Board 27
Vul: None
Dealer: South

North (Moss)

S  J T 4
H  K J 8 7 5 4
D  7 6
C  7 5






West (Cheek)

S   A Q 8 7 5
H   9 6
D   Q
C   A K Q J 9

East (Bertens)

S  K 9 2
H  A 2
D  A K J 4 3
C  8 4 2


South (Grue)

S  6 3
H  Q T 3
D  T 9 8 5 2
C  T 6 3


N        E           S        W      
                        P       1S
P        2D        P       3C
P        3S        P       4C*
P        4NT       P       5C**
P        5S***    P       6C****      
P        6S***** P       7NT
All Pass

* Cuebid (3NT would be H cue)
** 0 or 3 Keycards for Spades
*** 34 seconds
**** 3 Keycards with SQ and CK
***** 85 seconds


Table Result: Making 7, EW +1520

Director's Ruling: 6S making 7, EW +1010

Director's Explanation:

West says that it was only after the 6 a bid that he noticed he had two, and not three, keycards.
East wrote to North after 6C "He gave the wrong response to 4NT."

Three players were polled. Two said that the break in tempo definitely suggested that the partnership was not off a keycard, and a prompt 6S would not give that inference. One player constructed the following hand that he said was consistent with East's auction, but would be off two keycards:
D AKJxxx
C x
The third player said it was not clear what was going on at all, but he couldn't imagine going on over 6S.

It was ruled that the unauthorized information of East's slow 6S demonstrably suggested bidding on over passing and that pass was a logical alternative. The result was adjusted to 6S by West making 7.


Appeals Committee Ruling


The committee noted that it operates under ACBL procedures, but that those differ little from WBF procedures. In both jurisdictions, the TD ruling is initially presumed to be correct and the appellants must present arguments as to why they believe the TD's ruling is mistaken either as to bridge law or bridge judgment.


West spoke for the appellants. He noted that he realized he had miscounted his key cards shortly after he made his 6C bid and the tray had been passed to the other side. He pointed out that East must have at least two key cards to use RKCB, and that if East had held only two key cards he would have asked for the queen of trump. By inference, then, East must have held three key cards. He also needed at least one red king to take control of the auction, so thirteen tricks would be available if the spades broke evenly or perhaps even if they did not.

East also spoke to explain why he had hesitated, and that his hesitation over 6C was because he was considering passing it.

North spoke for the appellees. He noted that it was entirely possible that West had been "woken up" to the possibility that he has miscounted his key cards by East's two hesitations. He also noted the long delay before the 7N bid and thought that if the logic behind it were so clear it might well have been made sooner.

The committee asked about the E/W methods and was told that neither 3C nor 4C promised extra values - they were consistent with a minimum opener with a club control and no heart control.

The committee's reasoning

The committee addressed three questions per Law 16:

Was there UI?

Yes, both the slow 5S bid and the slow 6S bid provided unauthorized information to West. The auction was such that it could only have been East who was thinking. The times were taken from the video record, so there could be no dispute of this. 

Did the UI demonstrably suggest the action chosen (7N) over a less successful alternative (Pass)?

Clearly, it did. The TD's poll showed this, as well as straightforward bridge logic. A slow 6S must suggest the possibility of an alternative contract, almost certainly one at a higher level.

Was the less successful action, here "Pass", a logical alternative?

This was the crux of the matter. West's logic seemed compelling. East needed to hold three key cards and a red king for his bidding to make sense. But many players would not get this far. How many of us, having miscounted our key cards, stop to recount them? West's reasoning would apply equally well over 5S - this confirms his testimony that he realized his error only after his 6C call. Regardless of when West in fact noted that he held only two key cards his actions were consistent with those of a player who had realized that he had miscounted only because of partner's long delay before bidding 6S. A pass would be considered by most players who had miscounted their key cards, and many would in fact pass, as demonstrated by the TD's poll and consistent with the AC's judgment.

The USBF General Conditions of Contest read:

        A bidding tray returned in 15 seconds or less normally creates the presumption that there is no Unauthorized Information (UI). A tray returned after a longer period may be considered to have made UI available if it is apparent that one side is responsible for the delay.
Given that the auction was at a high level East might have been allowed a little more time than that. Had he made his admittedly difficult decisions within 15 seconds or so his partner would normally have had no UI and could have done as he pleased. East was free to take more time, but only at the risk of creating UI that constrained his partner's decisions.

The ruling

The committee agreed with the TD that West's call over 6S was constrained by Law 16 and that passing was a logical alternative demonstrably suggested by UI. Accordingly, it ruled as the TD had, adjusting the result for both sides to 6S making seven.

Appeals Committee

Adam Wildavsky, Chairman
Beth Palmer, Member
Kerri Sanborn, Member