2021 Mixed USBC USA2 Stage 1
The Facts: South led the ♥ J (0 or 2 higher, so North knew South did not have the king) to trick one, which went to the Q, A, and 3. North switched to the ♦ J to the 5, 3 (upside down), and 4. North next led the ♥ 8. South’s ♦ 3 play took 110 seconds.
The Ruling: After the hand EW requested a ruling, noting that they thought continuing a diamond at trick three was a possibility and the tempo of the ♦ 3 may have suggested that switching back to hearts was correct.
The Polling: Three players were polled regarding the players’ second point of whether South’s tempo suggested reverting to hearts; all three agreed that it strongly did so. Five players were polled on North’s defensive decisions. Four would play back the ♥ 8 immediately, rather than play the ♦ J; one agreed with the ♦ J play. Three of those who would lead the ♥ 8 considered the ♦ J. The three players who considered the ♦ J but ultimately decided against it all thought it was very clear to lead a heart to trick 3. The player who did not consider the ♦ J would have continued diamonds, and the player who would have chosen the ♦ J wanted to continue diamonds, but thought it was very close between that and a heart.
Law 16B. Extraneous Information from Partner
1. Any extraneous information from partner that might suggest a call or play is unauthorized. This includes remarks, questions, replies to questions, unexpected alerts or failures to alert, unmistakable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement or mannerism.
(a) A player may not choose a call or play that is demonstrably suggested over another by unauthorized information if the other call or play is a logical alternative.
(b) A logical alternative is an action that a significant proportion of the class of players in question, using the methods of the partnership, would seriously consider, and some might select.
Law 73C. Player Receives Unauthorized Information from Partner
1. When a player has available to him unauthorized information from his partner, such as from a remark, question, explanation, gesture, mannerism, undue emphasis, inflection, haste or hesitation, an unexpected alert or failure to alert, he must carefully avoid taking any advantage from that unauthorized information [see Law 16B1(a)].
Law 12C. Awarding an Adjusted Score
1.(a) When after an irregularity the Director is empowered by these laws to adjust a score and is able to award an assigned adjusted score, he does so. Such a score replaces the score obtained in play.
(b) The Director in awarding an assigned adjusted score should seek to recover as nearly as possible the probable outcome of the board had the infraction not occurred.
The Director judged that two of five pollees’ continuation of diamond plays constituted a logical alternative, and the three pollees’ responses showed that leading a heart was demonstrably suggested by South’s extraneous information.
A hand analyst was consulted, who said that after South won the assigned diamond continuation, they would revert to hearts; declarer would win this and take a club finesse, setting up his seventh trick before the defense was able to untangle their tricks. Based on this analysis the Director assigned a score of seven tricks to EW.
The Appeal: NS appealed this ruling, as they felt there was no logical alternative to the play of the ♥ 8 and no path to a seventh trick by continuing diamonds.
The Decision: The Appeals Committee requested no player or team names be known before their decision was made, though they did ask for the strength of player who was sitting North. They felt strongly that the only ‘bridge play’ at trick three was to switch back to the ♥ 8, despite the polling results. When the problem was given to the Committee, but before they heard the polling results, they thought the ruling had gone the other way upon polling saying there was no logical alternative, and were thinking it to be a meritless appeal. They were surprised to hear that the polling had found two players who would continue diamonds. They ultimately determined that the polling was flawed and/or the pollees did not give the problem enough attention. The Committee returned to the table result of 1 NT down one.
The Committee: Ralph Katz, chair; Kerri Sanborn; Danny Sprung