Mechanical Error - other side of the bidding box

In a competitive auction, opponents get as far as 4H. Partner pulls out a 4S card, puts it on the table, looks down and say “oops sorry, I meant to double, I pulled the wrong card.” Opponents seem concerned so I suggest that they should call the director. He rules that 4S would not be mechanical error because it came from the other side of the box from the intended double. This is, of course, accepted without demur; I am interested to learn, however, whether that is a standard interpretation and one which I should apply when directing.

What I found so far, looking through the forum, is this comment from Robin in 2018:
“It is difficult to apply law 25A based on a knowledge of how the brain works..........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.”

I should be grateful for clarification. Thanks.

Comments

  • Reading the Law 25 entry in the WBF Laws Commentary might help provide clarity.

  • I have read before (on this forum) that physical closeness of the call made to the apparently intended call is relevant.

    The commentary Gordon refers to specifically includes the phrase "The mistake has to be entirely one of fingers".

    Consider a situation where a player intends to bid 2D in response to his partner's 1S opening bid. Because he is thinking ahead to the final contract (which will almost certainly be 4S), he pulls the 4S out by mistake. Is this an unintended call? Well he never for a moment intended to bid 4S at that juncture, but he did suffer a loss of concentration. When his hand went to the bidding box, he meant to pull out 4S, albeit only for a split second. This is not a mechanical error. and cannot be changed under 25A.

    My own experience of "unintended call" claims is that mostly they are not. The player often claims unintended call but some basic questioning usually elicits something about "I was thinking ahead" or "I got distracted". If I had a penny for every "mechanical error" claim I get when the two calls involved are nowhere near each other....

    Finally, I have heard it said (by an EBU director at a congress) that "when someone claims mechanical error we tend to believe them". I'm not sure this is the correct approach.

  • @JeremyChild said:
    Finally, I have heard it said (by an EBU director at a congress) that "when someone claims mechanical error we tend to believe them". I'm not sure this is the correct approach.

    My own approach is to explain very carefully the meaning of "mechanical error" and once I am sure that the player really does understand the distinction, then in the absence of any other evidence I would be likely to believe them if they still claim it. In practice, most claims of "mechanical error" disappear with sufficiently clear explanation.

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