1. General Principles
What are we talking about?
Many games have hidden information (chess, on
the other hand, does not). Very few games,
however, hide information from members of the
same team. Baseball teams use signs to communicate
secret information so that the whole team is on
the same wavelength. In bridge, however,
communication between partners is strictly regulated.
Some ways of partnership communication are allowed (authorized).
For example, information from partner's legal bid is authorized;
one may use that information freely. Such information is
called Authorized Information (AI). Other ways of
partnership communication are not allowed (unauthorized). For
example, telling partner how many high card points
you have by the position of a cigarette in an ashtray,
or telling partner to lead a club by saying, "lead a
club, stupid!" or telling partner that you are not
sure about a choice of contracts by choosing one very
slowly, are all unauthorized means of communication.
Types of UI
There are three basic types of UI. The one we will
deal with here is UI from partner through normal
play. We'll assume that the UI transmitted is accidental
(so yelling "lead a club" falls under a different category).
The second type is intentional pre-arranged partnership
communication (like the cigarette example). That's
covered under Law 73B2. Obviously, such actions are a
serious offence. For now, they are beyond the scope of
this discussion. Similarly, intentional transmission of
UI is mostly beyond the scope here; the intentional part
is dealt with via disciplinary measures. When such a
case arises, we start by assuming the transmission was
accidental and deal with the case thusly. Then, if
there is judged to be an intentional violation, that
part is dealt with via disciplinary procedures.
The third type of UI is "incidental UI." That's UI
picked up by some sort of accident, like looking at
the wrong hand, hearing the loudmouth at the next
table announce, "7NT is cold," or the like. Law 16B
discusses this in some detail; we shall not. It is
enough to know that the appropriate action to take
when in possession of this sort of UI is to call
the director. It's usually best to speak with him
privately unless everyone at the table knows what
you know (you've looked at the wrong hand, for example).
He'll take it from there.
Two main laws are used to deal with UI cases.
"Unauthorized Information," is the main source of
information on how to deal with UI. It's only a few
paragraphs long; it's probably a good idea for all
players to read it. (See Appendix 1.) Law 73 is
called "Communication." It speaks more generally
about information, both AI and UI and what the
general goals of the laws are with respect to
communication between partners. Once in a while,
we'll need to rely on L73, but most details come
from L16. (See Appendix 1 for a copy of L73.)
Today, we won't discuss the exact wording of
those laws, but we'll use lots of results from
AI vs. UI
So what is AI and what is UI? It is quite difficult
to make a complete list; sources of information
abound. Let's list some of the common ones.
- partner's legal calls and plays
- the opponents' calls and plays,
legal, illegal, or withdrawn,
unless they were withdrawn
because our side committed an
- the opponents mannerisms, remarks,
tempo, and the like
- your systemic agreements
- your general bridge knowledge
- your knowledge of partner's proclivities,
provided that this information is made
available to the opponents
- information given to us by the
opponents' system announcements,
through convention cards, alerts,
explanations, answers to questions,
and the like
- your knowledge of the opponents'
proclivities and capabilities
- your knowledge of partner's capabilities
- partner's tempo, expression, mannerisms,
remarks, and other such behavior
- illegal calls or plays by partner
- withdrawn calls or plays by either side if our
side is to blame for the problem, for example,
leads out of turn or insufficient bids corrected
to sufficient ones
- that partner has asked or chosen not to ask
a question. That means that if he does not
ask, one must assume that he knows what the
call in question means. If it turns out that
a surprising answer to your question was given,
you must assume that partner knew that answer,
even though you know he does not.
- calls overheard, cards seen, remarks overhead,
and the like, at other tables
- partner's explanations of your calls. You may,
however, be required to use this information later
in the hand when it is appropriate to inform the
opponents of partner's misexplanation. (See Law 75.)
You may never use it to your advantage. Even if
partner's explanation is correct, if you were under
the misapprehension that it was not, you may not
take advantage of that information.
- partner's alert or failure to alert
Redress and Punishment
UI arises. It is not illegal to transmit UI to
partner unintentionally. That happens. Bridge is
a hard game, so we have to think sometimes. All
sorts of problems arise which can cause UI. These
are normally not infractions of law. So go ahead
and think when you have a problemyou are not doing
anything wrong. You may, however, constrain partner's
actions. If you think for ten minutes and double, you
can be pretty sure he's not going to be able to pull
unless it's obvious to do so.
What if you have UI? We'll discuss in detail what
the thought process to use ought to be, but the
general idea is not to take advantage of UI. Sometimes
this causes a bridge problem for you. You are responsible
for trying to get that problem right, but no one's perfect.
To take advantage of UI accidentally or by making an
incorrect judgment may cause the director to adjust your
score, but it's not a crime. UI cases (other than the
intentional ones mentioned abvoe) are not criminal cases;
they are civil cases. That is, scores are adjusted in
order to supply redress to players who were damaged by
illegal use of UI. To get your score adjusted by a
director is not an statement that you cheated. All it
means is that you took an action which turned out to
be illegal. Sometimes it takes more effort to figure
this out than is available at the table. That happens.
The score adjustment is made to restore fairness, not
to accuse. So just as you don't want to be thought of
as cheating when that happens, extend the same courtesy
to your opponents. Most opponents do not try to take
advantage of UI. Sometimes when they try not to, they
get it wrong. When you think that might have happened,
call the director nicely and explain gently that there
may be a UI problem, so even if your opponent scrupulously
tried to avoid using UI, maybe the director should judge
that for the table.
Let's take a look at a simple example. All examples
are from cases brought before the National Appeals
Committee, so "simple" might be in the eyes of the
2 was game forcing, 5 showed three key cards,
and 6 showed one king. After a moderately long pause,
West signed off in 6, and East carried on.
Without lots of detail, what could West have been thinking
about before bidding 6? Obviously, to bid more.
Maybe 6NT, but probably there were enough key cards and
he was thinking of bidding the grand. When he finally
wimped out and stopped in the small slam, it's not real
tough for East to work out what had happened. To bid
7 is anything but "avoiding taking advantage" of
the UI from partner's hesitation. The director and appeals
committee, not surprisingly, rolled the contract back to
Once in a while, someone will blatantly take advantage
of UI. If an Appeals Commitee (AC) or director thinks he should have known
better and that it was an easy case, they will assign
a procedural penalty (PP) as a means of discipline.
(In the example above, East was a fairly inexperienced
player, so no one assumed he knew better.)
If a player frequently takes unfair advantage of UI
over a long period, eventually major disciplinary procedures
will be taken. It is not for the individual players
to discuss or provoke this. Let the powers that be
take care of repeat offenders. Remember, most of the
time, UI problems were just accidents or errors, not
2. UI issues for the player
So you are playing bridge and having a good time
(I hope!) and a UI situation arises. What do you
do? First off, stay calm. It's likely that the
other players are baffled by the situation, so
don't get angry. UI cases are mostly technical
violations and need to be treated as such, similar
to leads out of turn and revokes.
If You Have UI
Partner, curse him!, has taken forever before a
bid. You probably have UI. What do you do? In
general, the simple approach is this: if you have
only one normal action (e.g. answering aces to
Blackwood), just do it. If you have no idea what
to do normally or if you have a reasonable choice
between actions, follow this simple procedure.
Figure out which choices partner's hesitation suggests
will be more effective than the others.
Then do something else. If you had two reasonable
choices, pick the one that the UI doesn't suggest.
If you had lots of reasonable choices, pick one
not suggested by the UI. If you had no idea what
to do and the UI says do one thing, do something else.
What if that costs you the board? Too bad. Partner
gained an advantage by thinking (probably he avoided
a mistake). If he lost an advantage by constraining
your actions, that returns some of the advantage he
already gained. If your UI is due to his screwing
up already, that's just too bad. Remember, it's his
fault! It's only your fault if you take advantage of
the UI and lose because of it.
You hold AQJ74 K4 J 108542 as South. The bidding
What, as they say, is your call? OK, no sneakiness.
Obviously, you think you play "Sandwich NT," that is,
your 1NT bid showed the black suits. Partner didn't
alert it and passed. Obviously, he thinks you have a
strong NT overcall. So what do you do now? Answer:
what would you have done if partner had alerted 1NT
and explained it as 5-5 in the black suits? You would
have passed. Partner probably has lots of red cards,
and he knows what to do. Your hand is normal for your
bid, so why should you get in the way of partner. After
the failure to alert, however, you know partner isn't
on the same wavelength. It'll probably be a disaster
if you pass. 1NT is getting killed. But that's what
you must do. In fact, 1NT was on a finesse to make;
it failed and went for 1100. Our "hero" pulled and
did far better than that. Briefly. The director
took away his good result.
The simple approach is good enough for
most players most of the time. After today,
however, you will hopefully be an expert on UI.
You can follow a more complex procedure which will
possibly constrain your actions more than the simple
one, but will almost never cause your score to be
adjusted. As a rule, that will be to your advantage;
adjusted scores are chosen heavily favoring the
non-offending side (NOS). Once in a while, you'll
bend over backward when a lesser player might not
know to and a Director won't adjust the score. Oh,
well. At least you get to know you did the right thing.
Yes, I have lost events by doing so. Such is life.
If an Opponent has UI
He's probably not happy about it, either. Remember
how you cursed your partner for thinking forever when
it gave you a problem? He's probably doing it, too.
(Cursing his partner, that is. It's your prerogative
to curse yours!) Anyway, so far, everything is fine.
Said opponent has UI. That's OK. He might be screwed
because of it, or he might have no problem. Wait and
see for a bit. Now he acts. From your perspective,
did he do something which appeared normal (he answered
aces to Blackwoodno problem!) or did he do something
which seems like it was suggested by the UI? If you
think that there was a reasonable chance that the action
he took could have been suggested by the UI, call the
director nicely. Gently. It's possible that his call
was obvious, that there was no alternative to it. If
so and if you call the director in an angry accusatory
manner, who'll have egg on his face? I like to use an
approach something like this: "Obviously, we have a UI
situation. It's likely that you had no problem, but
from our perspective, you might, so let's call the
director and make sure nothing goes wrong." The director
will arrive, listen to what everyone has to say, and
tell everyone to continue play normally. He'll say that
if later in the hand there is strong evidence that a
UI problem has in fact occurred call him back after the
hand. If you think the player hasn't done what he ought,
call the director back after the hand and explain what
you think, and he'll take it from there. Don't always
expect an adjusted score. Remember, most of the time,
we don't actually have a reasonable choice of actions,
and if your opponent did the only obvious thing, he's
entitled to do that.
3. Ruling on UI Cases
You've been handling your UI responsibilites as a player
well for a while, now, and have thusly garnered some
respect from the bridge community. You like this respect,
huh? Time to pay the piper. You've been asked to serve
on an AC to help judge a complicated UI case. What do you
do? Many ACs use an ad hoc approach, more or less the
simple approach for players. That'll do in many cases,
but being experts at this stuff, we want to get it right
all the time. Here's a flowchart or checklist to use
based on the laws. We'll go over all the steps in a
lot more detail, but for the moment, here's the general
approach an AC should take.
- Was there UI?
If not (no UI), you're done, no adjustment.
- Did it supply useful information?
- Figure out what information was transmitted.
- If it was nothing useful, you're done (no UI), no adjustment.
- If it duplicated AI, you're done (no UI), no adjustment.
- If you got here, there was useful UI and the hard work begins.
- Figure out the logical alternatives.
- if there was only one and the player took it,
you're done, no adjustment.
- otherwise, was the action the player with UI took
(regardless of whether it was a logical alternative (LA) or not)
suggested over at least one of the LAs?
If not, you're done (no alternatives), no adjustment.
- Figure out what would have happened and whether
or not advantage was gained by the use of UI.
- figure out how the hand would have continued
had the player taken each of the LAs not
suggested by the UI.
- did any of them produce results which would
be better for the other side? If not, you're
done (no damage), no adjustment.
- Adjust the Score
Law 12 says how to do this. The AC chair should
know how to do this. We'll discuss it a little
- Was the infraction blatant, and ought the player
to have known better?
- if the player was not a life master, ignore this step
- despite that, if he isn't an expert player, also
ignore this step
- if this isn't an important tournament (you judge)
ignore this step
- otherwise, if the situation was a slam-dunk and
you think the offender should have known better,
award a 1/4 board PP to help get him to adjust
his behavior in the future
- Appeals Without Merit Warnings
These only happen at nationals. Consult the
national appeals committee on them. Any other
time, don't worry about "frivolous" appeals.
As a beginning AC member, using this checklist
very much helps organize your thinking. You know
what you are deciding and how it determines the
overall result you choose. As an experienced AC
member, I highly encourage use of this checklist,
too. It saves time. Unless the case is totally
obvious, ACs can go on forever. Resolving the
key issues one by one forces the AC to stay on
track and make progress towards a decision. Despite
being organized, some ACs can take a long time, because
sometimes it is hard to answer some of the questions
in the checklist. But it's almost always faster to
get where you are going if you follow a map than
to wander around until you realize you are there.
The devil's in the details. Let's look at the
Step 1: Was there UI?
Hesitations are the most common source of UI.
In a perfect world, overly fast actions ought
to create as much UI as hesitations, but in
practice, they rarely do. There are other
sources of UI, too, but most UI rulings concern
tempo variations. How much time
is OK and how much is too long? That's really
a judgment call, but some guidelines exist. If
a skip bid was made (regardless of the use of
the warning), 10-15 seconds is expected tempo.
Substantially longer than that can produce UI.
If the bidding has reached past game, 5-10
seconds is normal tempo, with the exception of
answering aces to Blackwood. Most of us can
count to 4 without our fingers, so more than
a second or two to answer aces really shouldn't
happen. Same goes for dealing with the answer
to Blackwood. You are either off two aces or
you are not. It shouldn't take 15 seconds to
figure that out. Making a grand slam try after
Blackwood (5NT or something else) after 15
seconds of thought is fine. In any other very
complex auction, 5 seconds is reasonable tempo.
Otherwise, 2-3 seconds is normal tempo for most
people. Those are just guidelines. If the
whole table knew a player had a problem, there
Most of the time, there will be disagreement
between the sides about how long the pause was.
Usually, the disagreement will be enormous; one
side will say 2 seconds, and the other will say
a quarter century. They aren't really lying; they
believe it. Time goes a lot faster when you are
concentrating on a serious bridge problem. Time
goes a lot slower when you are concentrating on
an opponent's hesitation. If you are lucky enough
to have both sides agree that there was a real
hesitation beyond normal tempo, great. If not,
three clues are useful.
The director was there
long before you were. He will have information
that is fresher, so if he thought there was a
hesitation, there probably was.
A second clue
is the player's hand who was alleged to have
taken 25 years to bid. Consider the problem he
faced from his perspective. Was it trivial?
Did he do a normal thing? If so, and if you
judge that it would be easy from his perspective,
maybe his claim that he acted in tempo is
believable. Most of the time, he had a problem,
and it's obvious from his hand that he had a
problem. If so, it probably took him a while
to solve it.
Finally, look at his partner's
action. Was it normal? Or was it odd? Was
there something obvious he might have done
had there been no hesitation? Or did he do
something that suggested that perhaps there
was a tank by partner?
None of these clues
are perfect, but most of the time one of them
will give away whether or not there was a
real hesitation or not. Sometimes you'll have
North/South called the director and claimed
that East, after 3, thought for a while, pulled the
pass card out of the box, put it back, thought
for a while, and finally passed. East/West claimed
that there was no hesitation, that East passed in tempo.
What happened? Let's look at the cards. If you held
East's cards would you pass? Maybe, but if you did,
you'd surely think about bidding, wouldn't you? Many
would bid 3 the first time around. What about West?
He's reversed opposite a partner who couldn't make a
negative double or a competitive single raise. Does
he have any extras? Nope, just about what he said he
had. Doubling seems pretty aggressive. There
was a hesitation.
One approach that has been used a
lot and doesn't help at all is to have the
players demonstrate how long the hesitation
was. Forget it. That is just a bad idea. I
did a study in high school where I used a timer
and asked the rest of the class to tell me how
long an interval lasted. I gave them 4 seconds,
10 seconds, and a minute. Most estimates were
not within a factor of two. Without using a
watch or other methods, people cannot judge
how long short amounts of time are. They just
can't. Given that
at the same time they are thinking about solving
bridge problems, any numerical claims about
hesitation lengths you are given should be taken
with a large grain of salt. And experiments
later won't tell you anything you didn't already
Another common source of UI is the alert procedure.
Partner opens 2NT and you bid 3, normal Stayman.
Partner alerts. Great. He thinks we are playing
Puppet Stayman. You have UI. Or alternatively,
you are playing Puppet and he forgets to alert 3.
Did he forget to alert or did he forget the agreement?
Answer: 99% of the time he forgot the agreement.
That's being generous. It's more like 100%. If you
are judging the presence of UI from alert problems in
an AC, you'll almost always be told, "he never forgets
his agreements, but he often forgets to alert."
Ignore that claim.
Again, the person saying it isn't lying. He truly
believes what he's saying. He's just wrong.
Misexplanations (MIs) are very similar to alert problems.
Dealing with MI cases is the topic of another seminar,
but it's important to remember that whenever there has
been a MI, it's almost certain that there has also been
UI. Any AC handling a MI case must deal with the UI
issue from the MI or state why they decided UI was not
Step 2: Was the UI useful?
The hard part of this step is figuring out what the
UI meant. The good news is that in 1997, the lawmakers
added the word "demonstrably" to the UI laws. That means
that if you can't figure out what UI was transmitted,
more or less, the player is free to do what he wants.
Some guidelines have been developed
about what UI has been transmitted. They are
not perfect, but they are distilled from many
AC members' experience, so they
are worth considering.
As a rule, if a player thinks for a long time and makes
a nonforcing call, he has extra values. Once in a while,
he'll be offshape, but most of the time, he has extras
and was looking for a way to show them.
If a player thinks for a long time and picks a final
contract, he is probably considering alternate contracts.
They may be higher contracts, but usually they are
different contracts. It's not too hard to figure out
which those were. Four of a major or 3NT? Game or
partscore? It's usually pretty obvious if you think
about it for a little while. Partner answered aces
to Blackwood and the player thought for 15 seconds and
signed off. He's wimping out, off only one ace, not
double checking to make sure he didn't miscount. Once
in a while, he'll be off three aces and is way too high,
but those cases don't go to committee; the other side
is already pretty happy with down two or three.
On the other hand, there are two cases in which it
is rare that UI is transmitted. If the partnership
is in a forcing pass situation, and a player thinks
for a long time and passes, the pass pretty much
duplicates the hesitation's meaning. He didn't know
what to do. That's why he passed, which means, "I
don't know what to do." One caveat: if a pair uses
this argument in a situation in which it is not at
all obvious that the pass is forcing, check three things.
Would the player who passed really have passed if he
didn't think the pass was forcing? If passing would
have been idiotic if pass was not forcing, at least
he thinks it is. Would he have
had a problem if the pass was forcing or would
pass have been obvious? If so, he probably didn't
think pass was forcing. Get system notes. If they
can't supply them, unless there is strong evidence
other than the partnership's say-so, assume pass was
not forcing, and the slow pass showed extra values
The other common case in which a slow call does not
normally provide UI is when the hesitator chooses an
invitational call. Was he thinking of bidding more
or bidding less? There's no way to tell. Moreover,
he found a legal way to show his uncertainty: he
invited partner. So UI duplicated AI and the hesitator's
partner is free to act as he pleases. (As long as it's
not to go screaming around the room waving his arms madly,
Step 3: Figure out the Logical Alternatives
The laws of bridge don't actually say what exactly
entails a logical alternative. The ACBL National
Laws Commission (NLC) has stepped into this void
and defined the term. Their definition is only good within
the ACBL, but that's where most of us play. (If you
are on an AC somewhere else, find out the local
definition of LA.) The NLC's definition of a LA
is "an action that some number of the player's peers
would actually take." This is pretty vague; after all,
zero is "some number" in a sense. What they mean is
that if you were to go around the room asking the
player's peers, at least a few would take the action
and several would consider it. That's still pretty
vague, but that's what we have to work with. Setting
numerical standards turns out not to be any better than
a vague definition, and most of the time, a poll or
players' judgment will make it pretty easy to
determine what the LAs are.
Once in a while, everyone would do something different
or no one would feel even slightly confident about what
to do. Not to worry. Then treat every reasonable action
as an LA. If there are a lot of them, start with the
top five or so. For purposes of score correction,
one must follow a more specific procedure, but to discover
the LAs, just picking the ones that come
to mind reasonably quickly will usually do.
Step 4: Was the action taken demonstrably suggested by the UI?
This is pretty easy. In fact, it tends to get easier
from here. We already did the hard parts. We've more
or less figured out what the UI means in Step 2. We know
the choices. Which were more likely to be successful with
the UI than without it? If you really can't tell, most likely
the UI wasn't useful or you've made an error in one of the
earlier steps. Technically, Law 16 says that it is
an infraction to choose from among LAs one which was
demonstrably suggested by the UI over another. In
simple words, there are LAs which are suggested by
UI and ones which are not. If he picked one which
was, he broke the rules; if he picked one which wasn't,
all is copacetic. If the UI doesn't really have anything
to do with the choice, then a player may do what he
One thing that can be a little confusing, however, is
what do you do if the player actually chose an action
you didn't think was a LA? By the NLC's definition,
in a strict sense, his choice has to be an LA, but one
player in a million isn't enough to make an action an
LA. So he hasn't chosen from among logical alternatives,
so Law 16 doesn't apply. Huh? What do we do? Here's
where we fall back on Law 73. It says a player "must carefully
avoid taking advantage" of UI. If he took a wild
action that seems to be suggested by the UI, adjust
the score anyway, even though his action wasn't a LA.
As a rule, be more inclined to adjust the score if a
player chooses a non-LA in a UI situation than if he
chooses a LA. His strange action suggests that he was
influenced by UI. If the UI suggested that it would
be more likely to work out than normal, that's taking
advantage. So you must adjust.
This time, the 5 call was slow. As usual,
there wasn't exact agreement about the length of the
hesitation, but 10-12 seconds was sort of agreed.
In case you were wondering, East thought 2
was game forcing (hence the 3 bid), but
West thought it was a limit raise or better.
What can be inferred from the slow game bid?
Was West thinking about splintering or making
some slam try? Or was he thinking about inviting
game via 4? Can East tell? Probably not;
it looks like a complete guess as to what partner
is doing. So, no action is demonstrably suggested
by the hesitation; therefore, there is no UI, and
the 6 bid is allowed.
Step 5: Did the infraction damage the NOS?
This one is pretty easy, too. Most likely it did
or we wouldn't be here, but you need to be sure.
Basically, check if it is reasonably likely that
the NOS would have had a better score if the infraction
had not occurred. In complicated cases, this isn't
necessarily easy, but the laws do not tell us how to
do this other than by using our judgment.
There is one complicating factor. The NOS's bad
result (or less good one) must be a direct result
of the OS's infraction. If it is not, then there
is no adjustment. For example, if the OS illegally
got to a slam which was slated to go down, but the
NOS revoked and let them make it, the NOS's good
result is a consequence of their revoke, not of
the OS's infraction. The cause of the bad result
is said to be "subsequent" to the infraction, in
contract to its being "consequent" of the infraction.
How bad does the NOS's error after an infraction
have to be to stop them from getting redress? Pretty
bad. Egregiously bad. A normal careless error is
not sufficient. Even a major error, one out of
character for the player who made it, is not sufficient.
A real howler, however, is enough. Also, if a player
takes a wild stab at a huge result, figuring that he'll
get his score adjusted anyway if it fails, that's enough
to break the chain of causality between an infraction
and a result, but it has to be a really crazy shot. Any
somewhat normal action won't endanger the NOS's equity.
Other bridge organizations have a harsher standard
than the ACBL in this regard. Again, if you are on
an AC outside of the ACBL, and this is an issue, ask
about the local standards.
One of my favorites...a Ghestem auction. 2
systemically promised spades and clubs, but South
forgot. (What a surprise.) East asked, however,
and North correctly explained. South had UI.
In the presence of UI, South can't bid 3,
of course. We've come at least that far, I hope.
She showed the majors (in her opinion), and partner
bid 3 to play. What does she know? Partner
is an unpassed hand. He could have ten clubs. So
she's supposed to pass. She didn't, so East/West
have been damaged. N/S come to rest in 3,
a not too ridiculous spot, and West had to decide
what to do. He bid 3NT despite having no heart
stopper. The opponents then quickly ran the first
six tricks, and he looked like an idiot. Our question
here is whether or not 3NT was so awful as to prevent
E/W from getting redress for N/S's infraction. No
matter what, N/S is getting to play 3 doubled,
but the question is whether or not E/W get that result,
too. 3NT doesn't look like a good choice seeing all
four hands, but give the problem to a dozen
players and some of them will bid 3NT. Many will
seriously consider it. So 3NT isn't a blunder
(despite how bad it looks), and doesn't break the
chain of causality between the N/S infraction and
the E/W bad result. The committee ruled that the
hand had to be played in 3 down 1400.
Step 6: How do you adjust the score?
Law 12 discusses at length how to do this. (In the
ACBL, Law 12C3 isn't available, so ignore it.) To
adjust a score, you need to pick a score for the NOS
and one for the offending side (OS). The procedure for each is
different from the other, and they need not match.
For the NOS, consider all the possible results
which are likely. "Likely" is again a vague term,
but if a small set of results is substantially more
likely than the others, pick those.
If one result is twice as likely as the others,
that's the likely result. Let's say we decide
that a contract should have been played in which
declarer has to guess two queens.
Intuitively, you'd think getting one of two guesses right is the likely
result (unless I were declarer, in which case, the
only likely result is getting none right!), and you'd
be right. So in the example, we have only one likely
result, so we assign it to the NOS. If there were more
than one likely result, the NOS gets the one most
favorable to them. Let's say declarer had to guess
only one queen. Each possibility is 50%, so each is
likely. The NOS gets the result which is better for
them. In cases which are borderline, a useful guideline is
that any result which will happen more than 1/3 of the
time is likely. But if no such action is that likely,
you still have to pick a set that stands out from the
rest. Remember, that's not just the most likely action,
but all the likely actions. Then you choose the best
for the NOS.
For the OS, you need to consider all the results that
are at all probable. That's roughly any action that's
about 10%. That's a rough guidelineif your judgment
says it's not going to happen, ignore the math and
reject that possibility. For example, my getting
both queens rightthat's just not going to happen,
so you can ignore that possibility.
From among the list of results which are at all
probable, you pick the worst for the OS. In our
example where declarer had to guess two queens,
any combination of guessing and misguessing is
at all probable, so the OS gets the worst one.
Note that the two scores don't have to
match. They will most of the time, but not all
the time. Don't worry if they don't. Yeah, that
can cause a problem in a knockout match.
That's the director's problem.
You make the ruling; let him figure out who won.
All in all, the score adjustment procedure is
intended to give the NOS an equitable score, roughly
what they would have had without the opponent's law
infraction. If there are choices, they get the
benefit of any reasonable doubt. The OS gets no better than that; they
sometimes get a worse score than normal. The reason
for that is to make choosing to use UI a risky
option. If the worst that could happen was a return
to normal, using UI would be the smart thing to do.
The laws make it not so; often UI-users will get
a worse score than if they had just done the right
thing in the first place.
Matchpoints, N/S vul.
1NT was 15-17. 2 was alerted and explained
as majors. (In real life, the committee report didn't
state what the actual agreement was, but that's a
topic for a different discussion.) North/South somehow
managed to let 3 doubled make, -530. How do you
Let's go step-by-step.
- Was there UI? Yes. East had
UI from partner's alert and explanation.
- Did it supply
useful information? Yes. East knew his partner thought
he had spades. He didn't. From East's perspective,
West's spade bid is probably based on that information.
- What are the logical alternatives? Passing 2 is
surely a LA; absent the UI, there's no reason to expect
that partner's spades aren't better than East's hearts.
- Was the NOS damaged by the infraction? Surely, yes.
2x goes for a big number. Was the awful defense
to 3x the primary cause for the NOS's bad result?
No! Even if they take all seven of their tricks, +500 isn't
anything like the equity they had in 2x, so it
was the illegal 3 bid which damaged N/S, not their
- How do we adjust the score? E/W have to play
2x. What are the possible
results in 2x? It's awfully hard for North to
figure out to lead a trump; the K will get led
just about all the time. South has a decision. He
will probably duck. North continues with the J,
and South should overtake. Best play is to shift to the
K, catering to North's having A10xx, but much of
the time, South will play a low trump, and North will
win the Q. North will probably not continue
trumps. He'll either "cash" a diamond, or shift to
a heart. If he shifts to a heart, declarer will either
finesse or not. If he finesses, South will win, draw
trumps, and N/S will take all the tricks. If he wins,
he'll ruff a diamond and take two tricks. So the
possible results are down 6, 7, and 8. Are these
results at all probable? Surely down 6 and down 7
can happen. Any defenders who can manage to take only
four tricks in hearts with those cards can manage to
fail to find the good defense to take 12 tricks. Down
7 is par, many roads will lead there. How about down 8?
I think declarer, when offered a chance at -1400, will
grab it. His only chance at any matchpoints is to
hope N/S can make a vulnerable slam; there's no difference
between -1100 and -1400, so risking -1700 to get -1100
is foolish. Since declarer would have to make a
pretty severe error to go down 8, and since it's not
a sure thing he'll have a chance to make that decision,
I think down 8 is not at all probable. So the ruling
for the OS is down 7, -1700, because it's the worst of
the results at all probable. Which are the likely
results? We know N/S are not good defenders, and it
looks like it'll be quite hard to get the 12 tricks
they deserve; one of the defenders would have to make
either a good or a strange play. Either could happen,
but it's not real likely. Most of the time, they'd
get 11 tricks. So the OS gets +1400 for 2x
Steps 7 and 8: PPs and AWMW
Don't worry about them. If you are aghast that
someone would take an action that he didit's
just OBVIOUS that he wasn't even thinking along
UI terms, then ding him a quarter board if he's
an expert player. Otherwise, forget it. In the
last example, East's 3 was pretty egregious.
East was an expert player playing in a national
event. He ought to have been given a PP for
that 3 call.
If you are on the national appeals
committee, you have to think about AWMWs. Otherwise,
even though you are upset that some moron
(technical definition: other bridge player)
wasted your time, that's just too bad. The AC
chair may file a recorder form with the player's
home district or unit, but beyond that, if it
was that obvious, you didn't waste much time,
so get over it. Everyone's likely upset enough
about the case. Telling someone that he was
an idiot for even considering his case is unlikely
to improve matters.
Use common sense. If you have UI, and you can't
figure out what to do, do something normal. If
you have two or more normal things you might do,
do something that isn't suggested by the UI. Simple.
Be reasonable. Accidentally transmitting UI is no
crime. It's not even against the laws of bridge.
It happens. If an opponent is in that situation,
assume he's trying to avoid using it just as you
would. If you have strong evidence that he didn't
succeed, call the director nicely and have him figure
out what to do. If it turns out that he took an
action suggested by UI, assume that he made an
error, not that he is a scoundrel. Even if you
already know he is a scoundrel.
If you are on an AC, try to stay focussed. Random
discussion will extend the length of the hearing
and they are already too long. Try to use the checklist
or one like it. If that's too formal for your taste,
at least try to figure out the key issues and focus on
the ones which are not clear.
Above all, it's only a game. Try to avoid hard
feelings even if you think you are being jobbed.
Probably your opponent is feeling stuck too and
won't appreciate getting yelled at. Sometimes you
encounter a real scoundrel who will take any
unfair advantage. Get your redress and laugh it
off. You wouldn't spend the rest of your life
worrying about that sort of person (lawyers and
politicians, ignore this paragraph), so don't
spend your bridge life worrying about them.
They'll get theirs. Try to break even and
don't worry about more than that.
Jeff Goldsmith, November, 2004