Explanation of calls

West opens 1 Club (P) East bids 1 Heart (P) W 2 Clubs (P) E 4 NT (P) W 5D (P) E (after much hesitation) 6NT. South asks East, at his turn to call, the partnership understanding for Wests 5 D bid. East refuses to answer and states that South is not allowed to ask as he is not going to bid. East argues that the question could only help South find the best opening lead, therefore benefits his partner (20G1) and must be asked after the biddng is completed.
South holds Hearts Q,8,7,2, DIA J,10,8,5,4, expects to make a heart trick and although admits is not likely to bid, argues he is entitled to the information.
South strongly disagreed.

QUERIES:-
1. Can East refuse to reply on an assumption that the question is purely for South's partners benefit (20G1) or should he wait to call the director when evidence of such action appears i.e. a bid/play from North as a result of South's question.
2. If South had asked the question purely to ponder his best opening lead and with no other reason, is that enough to suggest that the question will benefit his partner?

Comments

  • No to both.
    East should have called the Director anyway at the time.

    He might have had a concern about UI later.

    Alan

  • I would tell East to not go around bullying his opponents with his own warped version of the Laws.

    East cannot presume that South is going to pass the 6NT bid and East is in any case required to reply to the question. As EBU Blue Book 2E1 says, "A player has the right to ask questions at his turn to call or play".

    I'd advise South that it's better to wait till the end of the auction if he doesn't actually need to know before then (because as 2E1 continues, the right to ask questions "may have consequences"), but as the auction was presumably about to end in three passes, it wasn't likely to make any difference when he asked about how many aces or key cards West was showing with the 5D bid.

    Do you think that South was trying to draw attention to the diamond suit? I think that's being over-suspicious.

    I don't understand the bit about "East argues that the question could only help South find the best opening lead, therefore benefits his partner (20G1) ... "

    .... unless it was actually North who wanted to ask the question before making a final pass of the auction. If that is the case, my reply still stands but I would have more concern that North could be drawing attention to the diamond suit, even though North didn't ask about the 5D bid immediately after it was made. From what we are told of South's red suits, it doesn't particularly look like North has many diamonds and diamonds may be the only logical lead for South anyway.

    Barrie Partridge - Senior Kibitzer in Bridge Club Live - Pig Trader in IBLF

  • TagTag
    edited August 5

    Good reply, S_K. If I were in a cranky mood and I got any chat-back, I might even stretch so far as to give East a PP for refusing to answer South's question and for making up Laws at the table, whilst also noting that the new "standard penalty" is 25% of a top.

  • To say that for South to ask for the purpose of finding the best lead is for North's benefit is bizarre. It's tantamount to saying that I can't ask a question when I need to know the answer because the answer might incidentally give partner (as well as me) a better chance of doing the right thing. I'm with Tag that this is close to a PP for East, but otherwise I'm in complete agreement with Barrie.

  • My immediate thoughts were about Law 81C. I am very wary of players trying to Direct for me.
    The Director (not the players)....

    Alan

  • Under the usual guidance in the EBU, South should only ask at that stage of the auction if the answer potentially affects their choice to pass. (This is entirely plausible from East's point of view; in my experience, it's far from uncommon to bid a slam unopposed and get unexpectedly doubled because something in the opponents' hands makes them think you've gone one level too high.) South could ask before leading if the question affects their lead, and while the lead is face down if they think the question is likely to affect the play.

    However, even if South asks "early", East shouldn't refuse to give the answer; South is entitled to know. If East thinks the purpose of the question is to transmit UI to North, then it's reasonable for East to call the director and ask if a UI adjustment is required, but East still needs to actually answer the question. (In most cases in which South is doing something unethical by asking the question, it's the question itself that causes the problem, not the answer to it.)

    I think the rule against asking questions for your partner's benefit is to avoid sending UI when you have a borderline hand. In this case, I'd be very concerned about UI if North doubles the final contract (as the question is likely to have made it look like South is thinking of doubling), but not in other cases.

    (Incidentally, when asking questions about the opponent's auction while considering a lead, it's a good idea to ask for a review of the whole auction, rather than about individual bids. This helps to reduce any message you may be unauthorisedly conveying to your partner about which suits you're interested in.)

  • @ais523 said:
    (Incidentally, when asking questions about the opponent's auction while considering a lead, it's a good idea to ask for a review of the whole auction, rather than about individual bids. This helps to reduce any message you may be unauthorisedly conveying to your partner about which suits you're interested in.)

    Not only is this sensible in theory, but it is strictly what the Laws require. In practice it may be appropriate when the opponents have had a long and/or complex auction with lots of alerted bids. However, in the real world many auctions will proceed with several natural bids before they get to anything about which the opponents have any real need to ask, so expecting the bidders to explain everything is a bit of a waste of time. I tend to get round this by saying something along the lines of "nothing unusual about the first two rounds, is there?" before asking the questions I really want the answers to about the rest of the auction.

  • The laws say that you may ask about a single call - but that law 16B1 may apply (law 20F3)

  • @weejonnie said:
    The laws say that you may ask about a single call - but that law 16B1 may apply (law 20F3)

    Yes, "require" was an overbid, but it is the default position under the Laws.

  • edited August 7

    @ais523 said:
    Under the usual guidance in the EBU, South should only ask at that stage of the auction if the answer potentially affects their choice to pass.

    Where do you find this guidance? The problem with such an approach is that whenever you ask a question you give your partner the UI that the answer to the question will determine your call.

    The Blue Book only says:
    2 E Unauthorised Information
    2 E 1 A player has the right to ask questions at his turn to call or play, but exercising this right may
    have consequences. If a player shows unusual interest in one or more calls of the auction, then
    this may give rise to unauthorised information. His partner must avoid taking advantage. It
    may be in a player’s interests to defer questions until either he is about to make the opening
    lead or his partner’s lead is face-down on the table.

    Some players ask questions of alerted calls routinely or randomly. While it may be hard to establish that they follow either of these approaches consistently, they do have the advantage that such a question does not show "unusual interest".

  • Hmm, I definitely recall reading an explanation somewhere of how in England the guidance is that you shouldn't ask about a call if you're planning to pass regardless, and how this differs from in the US (and that the principle was intended to help avoid transmission of UI). It might have been in the commentary of an appeals booklet, in which case it's quite possible that the information is now outdated. Perhaps it was an inference taken from the Blue Book, rather than an actual statement.

    If always asking is an acceptable strategy, then that would make a lot of sense in environments where alerts are very rare (such as clubs).

  • It's certainly true that there used to be a culture in which players believed what you stated, and it may still exist in some places, but I don't believe it was ever EBU guidance. The problem with it is that whenever you ask and pass you give UI that you were considering acting.

  • This evening I specifically asked about an alerted call purely to reduce the UI that partner might think I have values if I ask about a similar call in the future. (Does this come under 'asking a question whose sole reason is for the benefit of partner?')

  • Wouldn't that be for your benefit? So that you can ask the question when you are interested in the answer?

  • @ais523 said:
    Hmm, I definitely recall reading an explanation somewhere of how in England the guidance is that you shouldn't ask about a call if you're planning to pass regardless, and how this differs from in the US (and that the principle was intended to help avoid transmission of UI). It might have been in the commentary of an appeals booklet, in which case it's quite possible that the information is now outdated. Perhaps it was an inference taken from the Blue Book, rather than an actual statement.

    If always asking is an acceptable strategy, then that would make a lot of sense in environments where alerts are very rare (such as clubs).

    I believe that the position in the US used to be that asking about an alerted call was not of itself considered to pass UI (or, perhaps more accurately, that it was not considered to suggest anything in particular, which meant that partner was unconstrained by any UI that there might be). However, the manner of asking, or the timing of asking (e.g. asking about one alerted call when a previous alerted call had passed by unasked) could demonstrate "unusual interest" and thus provide UI that would constrain partner's actions. Asking about unalerted calls was more likely to be considered to pass UI that would suggest something and therefore constrain partner's actions. This proved somewhat problematic as the ACBL was much more inclined to tinker with the alerting regulations than is the EBU. I don't know whether either the stance on questions or the propensity to tinker is still the case.

    I'm not greatly in favour of asking significant numbers of questions when I don't immediately need to know the answer, as this slows the game down, but that's a personal choice. On the other hand, I play quite a complex system and quite a lot of auctions have several alerts, and I'm always surprised at the number of opponents who don't ask questions when I would think it obvious to ask.

  • EBU guidance in this area has changed over the years/decades.

  • I don't like to ask incase they have forgotten the system and this might prompt them to reconsider the bid

  • @Martin said:
    I don't like to ask incase they have forgotten the system and this might prompt them to reconsider the bid

    Yes - it's a fine line. You are EXPECTED (assuming you are a strong player - which presumably means you have 16+ green points or 5+ stars) to protect yourself - providing you can do so without passing UI or waking up the opponents.

  • 'Always asking' in theory is fine, but in practice it can greatly slow down the game, and causes problems when the 4333 0-count now stops asking.

    There are some auctions where I always ask (if it's not obviously on the card), notably 1NT from partner and the next hand doubles/bids which is alerted. I know that I'm going to want to know what it means eventually whatever strength I am (even if I am very weak we are likely to end up defending) so I may as well ask now, and partner doesn't get UI that I have values if I only ask when I might bid.

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