Appeal Focus: Spring 2010

Don't Shoot!

by Frances Hinden

ACs are most often asked to use their bridge judgement in Unauthorised Information (UI) rulings. A common theme is the break in tempo (BIT) or "hesitation" case. Before giving an adjustment, three conditions have to be satisfied:

  1. Was there a real BIT that transmitted unauthorised information?
  2. Did it demonstrably suggest any particular action(s)?
  3. Were there any logical alternatives?

Sadly we sometimes see rulings where the TD has adjusted without all three conditions satisfied. Consider this auction:

1. Responsive, general values.
2. BIT

After the initial 'stop' for the 3H opening the next four calls could be extremely quick. What's more, most players are taught never to repeat their pre-empt so the 5H bid would come as quite a surprise and in any case, jumps to slam are never made quickly. On this auction one would be more likely to rule UI from a very quick 6S call; a slow one is 'in tempo'.

Now suppose you hold, at love all:

SK 8 4   HK J   DA K 3   C9 6 4 3 2

1. Weak
2. BIT

What calls does a very slow double suggest?

Here's a good, simple rule for any AC: if you can't agree what action a BIT suggests, it doesn't demonstrably suggest anything. On the internet forum where this was posted the comments ranged from one member of the L&EC saying (to paraphrase) "if partner doubles slowly, he doesn't want me to pass", to another expert EBU referee who thought that "a slow double is most likely a strong balanced hand that is worried I shall bid too often"! The only conclusion I can draw is that, unless you know partner very well, you have no idea what he is thinking about and so any action should be permitted.

Finally, you are presented with this hand:

SK Q 5 2   HA Q   DK Q 6 4 3   CK 6

Partner deals, and the auction so far is:

1. Natural, extra values.
2. Cue bids.
3. BIT

You have UI from partner's slow 5D bid that demonstrably suggests bidding on. In fact, you could argue that if opener denied the SA when he bypassed 3S then you knew earlier that an ace is missing: if slam is obvious now, it was obvious last round. This argument suggests that any successful slam should be adjusted back to 5D+1. Thinking about the auction this way is a good way to approach a ruling, and if your hand were any weaker then an adjustment could well be in order. However, here it is not really conceivable that slam is poor given the auction so far. Sometimes people do make 'mark-time' bids with no real purpose -- they just need time to get up the courage to bid a slam! Thus we can use our judgement here to rule that there is no LA to bidding 6D, however slowly partner signs off.

Frances Hinden