Hesitations - what can you assume?

I came across this situation in an appeal today. The auction is, I believe, irrelevant to my query.

After a hesitation from his partner, E makes a bid.

When asked to justify his bid, E argues that his partner cannot have certain types of hand because if he did his call would not have required any "thinking time", and thus when considering calls that might be suggested by the hesitation, E should ignore hands like that. Those hands he is seeking to ignore include some strong (for the bidding) ones.

My response was that W's reason for hesitating is irrelevant, and that E cannot rule out certain hands on the basis that partner would not have hesitated. A hesitation followed by a pass suggests a hand at the absolute upper end of a pass.

Am I right?

Jeremy

Comments

  • I think (assuming pass was not forcing, i.e. was West's weakest action) East's argument might be correct, but is irrelevant.

    East can't perform an action that's demonstrably suggested by the hesitation (unless there are no logical alternatives to it, which East didn't try to argue, and reading between the lines of the original post pass was a logical alternative on this auction). So we need to find a demonstration that East's bid was suggested. The demonstration goes like this: West's slow pass rules out hands where West had an obvious bid (this is East's argument); this means that West must have a hand that doesn't have an obvious bid. That in turn implies that West was choosing between two actions. The action actually chosen was Pass, the weakest possible action; therefore, the other possible action was stronger. West thus has a stronger hand than their Pass bid indicates, and so I've demonstrated that the East/West partnership is stronger than the bidding suggests. That means that stronger bids for East are suggested, and weaker bids are counter-suggested, thus according to the Laws East should make the weakest reasonable bid that fits East's hand. (And thus, if East wants to justify bidding rather than passing, the argument should be that passing would be unreasonable/illogical in the abstract given the hand East holds, regardless of the hesitation. This is normally established by polling, i.e. if most players of East's standard don't seriously consider pass in the situation (minus the hesitation), or if nobody in East's position would actually choose it as their bid despite considering it, then pass is illogical and East can choose the weakest logical non-pass bid instead.)

    East is correct in that West's hesitation rules out strong hands which would be a clear bid (in addition to weak hands that would be a clear pass), but that's irrelevant: once West has passed, you know simply from the auction that West doesn't have a hand that's a clear bid. So once you've seen West's pass the only hands, out of those consistent with West's bidding, that are ruled out are the weakest possible hands. Some stronger hands are also ruled out by the hesitation, but the auction ruled those out too, and so they don't factor into East's decision.

    The auction may be relevant here if something weird was going on (East's argument could be valid if East knows West is likely to mis-rate hands, i.e. if East can deduce that West would believe that some good hands are bad and vice versa, due to lack of knowledge of East's hand). It's very rare for a situation like that to arise, though. (I might be potentially swayed by such an argument if East has an 8-card suit with few points but has only showed 5 cards in it so far, for example, as West is likely to consider honours in the suit to be defensively helpful when they're more likely to be defensively harmful – although passing an opponent's is typically illogical in such a situation anyway!)

  • Here's the auction and hands:
    Dealer E, all Vul
    E S W N
    1NT P 2H(1) X
    2S 3H P(2) P
    3S

    (1) Spades
    (2) Hesitation

    W E
    S AK832 975
    H 42 J9
    D K76 QJ85
    C 975 AKQT

    E argued that "As to the actual bidding sequence W was clearly showing a hand of some values. If he had had a weak hand despite his earlier bidding he would have had an easy decision to take probably just if he had a 6 card suit rather than the 5 he had already shown therefore he would not have hesitated. By hesitating he was clearly considering doubling for penalties (we play doubles after an opening NT to always be penalty orientated) which may have been a more complex decision.
    Without the hesitation I believe I had a choice of three calls, one much less likely than the others.
    The least likely was to Double. However after the hesitation this becomes an extremely attractive option with poor spades and excellent defensive prospects in the minors, the contract should of course always be defeated and would have been apart from my abysmal defence. But this would be totally unethical based as it was on the hesitation.
    The second option was to Pass. Again much more attractive after the hesitation. I did not feel that 75% of the field would pass in that position without the hesitation so therefore do not think this was a valid proposition.
    I therefore felt that the only legal option after the hesitation was to bid 3S"

    I disagreed with both the assertion that "W was clearly showing a hand of some values" (how would he bid differently with 6 spades and 2 points?) and "75% of the field would [not] pass in that position". Also of course it only needs 75% to seriously consider passing, not actually do it.

  • TagTag
    edited October 2018

    West has not shown anything more than a zero-count and five spades to the 8. East must ignore the fact that West paused for thought, since it is UI to him. Pass is clearly a logical option (Logical Alternative). Appeal denied without merit.

    As TD, I doubt that I'd even turn this into a poll and would give East at least a warning about using UI. If this were repeat behaviour, I would award a procedural penalty. The result of the hand should be changed to an adjusted score based on NS being in some number of hearts, unless 3S was worse for EW. Since this has gone to appeal, I presume this is roughly what happened.

  • Put very simply, E cannot use information from the hesitation to distinguish what subset of hands consistent with his initial response W is now likely to hold.

    If W had passed in tempo, he could have had a very weak hand with no more than 5 spades. That hand is now excluded because of the hesitation, but that is information to which E is not entitled.

    In my opinion it will always be a logical alternative for a 1NT opener who does not hold four cards in his partner's major to pass at his third turn on an auction of this sort. (I don't see why Pass was "much more attractive after the hesitation"). I would be inclined routinely to disallow a double, largely irrespective of the E hand, as it caters for whatever action W was contemplating (if W was thinking of doubling, he will leave it in; if he was thinking of competing further, he will pull). Double is therefore demonstrably suggested by the hesitation. (This is an over-simplification, of course, as E's hand will sometimes give him a clue as to what W was thinking about - if he holds very good hearts in context, then that reduces the chances that W was thinking of doubling).

    Whether to disallow a 3!s bid is more difficult because of the argument that 3!s was not demonstrably suggested because W could have been thinking of doubling for penalties.

  • If we have E/W hands/auctions to look at, can we have W on the left, please? :/

  • Even if West is considering a penalty double, that still suggests that 3!s will do better than Pass; if West has a penalty double, then it's EW's hand, and if it's EW's hand, letting NS play 3!h undoubled can't be correct (and if West is strong enough to penalise 3!h, then given the spade fit, there's a decent chance 3!s will also make even if it's lower-scoring or that West can raise it to 4!h; meanwhile, with the heart shortage, a penalty may well only be 100). So that speaks to 3!s being suggested over Pass.

    However, East is trying to make the logical alternative argument here (which is the only argument that could work). If East is correct in that pass is illogical ("I did not feel that 75% of the field would pass in that position without the hesitation" looks like a logical-alternative-based argument to me) then East is correct that ethics requires 3!s (which only caters to one possible West hand) rather than X (which caters to both possible West hands, as West can pull it and balancing doubles typically have the flexibility to be pulled). So I don't see anything wrong with East's reasoning here; the only argument is with the premises, as in, is Pass really illogical here?

    Some partnerships have an agreement that an NT opener always balances with a doubleton in the opponents' suit, up to some level. For a partnership who played that agreement up to 3!h (or higher), Pass wouldn't be a logical option here. However, it's obvious that EW aren't playing that (because they play doubles as penalty, and the "always balance" agreement only really works when doubles are takeout). East doesn't have anything spectacular in terms of a spade fit, and despite being maximum (assuming a 12-14 NT range, that's very good for a 13-pointer) East has pretty much shown their hand, so should probably abide by West's decision. So I think that despite East's claim that passing here would be illogical, I don't agree with it. That's not a failure of reasoning, though, just wishful thinking about the bridge aspects.

  • @ais523 said:
    Even if West is considering a penalty double, that still suggests that 3!s will do better than Pass; if West has a penalty double, then it's EW's hand, and if it's EW's hand, letting NS play 3!h undoubled can't be correct (and if West is strong enough to penalise 3!h, then given the spade fit, there's a decent chance 3!s will also make even if it's lower-scoring or that West can raise it to 4!h; meanwhile, with the heart shortage, a penalty may well only be 100). So that speaks to 3!s being suggested over Pass.

    I am with you in that my inclination is that 3!s is frequently suggested; just not as strongly as double.

    @ais523 said:

    ... ("I did not feel that 75% of the field would pass in that position without the hesitation" looks like a logical-alternative-based argument to me)...

    It isn't a question of whether 75% of the field would pass. Pass is a logical alternative if a significant proportion would seriously consider passing, and some might actually pass. We don't use percentages as such, but a significant minority is enough to be a "significant proportion", and a fairly small minority is enough for "some". For pass not to be a logical alternative, a significant majority would have to discount pass altogether.

  • @Tag said:
    West has not shown anything more than a zero-count and five spades to the 8. East must ignore the fact that West paused for thought, since it is UI to him. Pass is clearly a logical option (Logical Alternative). Appeal denied without merit.

    As TD, I doubt that I'd even turn this into a poll and would give East at least a warning about using UI. If this were repeat behaviour, I would award a procedural penalty. The result of the hand should be changed to an adjusted score based on NS being in some number of hearts, unless 3S was worse for EW. Since this has gone to appeal, I presume this is roughly what happened.

    It would have been, except that it wasn't necessary. Although the appeal was about whether E can bid 3S, in fact on the night the Director had ruled (at the end of the auction) that the 3S bid was disallowed and made NS play in 3H.

    The Director can't do this, the (only) proper action being to let EW play in 3S and assess any adjustment afterwards.

    By making them play in 3H he has taken away their ability to play the board properly (in 3S). The 3H contract and result are not valid, and both sides were awarded AVE+.

  • @JeremyChild said:
    By making them play in 3H he has taken away their ability to play the board properly (in 3S). The 3H contract and result are not valid, and both sides were awarded AVE+.

    Ave + to both sides?
    It's OK to treat both sides as "non-offending" for this purpose (82C says as much). But the objective initially should be to restore the expected table result (or ruling) had the director followed the correct procedures.
    (See 12C1 (a) & (b) in particular)
    i.e. imagine what would have happened had the director told them to play on after the 3S bid, being ready to address the possible UI issues at the end.
    This is likely to be the same as simply allowing to stand the "table result" of what happened in 3H. But it should also take into account
    (1) the possibility that the non-offending side might have got a better score defending 3S, or
    (2) that the director decides (after due consideration) that he was wrong to disallow 3S in the first place.

  • @Mitch said:

    @JeremyChild said:
    By making them play in 3H he has taken away their ability to play the board properly (in 3S). The 3H contract and result are not valid, and both sides were awarded AVE+.

    Ave + to both sides?
    It's OK to treat both sides as "non-offending" for this purpose (82C says as much). But the objective initially should be to restore the expected table result (or ruling) had the director followed the correct procedures.
    (See 12C1 (a) & (b) in particular)
    i.e. imagine what would have happened had the director told them to play on after the 3S bid, being ready to address the possible UI issues at the end.
    This is likely to be the same as simply allowing to stand the "table result" of what happened in 3H. But it should also take into account
    (1) the possibility that the non-offending side might have got a better score defending 3S, or
    (2) that the director decides (after due consideration) that he was wrong to disallow 3S in the first place.

    Hmmm maybe it is a cop-out!

    The question seems to be whether "owing to an irregularity no result can be obtained" (Law 12C2a). If this is the case then AVE+ / AVE+ seems to be correct.

    Can a result be obtained on a hand where the auction has been completed but there was no play? Clearly for a result to be obtained there has to be some bridge action taken on which the players can be assessed (for example you couldn't assign an adjusted score to an unbid and unplayed hand).

    Here we have the auction which does involve bridge actions, but no play. By not having a valid playing of the hand neither side has the chance to excel (or otherwise) in the play.

    I submit this is different to a situation where (for example) the director had allowed play in 3S. Let us assume he did. If he subsequently allows the 3S bid, then everything is fine and a proper contest has been had. If he disallows 3S, the non-offending side has had the chance to do better than 60%. I accept that the offending side will not be penalised, but sometimes that happens.

    I do not know whether this difference is enough to make it so that "no result can be obtained".

    What do others think?

  • Well, the director doesn't seem to have covered himself in glory, but as I understand it a bridge result was obtained (in 3!h , as a result of the director's erroneous ruling to cancel the 3!s bid at the table). You don't automatically cancel that result just because it shouldn't have happened that way.

    So what should now happen is that consideration should be given to what the correct initial ruling should have been. If it is decided that the correct original ruling would have been to disallow the 3!s bid, then the contract reverts to 3!h , and the score achieved at the table in 3!h stands. There is no need for any benefit of doubt to either side under Law 82C.

    If, however it is decided that the 3!s bid should have been allowed to stand, then there has to be an adjusted score for an assumed number of tricks in that contract. Now in terms of the number of tricks, both sides are treated as non-offending, so if the number of tricks is clear, both sides get that result, but if it isn't, then perhaps the defence get to defeat the contract and the declaring side get to make it.

    I can't see any justification for giving both sides average plus, or for arguing that somehow a result couldn't be obtained when one was. (But perhaps I have misunderstood what happened).

  • Abbeybear and Mitch are quite right that there are no grounds for an artificial adjusted score after applying Law 82. As TDs, we never look at any player's cards before play of a board has been completed, and that prevents us from doing a lot of wrong things such as happened here.

    In my view, the hesitation "demonstrably suggests" action over passing, but if I were polled, I would say that bidding 3S is "automatic" for me because the opponents' calls strongly suggest that partner has only two hearts and the Law of Total Tricks therefore tells me to compete to 3S. A poll was really needed. Despite my personal view, I would forecast that passing would still be found to be a LA as it only needs 20% to seriously consider passing, of whom some would actually do so.

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

  • edited October 2018

    I think the UI suggests that partner has no wasted values in hearts. which makes 3 Spades much more attractive. With e.g. QJ doubleton in hearts he would have passed in tempo. Why can';t he hold:

    S: JXX
    H: QJ
    D . AJXX
    C: KJXX

    (In which case 3 Spades could go 3 off )

  • edited October 2018

    @Abbeybear said:
    It isn't a question of whether 75% of the field would pass. Pass is a logical alternative if a significant proportion would seriously consider passing, and some might actually pass. We don't use percentages as such, but a significant minority is enough to be a "significant proportion", and a fairly small minority is enough for "some". For pass not to be a logical alternative, a significant majority would have to discount pass altogether.

    Yes, I know. East has got the definition of a logical alternative wrong, but that doesn't mean that the argument isn't questioning the "logical alternative" part of the ruling (rather than the "demonstrably suggested" part of the ruling).
    Players don't have to be (and typically aren't) 100% accurate in the Laws when letting you know which part of a Director ruling they disagree with.

  • @ais523 said:

    @Abbeybear said:
    It isn't a question of whether 75% of the field would pass. Pass is a logical alternative if a significant proportion would seriously consider passing, and some might actually pass. We don't use percentages as such, but a significant minority is enough to be a "significant proportion", and a fairly small minority is enough for "some". For pass not to be a logical alternative, a significant majority would have to discount pass altogether.

    Yes, I know. East has got the definition of a logical alternative wrong, but that doesn't mean that the argument isn't questioning the "logical alternative" part of the ruling (rather than the "demonstrably suggested" part of the ruling).
    Players don't have to be (and typically aren't) 100% accurate in the Laws when letting you know which part of a Director ruling they disagree with.

    Yes, when players - particularly players who are not well-versed in the Laws - disagree with a ruling, there will often be quite a bit of irrelevant stuff to filter out before anyone can make a judgement as to whether they have a case.

  • [Abbeybear] "If, however it is decided that the 3!s bid should have been allowed to stand, then there has to be an adjusted score for an assumed number of tricks in that contract. Now in terms of the number of tricks, both sides are treated as non-offending, so if the number of tricks is clear, both sides get that result, but if it isn't, then perhaps the defence get to defeat the contract and the declaring side get to make it."

    This would be a possible result to assign, but not the only one. If the number of tricks available in 3!s isn't clear, perhaps you judge it would be made half the time, you could give the declaring side 70% of 3!s = and 30% of 3!s -1, and the defending side 70% of 3!s -1 and 30% of 3!s =. This gives both sides a generous proportion of a favourable score, so treats them both as non-offending.

    I think this is how the law should be applied in the enlightened "weighted scores" era, rather than the "all-or-nothing" adjustments of the dark ages.

  • @VixTD said:
    This would be a possible result to assign, but not the only one. If the number of tricks available in 3!s isn't clear, perhaps you judge it would be made half the time, you could give the declaring side 70% of 3!s = and 30% of 3!s -1, and the defending side 70% of 3!s -1 and 30% of 3!s =. This gives both sides a generous proportion of a favourable score, so treats them both as non-offending.

    I think this is how the law should be applied in the enlightened "weighted scores" era, rather than the "all-or-nothing" adjustments of the dark ages.

    You are of course correct. My suggested adjustment was intended as a "for instance", but if it's really 50-50 as to whether the contract will make, your suggestion seems perfect.

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