Mistaken Explanation

E/W Vulnerable North dealer.

At last night's club pairs the bidding had gone, after North's pass: 2D (multi) X XX P 2S 3D P 3S P 4C P 4D End. On being asked East explained during the bidding that the XX showed a strong hand. Because South thought there might be 3 losers he passed North's 4D bid. West actually had a very weak hand (and had made the correct bid) and North/South missed their optimum contract. Here's South's hand.

♠ K
♥ A K 8
♦ A K Q 10 9
♣ Q 10 6 3

What ruling would you have given?


  • Representing the auction starting with N:

    p 2D (multi) X XX
    P 2S 3D P
    3S P 4C P
    4D End

    What did N's 3S mean? If a UCB then looking like there are a lot of points in this pack. An experienced S should have been sniffing a rat and asking some more questions. Whilst S has been misled by the incorrect explanation, at least some of it is self-inflicted. So not an automatic correction to 5D. Some sort of split score.
    But I'm not an expert....

  • Thanks Graham. Yes, I should have smelt a rat but it was the first time we had played together and North's two passes made me think he wasn't that strong. Is there anyone out there who might consider themselves an expert (NGS grade Ace Hearts or Spades)?

  • In some respects it depends on whether South is an 'experienced player'. White book 8.40.5

    "It is only experienced players who are expected to protect themselves. If such players receive an explanation which is implausible, and they are able to protect themselves by seeking further clarification without putting their side’s interests at risk (e.g. by transmitting unauthorised information or waking the opposition up), failure to do so may prejudice the redress to which they would otherwise be entitled."

    Although the OP doesn't mention it, South might have taken different actions after the XX if he had known that it was showing a weak hand (and before partner bid 3S). Also note the qualification in the passage: the duty to protect oneself is not 100% even for experienced players.

    Psychology also comes into it - once you have been given an explanation which at the time seems reasonable (North not having bid at that time), it is very difficult to change your position no matter what evidence arises to the contrary thereafter. In fact the white books comments on this specifically

    "When considering whether to award an adjusted score under Law 12, the TD must always bear in mind Law 12C1 (b), namely that the objective is to recover as nearly as possible the probable outcome of the board had the infraction not occurred. In particular, in misinformation cases, the question the TD must ask is ‘would the non-offending side have got this right without the misinformation?’, not ‘should the non-offending side have got this right anyway?’ It is commonly argued that the non-offending side had enough information to overcome any misinformation and that their failure to do so means that they have not been damaged. That is not the required standard."

  • Representing the auction starting with N:

    p 2D (multi) X XX
    P 2S 3D P
    3S P 4C P
    4D End

    From my point of view, North's second pass is most important here, because their later bidding suggests that they would not have passed over a weak XX. It's true that East has a very strong hand (stronger in my view than they have already shown, particularly given the strong XX) and 3S does appear to be a UCB, which I would normally consider to be enough for game opposite West's bid. However, as the above post mentions, the question is only "Would the non-offending side have got this right without the misinformation?’"

    As such, it all depends on your interpretation of 8.40.5 and the definition of "experienced player." If you were a non-experienced player, I'd be happy to award full redress to 5D since it does appear that they would have otherwise reached the optimal contract. Given 8.40.5, this would be reduced to a split ruling of 50/50 (or 75/25 if deemed more appropriate) for 4D and 5D in the case of a more experienced player (redress is still permissable, just not to a full extent). Similarly, for an improving player that has only just moved into the main section, there is no guarantee that they would have found 5D, but the use of a UCB in this complicated auction probably rules out that possibility.

  • It looks like AlanB actually held the South hand and has already given the answer to this question but in general:

    Is there any chance that passing 4D could be a 'double shot' or 'gambling action' by a canny South?

    I.e. 'I have smelt a rat, I'm passing 4D. If 4D makes 10 I'm very happy, if 4D makes 11 I can probably persuade the TD to adjust due to MI.'?

    I don't know the answer as I've never had a real-life ESE or GA call to make but would be very interested in what others think and why.

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

  • edited October 2019

    I agree it comes down to what we think South's class is.

    I would give an expert no redress because a) an expert is likely to be aware that xx is almost never played as a strong hand, and b) they are capable of looking at their hand and listening to the auction. I would ask what hand South was expecting from North for their 3S bid. After all, as little as xxxx xx Jxxx AJx puts slam on a finesse through the non-pre-emptor.

    However, there's plenty of evidence from the hand and auction given that South isn't an expert. First because there's no reason to think that North's pass of the original redouble shows weakness (in fact there's an argument that it shows either diamond length or values because of the risk that opener also passes, but that would need more information about what the redouble expects from opener). And second, because I'd expect 100% unanimity from an expert panel for a take-out double of opener's 2S bid. The hand is far too strong for 3D when game is making opposite some very weak hands. After all, if you held the South hand and heard a weak 2S opening on your right, everyone would double (apart from those who'd try an interesting 3NT overcall).

    So to be honest, I'm torn. I would be close to driving slam opposite partner's 3S bid (if I'd bid like this so far) so I think South's actions are, um, conservative to put it mildly.

    But Weejonnie has quoted the relevant bit of the White Book. If xx were explained as 'please bid your suit', would NS have got to game? I suspect the answer is yes, because why else did South pass 4D?

    (I am not sure why all the posters assume that the optimum contract is 5D, I would have guessed it is either 6D or 6NT)

    So on reflection I would probably adjust to game, but probably not to a making slam. But I'd like to ask South what he thought 3S meant.

  • I'm not that canny!!!!
    Well, I was directing, been called out a few times and was just recovering from a cold and still felt groggy. Those, together with my earlier ones, are my excuses. Because the opponents were a very strong pair and they don't usually get things wrong I trusted them more than my partner (I guess) - remember this was the first time we had played together. I remember thinking that partner wanted me to bid 3NTs with a spade stop but with my holding I decided to bid 4Cs. Partner would then get to know something about my shape and the fact that I didn't hold Hearts meant that I almost certainly held a strong hand. So I was confused about my partner's two passes and the explanation of a strong hand on my left.
    Three of our top players met at the end to discuss the hand away from the participants and the unanimous conclusion was that I should have bid on and the result stood As they pointed out, what did I think 3S from partner meant? I accepted their conclusion without further discussion and if I am honest this was the correct conclusion on the night.
    The reason I started this chain was that in setting up a group at the end of a session we should think about influences that might adversely affect any conclusion such as:
    a) they wouldn't know the rules (as I didn't) - see weejonnies' post. And we all wanted to get home.
    b) one of those chosen to adjudicate is very forceful about bidding and therefore could have had a big influence on the others.
    c) they had all played the hand and knew the result.
    d) was the partnership established or a new one?
    I guess adjudication panels at the end of a session are the best way to handle such situations but might there be something better?
    P.S. Frances was correct - 6NTs was the optimum contract (7 is makeable on the finesse). Two out of the eight bid 6Ds. The XX conventionally showed both majors. Here's the full hand.

    ♠ A 9
    ♥ 9 5
    ♦ 7 4 3 2
    ♣ A J 9 7 4

    ♠ 10 8 4 3
    ♥ J 7 4 2
    ♦ 8 6
    ♣ K 5 2

    ♠ Q J 7 6 5 2
    ♥ Q 10 6 3
    ♦ J 5
    ♣ 8

    ♠ K
    ♥ A K 8
    ♦ A K Q 10 9
    ♣ Q 10 6 3

  • Should have read "One of the reasons for starting this chain was..............."

  • I gave the South hand to an expert last night.
    I told him we had no agreements about what double then 3D meant, or what partner's 3S bid meant.

    He doubled 2D
    He doubled 2S. I told him he was bidding 3D instead and he was prepared to live with that at least for the next round of the auction.
    He bid 3NT over 3S but was prepared to live with 4C
    He bid 4H over 4D

    I asked him what he made of the strong xx on his left, and he just shrugged and said obviously they don't have one.

  • Thanks Frances. I've learnt a lot.

  • Hello all I was N obviously is not easy when you are playing for first time with someone.
    Just to point that E was absolutely sure that W hold strong hand with points not shape. I am agree with the Expert bidding that is why they are Experts.From my oppinion I know that wrong explanation is for penalty,but I am not TD. Thank you everybody for spending time to coment the case. Kostadin Vasilev
  • I posted details of this website to N and to the adjudicators (on the night).

    Here's two interesting comments from one of them. (by the way I think this forum is great and thanks again for the many contributions).

    Thanks Alan, that's instructive.

    I certainly don't know the details of the rules, but the way I viewed this was from two perspectives:

    1) was either North or South in possession of enough info from his partner's bidding to enable him to seriously doubt oppo's explanation and make a stronger bid?
    2) did Oppo bid consistently with the explanation?

    That may well be the wrong way of looking at it from the point of view of an adjudication, but:
    A). Yes, North had shown enough by his 3S bid for South to be slamming, and

    B) Wrong vulnerability for East to bid 4H over 4D. As I said to one of the other adjudicators at the time, if the vulnerability has been the other way round, I'd expect East to bid 4H (but at red, he'd expect to be doubled for 200), otherwise it looks like he's fielding a misunderstanding.

    There's one further point that no-one has mentioned on the director's forum, and hadn't occurred to me.

    Given that the EBU rules state that each player should have a completed Convention Card, I think there's a case for this being considered in the adjudication process.

    Of course, (a) we wouldn't expect "scratch" or "basic" partnerships to have them, and (b) it wouldn't necessarily cover all the detail - but in the case of incorrect information given to Opponents, it seems reasonable to take this into account.

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