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East / West 'get lucky' after a mis-bid

Hand played on:


Board number / section:





Both Vulnerable

The Hands and the Bidding

A 8 4 3
7 5
A 5
A K 10 9 2
A 8 6 4 3
Q 7 6 4
Q J 6
K Q J 10 9
K Q 10 9 2
8 5 3

The Bidding
7 6 5
K J 10 9 8 3 2
7 4





  1. Announced as 14+ to 18-
  2. Alerted and described as "hearts and a minor"


Clearly, East does not have the two suits that West described. In situations such as this example, it is critical to ascertain exactly what is the East / West system agreement. The ruling is critically dependents as to whether:
  • West has given a correct explanation of the system agreement, but East made a mis-bid (ie, East 'forgot the system') OR
  • West has given an incorrect explanation, i.e., West 'forgot the system' and incorrectly described East's correct bid
In the first situation, in order to avoid an adverse score adjustment, West must show no evidence of having 'fielded' the mis-bid. On this particular example, it was EAST who had made a mistake: West correctly described the bid as per the partnership's agreement, and then correctly bid the hand in accordance with that agreement.

East should have bid 2 under the partnership agreement to show 'spades and another suit'. North / South argued that had East correctly bid the hand, then 4 would not have been doubled, and instead South would have bid 5.


East has mis-bid, but West has not given misinformation, nor has West 'fielded' the mis-bid, and so there is no score adjustment appropriate. East can be criticised for not pointing out his mis-bid prior to North selecting the opening lead - he has been alerted to his mis-bid by partner's alert and explanation. East was rather fortunate to find partner with 5-card support for the suit that he had specified; had West's major suit holdings been reversed, for example, then East / West could have finished up in a very silly contract. But in part, North / South brought about their own downfall on this board: had North chosen to start with the lead of a top club - as many players would have chosen - and had South given an appropriate signal, then North / South can take the first three tricks, and later claim the A, then 4* would have failed by one trick, giving NS a 'second top' score on the board, rather than the 'second bottom' they actually realised. Note that a 5 contract by South would not have yielded a good outcome for North / South. North would have had a worthy case for consideration for a score adjustment had he claimed that East's failure to point out the mis-bid had caused him to choose other than a top club opening lead; there is no certainty that it would have been a successful case, however.

The Ruling:

No score adjustment is appropriate.

Lessons for everyone:

  • A mis-bid does not automatically lead to a score adjustment - providing that the partner describes the bid accurately in accordance with the actual system agreement, and then subsequently bids his hand accordingly. However, it will often be the case that after a mis-bid, the partnership will steer themselves into a silly contract, and, indeed, could be judged to be quite lucky if they avoid such an outcome by legitimate subsequent bidding.
  • Note that if either Declarer or Dummy has made a misbid, then the opponents should be alerted to that fact by the player who has made the mis-bid before the opening lead is selected. If either Defender made a mis-bid, then attention should not been drawn to that fact until the hand has been played out - to do otherwise would further complicate the situation by passing 'unauthorised information' to partner.
  • On the other hand, if a player gives misinformation by incorrectly describing the partnership agreement, then an adjusted score will be awarded if the opponents can demonstrate that they were 'damaged' by the misinformation.

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