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Difference of Opinion


The above hand occurred in the National League in England, with screens, under the auspices of the EBU, governed by the Laws of Bridge and the EBU White Book, both of which can be viewed on the EBU site. The explanations above are those deemed to be the NS methods by the EBU referee, who ruled on an appeal against the original decision, using the system notes of NS. North explained 2C to East as 5-card Stayman, South to West as normal Stayman. 2D is explained by North to East as showing a 5-card major. South does not alert it. North then explains 3H to East as to play in 4H if that is South's suit, 3NT if not. Prior to an opening lead it is explained by South to West as Smolen, showing 4 hearts and 5 spades. West led a club and declarer made 3NT=.

The relevant part of the referee ruling, and I have the full text, leaving the table result unchanged, was:

"North/South’s system notes are clear that their methods are as described by North to East, and this is the information that West is entitled to when deciding on his lead. West is not entitled to know that the opposition have had a misunderstanding (White Book 8.21.2). On that basis (the systemic meaning is that South has shown five spades), West would not have led a spade, and therefore there is no damage. There was also no damage arising from East/West being at cross-purposes due to different explanations on the two sides of the screen."

There was a fine of 1VP to NS for not completing the convention card correctly (the "actual" methods were only in the system notes) but I wonder if the White Book is correct on this whole subject. West is indeed entitled to the knowledge that the systemic meaning of 2D is showing a five-card major, and that 3NT systemically denies that it is hearts. However the answers to any questions, or the volunteering of information under 20F1 is clearly AI, and West can make use of that in deciding his opening lead. The principle should be, and here I think the White Book is wrong, that the player can use the answers he gets at the table, but he also is deemed to have a properly completed convention card to consult. If the convention card had been completed correctly, it would have been blindingly obvious, except perhaps for the Rueful Rabbit, that a spade lead was going to be successful, as neither opponent seems to have three-card support for what they think is their partner's five-card suit. What the White Book does, by offering the opinion (completely absent in the Laws) that you are not entitled to know that your opponents are having a misunderstanding, is to discourage completely filled in CCs. Also, the player is deemed to have been given the correct explanation AND whatever explanation he received as both are AI.

The referee writes: The only way West would find a spade lead is if he had partial MI – knowing what each player had. Without screens, he might have been able to deduce this (at his own risk) from the timing of the explanations, but this is not information to which he is entitled, and it is not available with screens. There is a relevant WBF minute, pointed out to me on Bridgebase:-WBFLC 2003 minutes said:The committee considered the proposition that when there has been misinformation and a damaged side is to receive and adjusted score this should be assessed on the basis that the non-offending side is entitled to know the partnership understanding and to draw logical conclusions, given the information it received. The adjusted score, the Chairman suggested, should be assessed on the action likely to be taken by the non-offending side in the circumstances. It was observed that if given the correct information the partnership might or might not be aware that a misunderstanding had occurred, depending on the situation. <snip of irrelevant bit>.There seems to be a very important principle, which I would welcome readers' views on. Is a player entitled to BOTH the wrong explanation given to him or her by an opponent AND the correct methods of the opponents in deciding on any bid or play? This ruling indicates that he is only entitled to the correct methods. And the WBFLC minute "might or might not be aware" is far from helpful. If it means that you are aware if you can deduce it from the AI, that is fine, and would seem to be the situation here.

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