At a club game last night, my partner received some criticism. Here is the story.
Dealer N, nobody vulnerable. North was a client, South an experienced professional. The bidding proceeded: 1S - dbl - 1NT - p; 2C - p - 2D - p; 2S - dbl - p - p; p
My partner, East, hesitated very obviously before doubling 2S. At the end of the auction, South turned to him and said, "I don't want to make a fuss, but you know, you really should not hesitate like that and then double. You really shouldn't." My partner shrugged and said that since their bidding sequence made no sense, he had to think about it. Then he made the opening lead, and nothing more was said.
The thing is, I think South was wrong. It is axiomatic that a hesitation followed by a pass is highly likely to transmit unauthorized information to partner. But it is also widely accepted that a hesitation followed by a bid is very often OK, because it's much harder to argue UI because you don't know for sure what partner was thinking about.
In the auction that occurred, it was obvious to me that partner had a big hand: N-S had indicated about 20 points between them, give or take, and I had one point, therefore double indicated partner had the rest. And any low-level penalty double undertaken single-handedly has to be a touch uncertain. So if I thought about it (which, actually, I didn't) partner was hesitating because he wasn't sure whether to double or not. But if he doubled at normal pace, I would still know all that: the hesitation can't really transmit any additional information. If I had decided to pull the double (which would have been totally unjustified), then maybe South would have a complaint. But the complaint would have been against me, not my partner.
Or am I wrong?
It is perhaps worth observing that this partner does nothing at high speed, and often hesitates during the bidding and play. I am used to it and ignore it, oftentimes having not the slightest idea what he's thinking about, at other times knowing and wondering why it's taking him so long to work it out. But there's no hint of impropriety in his make-up: he really is thinking about stuff, adjusting his hand valuation or whatever, never seeking to convey information.
Plus... it's free!