Unintended Bid (again)

I continue to find confusing what is and is not an unintended call within Law 25A1,2,3 taking into account how the human mind works (or may work).
North held
North passed as did East. South opened 1D. West passed.
I found the following facts as to what happened next.
North decided he wanted to bid 1H. He moved his hand intending to bid 1H, but when he looked down saw that he had placed a Pass card on the table in front of him. He immediately (and before East had done anything) said words to the effect of "I intended to bid one heart" and took the 1H card out of the bidding box and placed it on the table. East-West called the director (and East would not accept the 1H).
As a matter of fact, I believed North when he said that he was throughout intending to bid IH and that he had had some kind of mind/body aberration when his brain's intent to pull out the 1H card turned into the body's pulling out the Pass card. While the Pass card is located some way away from the 1H card in the bidding box; North seemed credible, he had immediately tried to correct, and 1H is the obvious response to partner's opening ID whilst Pass is not. Thus I did not see this as a change of mind situation.

I ruled that the "Pass" was an "unintended call" within 25A1 and that this fell into a category of a "mechanical error" within 25A2 rather than "loss of concentration" within 25A2. I therefore allowed the corrected bid. West disagreed and appealed, and I so I convened an appeal panel who (reluctantly and by a majority) allowed the appeal accepting West's submission that this was a relevant "loss of concentration" within 25A2.
My own view remains that 25A2 on its wording asks the question "what was the intent of the action?" especially as the words are "a loss of concentration regarding the intent of the action". If the "intent" was (as I found to be the case here throughout) to bid 1H, then the fact that a Pass (or indeed any other) bidding card is pulled out due to a mind/body dislocation may involve a failure to fully concentrate, but that is likely to be the case in relation to any mechanical error (it would be different if the original intent was to pull out Pass and then it was instantly realised that that was a wrong bid to make)?
I appreciate that it is somewhat unlikely that someone accidentally pulls out a Pass (rather than, say a 1S card) when actually intending to bid 1H, but that is a question of fact, and I had particular reasons for my factual conclusion in this case (see above) although there may be (I am no psychologist) differences between the brain's working at conscious and sub-conscious levels.



  • It is difficult to apply law 25A based on a knowledge of how the brain works. Neuro-scientists know (from experiment) that concepts such as "free will", "intentionality", "motivation" are not easy to determine - certainly muscles can be instructed to do something before we are conscious of why we are doing it. There is nothing wrong in believing a player who says "i reached for the 1H bid and found I had put a pass on the table" and deciding that this was a mechanical error.

  • Is it legal for an appeals committee to over-rule the TD on this?

  • They can over-rule the TD on a question of judgement, but not on a question of law. I think determining this case rely on judgement as long as they understood that the law does not limit "unintended" to "mechanical error".

    Before the law change the phrase "mechanical error" did not appear in the laws yet unintended calls were widely interpreted as being synonymous with them. The change that introduced the phrase into the laws seems also to have introduced the possibility of an unintended call that is not a mechanical error.

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