Ray Lee

An unappealing appeals decision

Dealer: W

Vul: NS

Q 10 6 5 3
J 8 4
K Q 8 4
West East
8 7 4 2
K J 10 8 3 2 9 7 5 4
A 10 9 6 5 3 K
3 10 9 7 6
A K J 9
Q 7 2
A J 5 2
West North East South
1 1 3 3
5 dbl 5 dbl
all pass
PDF Print E-mail
This was board 44 of RRII in the current USBF Team Trials. The players involved were:    North John Hurd  South Joel Wooldridge   West Renee Mancuso  East Sheri Winestock.  East’s

The result: 5 doubled by South making… +650 N/S

The director was called after the hand. South asserted that he would not have doubled 5if he was given the same explanation as his partner. He would have

passed since their agreement was that this would be a forcing auction. He’d leave it to partner to make the decision to bid 5 or double… sure that partner would

bid 5 on the hand he held. He did not believe that the same forcing auction rule would apply with 3 being a weak jump shift rather than a preemptive raise.

The committee (Bill Pollack, chair; John Sutherlin; Robb Gordon) upheld the director’s ruling: Result stands.

The committee felt that, despite the incorrect explanations that South was given, no matter which explanation he wanted

to believe about East’s hand (clearly, he could rule out “weak in diamonds”), doubling 5 was the main cause of the poor

N-S result. Even after a forcing pass of 5, however, would North really bid 5 with such poor spades, limited values,

and problematic diamonds?  So the first decision was that N-S’s result would stand. They had ample opportunity to figure out what had happened,

and were unlikely to go right in any event. But for E-W, the rules for an adjusted score are more closely dependent on the misinformation they gave on a straightforward

auction — they should know the meaning of 1 – (1) – 3. There was sympathy and considerable discussion about some kind of adjustment; either a 2 to 3 imp procedural penalty (although the committee generally finds such adjustments unattractive) or an adjusted score. Since we felt it was only between 10% to 25% that N-S would have gone right with proper explanations, we were not prepared to adjust the E-W score to -100 (in 6X, the expected result if N-S did compete to 5). All other adjustments would be to artificial scores, which we were not willing to proffer. So we decided not to adjust the E-W score, either.


The above is the committee report that appeared in this morning’s Bulletin from the USBF Team Trials.  It’s an interesting follow-on to Judy Wolff’s blog of June 15th, and the subsequent discussion about Convention Disruption (CD).

I have the following comments and questions:

1) This committee met after the RR was complete, and presumably therefore knew that their decision would potentially affect the result of the event (or else why bother to hold a committee at all?).  This kind of situation always puts extra pressure on the committee and the ruling itself.

2) Why was there not an automatic 3-IMP penalty to EW for CD?  They gave vastly different explanations on each side of the screen and put the opponents in jeopardy thereby.  That should have been done whatever else the committee chose to do or not to do.

3) North-South “had ample opportunity to figure out what had happened, and were unlikely to go right in any event”.  It would be interesting to know what the results were on this board at other tables — did everyone double 5? But why is the onus on NS to figure out that they have been given the wrong explanation? And why do they get penalized (effectively) when they fail to do so — they should never have been put in this position in the first place!

4) The committee itself felt that NS might have taken the right decisions as much as 25% of the time given the correct information.  Surely, then, there should have been an adjusted score based on that outcome 25% of the time and the table result 75% of the time — I’ve seen that done on a number of occasions in the past.

5) In the end, the committee found reasons not to act — not to penalize EW for CD, not to adjust either NS’s score or EW’s score.  Seems to me that if you took a show of hands and asked people whether or not there should be some kind of penalty or adjustment (without determining exactly what it should be) the response would be an overwhelming ‘yes’.  So why did the committee fail to act?  I think Comment 1 is germane here, and I think they overanalyzed everything, instead of stepping back and asking themselves what needed to be done to restore equity, in so far as they could.

My understanding is that the margin of victory in this match was 1 IMP, so had the committee taken any action at all, it would have changed the result, and in fact affected which teams went on to the KO stages.  As Bobby Wolff has written, once CD occurs, bridge stops and the rest is Alice in Wonderland.  What a pity that important events are decided in such a way.


kenrexfordJune 21st, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Just out of curiosity…

I wonder what would happen if a procedure were put in place to “double check” explanations when a screen is used.

Before the lead, dummy scoots across the notes from any explanations to Declarer. If an error occurred, the TD is called.

In this situation, it seems that the doubler could stick to or withdraw the double before tainting the decision with afterthought.

LarryJune 22nd, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Even though I don’t share Bobby Wolf’s position on penalizing CD, I certainly think in this case a 3 IMP penalty is justified!

PaulJune 23rd, 2010 at 7:41 am

What is the legal basis for a CD penalty? It is not an infraction of the Laws to forget your system and there is nothing in the Conditions of Contest that I can find about this. The ACBL has a regulation about knowing your system in simple auctions but this is run by the USBF and they do not.

This has been discussed on other forums and it appears that East misbid (forgetting the system). South, as West’s screenmate, received the correct partnership agreement and the misinformation was only received by North.

Many commentators have criticised the Appeal Committee’s method and ruling, while believing that the correct ruling would have resulted in the same outcome.

Cam FrenchJune 23rd, 2010 at 8:04 pm

A sack of hissing and poisonous snakes. I see no winners or justice here but a few seasoned people (the committee) doing their best.

Whether one won or lost that appeal there is no satisfaction or gratification.

It is a shame when one has to win or lose a match or event in such a fashion.


Judy Kay-WolffJune 24th, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I find all of the above pathetic. I don’t know the answers and cannot offer a solution — but sure as hell — anything they come up with would be better than what exists. And, sometimes the committee “doing their best” just doesn’t cut it.

Incidentally, how can the ACBL and USBF be in conflict? Isn’t their basic commonality going to the nth degree and taking pride in presenting the best team possible to represent the U.S.? If so, they better get themselves on the same channel by soliciting the help of those who are more qualified instead of fudging it on their own.

Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

All one has to do is read a very recent TD and Appeals decision.

My friend and one I always root for, Seymon Deutsch, answered while behind screens and after hearing the bidding go 1NT (15-17) by his RHO, pass by him, 2 diamonds by his LHO (transfer), 2 hearts by Seymon’s partner which was explained as Michaels (correctly by his partner) but only Takeout by Seymon which implies a three suit TO. After his RHO (Steve Beatty) became declarer in 4 hearts (doubled by Seymon), at trick 2 Seymon’s partner, after winning the opening lead switched to a singleton diamond. Steve, normally a very good player, probably didn’t consider the possibility of him having only a singleton after making a general TO bid of hearts instead of a Michaels cue bid and went wrong in the play. Sure Steve could and probably should have guessed the hand correctly, but why should he be subject to an incorrect description of what the 2 heart cue bid meant? With the proper information, at least to me, he would correctly play the hand (no one can possibly know for sure) but as far as I am concerned — CD strikes again.

Everyone has a right to think as he wants to, but why can’t everyone (not just some) understand the importance, especially at the higher levels, of being Johnny-on-the-Spot in describing partnership actions?

It is not nearly as surprising to me that players innocently misdescribe conventional understandings, but for the life of me — why do they then turn the other way when their opponents are obviously disadvantaged?

A very august committee ruled unanimously in favor of Seymon, the person I was rooting for, but, to me, they (in spite of mitigating evidence of a less-than-well-played hand) even awarded a famous AWMW (APPEAL WITHOUT MERIT WARNING) to poor Steve.

A dubious decision at the very least. Seymon’s partner’s hand was:


Yes Seymon’s answer of TO was correct, but how much more helpful it would have been to Steve if he had answered Michaels.

Please do not answer, “Well the TD and the Appeals Committee are entitled to make a wrong decision”. If so, I do not agree since my contention is that the mindset is wrong. If one wants, go ahead and penalize Steve for playing the hand badly, but the wrong describers (CD) also need to be penalized.

Ken RexfordJune 29th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Again, the same problem with an easy solution WHEN USING SCREENS. After the bidding, have DUMMY review everything. Make sure his and his partner’s explanations to the opponents are correct. Make sure the opponents’ explanations to Declarer are the same. Then, play commences.

This would eliminate problems like this one. Not all problems would be cured, but THIS one would. If Declarer had possessed the same explanation that the bidder himself had given, no problem with the play.

It just seems like such an easy rule addition.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 30th, 2010 at 5:59 pm

What happens if the explanations are not the same? Where do you go from there? Back to Square 1? How does that solve it?

All it does is expose it before the play but how do you adjudicate the infamous coulda/ woulda/ shoulda that may have been different had the explanations (or misexplanations) been given in a timely fashion? Doesn’t seem so easy to me.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Hi Ken,

It would, in fact be an easy rule addition. However there might have to be an experienced monitor always present who would examine what has been written and coordinate how to exchange the information.

The reason for that is we then must be sure that any question or possibly answer by one of the defenders, (still having to defend that live hand) to one of the possible slips written by the other side of the screen would not then give unauthorized information (UI) to his partner.

One of the advantages in playing behind screens is the relaxation felt by the players in not having his partner be privy to his body movements or possible visible physical reaction to one of the bids made, so quite naturally the relationship between the screenmates becomes more informal and friendly. Then possibly exchanging other information, heretofore not disclosed, before the opening lead might result in some UI being passed and cause different non-predictable actions to occur.

It is indeed, an unfortunate web we weave when first we practice to NOT deceive.

You are so right in this particular hand, however. Thanks for your idea.

Phyllis CheekJuly 1st, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I have to let you know that I am biased. I am married to Curtis Cheek. With that caveat, I still want to add my comments. First of all, the director was called before the opening lead (not after the play) as it was written up. It was at that point that Joel said he would have made a forcing pass. Johnny was not asked what he would have done after pass, presumably because it could help the defense during the play of the hand. Secondly, this was board 8 of 9. The director was in the room during the play of this board. Play took quite long, and time ran out. The director had not stopped the clock. As a result, the last board was not played and Joel and Johnny were assessed a 3 imp time penalty (they had been given a warning earlier in the match) This match was decided by that “procedural penalty”. Finally, it was made clear by the committee that score splitting is not permitted at the team trials. It is considered an ACBL sanctioned event and therefore, per rule 12 there can be no score splitting. I was told by reliable sources that there has been score splitting at the trials, but that aside, I read the rule 12c1(e)the commitee is required to abide by and still couldn’t figure out how they made their ruling. I then looked up the interpretations of the rules of the ACBL and here is what I found in the tech files.

LAWS.033 (PAGE 2)

So after an irregularity, when the director is called upon to adjust the score steps to be followed are

1. List the final contracts you think are possible.

2. Decide which ones rise to the level of “likely.”

3. Select the most favorable one of these “likely” results and award the non-offenders. Note that the result being selected is the most favorable result from the body of “likely” results. If one “likely” result is 40% and another 50%, the most favorable of the two is selected. You would not utomatically select the highest percentage one.

4. Decide if there is a result or results not judged “likely” that is at all probable.

5. If there are any “at all probable” results, add these to the results considered “likely” and select the most unfavorable.

6. Award the result selected in number 5 to the offender. ( ACBL Office Policy – March, 2000)

During the round robin of the team trials the scores do NOT have to balance, so it appears to me that in my reading of the committees ruling on the Gordon Appeal, The Gordon team should have received the result of 5HX -650, but Chan should have received the result of 6HX-100. That would have meant that Gordon was -3 imps and Chan was -13 imps for the nine boards. Gordon would have advanced. –

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 1st, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Welcome to the world of bridge blogging. I was quite surprised to see your name as I was not aware you even played — but I suggest in the future you use Directions rather than names as it is easier to follow.

On another subject — so much more important than bridge — the whole world is rejoicing about your much-loved husband Curtis’s recovery after that nightmare of a bout with swine flu. All of our prayers were answered and I am sure your love, strength, devotion and attention played a big part in the happy ending.



Bobby WolffJuly 1st, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hi Phyllis,

Again convention disruption (CD) raises its always ugly head. Once CD occurs, as soon as it is so determined, this time probably when the dummy came down, play should stop and appropriate scoring methods should take over.

In this case NS should never be subjected to having to use their judgment during the bidding, especially (but always nevertheless) when one hand is said to be showing long diamonds and it turns out there is, instead, a singleton. No bridge player in the world, good or bad, can survive that kind of erroneous information (sometimes by enormous luck) and even if they could, that table might as well have been playing gin rummy or canasta since all elements of bridge have evaporated.

Depending on the result at the other table and 5 hearts doubled on this particular hand making is more or less a normal result, it should be ruled that the CDers, being culprits would lose some amount of IMPs for their CD (somewhat mitigated by the result at the other table) but nevertheless the CDers side would be minus something.

When is our expert community, though totally air-headed on this subject, going to wake up, smell the roses and penalize CD out of existence so that matches can be determined by bridge as we know it, not by impossible rules (at least to Ray Leeistrate), politics, or by committees who have an impossible task trying to adjudicate CD and its hideousness.

Phyllis CheekJuly 1st, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Thank you for all of the prayers and thoughts. It’s what got us through this difficult time.

I just began playing bridge over a year ago. Curtis is teaching me, making me a lucky novice.

Regarding the appeal at hand, the result in the other room was 5H X

Thanks for getting me on the right track regarding bridge blogging.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 1st, 2010 at 6:47 pm


You are one lucky novice indeed — being taken under Curtis’ wing. There is nothing like being married to an expert and learning it the way bridge should be taught and viewed, not only correctly, but ethically as well.



LarryAugust 22nd, 2010 at 6:29 pm

What a horrible way to determine the winner.

One of my ex-partners had the habit of asking (before the opening lead was faced) if the alert explanation was correct to the person making the call. This occasionally brought to light misinformation and the director could be called before the opening lead was turned over.

Is this a legal way to protect ourselves? I am tired of being fixed by CD with no remedy known by most directors.

how to get a google plus accountMarch 23rd, 2014 at 11:40 am

Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.
I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article together.
I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments.

But so what, it was still worth it!

Leave a comment

Your comment