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MI & UI: Count the infractions

by David Stevenson & Steve Willner, Boston, USA

in reply to a question by Jan Peter Pals


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The question from Jan Peter Pals

Pairs event
Dealer West
All Vul
S A7532
H T3
D Q97
C K87
H 762
D AT63
C QJ62
[ ] S K96
D KJ42
S Q84
H QJ985
D 85
C 943
WestNorth EastSouth
PassPass1NT *Pass
2S ** Pass3NT?Pass
* 1NT = 16-18
** 2S = limit with both minors, not alerted
NS: reasonably competent, but relatively inexperienced players.

After East's 3NT bid, South asks the meaning of 2S.

East explains and South passes.

At this point North calls the TD and states that he would have bid differently if he had known the meaning of 2S (no prizes for guessing what that meant…).

TD explains that it's too late for L21b and warns for UI.

3NT is passed out.

South leads the spade 4, 10, ace, 6. East wins the third round of spades, finesses the diamonds the wrong way because she "expected the long spades to be with South" and ends up one down.

East starts shouting at North for illegally inviting a spade lead, North replies that he was not familiar with the LOL's old- fashioned bidding system, where 2S could very well have been natural, had no reason to inquire about a non-alerted 2S bid, and thought that there were possibilities to change his second pass.

Do you adjust? If so, how?

(If 2S had been alerted and North would have doubled, then even this East wouldn't have failed to make 11 tricks. Same case if North doubles 3NT for a spade lead).



David Stevenson

I like this one. Having read four replies I think that no-one has really grasped the problem in full. Perhaps a better title for the Subject line would be "Count the infractions". Let us see.

East fails to alert West's 2S bid. Since E/W are LOLs it is not unreasonable to assume they play a 2S bid that does not need an alert. So we have UI.

South asks the meaning of 2S at a time when he cannot possibly be thinking of bidding. Why? The most likely reason is that he strongly suspects 2S should have been alerted and is trying to draw pd's attention to it. To be charitable, I do not mean he is doing this intentionally, but I bet it was part of his subconscious motivation. So we have illegal communication between partners.

North calls the TD - why not? But instead of telling him what happened he now starts to tell him what he would have done otherwise. Unless the Director encouraged this, in which case we shoot the Director, then this is UI to pd. Sorry Tim, when you tell pd what is in your hand, that is UI to him, whatever the circumstances. If N/S have been damaged by an infraction they must rely on the TD to give them redress, not rely on use of UI to do so.

Unlike #A2 I have no doubt this was done out of ignorance and with no desire to communicate with pd, but it is definitely UI. Ok, no infraction unless pd uses it [pedants pls note: common BLML/RGB usage of term "use UI" assumed]. TD correctly warns for UI. Note that there might be some doubt about this because we do not really know what was said, but just saying "I would have bid differently" is enough. How much easier the hand would have been if South had called the TD the moment he realised that 2S should have been alerted!

South leads a spade. OK, this is the infraction - if there is one. Would South have led a spade in the absence of UI, when North has not doubled an artificial 2S? More importantly, were there LAs [HQ?] and was the spade lead suggested over an LA? Of course, this is the easy bit, it is a bog-standard UI problem, and if that was the only problem here we would disallow a spade lead in a heartbeat.

East shouts at North for .... Who cares, what for. This is unacceptable. North's reply sounds very reasonable.

So, we have four possible infractions, and we need to deal with each one.

Failure to alert is MI. It is legal to issue a PP for this, but this should be in the form of a warning, no more, unless this pair do it so often that a PP needs to be issued.

As far as MI is concerned, there is also the possibility of an adjustment. Suppose nothing else happened what would we adjust to? With a spade lead nine tricks are tricky. The logic quoted for taking the diamond finesse the wrong way escapes me - the DQ is more likely to be with the short spades! Furthermore, even though it is pairs, the drop of the DQ seems a reasonable shot. Jan Peter may say this LOL would make eleven tricks but how escapes me! There do not seem enough entries to the West hand to take the club finesse, enjoy the last club and take the diamond finesse the right way.

If I was playing the hand, knowing the spades were North, I would finesse into the diamond queen: I think the odds support it! However, I doubt this declarer would. The winning line, is to take the second spade, blocking the suit, and run the DJ, making ten tricks.

Let us say that if North had doubled 2S the result on the board would be

   50% 3NT-1
+ 40% 3NT=
+ 10% 3NT+1

Editor's note: with the weighted score idea growing I am trying to standardise a format agreed with Herman De Wael at Maastricht by which mixed scores are always shown in order of size of the actual score, highest N/S score first. Thus NS+100 precedes NS+50, whatever the percentages.

So I would adjust for MI on this basis, wait a minute, no I would not, the offending side did worse than this on the hand! No damage!

Communicating with partner through the "pro" question is again suitable for a warning. Note that as this example shows the soi-disant "pro" question is often used in other partnerships where one player thinks he knows what is going on and his partner does not. As with #B1a I only issue a PP if this pair have made a habit of this offence.

As explained above there might be some doubt as to what North said. But assuming he did say something unfortunate, I warn him, as well!

OK, it is a UI problem, and we disallow the spade lead. On a heart lead, nine tricks are normal, getting the diamond guess wrong, as before, because of entry considerations. Actually a spade trick will also appear often, so let us say that the result will be

   50% 3NT=
+ 50% 3NT+1

So perhaps we should adjust this way for E/W, since they are the NOs under #3b. But what about #1b then? Bear with me for a bit: I shall return later - see #C2.

We have to control discipline. It is my view, the view of the L&ECs of the EBU and the WBU, the view of the people who started Zero tolerance, and many people's view that the best way to do it is by Directors using their disciplinary powers. So a DP would be in order. However, like the other penalties, this should be a warning unless it is a common occurrence for the player concerned.

Phew! Now, what do we actually do? Let us consider penalties, then adjustments.

I warn East for not alerting the 2S bid [#B1a], and for shouting at her opponent [#B4]. I warn South for the "pro" question [#B2]. I warn North for making it clear what he would have done [#B3a].

I congratulate West for doing nothing wrong! :-) :-)

As far as adjustments are concerned I have to consider #B1b, MI, with N/S the NOs and #B3b, UI, with E/W the NOs. I shall consider each side separately.

To be honest, we do not have a lot of guidance for multiple infractions. Some people think we should deal with them in order. This has always seemed correct to me where the same side is the offenders, but not necessarily otherwise.

Perhaps we should go back to first principles. We are trying to redress damage: what would have happened, in our view, if there had been no infractions, giving the benefit of doubt to the NOs, as usual.

If East alerts, North may double - no, it is not certain, despite what he said - and South would lead a spade, or maybe a heart with no double. If there is a double, the UI becomes irrelevant since the spade lead is automatic, and then the result on the board would be

   50% 3NT-1
+ 40% 3NT=
+ 10% 3NT+1

However, I think there may not be a double [only S A7532, remember]. Without it, the UI ruling comes in to play: we disallow a spade lead, and then the result would be

   50% 3NT=
+ 50% 3NT+1

If we think North will double three times in five we get

   30%+ 0% = 30% 3NT-1
+ 24%+20% = 44% 3NT=
+ 6%+20% = 26% 3NT+1


   30% 3NT-1
+ 45% 3NT=
+ 25% 3NT+1

What about giving the benefit of the doubt to the NOs? I did that in the original figures. Of course, it would be easy to change the percentages, but this seems a reasonable approach overall.

Have I forgotten anything? Well, I believe this was played in a place where L12C3 was enabled, but let us consider the effects if it was not.

The warnings are unchanged. I warn East twice, South and North.

My view of the first infraction was that with a double the likely results were

   50% 3NT-1
+ 40% 3NT=
+ 10% 3NT+1

and without

   50% 3NT=
+ 50% 3NT+1

For E/W, as Os originally, we give them the worst score at all probable [L12C2] which is 3NT-1 assuming a double. Since the double is assumed the UI does not come in to play.

For N/S, as NOs originally, we give them the best score that was likely without the infraction, and the same logic comes in to play and we get 3NT-1 assuming a double.

This does not automatically feel right. N/S have offended in the use of UI but nothing happens as a result. However, adjustments are not designed to punish, so the adjustment seems fair.

How about a PP to warn South of the use of UI? I know he is inexperienced, but it was so blatant ["I would have done something over 2S" "Oh, look, I have led my tripleton, aren't I clever"] and the Director warned against it.

Yes, that is the answer. 10% of a top and explain why gently. After all, he is getting a very good score. It was not necessary in #C2 because part of the adjustment was based on disallowing the spade lead, and South lost some of his good table score, but it is necessary in a L12C2 jurisdiction.

OK, let's summarise.

If L12C3 is enabled, warn North, South and East as a PP, and East as a DP, and adjust for both sides to

   30% 3NT-1
+ 45% 3NT=
+ 25% 3NT+1

If L12C3 is not enabled, warn North, South and East as a PP, and East as a DP, give South a 10% of a top PP, and let the table result [3NT-1] stand.

Personally, I think this is one of the most interesting problems ever seen on BLML.

OK, have your fun. Who thinks I am out of my tree?



Steve Willner

Thanks for the extensive analysis. It looks quite right for L12C3 purposes (although no doubt one could quibble with the percentages). Without having yet read other responses, I am not certain how to adjust where 12C3 is not available.

I did have one comment that may apply outside the EBU and related areas:

South asks the meaning of 2S at a time when he cannot possibly be thinking of bidding. Why? The most likely reason is that he strongly suspects 2S should have been alerted ....

When the unopposed auction has gone 1NT-2S-3NT, it is virtually certain that something should have been alerted.

... and is trying to draw pd's attention to it.

But this seems uncalled-for. South has to wait 10 s anyway, remember, because of the skip bid, and he expects to find himself on opening lead. It seems quite reasonable to me to ask what is going on in order to think about the lead, if nothing else.

What I don't understand is why North didn't call the TD before South passed if he wanted to take some different action after hearing about the failure to alert. He should have had plenty of time during South's 10-s pause. I suspect in the real world there wasn't any pause, and there's one more infraction that David didn't count. (To be fair, we weren't told explicitly about it.) I am not sure whether this should change the adjustment, but I'm inclined to think so.

    30% 3NT-1
+ 45% 3NT=
+ 25% 3NT+1

One approach for L12C2 would be to go through the whole process as David does and come up with the final numbers above, then use the percentages to decide which scores are "likely" and "at all probable." But then who is the NOS and who is the OS? One might treat each side as the OS, giving 3NT-1 to EW and 3NT+1 to NS. Another option would be to treat each side as the OS but use the "likely" standard instead of "at all probable." This leads to 3NT= for both sides. I kind of like this result, but I don't think the Laws support it. I am not fond of the "adjusted score + PP" approach, in general, but perhaps one can justify it on this hand. It's true South offended by "using UI," but he was put in that position only because of the original EW infraction. On the other hand, there would have been an easy chance to rectify that infraction if the TD had been called before South passed, so NS bear some culpability for creating the situation too.

Personally, I think this is one of the most interesting problems ever seen on BLML.

I agree. It even gives one some sympathy for the "standard ACBL adjustment" of avg- for both sides. :-)


Editor's note:

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