Jeff Lehman

Breaks in Tempo, Part 2

I have been getting some bad bridge scores on hands with Unauthorized Information (UI) from Breaks in Tempo (BIT).

When my partner breaks tempo, I consider all the Logical Alternative (LA) calls I can make and then select the one that I have assessed is the one that is most contra-indicated by the UI from partner’s BIT.  My assessments have been pretty good, which means my scores on the subject boards have been pretty bad.

When one of my opponents breaks tempo, typically their partner assesses correctly the UI from the BIT and makes very good decisions as to whether to bid on or not.  Again, my scores on the subject boards have been pretty bad.

But last week, I observed a rare reversal of these experiences.

Was it because I saw fewer BITs?  No, not a chance.

Was it because I shelved my policy to be an ethical player by choosing an unattractive LA when my partner was passing along UI?  No, I hope not.

Was it because my opponents decided to no longer take advantage of the UI created by their partner’s BIT?  No, laughingly.

So, why was it?

Well, here is an example from last Friday’s unitwide game.  My RHO opened 1 in second chair.  At fav vul, I decided to overcall 4 on 7, AKT9764, A2, QT4.  My LHO, who is a regular bridge partner and more of my RHO, broke tempo before passing.  My partner passed and my RHO was in passout seat with AQJ62, 832, 5, AK92, a 14 count with no shortness in the suit of my overcall.  So, did my RHO do the normal thing of passing?  No, my RHO decided that this was a good hand to reopen with a double, nicely fielding his partner’s slow pass on KT93, J5, QT987, 86.  Really, how else can LHO show her partner a hand with spade support but marginal values for a 4 bid over 4, other than to commit a BIT and then pass 4?  But – here was my change in luck – LHO failed to bid 4 over her partner’s reopening double, but decided to pass instead.  And, even better, the defense neglected to find its club ruff and I emerged with +590.

(1) after BIT
(2) let’s charitably say, questionable
(3) !

Yep, I think my luck is changing!


bobbywolffDecember 18th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hi Jeff,

A cleverly written story, getting your excellent point across, while at the same time decrying the sad situation which has existed for most of the history of our game.

In some ways, though bridge conundrums do not begin to be as serious, is what our politically corrupted legislature (what else is new?) are now faced with, “Considering doing away with many (or perhaps all) recreational individually purchased firearms in the interest of stopping mass murders”.

There are, of course valid arguments from both sides, but emotionally, after the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut, our political despots will need to do something to protect their positions, so bidders “start your auctions”.

Returning to the ranch, until all of our top players unite together, consistently practicing Active Ethics, going public with the necessity for it, giving up subtle advantages (acquired over bridge experiences), enabling immense respect to develop among each other, doing what should be automatic enterprises, well described by you as responding the opposite to what my hesitating partner is probably trying to convey to me and otherwise being what should have been happening for all these years, we will never get out of the batter’s box.

All an interested observer needs to do is read about appeals at the National or higher level over the last numbers of years and the high-level culprits shine in neon as to who they are and the disrespect they are showing for the game, all with the intent of maintaining winning and sacrificing their individual reputations by so doing.

These misnamed “role models” need to realize that what they are doing is not only not approved, but rather, instead, thought to be what it is, never allowing our game to get off square one into making it what it should be, a totally actively ethical group only wishing for what is best for the future of the game, even if it means winning less by former “bad guys”.

In the meantime, Jeff, keep up your individual effort, but until we have a wholesale cleansing worldwide, but especially the USA, please do not expect a magic carpet to fly over a much changed venue. Difficult, Yes, Hope, Probably, Likely, Not until everyone adopts a vigilante attitude and acts positively to make it work

LakDecember 18th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Ok, this is a pass out of tempo even I would recognize as extra values! That double was really bad form.

Stuart KingDecember 20th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

That reopening double was sickening.

The problems in those sorts of situations is also compounded by the snap passes people make. There is UI there too and RHO with a marginal reopening double (or other action) will very likely pass. If everyone actually observed the rules for the stop card this would not be quite so prevalent.

Jeff LehmanDecember 20th, 2012 at 1:50 pm


You are absolutely on target to remind folks that Unauthorized Information from Breaks in Tempo can occur not only from “too slow” actions but also from “too fast” actions. And the “too fast” actions communicating UI can exist even outside of skip bid auctions. I think best practice is to wait 2-3 seconds before any call if an auction is at a stage where it reasonably might become a competitive auction.

— Jeff

Jeff LehmanDecember 21st, 2012 at 12:06 pm

To Bobby Wolff,

Thank you for taking the time to lend your incredible reputation and integrity to the subject raised in my blog.

Because of the different circles of expertise in which you and I play bridge, I do generally subscribe to one observation that differs from yours. For the most part, I would not assign nefarious motives to the players who break tempo. Sometimes, yes, but in my non-expert games, I think that most times the hesitations are caused by genuine uncertainty. That is, I do not think the player who bid in an offending tempo is “trying to convey” a particular message to their partner. I even think that is true of the East in the subject hand, in spite of my text making light of her motives.

Where I tend to place my criticism is with the partner of the player who breaks tempo (and with the directors who fail to both educate the offending side and adequately compensate the innocent side … see blog entry Breaks in Tempo [Part 1]). The cause for the hesitation seems to be “fielded” way too often. “Slow” breaks in tempo tend to show extra values; “fast” breaks in tempo tend to show absence of values. Each is Unauthorized Information to their partners. Partners of the players who break tempo act on those inferences far too often … and I think that they are, often enough, aware that they are acting on that UI.

— Jeff Lehman

RobinDecember 24th, 2012 at 5:13 am

This is hilarious, Jeff. You say that they failed to get their club ruff. What are the odds? The only scenario I can imagine is a (very) badly chosen red-suit lead.

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