead. I think pass is a 75% LA to the action taken so I would adjust back to 6H making for E/W as the most favourable result likely without the irregularity. It is important to explain the right to appeal to the N/S pair, since they may well wish to put a case for 6H-2 on a diamond lead, and an AC may well award some intermediate score.

Is there UI available to partner? Yes, we are told North hesitated. Is there a LA to the bid of 6S? Yes, some people would pass having bid the hand twice. Does the UI suggest 6S as against pass? This is the bit that TDs and ACs sometimes forget. North was presumably thinking about either bidding 6S or doubling: of course the former encourages South to bid 6S, but suppose it is the latter? As a TD I would rule it back to 6H making, E/W + 980 and let N/S appeal. Note there are two grounds for appeal: (1) that 6S is not suggested by the hesitation, and (2) that a diamond lead beats 6H. Of course, East might take the heart finesse!

I believe this is one of the rare cases where TDs might strongly consider that it is a decision better left to an AC. I might even take it to appeal myself and explain my worries about whether the hesitation suggests bidding 6S. The other matters are for the players to bring out. So how would I decide on an AC? I believe that usually players who hesitate and pass were thinking of bidding not doubling, so I would still rule it back to 6H, E/W +980. If Law 12C3 was enabled, I would rule 50% 6H making, 50% 6H-1.

I believe that there is a LA open to South - pass. Had E/W been vulnerable, I think that this problem would have been more difficult. On this hand I do not believe that 75% of players would bid 6S. I therefore rule that there has been an infraction under Law 16A and will award an adjusted score of the likely result in 6H. As director, using Law 12C2, I will rule E/W +980.

On an AC, I believe that there is scope for a different score adjustment under Law 12C3, attempting to restore equity. 6H does not have to make all the time. Should South choose the DA lead, 2 off is a real possibility. I believe this is likely enough for the AC to take it into account when determining the score. East may also choose to finesse in hearts - technically inferior, but well within the realms of possibility. The method of coming to a score under Law 12C3 would be to try to predict the probabilities of the various results. For instance, +980 50%; -200 40%; -100 10%. Doing the maths, this would give a final adjusted score of E/W +400. I think that is a reasonable (and equitable) outcome.

This is a close call. Firstly, does the hesitation demonstrably suggested 6S over pass? Clearly if partner was thinking of doubling, it would be wrong to move. Secondly, was the 6S bid by South a 75% action? As director, it would not be wrong to adjust to N/S -980. However, on appeal I would need little or no persuasion to consider 6S, a 75% action (which thankfully remains the yardstick by which we measure these things in NZ and Australia). To me once partner supports spades, the South hand becomes huge.

I believe that 6S and pass are South's only two LAs. I would not consider double in this sequence. North's hesitation over 6H seems to suggest bidding again, rather than passing and North might well have held the HA or CA instead of the HK. I would therefore award an adjusted score of 6H making 12 tricks, E/W +980. The fact that 6S can be beaten on the lead of a major suit Ace instead of the CA does not make the choice an irrational play. It might be an inferior play, but the standard is club level.

I have no problem with E/W's contention and agree that South's 6S bid would not be a 75% action. The problem is to decide on the score adjustment if E/W play in 6H. On a spade lead E/W will score either +980 or -50 depending on the H guess. On DA lead and continuation, E/W will score either -50 or -100. It's all rather difficult but it seems unduly generous to E/W to adjust to +980. So I'll go for E/W -50 and then wait for the inevitable appeal.

In a smooth auction the bid of 6S could be judged as reasonable, however, with the knowledge that North is considering some action, either X or 6S, it could be said that bidding 6S is assisted by the UI and that there were alternatives of X or pass. The latter would be the correct choice in the circumstances. I adjust to E/W -100 on the basis that DA followed by the 2D seems the standout defence.

I would adjust this score as South doesn't have a 6S bid. South has UI through North's hesitation. The problem is what to adjust the score to, half the time the E/W slam will make and half the time it will be defeated. I would adjust the score to 60% for E/W, 40% for N/S, as I cannot predict the outcome.

If there are two possible outcomes, why not give two assigned scores?

This one is tricky. Two rulings are possible. (1) It could be argued that North's break in tempo does not "demonstrably" suggest bidding on; he could have been thinking about doubling 6H and South's DA could well be the setting trick. On this theory, one would not permit a double by South (which caters to this possibility as well as to North's thinking about saving) but the committal 6S should be allowed. (2) In most experienced partnerships, the players know a lot more about their tendencies in these huddle-then-pass-type situations than a casual observer. So while North's huddle may not demonstrably suggest South's 6S, if this were a practised partnership one could justify disallowing any action by South that wasn't unilaterally clear-cut other than pass.

In a new or casual partnership, I would tend to apply (1), allowing South's action and the table result to stand. However, I would put N/S on notice that similar actions in the future will result in score adjustments as well as possible procedural penalties. If N/S were a practised partnership (such as a husband-wife pair) I would tend to apply (2) and adjust the contract to 6H making - on the possible spade lead. Once N/S discover that they will always get the worst result possible for actions of this sort, they will learn to either bid in a more even tempo or not to take questionable action when their partner breaks tempo. I would avoid a non-symmetrical adjustment (such as -300 or -100 for E/W).

Our last panellist doubts the hesitation suggests any particular action:

Considering the fierce competitive auction, I believe that North's break in tempo did not demonstrably suggest 6S. It is very likely that North was trying to work out the best bid among 6S, double and pass, finally leaving the decision to South. Therefore I would allow the table result to stand. Essentially I believe that it was the unlucky choice of the CA that caused the damage as both 6H and 6S are beatable. Same on Appeal.

Making a high level competitive decision without tempo variation is often difficult. The majority seem to agree that South is in receipt of UI, however while most adjust in favour of E/W, many would like to give some other intermediate score upon appeal. As directors we are unfortunately constrained to award only Law 12C1 and 12C2 adjustments. On this particular hand an AC's Law 12C3 powers may well be the better path to justice and equity.


Editor's note:

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