Board: 51
Vul: E-W
Dealer: S

West (Eldad Ginossar)
North (Jeff Meckstroth)
S  K Q J 9 5 3
H  Q 7 5 3
D  --
C  Q 3 2

East (Chris Willenken)

S   8 6 4 2
H  A 10 9 8
D  J 7 2
C  A 6

S  A
H  K 4 2
D  A K 10 9 5 3
C  10 8 3
  South (Eddie Wold)
S  10 7
H  J 6
D  Q 8 6 4
C  K J 8 7 4


S        W         N        E      
P        P         1S      2D 
P       2S        3S     DBL*
P**    4H***    P        5D
All Pass


* alerted, not concurrently explained. South clicked to inquire (twice); East explained as "cards."

** 36 seconds, including the time for inquiry and explanation.

*** Took 1 minute, 12 seconds. Collectively with South's call, the virtual tray returned to the NE side of the screen in 1 minute and 48 seconds.


Table Result: 11 tricks; 600 for EW


The Director Call:

During the last deal of the segment (Bd 60), South was the dummy and came to the Directors to request a ruling on a board from earlier in the segment. South claimed that his screenmate took extra time to bid 4H. After the match, North was asked about the hand. He stated that he had noticed the hesitation but was more focused on playing the remainder of the hands than on whether he was damaged by a potential violation of the laws.

Facts determined by the directors:

The directors were able to determine from the system summaries and convention cards submitted by each pair that the North-South pair play a big club system. Similarly, the directors were able to verify that the East-West pair play fit-showing jumps in auctions such as this one.

The East player further stated that they did not bypass heart suits that were five cards or longer to cuebid in support of partner’s minor. The Directors were unable to substantiate this agreement or style.

Under USBF regulations, neither the late timing of the request for the ruling nor the fact that it was the screenmate (South) rather than the opponent on the other side of the screen determining the amount of time taken to bid 4H remove the rights of the side requesting a ruling, though the latter does hold less weight than if the director call had been initiated on the other side of the screen without consultation between the partners.


The Directors conducted a poll to determine three things:

1) whether a player in East’s position could tell that the time taken on the South-West side of the virtual screen was unmistakably due to a hesitation by the West player

2) whether the break in tempo demonstrably suggested that 5Dwould be more successful than another action

3) whether the suggested action(s) were logical alternatives to 5D.

Five anonymous players were given the verified agreements of both partnerships and the East hand. The players were asked what they would do at each stage of the auction. The majority of players passed 4H and believed that a slow 4H bid suggested that West had fewer than five hearts. One of the players polled stated it this way:

"The longer it takes, the fewer hearts partner has."

When another player was asked about how his analysis fit within the context that the agreements of the pair in question who play fit-showing jumps and, as a matter of style, do not bypass 2H with five or more hearts, the player offered that West might not be good enough to bypass 3D.

"A passed hand cuebid doesn’t have to be all that...and while, stylistically, the pair might not bypass heart suits, the heart suit might not have been good enough to mention."

The results of the poll determined that a) the break in tempo demonstrably suggested that 5D might fare better than Pass, and b) Pass was a logical alternative to 5D.

However, the responses to the question of unmistakable hesitation were as follows: two of the five players thought it was likely that the 4♥ bid was after a break in tempo by West, though because of South’s request(s) for information it was not unmistakable, another thought it was 4:1 that West vs South took time, the fourth player could not tell at all whether it was West or South who took time, and the last player polled said “The longer it takes, the fewer hearts partner has.”

Law 16 says in part:

Any extraneous information from partner that might suggest a call or play is unauthorized. This includes remarks, questions, replies to questions, unexpected alerts or failure to alert, unmistakable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement, or mannerism. (emphasis added).

The Directors’ conclusion was that this break in tempo did not transmit an unmistakable hesitation to the other side of the virtual screen, and therefore the other provisions of Law 16B did not apply. The table result of 5D, making 5 (EW +600) was allowed to stand.

The Appeal:

The appellants agreed and found no fault with the poll conducted by the directors concerning the questions of whether Pass was a logical alternative and whether Pass was demonstrably suggested by the unauthorized information. However, they disagreed with the validity of the poll and the directors’ conclusions concerning the question of whether the break in tempo transmitted an unmistakable hesitation to the other side of the virtual screen.

The appellants contended that a player who had no action over 2D could not now be thinking about what to do over East’s double.

The non-appellants did not necessarily agree with the finding of the poll that Pass was a logical alternative to 5D, but they agreed that the crux of the situation was East’s perspective after the virtual tray came back from the SW side of the screen. They contended that South’s repeated queries, especially non-vulnerable vs. vulnerable, could have been predicated on a decision to save in 4♠ or something similar. Further, they suggested that West’s time was likely spent on decision of level, not strain. That is, West was determining whether to bid 4D (signoff, minimum for previous actions) or continue on to game. Once West decided on committing the partnership to game, it was EW style to show the playable 4-card heart suit along the way to 5D, in case East also had 4 hearts or a suitable hand to play the 4-3 heart fit.

East and West re-emphasized that their style did not allow for West to have a five-card heart suit, as West could either bid 2H with 5 and willingness to be passed in 2H, or show a fit-showing jump with 3H, even with only three diamonds. This is based upon a fairly sound 2D overcall style that usually contains six diamonds, hence three–card support is usually a nine-card fit. East claimed he thought briefly about his hand’s suitability for playing the 4-3 heart fit, determined it was likely he would be tapped out, and decided the diamond game would be more likely to be successful.

The Committee Findings:

The committee was split concerning the question of whether Pass was a logical alternative to 5D. Two members thought there was no logical alternative to 5D because, as stated by West during the proceeding and in their own bridge judgement, West could not have five or more hearts because he did not bid 2H over his partner’s bid.

While the committee largely disagreed with the results of the poll concerning the questions of whether there was a less favorable logical alternative or whether the less favorable action was suggested, the committee also believed this disagreement was irrelevant, because Law 16 requires an unmistakable hesitation. The committee believed that the South’s query could create enough doubt in East’s mind about who took the time on the other side of the screen. They concluded unanimously that the directors’ poll and their conclusion that the break in tempo did not transmit an unmistakable hesitation to the other side of the virtual screen were valid, and upheld the ruling.


Appeals Committee

Jacob Morgan, Chairman
Tom Carmichael, Member
George Jacobs, Member