Unauthorized Information

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.

The Laws

Two main laws are used to deal with UI cases. Law 16, "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 them.

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.

Authorized Information:

Unauthorized Information:

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 problem—you 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 beholder!

S: 1076
H: Q2
D: J4
C: Q109432
S: A32
H: 10864
D: AKQ62
C: 8
S: KQJ984
H: AK973
S: 5
H: J5
D: 1098753
C: K765
6S:Pass7S:All Pass
2D: was game forcing, 5C: showed three key cards, and 6D: showed one king. After a moderately long pause, West signed off in 6S:, and East carried on.

Without lots of detail, what could West have been thinking about before bidding 6S:? 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 7S: 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 6S:.

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 intentional cheating.

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  S:AQJ74 H:K4 D:J C:108542 as South. The bidding starts:

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 Blackwood—no 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.
  1. Was there UI?
    If not (no UI), you're done, no adjustment.
  2. Did it supply useful information?
  3. Figure out the logical alternatives.
  4. Figure out what would have happened and whether or not advantage was gained by the use of UI.
  5. 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 later.
  6. Was the infraction blatant, and ought the player to have known better?
  7. 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 checklist step-by-step.

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 was UI.

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 to guess.

S: 98
H: 83
D: AJ5
C: KQ10986
S: KQ64
H: AKQ105
D: K10
C: J7
S: 10532
H: J962
D: Q2
C: 542
S: AJ7
H: 74
D: 987643
C: A3
DblPass3H:All Pass
North/South called the director and claimed that East, after 3C:, 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 3H: 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 know.

Another common source of UI is the alert procedure. Partner opens 2NT and you bid 3C:, 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 3C:. 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 relevant.

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 via UI.

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, of course.)

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 pleases.

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.

S: 106
H: J9653
D: KJ1054
C: 2
S: QJ92
H: A104
C: Q109854
S: 3
H: Q2
D: AQ63
C: AKJ763
S: AK8754
H: K87
D: 9872
5C:Pass6C:All Pass
This time, the 5C: 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 2S: was game forcing (hence the 3C: 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 4C:? 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 6C: 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.

S: 942
H: QJ7
D: 32
C: J9854
S: AJ8
H: 32
D: A865
C: AQ107
S: K3
H: 98
D: KQJ97
C: K632
S: Q10765
H: AK10654
D: 104
3NTAll Pass
One of my favorites...a Ghestem auction. 2D: 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 3H:, of course. We've come at least that far, I hope. She showed the majors (in her opinion), and partner bid 3C: 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 3S:, 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 3C: 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 3C: 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 guideline—if your judgment says it's not going to happen, ignore the math and reject that possibility. For example, my getting both queens right—that'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.

S: AQ108
H: 92
D: KQJ87
C: A8
S: 762
H: Q6
D: 95
C: J96542
S: J
H: AJ10853
D: 1062
C: 1073
S: K9543
H: K74
D: A43
All Pass
1NT was 15-17. 2H: 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 3H: doubled make, -530. How do you rule?

Let's go step-by-step.

Steps 7 and 8: PPs and AWMW

Don't worry about them. If you are aghast that someone would take an action that he did—it'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 3H: was pretty egregious. East was an expert player playing in a national event. He ought to have been given a PP for that 3H: 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