Jeff Lehman

Payoff for Tempo Violators

Because my schedule often makes playing in tournaments difficult, I play a high percentage of games in clubs.  One product of that experience is that I observe quite a bit of Breaks in Tempo.  My perception is that partners of  the tempo breakers seem to make more frequent good decisions than they do when there is no tempo break. 

Hence, my joy at seeing a tempo break backfire at today’s club game.  The opponents are a pair on the line between low Flight A and high Flight B.

North (me)
South (pard


North (me)
South (pard
All Pass
(1) I would prefer 4 here
(2) BIT … although I cannot explain why
(3) taking “advantage” of Unauthorized Information?

As you can see from my footnotes, I am not too keen on many of the calls in the subject auction.

Holding trump control and expecting some values from partner, I chose to lead not a high diamond, but rather my singleton club.  Seemingly unconcerned about my having led a singleton (but why would I lead from the Q when I could have led a diamond?), declarer played the jack from dummy and won partner’s queen with the ace.   Still not sensing the club singleton, declarer next led a small diamond toward dummy rather than playing on trumps in hope that I owned K doubleton.  I ducked that and partner won the J.  Partner returned an intermediate club, declarer covered, and I ruffed.  We still have coming to us the K, A, and a third round club winner for a satisfying +300 and all 11 matchpoints.  3NT has no chance, of course, on a heart lead.




Bobby WolffApril 18th, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Hi Jeff,

The tempo break to which you speak before then passing, is #1 frequent in almost all levels of bridge, #2 difficult to adjudicate, #3, handled differently depending on the experience of the committee, the bias pro and con as to who is involved and, of course the reputation of the possible offenders.

Precedents as to the relative offenses committed and its application are presently non-existent (wish of probably some bridge clubs, the ACBL TD’s, the Horn Lake home office, and most sadly, too many of our very best players, who would rather rely on their individual clout with committees instead of matching facts of various similar episodes to reach consistent, or almost, committee decisions.

At least to me, only my opinion about the TD’s not wanting precedent guidance is in question as no doubt, the very fair minded ones, would prefer or even probably require them, if they could.

Until the proper leadership is in place with our game, and at all levels, since along with, lesser, but aspiring players under the current fallacious system being led astray regarding their ethical responsibilities, we will be just as lost in the desert as our bridge law enforcement has been for well over forty years.

IMO, it has to do with respect for the game as we know it. Sure the rules must deal with the special ethical requirements indigenous to our beloved game, but without it, competitive bridge will never reach the pinnacle it is due.

Thanks for bringing up these excellent conundrums. Without calling attention to them, and at least a few of our stars just as soon not, the problem will never achieve the transparency it needs for, IMO, a very special panel to deal directly with.

That special panel must NEVER include nor be subject to, any influence by conflicts of interest, the evil of money or status, but rather only be driven by for what is best for the future of the world-wide marvelous game we love to play.

Not an easy task to overcome, but rather one, which is waiting for whomever it is to lead us to the promised land so many of us crave.

slarApril 19th, 2015 at 2:43 am

> BIT … although I cannot explain why

I think I can. There seems to be some doubt in the bridge community when to compete to the 3 level. My notes from Bill Cole suggest a) sticking solely with the LOTT is too tentative for high-level play b) bidding to the 3-level with a 5-4-3-1 hand and c) treating 5-4-2-2 hands as 5-4-3-1 hands if all of the strength is in the long suits. With this in mind I would have been likely to bid 3H. Maybe your opponent was thinking the same thing but decided against it because of who he was up against?

Of course if your partner had just bid 4D as he should have the other side never would have been in that predicament. I actually think your 3NT bid goaded them into a false sacrifice. From that standpoint I think you were a step ahead of your opponents.

Jeff LehmanApril 19th, 2015 at 4:51 am

I am totally confident that no opponent was cheating. But I do believe that East was violating Law 16, and that the table result should have been adjusted had the hand been slightly different such that NS can make 3NT and 4HX resulted in a penalty that is less than the value of the NS game.

No doubt that West’s hesitation was because he was considering bidding 3H on his actual hand. But the “what if’s” are critical:
• What if West had held a thirteen count of 2=5=3=3 distribution, might he have been more likely to have passed 3D in tempo?
• Assuming West had passed in tempo, could East have been less likely to have chosen the (somewhat unilateral) parlay of bidding 4H over 3NT when had already chosen to bid only 2H at his first turn? That is, what if East’s decision to bid 4H were even subconsciously affected by the BIT of West?
• What if East’s SK and South’s SQ were exchanged (which means that NS can make a vulnerable 3NT and EW’s not vulnerable 4HX might be down only three tricks), should the table result be adjusted to give NS the better score for making 3NT?

My experience leads me to speculate that the answer to the first two questions is “yes”. Therefore, I think Law 16 should lead to the conclusion that Pass by East is a Logical Alternative and that the 4H call chosen could demonstrably have been suggested by the Unauthorized Information from the Break in Tempo. Now, whether: (a) the director would draw the same conclusion as did I; and (b) the director would be willing to inform East about his obligations under Law 16 and be willing to try to explain those obligations in a manner to convince East to consider the score adjustment an act of Fair Play rather than an Accusation of Sharp Practice … that would then have to be determined.

As it turned out, South did not hold the SK and so the 4HX sacrifice was phantom. So THIS TIME my partnership received a top.

… As an aside on LOTT to be applied by West, LOTT is not just about the trumps expected to be held by EW; it is also about the trumps expected to be held by NS. If NS were expected by West to hold at least nine diamonds, then a not vulnerable 3H should have been bid by West on his subject hand. What is important for all the players involved in recurring situations such as this one is to draw upon experience to be able, perhaps with application of some tool such as LOTT, to make a decision in tempo. If my 3NT bid did goad East into bidding on, it might be because, from the time my partner bid 3D (and, thus, to include the time that West was breaking tempo), I had already determined that with a heart lead and so little from partner as Qxx of diamonds and the SK, I could count nine probable tricks; as a result of planning ahead, I know that my 3NT bid was in tempo.

Bobby WolffApril 19th, 2015 at 4:59 am

Hi Slar,

From a technical bridge standpoint, it is difficult to quarrel with any of your analysis or side consequences including the possible reason why East bid on after North’s 3NT and, of course, West’s possible BIT.

However, (and you probably suspected that coming), after West committed a BIT and then passed, assuming he did, and according to Jeff he did, it has got to be morally, ethically, and horrible for our game to allow East to bid on, although some may well suspect that they might have also bid on, if they had been bidding East’s hand.

Once UI becomes alive, the partner receiving it MUST lean over backwards to not take advantage of it. On the actual sequence, West after opening 1 heart, may have had a terrible offensive hand making a rather large set probable if either EW player did compete to 4 hearts. When West broke tempo and then passed, (again assuming he did), East is now the recipient of that UI and simply not, with the hand he had and almost any hand he possibly could have, to be allowed to now compete further.

Such are the relatively silent rules of bridge, without which our game is not only impossible to play honestly, but not worth the time all of us take, to even try.

Many excuses for getting around the above are always present, but none of them are worth even listening to and almost always made by players who want any edge they can get, legal or not.

Whatever they say will not change the cold hard facts, whatever the right committee determines them to be.

Jeff LehmanApril 19th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Allow me to make some legalistic comments. Although I think the approach of Law 16 is eminently fair and, if properly applied by directors and committees, will produce the right and ethical result, I do wish that some language in Law 16 would be amended.

One change would be to more carefully direct what Bobby refers to as the obligation of the partner in receipt of UI to “lean over backwards to not take advantage of it”. While Law 16 implements this obligation by saying that said partner cannot choose a LA (Logical Alternative) that could demonstrably have been suggested by the UI (Unauthorized Information, frequently from the Break in Tempo of an action by partner), I would prefer that the law text apply an affirmative obligation rather than a negative obligation. That is, I wish that the law would require the said partner to choose a LA that could not have been suggested by the UI rather than to not choose a LA that could have been suggested by the UI. A small point, but based upon some analyses I have read of UI situations, one that would clarify the obligation. That change would limit the misperception of many players that they should choose the call that they would have absent the UI.

Another change in text of the law that I would like to see implemented deals with consideration of the particular players involved in the transmission of UI. Law 16 currently defines LA by referencing actions that would be considered, and possibly even chosen, by the class of players in question. That is, for example, an action that might be an LA for, say, a novice might not be a LA by an expert who possesses the ability to better discard, even sans the UI, actions that will not produce a favorable result. The “class of players in question” consideration, however, and in my opinion, generally understates the degree to which the UI influences the recipient to make a winning decision (to the detriment of the innocent opponents). Reguiar partnerships, for example, will often have clues (and, let me re-emphasize, I think these clues are subconsciously acted upon) as to what type of problem typically produces UI from partner and how partner typically resolves such problems. For example, does partner tend to break tempo because he is thinking of doubling (has extra defense) or because he is thinking of bidding on (has extra offense)? When partner hesitates, does he tend to resolve an issue by taking a higher risk action or a lesser risk action? The “class of players in question” language tends to cause one to explore actions by polling “master point peers”, rather than by facing the (admittedly much more difficult) question of exploring actions by not the class of players in question but by THE player in question.

Lastly, I think Law 16 would benefit, as would many laws, by articulating a purpose for its promulgation. Based upon my interpretation of the many discussions in Bridge Winners of UI situations, many players tend to interpret Law 16 as a punishment for the UI (offending) side. I prefer to view Law 16 as protection for the non-offending side. The interpretation of Law 16 as a penalty provision and not as a protection provision is cause, I suspect, for directors to fail to apply Law 16 as frequently and rigorously as they should. Rare is the occasion that UI is used to cheat (and there are plenty other provisions of bridge law, I understand, that can be applied to incidents of cheating); but frequently, in my experience, UI is used (even subconsciously) by the recipient to improve his decision-making. One can dismiss a Law 16 result adjustment as “hang him if it hesitates” or “bridge lawyering” all one wants, but adjusting the result more frequently in UI situations is what is fair for the game. Don’t like it?; then learn to bid in tempo, not too fast and not too slow!

Jeff LehmanApril 19th, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Here’s an example of the benefit of defining LA by reference to THE player in question, rather than the class of players in question.

The uncontested auction was 1NT (15-17) – 2H (transfer); 2S-2NT; BIT 3S-4S. Making easily.

Responder was 5-3-3-2 distribution.

A committee allowed the result to stand. The committee’s argument was that game was always going to be bid, citing the following facts: responder had a really nice 9 count that included two aces, the scoring was IMPs, the bidders were vulnerable.

But the conclusion was based upon the bridge judgment of the peer group committee. I happen to agree with their bridge judgment. But their/our bridge judgment should not be determinative of the decision whether to overturn the table result. What should be determinative, instead, is the bridge judgment of the responder. In this case, the responder chose, by rebidding 2NT and not 3NT, to treat his hand as invitational and not game forcing. With the flattest distribution possible for the subject auction, how can that treatment be undone? Surely, for THIS PLAYER, Pass was an LA. And since the other LA of 4S could demonstrably have been suggested by the UI from BIT, the committee got wrong what should have been a very easy decision to reverse the table result.

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2015 at 1:06 am

Hi Jeff,

1. I agree with you 100%

2. The responder already made his invitational, rather than game going decision, earlier.

3. Yes, he would ordinarily have the right to then change his mind, when given another chance.

4. However, #3 would only apply if the opening bidder had bid in strict tempo, which was NOT done in this case.

5. Therefore by what I would call a legal fiat, his partner’s study denies him the right to overturn his partner’s opinion, in spite of a lawyer’s automatic claim of, “when my client’s partner returned to 3 spades he only showed 3 spades and did not necessarily agree to level”.

4. To which I would say as committee chairman, Thank you for your startling information. Verdict is 3 spades being the final contract concurrent with either a one match point procedural penalty (PP) or 1IMP (PP) if playing IMPs for attempting to not only deny justice, but also to inflict damage on our judicial system.

5. I would then hope that this verdict could be used as a precedent for other chairmen to feel enabled to make similar procedural penalties, which would only serve to 1. make our game fairer, 2. cut down on the ridiculous lawyering which only sometimes, but too often, takes place.

slarApril 20th, 2015 at 2:39 am

I agree in principle with everything I read here. I just wonder if the directors are up to the task across the board. This reminds me a lot of basketball. Officials have a difficult job and there are a lot of judgment calls. Far too often they struggle to get things right and the game suffers as a result.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 20th, 2015 at 4:36 am

Hi Slar,

I have read dribs and drabs of the above discussion and do not profess that this subject matter and process is my bailiwick. However, a great failing of our bridge judicial system is to not better educate the directing staffs. Bobby pled with what was then the Memphis home office .. some twenty years ago.. but his cries met deaf ears as it was considered an imposition on their directing staff.

Until concerted efforts are made by knowledgeable administrators who excel in this realm, little will be resolved. I know this sounds like a broken record but believe me, we need substantial support in training and teaching and clear and detailed precedents set before the sun will penetrate the clouds!

bobby wolffApril 22nd, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, your basketball analogy is quite timely, especially since we are now in the beginning stage of the exciting NBA playoffs which, of course, is the signature application of those extremely athletic contests.

Again, yes there are problems with accurately and consistently refereeing that very fast paced sport and we all are very aware that when two somewhat equal teams play (at least for that game) it is not unusual for any specific game to be decided by that close difficult to judge, encounter.

However, positive strides (mostly in video replays) have been taken, thrice with the NBA, the NFL and MLB as well as likely the NHL, although, originally being from Texas, I am not as up to date as I should be, with that popular cold weather sport (I don’t think any insult was intended since I ordinarily would have included hockey, or maybe instead, tennis, but since I didn’t have a better word to use than thrice, especially in place of fourth or fifth, I excluded them).

Bridge TD’s should be the messengers, only attempting to get it right but, of course, with a much more comprehensive training period, conducted by only a few experienced bridge loving instructors who will agree to be responsible for getting it right. (From what is said here recently, I would likely nominate Jeff to be one of them).

Bridge committees, especially chaired and also, if at all possible, composed of our best, brightest and boldest consistent bridge thinkers who are both responsible and accountable to our beloved game as well as transparent and available to set standards, heretofore thought anywhere from unlikely to impossible to achieve,

Lacking a large percentage of what is above will only keep bridge from achieving what is its due for at least another 40 years (roaming the desert) and possibly forever.

Mark WhitmanMay 1st, 2015 at 4:20 pm

What’s the problem? The hesitation is obviously one of two possibilities:
a) “Oh my! Look at those rain clouds. Did I remember to roll up my car windows when I arrived at the club today? Let me think …”; or
b) “That clown on my left is sure to bid 3NT on this auction. When he does, should I double him to teach him a lesson, or should I let him go down undoubled rather than risk having him run to 4 diamonds? Let me think …”
East correctly read his partner’s hesitation as (b) and realized he was in possession of unauthorized information. He considered both Pass and 4 hearts as logical alternatives and chose the option contraindicated by the hesitation. So everything worked out exactly as it was supposed to.
Now if the hesitation had actually been caused by (a) instead of (b), and if both 3NT and 4 hearts were making, then you’d be screaming for a score adjustment when nothing improper had happened. Sometimes my East just can’t win.

Jeff LehmanMay 1st, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Mark, I understand the concern that EW can, no matter what decision East makes following West’s BIT, keep a bad result and risk having a good result adjusted. If the reading by East of the cause of West’s BIT were random, I might share that concern. But, by my observations, the reading is far from random: the Easts of the bridge world seem to perform remarkably well at reading the cause of the BIT by their partner Wests. Even in this case, I suspect that is what happened: West’s BIT suggested to East that West was considering bidding 3H (I think West has an easy pass of 3D, but what I think is not relevant; all that is relevant is what UI was communicated by this West to this East) and, given the lack of defense possessed by East, that suggestion led to East bidding 4H. (Do you think East would have done anything but pass had West passed in tempo? I don’t.) If the EWs want to avoid what you might perceive as a Catch 22, there is an easy solution for EW: just avoid breaking tempo. Until that happens, I am fine with the laws being used to protect the innocent NSs.

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