Hesitations – Do you know the Laws?
Original June 2016
Update August 2019 (2017 Laws and August 2019 White Book)
Your directors interpret and apply “The Laws of Duplicate Bridge”, you will see this in a yellow book in the club. The laws are complicated. To help directors the EBU issues two supplementary books giving advice on the application of the laws
The White Book gives advice on the application of the laws
The Blue Book deals with permitted understanding on systems used at different levels of bridge.
In this note quotes are taken from the Laws and White Book.
Hesitations – being told that you cannot bid after partner has hesitated can be a very off-putting experience for new players and we would ask all players, even if they think that they know the rules, not to tell other players during the play what they can and cannot do.
If you are concerned that you have been damaged by any incident, PLEASE call the Director. DIY directing is almost always seen as ‘bullying’ by other players, even if it done with the best intentions. Law 74A2 applies here. A player should carefully avoid any remark or extraneous action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.
More details can be found in extracts from EBU documents – see below - You will immediately realise that you do not know the Laws well enough to make a decision and many Directors have to check the Law book to get this right! Hesitating and passing is not the only situation where ‘unauthorized information’ can be given out and players should be careful not to use any information if it is not ‘authorized’ information.
Examples - A good example of why you cannot be told that you cannot bid after partner’s hesitation is when you are sitting 4th in hand with 25 points planning to open 2C. Dealer passes and Partner thinks for long time before passing. What are they thinking about? You do not know!! They could have 7 of a suit and be considering a pre-empt, they might almost have a weak 2 in a major or they might be considering a light opener. Do you care? No, you are going to open 2C whichever hand they have and the fact that they have hesitated is of no interest and has not affected your choice of bid.
Another example: You are dealer with 6 spades and 5 diamonds and a reasonable hand, but not good enough to open 2C. You open 1S and the player on your left bids 2C. Partner hesitates before passing. The right hand opponent passes. To be told that you cannot bid 2D is clearly wrong. What was partner thinking about? Probably they have a weak hand with lots of hearts or lots of clubs. Does this possible knowledge affect your bid? No – in fact it could encourage you to pass – then you might be taking advantage of using unauthorized information!
Law 73C: When a player has available to him unauthorized information from his partner, such as from a remark, question, explanation, gesture, mannerism, undue emphasis, inflection, haste or hesitation, an unexpected alert or failure to alert, he must carefully avoid taking any advantage from that unauthorized information (see Law 16B1(a)).
Hesitations don’t just occur with inexperienced players. In the semi-final of the Bermuda Bowl in 2015 (International Event) there was a hesitation that lasted about 6 minutes, after which the hesitater Passed and his partner bid. Naturally, the English Team got a director’s ruling which said the bid was OK. This decision was appealed but the director’s ruling was upheld by the Appeals’ Committee. England lost the semi-final by 2 IMPs!
OK – So what should you do when a player hesitates?
Firstly, we would ask you to consider who you are playing against. Is it a new player who is unsure what to do on many hands and regularly takes a long time to bid? If so, we would ask you to be understanding – we all had to learn once!
If the hesitation is very long, or the player suggests that they may have bid something different by half reaching for the bidding box and changing their mind, then you should try to get agreement from the opponents that there was a ‘hesitation’ and just say that you reserve your right to call the director at the end of the hand. Please do this in a calm and friendly way – we are not at war! If at the end of the hand you consider that you may have been damaged by the hesitation, then call the director. Please consider the result first – you may have a good score anyway and no action is needed. Calling the director always takes time and can discourage new players from playing.
LAW 16: AUTHORIZED AND UNAUTHORIZED INFORMATION
(Section B Only – see Law 16 for full explanation)
B. Extraneous Information from Partner
- Any extraneous information from partner that might suggest a call or play is unauthorized. This includes remarks, questions, replies to questions, unexpected alerts or failures to alert, unmistakable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement, or mannerism.
(a) A player may not choose a call or play that is demonstrably suggested over another by unauthorized information if the other call or play is a logical alternative.
(b) A logical alternative is an action that a significant proportion of the class of players in question, using the methods of the partnership, would seriously consider, and some might select.
2 When a player considers that an opponent has made such information available and that damage could well result he may announce that he reserves the right to summon the Director later (the opponents should summon the Director immediately if they dispute the fact that unauthorized information might have been conveyed).
3. When a player has substantial reason to believe that an opponent who had a logical alternative has chosen an action that could have been suggested by such information, he should summon the Director when play ends**.
(**Note- It is not an infraction to call the Director earlier or later)
The Director shall assign an adjusted score (see Law 12C1) if he considers that an infraction of law has resulted in an advantage for the offender.
White Book August 2019
Advice on Logical Alternatives
From the 2017 Law Book 16.B.1.(b): - A logical alternative is an action that a significant proportion of the class of players in question, using the methods of the partnership, would seriously consider, and some might select.
White Book 18.104.22.168
Is an action a logical alternative?
When deciding whether an action constitutes a logical alternative, the TD should decide two things.
- The TD must decide whether a significant proportion of the player's peers, playing the same method as the player, would seriously consider the action.
What is a “significant proportion”? The Laws do not specify a figure, but the TD should assume that it means at least one player in five.
If fewer than about one player in five of the player’s peers would consider the action than it is not a logical alternative.
Serious consideration is more than a passing thought.
2. If a significant proportion would consider the action, then the TD must next decide whether some would actually choose it.
Again the Laws do not specify a figure for “some”, and the TD should assume that it means more than just an isolated exception.
If no one or almost no one would choose the action having considered it, the action is not a logical alternative.