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Please could you comment on these three example situations?

Example 1
1NT overcalled by 2D (showing the majors), bid of a major, 3D now showing a single suit overcall. Must it be adjusted to a major suit?

Example 2
1NT - P - 2D - P
2H - P - 3D - P
(2D is alerted as transfer to H). Must this be adjusted to 2H or 3H, or must the assumption be made that responder is showing a strong hand in H and D, forcing to game?

Example 3
We play transfer pre-empts -
3D - P - 3H - P
This is to play, the only way that declarer can get to play in 3NT is to bid 3 of any suit other than spades and rebid 3NT. Must this be adjusted to 3H?

The simple answer...

It depends....

The less simple answer...

There are two entirely different types of Director Rulings, perhaps easiest illustrated by analogies from the world of motoring.

  • There is a Law which roughly reads "You must not exceed the speed limit .... and if you do, the penalty is...." Equivalent examples from the world of Bridge are 'lead out of turn' and 'insufficient bid', where both the 'offence' and the redress are clear-cut. Rulings of this sort are called 'Book Rulings' and there is a clear 'correct' answer set out in the latest issue of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge in each situation
  • There is also a Law that says "You must not drive dangerously." An incident occurs, and now it is a question of judgement as to whether that incident is an example of dangerous driving, or perhaps the lesser offence of careless driving, or maybe, it was just one of those things, and no offence at all was committed. Judgements in situations like this one rely heavily on case-law, precedence, and interpretation, and can only be resolved by taking into account the detailed circumstances of the specific incident. In Bridge terms, equivalent situations are called 'Judgement Rulings'.

All three of the examples posed are Judgement Rulings, so the simple answer to all three is 'It depends...'

There are three areas of Bridge Law that could be relevant in each of the examples:
  1. Is there any evidence of misinformation having been given? If so, can it be shown that it damaged the opponents?
  2. Is there any evidence that unauthorised information has been given? If so, is there any evidence that partner's subsequent bidding was influenced by it?
  3. It might also be pertinent to consider whether any bids fall into the realms of a psyche.
The Director might also take into account the level of experience of the players involved. For example, the Director might judge that an experienced regular partnership 'should know better' whereas for an unfamiliar pairing of inexperienced players the Director might exercise leniency and simply advise the offender about the problems he / she has caused.

A detailed look at the first example

The first question to consider is whether any misinformation was imparted, and if so, whether it damaged the opponents. In reaching judgements about misinformation, the system card is critical.
  1. The system cards lists all possible meanings of the bid, and
  2. Any explanations given were consistent with the card and included all possibilities
then no misinformation has been given, and the 'offender' is clear on this particular point - though one or other of the the other two points might apply.
But if, for example, the card says 'both majors, or a hand that wants to play in 3D' and the explanation given was simply 'both majors', then the opponents might be able to claim 'damage' if they can show they were put off bidding a major due to the incomplete explanation given. If the system card is silent (i.e. blank) as to the meaning of the bid then as Directors we are advised to interpret the bid as 'natural', i.e, shows diamonds. If that was alerted and described as 'both majors' then there is a clear example of misinformation, and an adjusted score would be awarded if it is clear that the opponents would have taken different action in the absence of the misinformation.

Another possibility is that the 'offender' knew full well that the 2D bid showed both majors, but had 'forgotten' that their agreed method for bidding a single suited hand with diamonds was to overcall 3D rather than 2D, and so had 'made up an agreement' on the spot that 2D followed by 3D was a natural diamond suit - without telling partner. In this situation, providing the system card and the explanations given were both complete and consistent - ie, both simply described 2D as 'both majors' - then it is deemed that no misinformation has been given, and the offender is clear on this count - though one or other of the the other two points might apply. The information given must describe the system agreement fully and accurately; that isn't the same as saying 'The information given must describe the hand opposite fully and accurately', which is in fact immaterial.

So now, turning to the question as to whether unauthorised information has been given and acted upon: in this example this issue is difficult to judge without talking to the players involved. For example, if the the 'offender' was oblivious to the fact that he had misbid, he might be alerted to the fact when partner alerted the 2D and then explained the system agreement as set out on the card. Unauthorised information has now been passed to the 2D bidder, but has the offender actually acted upon it? If 2D was bid meaning 'natural diamonds' then that hand should carry on bidding the hand as 'natural diamonds', and so a bid of 3D would be OK. However, the 2D bidder MUST be very careful for he is at risk of additionally conveying unauthorised information to his partner. If there is ANY suggestion that the 2D bidder was, by whatever (illegal) means, able to convey the message 'whoops, I forgot the system', then his PARTNER is now in possession of unauthorised information that must be ignored. So the Director would then take all this bidding at face value: 2D shows both majors, 2H shows preference for hearts, so what would 3D mean? If this was a pair of beginners I'd probably let it stand, subject to giving them advice about trying not to get the system wrong. If it was a pair of experienced players, I might judge that 3D must be some kind of trial bid in Diamonds, agreeing hearts, and that therefore, if PARTNER has been given the unauthorised 'I messed up' message, I would rule that he should sign off in either 3H or 4H, depending on his holding in the diamond suit and the overall hand strength.

The residual question is whether or not the 2D bid is a psyche. I would be very unlikely to rule that it was, but I suppose it is theoretically feasible to look upon it that way. A psyche is a 'deliberate gross distortion of the hand in terms of high card strength and / or suit length'. If the 2D bid promises length in both majors that isn't actually borne out in practice and if the offender was aware that was the meaning of the bid, then the distortion is deliberate and gross, and potentially the bid was a psyche. If it was an experienced player I would be more tempted to call it a psyche, but a classification as a 'misbid' is more likely.

The other two examples

Exactly the same principles can be applied to the other two examples, and neither can be absolutely judged without talking to the players involved and examining the system cards. My 'gut feelings', subject to confirmation when in possession of full details:
  • Second example: who knows what is going on here? If the 2D hand was in fact natural in diamonds, then that hand is in possession of unauthorised information as soon as the bid has been alerted by partner and described as a transfer to hearts; the 2D hand should carry on bidding the hand as 'natural in diamonds', i.e., 3D is OK, and his partner can then do whatever he likes, e.g., risk passing out when 4H is lay-down, or bid 4H and play in a 4-1 fit. If, however, there is any suggestion that the 2D hand has conveyed the message 'I messed up' then now the 1NT opener has unauthorised information that should be ignored, in which case I would rule that the 3D bid was game forcing and natural, asking the 1NT hand to choose between 3NT, 4H, or 5D
  • Third example: I note that this situation actually arose at the club on July 2nd 2009, resulting in an entry in the club's report book - see Report 24. The simple answer is that if 3D means EITHER a transfer to a pre-emptive 3H opening OR a hand that wanted to open 3NT, then the system card and the explanations should say that. I can't see why that particular hand from July 2009 could not have been bid by more normal methods; I would expect the "OR a hand that wanted to open 3NT" option to mean specifically an ACOL 'gambling 3NT' type hand, in which case that point should be made clear.

Incorrect bids

Players also need to remember that anyone is entitled to bid anything they like apart from:
  1. psyching or mis-bidding a Multi 2D opening in a lowly graded event, or
  2. making a bid that is influenced by unauthorised information imparted by partner, or
  3. an insufficient bid unless it is accepted by the following player in rotation

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