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Committee ruling - Incorrect explanation of written multi-defense

Yesterday, I served on a committee at the end of a Flight A regional swiss.    I am sharing the hand, and our ruling.  I invite feedback.  I am going from memory, so apologize in advance if I get a detail wrong.

4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Director's review of facts

Declarer asked how they played the double, and West responded, "Penalty"

The defense started with the Ace of Clubs, and continued with the King of Spades, a Spade to the Ace, cashed club, and played spade.   Having escaped a possible spade loser (and trump promotion!), declarer now had to attack the trump suit.

Declarer chose what he described as a safety play in trumps.  He led a low trump from dummy to the T.

The table result was -300 for declarer.   The director ruled the table result stands, and declarer was appealing the ruling base on mis-information.

Appealing side comments:

Declarer said if he had been told the double was take out, he would have played Ace and a heart and avoided the loss of a trump.  Since his LHO had already shown up with KJX of spades and the club Ace, his RHO would need good Hearts to have a penalty double.

Declarer said that the defending side also plays multi, and therefore should know the defenses.

Defending side comments:

The director was not called until after the comparisons were complete.

West: I defended as if my partner's double was penalty.


Committee questions:

* Requested copy of multi-defense from appealing side.  

* Asked which defense was played - Answer, defense #2

* Asked if the defenses were reviewed - Answer, the defending side studied the defenses before each bid

* Asked declarer for his logic on playing a Heart to the T, vs Running the Queen as might be suggested by the double - Answer: running the Queen could result in losing 2 tricks if KJX offside and the defenders were having a misunderstanding, low to the T was safe for one loser and would not cost if the expected KJX were onside.

* in reviewing the written multi-defenses, the committee could not find this specific auction covered, though 2 P 3 X was defined as takeout. Declarer thought that since e/w play multi, they might have actually discussed the auction.

* Declarer has over 12,000 masterpoints, and West roughly 1000.


Think about how you would rule (Pretend there is a page break here, I could not figure out how to insert one.)



Committee ruling

* It's clear the double was intended as take out.  

* Reading the multi-defenses led the committee to believe the double should be takeout, though the specific auction was not covered.

* Declarer might play Ace and another heart if told "Takeout"

* The timing on calling the director (right after the score comparison) could have been better, but was within the required window, and is not relevant to our ruling

* The answer, "penalty," was not the right answer, it was an interpretation.  Players are sometimes trying to be helpful and giving interpretations when no actual agreement exists.   The appropriate answer to the question would be:  "We are playing your written defenses."

* It was clear to the committee that declarer did not trust the answer he was given, hence the safety play.

* The committee did not consider the fact that e/w play multi to be relevant to their understanding of "defense 2."

* The committee upheld the directors ruling of "Result stands"   Declarer made a safety play that guaranteed one trump loser no matter what the e/w holdings.   He would have profited from this play had one of those holdings existed.    The question seems like a trap, It was clear that e/w were having to review the defenses, and were depending on the written defenses for their answers.  The safety play amounts to a two way shot.  While we have some sympathy for declarer, we think he knew well enough the issue of e/w having a real agreement here and can't give him the trick he guaranteed he would lose with his safety play.

* Asking questions as declarer, that you know the answer to better than the defenders is not cause for protection when the defenders guess wrong.

Advice to e/w - Response should have been, "we are playing the defense you provided us and have not discussed this specific auction"

Advice to declarer - Instead of asking, "What's the double?"  ask, "Have you discussed what the double is in this situation?"  "When you play unusual methods, you should not assume your opponents have discussed defenses."

Request to ACBL - Seems like a pretty basic auction to include in the written defenses, and there are other obvious flaws.  Please fix it.


Result stands.  -300.  Ruling unanimous.  The appeal had merit, so no penalty was assigned.


Ruling right
Ruling right, but incomplete - please add your insight
Ruling wrong - please defend your position
Ruling correct, though appeal without merit penalty should have been assessed
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