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A Hesitation followed by a pass doesn't always lead to a score adjustment

Hand played on:


Board number / section:






The Hands and the Bidding

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

The Bidding
A K Q J 9 8
8 3
A J 10
Q 4



  1. Acknowledged long hesitation
  2. The validity of this bid was challenged


The facts on this board are not in dispute - after a long pause by West, East re-opened the bidding with a 3 bid, the validity of which was challenged.


Normally, when a hesitation is made, it is because the hand has additional values over and above those already shown. West has already come in with a 2-over-1 vulnerable overcall and does not have any values to spare; in particular, with only five cards in his own suit, and only two in partner's suit, but four in the opponent's suit, there is nothing to think about and a pass ought to be automatic and smooth. By hesitating, West has conveyed an impression of holding additional values - but that is a false impression!

This issue brings us into the realms of 'Unauthorised Information'. One problem here is that the 'Unauthorised Information' is actually false information. There is a separate article on this website that looks at the issue in detail - see the note here. That advice makes clear that a only adjusts the score if:

  1. There is unauthorised information [UI] from partner, and
  2. There is a logical alternative [LA] to the action chosen, and
  3. The UI suggests the chosen action over the LA, and
  4. The opposition are damaged by that choice.
It takes all four points to be satisfied before an adjustment is appropriate. For point 1, yes, there was Unauthorised Information passed, albeit false information; for point 2, 'Pass' is certainly a 'Logical Alternative', as is 3; for point 3, the hesitation hardly suggests that West should now bid 3 on that particular hand - surely, if East had felt encouraged to bid again, the logical bid to make would be 3. For point 4, South missed an opportunity to achieve a very good Match-Pointed score simply by passing out the 3 bid, which, according to the hand analysis sheet, should fail by two tricks, vulnerable, which would translate as a 'second top' score for North / South.... Far from damaging North / South, East's bid offered an opportunity for a much improved score.

The Ruling:

No score adjustment is appropriate.

Lessons for everyone:

  • It is NOT NECESSARILY the case that the partner of the player giving the unauthorised information has to pass.
  • If there is nothing to think about, then pass smoothly. If you pass after a hesitation, you will put your partner under pressure.
  • Always bid in accordance with the cards that you can see in your hand and the valid contributions to the bidding that partner has made. You should aim not to be swayed by any 'Unauthorised' Information, such as a hestitation, or any extraneous comment or mannerism.
  • You are allowed to make full use of any 'Unauthorised' Information that you perceive that your opponents have exchanged, but you do so entirely at your own risk.
  • Especially in the match-pointed pairs format, do not lightly pass over the opportunity to score the 'magic' +200, which virtually always provides an above average score.

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