Jeff Lehman

Improper ethics at the club

I am going to get a couple of hands off my chest, so that I can rid myself of the frustration of bad ethics at the local club, and proceed to write about interesting hands in another blog.

OK, I admit to the sins of not calling the director on these hands.  (And also to the sin on Board 7 of shaking my head when dummy showed with such a weak hand.)  I know I should call the director, but I often do not at a club game.  Happily, my partner and I were rewarded in another way, because on each of the boards that are subjects of my complaints, we received excellent scores.

Dealer: (18) E

Vul: NS



















West North East South
P P!
1NT (12-14) Dbl (alert) P (alert) 2 (no alert!)
P 4 Dbl 5
Dbl 5 Dbl All pass

The explanation of the Cappelletti double was not too accurate, since South described it not as “penalty”, but as 12-14 balanced; i.e., same as West hand.  East’s pass was alerted.  South asked West all sorts of questions about the alerted Pass by East.  West properly explained that, in this partnership, the pass is forcing, should South pass, to redouble, with various hand types possible for East, including a hand that wants to defend 1NTXX (which, reasonably enough, was East’s intention) or a single suited hand.  Not my favorite agreements, but those that this partnership uses.  Once the question was answered, South continued to ask more, but West had nothing to add, having given a full explanation.  South’s 2 bid was presumably a part of “notrump systems on” for NS, some sort of hand that expects to bid diamonds next.  Who can blame him for trying to run to diamonds?  If you were South, wouldn’t you place North with some sort of big balanced hand (yes, more than the described 12-14, but it is tough to pass, methinks, expecting North to have 1NT set in his hand!)?  North, as is his wont, did not alert.  Maybe he forgot.  He bid 4 with emphasis.  South seemed oblivious to the attitude of his partner and called 5.  West doubled and, evidencing great frustration, North bid 5.  East doubled 5 and NS was limited to the eight tricks one sees in dummy North.  +800 and all 13 mps for my side.

Dealer: (7) S

Vul: All





















West North East South
P 1NT (15-17) P 2 (tfr)
P 2 (after BIT) P 2NT
P 4 all pass

Hey, I do not blame North for the Break in Tempo before bidding 2.  Bridge is a thinking game and we have each been in situations where we had to make bidding decisions that require thought … even when we realize that such thought can put partner in a pickle.  Here, North had maximum values of 17 HCP and maximum spade length of four spades.  That surely must have tempted her to bid whatever is their super-accept.  Perhaps she finally was dissuaded by her flat distribution to bid only 2.  Yes, she should bid 2 in tempo, but that, IMO, is not the “real sin” here.  South, a highly experienced player, rebid 2NT on a hand opposite a 15-17 count that has eight HCP, of which three are in minor, unconnected honors in short suits.  Surely, passing 2 must be a logical alternative.  And the LA that is least suggested by North’s BIT.  (Perhaps I am unduly conservative, but I would not have tried for game opposite an in-tempo 2 call, had I transferred to begin with … which I am not sure I would have.)  North had an easy 4 call, of course.

East led his stiff Q.  Looking at the J in dummy, declarer recognized that the lead was a short suit lead.  Winning the heart in hand, North did not find the double dummy play of the Q to pin West’s ten.  Instead she lost a spade trick to East’s king.  East smartly got out with A and another club, and declarer eventually lost two diamonds for down one.  10.5 out of 13 mps for EW.


Bobby WolffMay 21st, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi Jeff,

At this very moment there are tournament bridge games going on throughout ACBL land and the very things you mention on your very topical blog are right there in cinemascope and appearing in different shapes and sizes, for some few to be advantaged and their multiple victims left to suffer in silence, with the game itself, the most abused.

Breaks in Tempo (BIT) and Convention Disruption (CD) are what’s wrong, but if that wasn’t enough, how about the many who rush to the defense of those perpetrating those mortal wound acts, by sending a feeling of guilt to many who have been abused and have been made to feel like kill joys, and therefore cads, to merely speak up.

What to do? The best way and I would venture to say the most appropriate way to make at least a dent in trying to stop this epidemic is for the partner of the transgressor to set the standard for possible reform, by first ignoring the not so secret message that partner is obviously trying to transmit by first, doing the opposite of what partner wants him (or her) to do and then, of course, to talk to him or her either immediately (yes, at the table in front of their opponents) or, at the very least, later in private, about what that person is attempting to do to our great pastime, therefore rendering the game the wretched victim.

The above is particularly appropriate for BIT’s which are already out in the open for all to feel, eliminating decorum and mystery, from the process.

However, when CD is committed, the partner should admit complicity in the process, by stating that their partnership needs to either discuss the convention longer or, at the very least, scratch it off the card, until both partners are sure of the meanings as well as understanding how to describe it consistently and accurately to the vulnerable (an emotional adjective not a bridge condition) and wronged opponents.

The above is a starter, but will not be complete until one or both wrongdoers agree to their bridge crimes. “Little by little we can do great things”, but not until bridge players, whether or not they love the game itself, understand that their Typhoid Mary approach, continues to haunt our game and will do so, until the horrific disease is challenged by an antidote created from within.

Perhaps the necessary action should say something similar to Theodore Roosevelt’s famous words — Speak loudly and also carry a big stick.

Jeff LehmanMay 21st, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I would follow up, Bobby, with one observation from my experiences, much more limited than yours and at much lesser skilled levels. My observation is that the persons committing BIT do not generally have an illicit plan to communicate UI to their partner; instead my observation is that the persons committing BIT are honestly just trying to figure out what to do. Alas, where we do clearly agree, is the obligation of the partner of the person who committed BIT. That partner must bend over backwards to fail to take advantage of the BIT … and, as you so eloquently preach, help his partner to understand the consequences of the BIT to the partnership’s performance and to the integrity of the game.

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