Jeff Lehman

Ethical dilemma

I was faced with an unusual ethical dilemma at a tournament this past week.

As East in second hand, I hold 543 AT4 KJ3 K983.  RHO passes as does LHO.  In fourth chair, partner opens 1.  Pass to me.

I have two choices, bid 2NT, which we define as 11-12, or bid 1NT, downgrading my hand because of its flat distribution and giving partner a little rope for his fourth chair opening.  So, what’s the problem?  A bridge player has to make decisions such as this one all the time.  Just use your best judgment and live with the result, right?

Ah, but there is a fly in the ointment.  You see, my hand came to me all sorted.  Holding a balanced eleven count and hearing three passes around you, don’t you think that receiving your hand all sorted suggests that the previous table passed this hand out?  That suggestion seems unauthorized information to me.  But it is not UI caused by my partner; it is UI caused by the player who passed me the board.  What to do?

I finally decided on a two-pronged strategy.  One, I was going to respond 1NT, because I strongly felt that that would be my response without having seen my hand come sorted … and it hardly seems fair to take a call I would not otherwise have taken just because of something that happened at another table, not mine.  Two, I was going to call the director before the hand was scored so that the opponents would be protected in case they felt my judgment was clouded by the pre-sorting of my hand.

Well, here was the complete hand:

Dealer: N

Vul: NS





















Hmm, as dummy was placed, I was thinking that most Wests would open in fourth chair, but I could envisage some passing, given that the West hand has only two spades.  At any rate, my South opponent decided to lead the 2 against my 1NT contract.  Only later did I come to realize that his choice of major suit to lead would be an unpopular one.  But while a heart lead would give away a trick, all that the chosen spade lead did was cause me discarding problems.  On the fourth round of spades, I chose to discard what turned out to be a winning club from my hand while I discarded one from each red suit from dummy.  In the end, I scored only seven tricks for a well-below average score.  Still, +90 was a better score than the -50 I would have scored if declaring 2NT.  I did follow through on calling the director and explaining the situation.  The opponents were impressed … and the table score stood.


Bobby WolffMay 4th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Hi Jeff,

For what it is worth, I’ll give you my slant, although I realize you didn’t ask for it.

Once you opt to play the hand, whatever happened would be official +90 EW (for, this time, a well below average score for you).

If you had opted to call the TD and (away from the table) to then ask the TD what you should do, (and if I were he), would suggest that you do not play the hand whereupon I, for perhaps the only time I have ever suggested such a thing, give both your side and the opponents AV+ (perhaps a 7 (58.33%) on a 12 top or both pairs their percentage score for the entire game if higher than the above percentage. I would also search out the previous table which passed your table the board and reduce the score on that board of the erring player’s partnership by perhaps 2 points (maybe only 1) for failure to mix up his (or her) cards, heretofore not a penalty, but one which I would promote as a vehicle to keep it from happening as often as it does.

A problem as I see it, is that TD’s are not educated properly in the need to actively police and rigidly demand ethical and orderly compliance with what is (and should be) all the players joining together by making our competitions the best and fairest they can be.

As a historical point Edgar Kaplan, the man most responsible for the formulations of both our laws and procedures, often wrote and said that he did not trust normal TD’s and even the formed committees to hear possible appeals with the judgment of heretofore new and original challenges and the judgments involved.

Consequently we are left with unsolved and basically undiscovered solutions which should formulate a method of settling many disputes.

However I am perfectly willing to venture that if today this confrontation did occur I would not expect any unanimity to follow, but, at least, the seed is planted for both preventing it from happening, but when and if it does, a possible workable and successful conclusion will emerge.

Jeff LehmanMay 4th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Bobby, always happy to hear your perspective. No need to apologize for presenting it.

I decided not to call for the director right away for a couple of reasons of expediency: (1) “delay of game”: at this tournament it seemed to take a long time for directors to get to the table (based upon the times I heard players call for the director and then have to call again), and so it seemed more time sensitive to play the hand and then call when responding to the call would not take away from time for playing this hand or the next; and (2) desire not to affect the result: the mere act of calling the director might alter the result of the defense by tipping them off to the nature of my hand; better I thought to play on and then inform the opponents so that they could evaluate/opine whether my bidding was affected by my cards being sorted.

I think I did mention when the director was called the fact that my cards should not have been sorted, which is sort of an inducement for the director to at least speak to the offenders. I routinely do this when the board arrives with a boxed card, even when noone else notices.

BrianMay 11th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Hi Jeff,

There are three points:

Without a doubt you should call the director forthwith, as per Law 16 sub C. Especially once you realized there was a potential issue.

Score – I see no reason not to allow you to play the board. Only if you get an unusual result should the TD consider adjusting the issue. If a “normal’ result (as occurred) can be obtained, why not try to obtain one. If it turned out that you played 1NT, and every other partnership who opened North’s hand played in 2NT down one, then maybe an adjustment is required.

Other Table – Law 7 state the cards “should” be shuffled prior to be returned to the board. To me, this means it up to the directors discretion to determine if a verbal warning or a penalty should be issued, based on the level of event and the experience of the player.

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