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bit of a mess

#1 User is offline   shevek 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 01:03



North-South were good players.
West an ethical young pro, East a complexity-keen client.
We were playing RealBridge in face-to-face mode.


1 was strange. I guess East planned to show a weak notrump.
West's 2 systemically showed 5s & 5s. East alerted it but no questions were asked during the auction.

On lead, North asked about the auction.
East expressed some uncertainty. "2 is natural and forcing, I think."
West corrected by saying "I have shown 5s & 5s."

North woodenly led the J-Q-A. South woodenly returned the 7 for -690.

After claiming 12 tricks declarer volunteered "I saw the double as 1. Over that, 2 would show 6+s."
Documentation was not available but there is no reason to disbelieve West.

The reason for bidding 2 seems irrelevant anyway. West eventually gave the right explanation.
While his partner's explanation conveyed UI and may have woken him up, his 3NT bid was not based on that.
16A refers to bids and plays, not explanations.

North new something was awry. Both opponents had denied four spades, which would place partner with five of them.
Yet partner did not overcall.

South might imagine that declarer had
Kxx QJ9xx - KJxxx
Even so, South might cash the A and switch back if partner discouraged.
Also, if West has that, North might have bid 2 over 2.

Do North-South have any recourse?
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#2 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 01:15

View Postshevek, on 2021-March-09, 01:03, said:

Do North-South have any recourse?

No. Assuming their agreements are in fact as stated, there is no infraction (apart from East's misexplanation, but that was immediately corrected). But they're playing online - how can documentation not be available?
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#3 User is online   sanst 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 03:22

From the OP I gather that EW are no regular pair, but choose to use a complex system. Here, W assumes that the double shows diamonds, but there's obviously no agreement about that, The 2 is explained as "natural and forcing, I think" (E), "I have shown 5s & 5s." (W) and "I saw the double as 1. Over that, 2 would show 6+s." (W after the claim). Small wonder that NS couldn't make heads nor tails from the auction. I think this all adds up to MI and I would rule accordingly. Since it's unclear what the right explanation would have been, I would reluctantly decide for A+/A-, but also decide that EW should use a system that they both know well enough. I certainly can't blame NS: their line of play is nowhere near a serious error.
I think it's not unreasonable to demand that both players of a pair explain the auction 1 - x - 2 without contradiction, unless they are almost complete novices. If you can't, you're playing a system that you don't understand, which IMO is a serious offense against the spirit of the Laws and the game, if not the letter of it.
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#4 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 04:24

View Postsanst, on 2021-March-09, 03:22, said:

From the OP I gather that EW are no regular pair, but choose to use a complex system. Here, W assumes that the double shows diamonds, but there’s obviously no agreement about that, The 2 is explained as “natural and forcing, I think” (E), "I have shown 5♥s & 5♣s." (W) and "I saw the double as 1♦. Over that, 2♥ would show 6+♠s." (W after the claim). Small wonder that NS couldn’t make heads nor tails from the auction. I think this all adds up to MI and I would rule accordingly. Since it’s unclear what the right explanation would have been, I would reluctantly decide for A+/A-, but also decide that EW should use a system that they both know well enough. I certainly can’t blame NS: their line of play is nowhere near a serious error.

Indeed. It sounds like the real agreement was "hearts and clubs or maybe spades or even natural, we don't know what we're doing", as DB would comment.
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#5 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 04:36

View Postsfi, on 2021-March-09, 01:15, said:

But they're playing online - how can documentation not be available?

I don't think the platform in question supports system cards yet. Nor can one share screen to show a document, despite the video connection.
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#6 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 06:33

View Postpescetom, on 2021-March-09, 04:36, said:

I don't think the platform in question supports system cards yet. Nor can one share screen to show a document, despite the video connection.

No, but they should be able to email system notes to the director. I know I asked for copies a couple of times on BBO (in a club where I knew the people, so it wasn't as strange a request as it would often be).
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#7 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 06:38

View Postpescetom, on 2021-March-09, 04:24, said:

Indeed. It sounds like the real agreement was "hearts and clubs or maybe spades or even natural, we don't know what we're doing", as DB would comment.

Hence why I would like to see the system notes. There appears to be no suggestion that 2H showed spades - that was simply a misbid. And they still almost certainly have an agreement even if one of them forgot what it was. But the OP states that "West eventually gave the right explanation", so it appears their actual agreement was 5/5 in hearts and clubs.
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#8 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 07:48

View Postsfi, on 2021-March-09, 06:38, said:

There appears to be no suggestion that 2H showed spades - that was simply a misbid.

I guess so, although a misbid by a pro has a different weight to a misbid by a beginner.
And one might wonder why an ethical young pro could not volunteer the "thought I would show 6+ spades" information after correcting the explanation of East, before the initial lead.
No legal obligation to do so, of course, but it would seem an ethical thing to do.



View Postsfi, on 2021-March-09, 06:38, said:

And they still almost certainly have an agreement even if one of them forgot what it was.

To be more precise, one of them forgot it when he made the bid but then remembered it when the laws required, whereas the other remembered something when he alerted but couldn't remember anything when asked.
"It is a condition of any partnership agreement that both players possess the same mutual understanding, and it is an infraction to describe an agreement where the same mutual understanding does not exist."

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#9 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 11:48

View Postpescetom, on 2021-March-09, 07:48, said:

No legal obligation to do so, of course, but it would seem an ethical thing to do.

Ethical in accordance with what rules of ethics? Not, it would seem, those defined by the rules of the game, since there is "no legal obligation".
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#10 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 12:42

View Postblackshoe, on 2021-March-09, 11:48, said:

Ethical in accordance with what rules of ethics? Not, it would seem, those defined by the rules of the game, since there is "no legal obligation".


West was described as an ethical pro, not (just) a law abiding pro.

Ethics are moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
The rules of a game are inspired by some moral principles, but ultimately they just regulate behaviour in specific ways.
Outside of obligations imposed by the rules it seems normal and desirable that we follow moral principles in our behaviour at the table.

My moral principles suggest admitting my mistakes any time except when that is in violation of the rules or the spirit of the rules, and particularly when I am aware that the mistake is otherwise likely to work to my advantage, as in this case.
Your principles may differ - there is not just one possible set of moral principles, nor just one possible interpretation of many bridge laws for that matter.
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#11 User is offline   pilun 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 18:21

View Postpescetom, on 2021-March-09, 12:42, said:

West was described as an ethical pro, not (just) a law abiding pro.

Ethics are moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
The rules of a game are inspired by some moral principles, but ultimately they just regulate behaviour in specific ways.
Outside of obligations imposed by the rules it seems normal and desirable that we follow moral principles in our behaviour at the table.

My moral principles suggest admitting my mistakes any time except when that is in violation of the rules or the spirit of the rules, and particularly when I am aware that the mistake is otherwise likely to work to my advantage, as in this case.
Your principles may differ - there is not just one possible set of moral principles, nor just one possible interpretation of many bridge laws for that matter.


Deciding on an ethical approach to the game is a complex issue.

If I get Blackwood wrong and show two aces when I have one, does anyone expect me to own up? Probably not.
Against my 6, West leads a club to his partner's ace. East fails to return a diamond to his partner's ace, "knowing" I have that card. I sheepishly chalk up +980. Few would call me unethical, certainly not Adam Gilchrist.

Or West doubles my 7 and leads the A. East pitches something, then finds a trump when West leads a second trump. +2470 this time.
"I don't want to win that way" but the Law is the Law. Online bridge has the advantage here! (As an aside, why should online software prevent me from carelessly revoking?)

One Law that borders on unethical is 72B2. "There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law committed by one's own side." If I revoke, it's quite in order for me to choose the most opportune legal time to divest myself of the offending piece of cardboard, then sit on my hands till they make a call on the next board. This has always seemed strange to me.
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#12 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-10, 13:50

View Postpilun, on 2021-March-09, 18:21, said:

Deciding on an ethical approach to the game is a complex issue.

I fully agree. Here is one thoughtful discussion, set off by a confused but well meaning ACBL initiative. Some of the people writing here contributed.

View Postpilun, on 2021-March-09, 18:21, said:

If I get Blackwood wrong and show two aces when I have one, does anyone expect me to own up? Probably not.
Against my 6, West leads a club to his partner's ace. East fails to return a diamond to his partner's ace, "knowing" I have that card. I sheepishly chalk up +980. Few would call me unethical, certainly not Adam Gilchrist.

The laws say you do not need to own up, but do not forbid it either. You feel sheepish. Your opponents probably feel cheated. I would consider owning up to be ethical, keeping quiet less so, but then I'm not Adam Gilchrist. If he played bridge would be he happier with +980 than -50 here? Would he make a note with partner to review Ace asking sequences?

View Postpilun, on 2021-March-09, 18:21, said:

One Law that borders on unethical is 72B2. "There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law committed by one's own side." If I revoke, it's quite in order for me to choose the most opportune legal time to divest myself of the offending piece of cardboard, then sit on my hands till they make a call on the next board. This has always seemed strange to me.

Agreed. It's an example of how law is usually inspired by ethics, but does make compromises to achieve its own goals and occasionally goes well off track.
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#13 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-10, 14:49

If you follow the proprieties and your RA's regulations, you are being ethical. Even if you make mistakes and are ruled against for them, you are still being ethical.

If you choose to go beyond what the Proprieties and the regulations state, you are also being ethical.

The people who bother me are the ones who expect 'fair treatment' from their opponents, while insisting on the letter of the rules in the opponents' conduct, or conversely, play right to the letter of the regulations and proprieties, but expect their opponents to go beyond that.

The laws are the laws, and my statement above applies to those laws and situations. My own personal sense of behaviour - what I choose to play to, to sleep well at night - follows as examples:

I do not hide revokes, by me or my partner. I'm allowed to not mention them, but I do not do that. This is because I expect to take full advantage of the Laws when my opponents revoke, and I know the laws well. My opponents may not, so I ensure they get the same advantage on my side's revokes. This goes beyond the Laws, and that's fine by me. If you're uncomfortable with 72B2 (in certain cases or all), it does not require you to follow it - just allows it as an option.

Similarly, if my partner hesitates in a UI-generating way, I will acknowledge it - and if I'm going to take a call suggested by the UI anyway, I will call the director myself and explain the situation before making that call. Or if partner has a penalty card and I'm on lead, I will ensure the opponents know the options - because I guarantee you that I will use it when I'm declarer (after ensuring the opponents know my options well in advance).

However, if I misbid and win, I apologise, take my score, and go on to the next hand. Conversely, when the opponents misbid, or bid like fishes, and win, I don't suggest they give it back either. I might grumble about being fished away from the table, but they earned that result. Hopefully their bad bidding and misbidding will pay me back for that result over time.

I am also willing - and willing to publicly admit - to dial my "personal ethics" up and down the scale depending on the game and the opponents. If you're one of those people who nails their opponents to the wall for every trivial violation, it's likely I will too, at your table. If you're very new, or are starting to lose it and are out in the club because it's something you enjoy with people you enjoy, I have absolutely used the fact that Law 9 does not require me to draw attention to an irregularity, and if it has been drawn attention to by another, requested L81C5 waiver for cause after calling the director. I've even had that waiver request granted (in fact, I can't remember when it hasn't been). If I'm in the district qualifier to the Nationals, I'm likely to take mistakes a little more seriously than the GG birthday pairs held in a licensed bridge club.

But I can't hold you to anything beyond what the Laws and the Regulations require - and you can't hold me, either (note, there are people who can. Most of them fall into two groups: "partners" (ones I want to keep, anyway) and "cow-orkers").
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#14 User is offline   pilun 

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Posted 2021-March-11, 15:25

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-10, 14:49, said:

If you follow the proprieties and your RA's regulations, you are being ethical. Even if you make mistakes and are ruled against for them, you are still being ethical.

If you choose to go beyond what the Proprieties and the regulations state, you are also being ethical.

The people who bother me are the ones who expect 'fair treatment' from their opponents, while insisting on the letter of the rules in the opponents' conduct, or conversely, play right to the letter of the regulations and proprieties, but expect their opponents to go beyond that.

The laws are the laws, and my statement above applies to those laws and situations. My own personal sense of behaviour - what I choose to play to, to sleep well at night - follows as examples:

I do not hide revokes, by me or my partner. I'm allowed to not mention them, but I do not do that. This is because I expect to take full advantage of the Laws when my opponents revoke, and I know the laws well. My opponents may not, so I ensure they get the same advantage on my side's revokes. This goes beyond the Laws, and that's fine by me. If you're uncomfortable with 72B2 (in certain cases or all), it does not require you to follow it - just allows it as an option.

Similarly, if my partner hesitates in a UI-generating way, I will acknowledge it - and if I'm going to take a call suggested by the UI anyway, I will call the director myself and explain the situation before making that call. Or if partner has a penalty card and I'm on lead, I will ensure the opponents know the options - because I guarantee you that I will use it when I'm declarer (after ensuring the opponents know my options well in advance).

However, if I misbid and win, I apologise, take my score, and go on to the next hand. Conversely, when the opponents misbid, or bid like fishes, and win, I don't suggest they give it back either. I might grumble about being fished away from the table, but they earned that result. Hopefully their bad bidding and misbidding will pay me back for that result over time.

I am also willing - and willing to publicly admit - to dial my "personal ethics" up and down the scale depending on the game and the opponents. If you're one of those people who nails their opponents to the wall for every trivial violation, it's likely I will too, at your table. If you're very new, or are starting to lose it and are out in the club because it's something you enjoy with people you enjoy, I have absolutely used the fact that Law 9 does not require me to draw attention to an irregularity, and if it has been drawn attention to by another, requested L81C5 waiver for cause after calling the director. I've even had that waiver request granted (in fact, I can't remember when it hasn't been). If I'm in the district qualifier to the Nationals, I'm likely to take mistakes a little more seriously than the GG birthday pairs held in a licensed bridge club.

But I can't hold you to anything beyond what the Laws and the Regulations require - and you can't hold me, either (note, there are people who can. Most of them fall into two groups: "partners" (ones I want to keep, anyway) and "cow-orkers").


So Mycroft. If you found yourself as West in the hand above, would you say anything more than "I have shown five hearts and five clubs"?
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#15 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-11, 15:52

That's interesting. Frankly, I hadn't even looked at the hand or the question. As West, I would have bid 2 showing 6+ Spades, and, once since I noticed the correct auction by the end of the auction, yes I would have given them our agreement. That's what the Law requires after all.

At the end of the hand I probably would have explained exactly like West did, and encouraged them to call the director (or called the director myself).

Witness the chaos that explaining what you were thinking rather than what your bids mean can do in that other thread.

I bid 3 instead of 3 a couple of weeks ago, totally by accident (I think I was thinking "I wonder if partner has a club stopper") and avoided the killing club lead into 3NT for an 80% board. I apologized for the misbid after the hand. Nobody said a word.

Mistakes happen in bridge, in fact bridge is a game of mistakes. 90+% of mistakes that matter cost you. Some don't.

On the hand, 6+5+3 = 14. North, at least, knows *something's* going on, before the opening lead (unless E-W open 2+ 1).
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#16 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-11, 16:15

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-11, 15:52, said:

That's interesting. Frankly, I hadn't even looked at the hand or the question. As West, I would have bid 2 showing 6+ Spades, and, once since I noticed the correct auction by the end of the auction, yes I would have given them our agreement. That's what the Law requires after all.

At the end of the hand I probably would have explained exactly like West did, and encouraged them to call the director (or called the director myself).

Witness the chaos that explaining what you were thinking rather than what your bids mean can do in that other thread.


Isn't the example in that other thread very different? IIRC the explanation was offered prematurely and by a player destined to become defender, not the established declarer.
Here if West explains both the agreement and his mistake he cannot possibly do damage, except to his result.
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#17 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-17, 11:07

Well, I chose my forum title myself. I Follow the Rules even when they're Stupid. Hence, calling the director if they don't, to ensure there was no infraction that caused damage.

I hope the directors whose games I play in know that I expect them to only rule that I did the right thing when they think I did, and rule against me if I didn't, not just "oh Mycroft wouldn't do anything wrong". We all do things wrong, and even when we don't, sometimes it's still an infraction that caused damage.

I reiterate, bridge is a game of mistakes, and usually those mistakes cost you. Rarely they help, and the Laws frequently allow you to keep the good score when you get one, to make up for all the bad scores you're getting on the rest of the mistakes. My opponents' bad bids and huge mistakes sometimes land them in impossible-to-reach cold games and slams; I can't ask for them back. What's the difference between opening 1 instead of 2 (whether misclick, or counting an ace twice) leading to a cold slam nobody else even tried for, and this?
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#18 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-17, 16:39

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-17, 11:07, said:

I hope the directors whose games I play in know that I expect them to only rule that I did the right thing when they think I did, and rule against me if I didn't, not just "oh Mycroft wouldn't do anything wrong". We all do things wrong, and even when we don't, sometimes it's still an infraction that caused damage.

Agree 100%, I'm in the same boat (occasionally rocking, but offers a good view of the sea).

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-17, 11:07, said:

My opponents' bad bids and huge mistakes sometimes land them in impossible-to-reach cold games and slams; I can't ask for them back. What's the difference between opening 1 instead of 2 (whether misclick, or counting an ace twice) leading to a cold slam nobody else even tried for, and this?

Nothing in terms of opportunity or willingness to explain the mistake: but with a cold slam my explanation changes nothing, here it reverses the score.
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#19 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-17, 17:16

What explanation? "Our agreement is that 2 here shows 6 spades."

The question simply is "are they entitled to know you were bidding a different auction?" And the answer is no by Law. You could choose to say so; it can cause other problems (there's a ruling in the EBU about this, where Big Name Expert told their opponents what his hand was, not what the bidding showed by agreement, because he made a mistake; it caused them to not find the winning lead; it was ruled that even though they had "better" information than they would otherwise have, they were still misinformed and damaged. Can't remember it well enough to find it right now). But I don't think it's improper to apologize for fishing the opponents, calling the director to ensure we didn't miss anything, and taking our score.

So, it would be stupid, but if I did it deliberately to try to throw off the spade lead into 3NT. Clear, straight up psychic. Should I say anything (of course not)? Do I get to keep the score? What's the difference that I had a brainfart, rather than brilliantly bluffing?
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#20 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-March-17, 17:29

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-17, 17:16, said:

What explanation? "Our agreement is that 2 here shows 6 spades."

The question simply is "are they entitled to know you were bidding a different auction?" And the answer is no by Law. You could choose to say so; it can cause other problems (there's a ruling in the EBU about this, where Big Name Expert told their opponents what his hand was, not what the bidding showed by agreement, because he made a mistake; it caused them to not find the winning lead; it was ruled that even though they had "better" information than they would otherwise have, they were still misinformed and damaged. Can't remember it well enough to find it right now).


But we're not in that scenario. Here our agreement is not that 2 here shows 6 spades. We mistakenly thought for a moment that we were in a situation where it did (1 rather than double), and bid in accordance, but soon realised our mistake.
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