ACBL Unit 503


Mistaken Bid vs. Mistaken Information

That a player or director can find the difference between a mistaken bid ruling and a mistaken explanation ruling confusing is evidenced by the fact that the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge devotes an entire page to an example clarifying the two (Law 75, Laws, pp. 83-85). The following hand may help players understand the two irregularities, their responsibilities, and the director’s considerations.

Board 29: Dlr: N, Vul: none
N: QT87// KQ// AJ3// A963
E: 62// J9632// 9842// 84
S: K953// 874// Q765// Q7
W: AJ4// AT5//KT// KJT52

Bidding:
1C - P - 1S - 1NT!
3S - P - P - P

Club opening lead

The 1NT was explained as Sandwich NT: the unbid suits, less than an opening hand.

West approached me during the auction (an impropriety noted by North) and explained that their partnership agreement was that East's explanation was only correct if West had been a passed hand. When West was an unpassed hand, the 1NT bid was natural and showed a strong NT. She asked if she should correct the explanation, but I explained that as a defender, she could only correct the explanation after the hand was over.

The South player took a line of play based on the information given and went down one. I ruled that this was a case of mistaken explanation and awarded the North-South pair an adjusted score. That adjusted score was N-S +170, since I felt that South, with the club opening lead and the correct information, would come to ten tricks via 3 trumps, one heart, three diamonds, two clubs, and a club ruff in hand. This result was duplicated at two other tables. Another lead might have made this result less likely, but it's possible N-S could still come to ten tricks via 3 trumps, one heart, three diamonds, one club, and two club ruffs in hand.

An Example of Mistaken Bid: You open the bidding 2D (weak) and are surprised to hear your partner alert and explain the bid as Flannery. Oops! Your partner is right; your convention card clearly states that you are playing the opening bid of 2D as Flannery. The hand is played and the opponents feel they are damaged. The director is called to the table.

An Example of Mistaken Explanation: You open the bidding 2D (weak) and are surprised to hear your partner alert and explain the bid as Flannery. Your partner’s explanation is incorrect; your convention card clearly states that you are playing the opening bid of 2D as weak. The hand is played and the opponents feel they are damaged. The director is called to the table.

Point: In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the director must assume mistaken explanation rather than mistaken bid. That evidence is usually the partnership convention card, accurately and completely filled out, or written system notes. Committees have been known to overturn a mistaken bid ruling if the offending partnership did not have two identical convention cards at the table.

The ruling in the actual hand may be less obvious than the examples given above. Sandwich NT is one of the many conventions that may be played in several ways, among them:

  1. Natural and strong by an unpassed hand; weak with the two unbid suits by a passed hand; (West's assumption), or,
  2. Weak with the two unbid suits in all situations (East's assumption).

Your partnership is responsible for all conventions you play: what variant and what changes occur in competition. This information should be written on your convention card. If it is not, there will be no evidence to document your partnership agreement and the director will rule mistaken explanation. The fact that you didn’t know there was an alternate variation of a convention does not relieve you of responsibility.

Point: Whether mistaken bid or mistaken explanation, unauthorized information exists. Be careful to base all actions on authorized information only.

Not surprisingly, the East-West partnership was upset by my ruling and the adjusted score. It was too late to form a committee, so I sent the information to Rulings@acbl.org. This was the Mike Flader’s response:

"In the case of part one, I think that this is clear case of a mistaken explanation, and that there was damage as a direct result of the explanation. I, too, would adjust the score on that basis.

"In the case of part two, it seems to me that you have followed law 12 to the letter. What it says is that when the director assigns an adjusted score, for the non-offending side, that score should be the most favorable one that was at all likely had the infraction not occurred. For the offending side, this should be the least favorable result that was at all probable. The two scores need not balance.”

Sue Johnston