Comparable bids

The new rules about comparable bids seem to not be very precise. In a seminar some examples had bids where comparability was uncertain if it is hard for TDs how much harder is it for the player at the table? My question is : How much help should the TD be giving the player to help him choose an acceptable, comparable bid? Is it up to the player to work it out for himself and then see if the TD will accept it? Or should the TD suggest which bids would be acceptable? If so, should this be done away from the table?



  • There's nothing under Law 81 which says the director can become involved in the the bidding or the play. I think it's simply up to players of all standards to familiarise themselves with the new law on comparable calls so they know what to do in the case of an insufficient bid or call/bid out of turn.

  • People seem to be put off by the use of the term "subset". Try this- would all hands that make the comparable call have made the withdrawn call?....(not the other way round)

  • I think this question goes wider than just comparable calls: you need to avoid giving Bridge advice but at the same time try to ensure the player understands the options available and the consequences of their decisions.

    However I think that the new wording “attributable” makes it easier in some ways: you don’t need to know what the player was intending as long as they replace the call with something equivalent to one of the possible meanings of the withdrawn call.

    If the player has unadvisedly said what their intention was, this will reduce the number of meanings that are attributable.

    Robturner’s advice is a good way of judging whether a replacement call should be allowed.
  • When the player makes the replacement call they must know whether the TD considers it comparable or not, as this will affect whether partner can continue bidding. If the TD understands the auction and is familiar with the methods of the players, they may be able to decide on the spot what calls will be comparable and say "if you replace it with x or y the auction continues and there will be no further penalty". If the situation is not so clear I would recommend the TD take the player away from the table and discuss what replacement calls might be available. The TD should do their best to help the player understand the law and should help them work out which calls are comparable.

  • It doesn't seem right for players to be able to discuss what the TD would consider a comparable call (away from the table). They should make their choice having been reminded of the consequences of making a non-comparable call. This can be quite difficult for the director as this is the only judgement ruling you have to make without being able to consult with others.

  • I agree with pg10003. I think it's a welcome law change in the sense that it should allow more hands to be played, with fewer cases of the score having to be adjusted, but it HAS given TDs a further headache, in my honest opinion.

  • edited October 2017

    I agree with VixTD that the player needs to know what replacement calls won't bar his or her partner, but the rest of the table do not need to know, and should not know! Taking the player away from the table is a good idea. I think the conversation needs to go something like this: a) what would be a likely meaning of the IB from your methods? b) can you make a call with a similar meaning which does not give more information? Then the TD must decide whether in his opinion there is a comparable call. Only in complicated methods will there usually be doubt.

  • Whilst I agree that the TD should help with understanding the law it should not go as far as advising the player as to which bids are 'comparable'; this is for the player to decide. At higher levels, or in more complex situations, it may be necessary for the TD to take the player away from the table to discuss the meanings of various possible continuations - but this is for the purpose of informing the TD which bids will be comparable. Having gleaned the relevant information he lets the player decide what to do and rules thereafter.
    If we let the TD advise the player of which bids are comparable then why not let him advise a player (being called after a hesitation) which bids are 'logical alternatives'!

  • To answer your question, John, let's start with the principle that a TD should never need to look at a player's hand until the end of the play. As Vix says, there are times to discuss with a player away from a table, and that' s because you need to know what Comparable Calls may be available as well as the player, so that when you return to the table and the player makes a call, you know whether that call is a Comparable Call and can thus advise the players on any restrictions on the offender's partner. But your discussion would have been without looking at the offender's cards. You will go away from the table not knowing what cards anyone has in their hands. And because you don't know who may hold what cards, there is no danger of you as TD being the source of Unuathorised Information yourself!

    To advise on Logical Alternatives in Law 16B situations, you would not only need to know the cards that the player has but also whether 20% of players would seriously consider a given call of whom some would actually make such given call. You can't possibly do all this at the table, and it often takes a lot of polling of players after the session to determine whether a call is a Logical Alternative. Also, you don't want to stop a player from making a call when there is another call that you would have him make, because it may be that by making his preferred call, he gets an even worse score than that to which you would adjust, and that wouldn't be fair to the non-offending side!

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

  • Thanks for that Barrie; you are quite right. Should really think more about the situation before committing myself to paper. This is the problem with logging on late at night - brain not in gear!!! Obviously doesn't affect you - Thanks again - better to make the mistake here than at the table.

  • I wonder about VixTD's advice: anything where you as TD approach it differently when you know the players seems just wrong. Furthermore, if a TD uses his judgement in advising players it seems unfair on the opponents if it works and unfair on the offender if it doesn't.

  • Well it will be interesting, but maybe correct, if directors are supposed to just read out law 23 (as well as the appropriate law pertaining to the COOT/ IB) and advise the NOS that if they think the replacement call is not a comparable call and they do not accept it then they should call him/her back. (Although for the gap between ruling/ CC it might be just as well to stay at the table .)

    I do think, on reflection that the TD should just rule on the replacement call actually made (subject to discussion with other TDs if it isn't clear whether the replacement call is comparable or not.) Maybe so far I have tried to be too helpful.

  • Bluejak, I meant if you know the methods they are playing, not if they were personal friends. The TD shouldn't be advising the players what to bid, just what will be considered a comparable call. It's wrong to expect a player to guess and then find they've unexpectedly silenced their partner.

  • Is it VixTD? - it is up to players to know their system - and guessing should play no part of it. The TD gives a clear explanation of what a CC is and that should be enough. Maybe it is too much to actually expect players to think and deduce before calling. (Mind you in the excellent 'Director Please' series there is an example of an allowed change of call where the TD advises John whether a replacement call will be allowed.)

  • I was asked recently about the auction: pass (at partner's turn to call, not accepted), replaced by: pass - 1!h - ? I struggled to think of comparable calls other than pass, but thought that possibly a weak jump overcall in a minor might fit, so long as they don't have a weak two opener in those suits, and there is no overlap between their weak jump overcalls and weak three openers. In such cases where it is a close call it doesn't seem fair to expect the player to second-guess which way the director is going to rule, when there's so much subjective judgement involved.

    I'm not sure what your objection is to this. If we directors just read the rule out, or even paraphrase it, a lot of players will lose out because they're not as good at understanding the law and its implications. I don't go through every likely call, of course, but might say something like: "if double promises at least four hearts and doesn't say much about the other suits, you can double without barring partner". I'd be more likely to do this with a weak player than a strong one.

    If this is too much suggestion for you, what if the player asked you about the replacement call. Would you tell them whether you consider it comparable, or would you just say "go ahead and make the call, you'll find out soon enough"? If the former, we'll have to go back to taking the player away from the table again. If the latter, we're going to lose a lot of these "bridge results" we've been trying to recover.

  • The player might have an agreement that any hand worth an opening call would double at the first opportunity (this is of course alertable). But, as you say, any hand that has made a limit bid is going to find it very hard to make a different call and for it to be comparable. Previous examples discussed have included a 1NT response as an IB and obviously a 1NT opening COOT is going to be almost impossible to find a replacement if RHO makes a call. (In fact it will be very difficult if partner makes any non-pass opening, although I suppose a 2NT 11-12 balanced might be allowed.)

    At least they get to hear partner's call and thus can have some idea of what to do. Although partner of course can't base his call on the COOT, presumably he can base his call on the knowledge that his partner will have to make a comparable call or he will be quietened.

    Thinking as I am writing (never a good plan), could a player decide to make an off-centre 1NT call to give as much information to his partner as possible (in terms of high-card strength), so partner knows whether to try for game, slam or a part score (Obviously partner won't transfer if the transfer is not a CC) - such not being based on the actual CC made, but to work towards reducing the damage as a result.

  • My objection is that players are entitled to a level playing field. If you are prepared to advise one pair on CCs because they play Acol and you know Acol, but not to advise the next pair because they play Blue Club and you do not know it, that is not a level playing field.

  • @foxymoron said:
    I agree with VixTD that the player needs to know what replacement calls won't bar his or her partner, but the rest of the table do not need to know, and should not know! Taking the player away from the table is a good idea. I think the conversation needs to go something like this: a) what would be a likely meaning of the IB from your methods? b) can you make a call with a similar meaning which does not give more information? Then the TD must decide whether in his opinion there is a comparable call. Only in complicated methods will there usually be doubt.

    If I am not wrong, I think: can you make a call with a similar meaning which does not give less information

  • Sounds fair. If 1S over 2H shows 5+, 4+ spades, and double shows 8+, 4+ spades, double is comparable.

  • There are several examples connected to the comparable call law which need the law commissions to publish approved examples to help Directors what is "similar enough" to be allowed to be considered "comparable".

    Additionally, in connection to the topic of this thread, the law commissions need to inform Directors to take the offender away from the table (in my opinion, strongly encouraged) and how much information, short of "coaching" a Director can give the offender away from the table.

    In my opinion, those who think the law should be quoted and little else to the offender, let the offender (officially) choose a call, and then tell him if you will considered comparable are WRONG. I believe the offender should be able to ask the Director in private if one or more calls will be considered comparable. The offender should be allowed to know if his intended call will be considered comparable, or put a different way, offender should be allowed to know if his partner will be required to pass before he officially makes his call.

    The Director does not need to inform offender (at that time) why he is considering a call to be comparable or not comparable, although I do not think it would be incorrect to do so.

  • Well we'll wait and see what the WBFLC commentary tells us when it is published, but until then I do not favour either of your two approaches. I think the term "attributable" makes it very easy for the TD to give a list of possibilities that might be attributed to a disallowed call, without needing to find out the intention of the player. However, I do think it should also be offered "if you think I haven't covered everything or you want to ask about something, we can go away from the table to do that.

    When I go to the table and see 1NT- (P) - 1D, I think anything that shows diamonds or hearts is attributable as a meaning of the insufficient bid, so I'd expect to allow any call that showed either of those suits. I wouldn't allow a response of 2S that shows either minor though.

    If, prior to me offering these options, the player had said "oh, sorry, I didn't see that you had opened", now the attributable meanings are far fewer, limited to those that show diamonds and opening values. So I would then allow a natural, game-forcing 3D response if playing a weak NT, but probably not much else. In time I imagine players will discover that it's in their interests not to say anything about what caused them to make the inadmissible call.

  • I was asked about the sequence 1NT - (P) 1!s , which happened at two separate tables on the same board at a nearby club. If the TD just explains the rules and lets offender choose a replacement call, they may think "3!s is strong, natural and game-forcing, so is a subset of 1!s openers and must be a comparable call". When they bid 3!s , the TD tells them it's not comparable because the 3!s bid has no upper limit of strength, whereas the 1!s bid does. Now offender is playing a slam hand in a part score, just because his judgement didn't match that of the TD. (A different TD may well have agreed with him.)

    This is why I say the offender has to know what the TD thinks is comparable before choosing their replacement call. If this has to be sorted out away from the table, that's OK with me.

  • I think the meanings that immediately strike me as attributable are;
    Spades and opening values (if the player didn't notice the 1NT bid);
    Spades and responding values (if the player thought the 1NT bid was some other opening bid);
    Whatever 2S would have meant in response to 1NT.

    So my first thought would be to allow a 2H transfer bid under L27B1a;
    or a 3S natural, game-forcing response under 23A1;
    or a 2S response under 23A2.

    I can see a possible objection to the first of these, but I'll wait to see if it's expressed by someone before considering it further.

  • @VixTD said: This is why I say the offender has to know what the TD thinks is comparable before choosing their replacement call. If this has to be sorted out away from the table, that's OK with me.

    I agree.

    Did anyone suggest the pairs who had to play 3S appeal the TDs ruling.

  • There were no pairs who had to play in 3!s - the actual TD made a different kind of mess of the ruling, and just asked me what he should have done.
    I can't see any objection to any of Gordon's three examples of comparable call.

  • I am always doubtful about a TD making judgement decisions without consultation or much time for consideration, often with insufficient system information, and that is the danger of the taking away from the table approach. If the TD takes the player away from the table, gives an opinion that something is comparable and this is later challenged because he failed to realise system ramifications or suchlike, it is worrying. I do not mind the player talking to the TD away from the table but any advice should be general rather than specific.

    Let us look at a similar case, ok, one that I think similar. A player has UI from partner, takes the TD away from the table and asks him what calls can be legally made. Does anyone think the TD should answer specifically?

  • I think the UI and Comparable Call cases are not at all similar.

    In UI cases we will always allow the hand to be completed and then if necessary make a judgement usually with consultation and polling. All we will tell the player the law on UI.

    In the case of a call being comparable or not the auction cannot continue until we have made our ruling. In common with what has been said above I believe that the player who is making the replacement call is entitled to know how we will rule on it before he/she makes it. They need to know whether their partner will be silenced or not. If they make what they thought was a comparable call but we rule it not comparable the player will be in a worse position than under the 2007 laws where at least they knew they had to punt the contract.

    Also we are much more likely to get the decision right if we hear the player's argument as to why it is comparable. If we do this at the table after the call we will create UI. So I believe that we should explain to all what a comparable call is but offer the player who is making the call the opportunity to ask us away from the table whether any particular call will be ruled comparable and to explain why they think it should be. I don't think we should say without being asked 'calls A,B and C will be comparable' but I think something like 'any hand which shows hearts and opening values will be comparable' if replacing an opening 1 Heart bid out of turn is not unreasonable if we want to get a result from playing bridge.

  • @Paul_Gibbons said:

    I believe that the player who is making the replacement call is >entitled to know how we will rule on it before he/she makes it.

    You could use an identical argument for a player in receipt of UI from Partner yet we do not.

  • There are two answers to this point.
    Firstly a practical one.
    Because we can. With the UI ruling we will not know until after we have consulted and polled if the player has committed an infraction which is why the rectification, if any, is an adjusted score and why we can't tell them in advance that a particular call is an infraction. There is also no way we could tell without looking at the player's hand. With a comparable call we are making the ruling as soon as the bid is made in order to allow the auction to continue. We are therefore able to tell the player whether the call is comparable before they make it and we can do so without looking at the player's hand.
    Secondly looking at the purpose of the law.
    The change from 2007 is to allow the result to be determined by playing bridge. For example under the 2007 laws if a player opened the bidding at his/her partner's turn to call he/she knew he/she had to punt the final contract as his/her partner had to pass throughout. Now if the player makes a comparable call they can have a normal auction to a bridge result. He/she will also know that if he/she does not make a comparable call he/she probably needs to punt the final contract as his/her partner will have to pass for one round. If the player cannot determine in advance whether we will rule a replacement call as comparable he/she is in a worse position than under the 2007 laws and may decide to take a punt on a bid than on the director's ruling thereby negating the objective of obtaining a result by playing bridge when that is possible.

  • Yes, I understand, but I disagree with both points.

    First, because we can is no excuse: there are often UI cases where we can, where it is completely obvious to any TD hand any competent player) that a call will be illegal. But we do not warn the player, even though we can, even if he asks us.

    Second, we do not decide things under the intent of the lawmakers. We decide things on the way we have learnt and judge best and our own senior TDs and/or the L&EC tell us to. But the new law is still messy and very difficult to apply. And I hate any idea where the TD tells a player what to call.

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