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Top league in Belgium (played behind screens)

 

The facts :

Board 16 (E/W vul)

West
K7
AKQ5
2
A97643
North
AJ10963
4
A43
QJ8
East
2
J109763
KJ1095
5
South
Q854
82
Q876
K102
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
3
P
4
4NT
P
5
X
5
X
5
P
P
P
D
5 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

South called for TD after the A lead and stated West made a significant break in tempo (BIT) after his 3 bid. West doesn’t contradict. Contract of 5 is made. TD judged the BIT is proven and asked 2 peers what they would bid on 4 with the East hand. Both of them pass. TD rules East has, between logical alternatives, chosen a bid that might have been suggested by the unauthorized information (UI). TD decided to adjust the score of 5 just made by West (+650 E/W), to 4-1 by North (-50 N/S).

(note1: poll of East bid on 4 http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-9839/)

 

The Appeal :

East-West appealed. South and East attended.

Statement by the appealing side : East contested the BIT, he didn’t perceive anything, and he wouldn’t have bid if he had detect any slight hesitation. East reminded South called for TD, while it should have been North had he perceived any BIT. One can deduct North didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.

Statement by the non-appealing side : South argued this regulation doesn't prevail anymore on an (inter)national level. He explained that West, after his 3 bid was made without any delay, dropped her cards on the table and tanked for about a minute before passing. He then called TD as soon as dummy went down, and insisted West didn’t contest the BIT.

East added TD didn’t come back to ask any further question till the ruling was made. Because it was the last board, he didn’t contest the ruling but decided to appeal right away.

(note2: East, that needed a break, left the table after the lead and was thus absent when TD reached the table the first time around)

 

As a TD/player what would you rule/comment based on this information?

As an important side issue, I would be very interested about clarification whether TD's call screen-side matters (compared to a few years ago) and in which proportion/type of case it can influence TD's decision.

 

 

Spoiler on next page (AC's decision)

 

 

 

The Decision :

The Appeal Committee (AC) estimates the ruling was correct, provided the BIT was considered as an undisputed fact. West hand is certainly worth some thoughts. The AC is convinced West could not have passed straight away and that there was a BIT (short or long), fully understandable btw.

But North's action is strange. At no time, he lets anyone know he perceived a BIT. He could have done so when East bid 4NT, preserving his rights, with or without calling TD, regarding a BIT he could have perceived. He could have add his voice to the claim made by his partner.

On the other hand, West's actions are understandable : she must play the hand and doesn't take any time to contest a BIT she probably made anyway. As a matter of fact, East/West didn't have the opportunity to dispute the BIT in front of TD.

In addition, one has to give credit to East word he wouldn't have bid, had he perceived a BIT. East must know his action will not be allowed if it's ruled he has knowledge of UI. His bid is not without risk, and any favorable result might be nullified by a TD ruling. East also justifies his bid by the fact that North didn't bid 4 in tempo, suggesting an average hand and not an hcp-rich hand.

For these reasons, the AC decides that it is not proven the BIT was perceived on N-E screen's side. One of the 3 members of the AC offers a split score, but the majority of the AC is of the opinion East wasn't in possession of any UI. East is thus free to bid what he wants and the result achieved at the table must stand.

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