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November 11, 2000
Active Ethics

The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.

Scorecard, Volume 32, No 6 - November/December 2000

As you mature and gain experience you are expected to be more and more aware of the laws of the game. An understanding of the laws can place an emotional strain on your ethics as well. You should work consciously to improve your understanding and application of ethics and the law. Most ethical violations are unintentional. I would guess that most players have been unethical at some point during their bridge career. If the thought, Not me! just ran through your mind then please read on before coming to a conclusion. You might be a bigger offender than you realize. The ACBL has spent thousands of dollars in marketing a campaign to promote Active Ethics. Just what do they mean by that? A basic understanding of the law will help. Let me present a scenario to see how you might act.

You pick up:

spade.gif (842 bytes)76
heart.gif (841 bytes)73
diamond.gif (837 bytes)AQJ654
club.gif (841 bytes)743

as dealer and open 2diamond.gif (837 bytes). Partner alerts and when LHO (left hand opponent) asks, explains that your bid is Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) showing 5 hearts, 4 spades, and 11 to 15 points.

Case 1

Your actual agreement is that you play a 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) opening as a weak two bid.

Has there been an infraction of the law and what should you do?

Law 75 (C) states that the opponents are entitled to an accurate description of your partnership agreements. Here there was an infraction of law, as partner did not convey to the opponents an accurate description of your agreement (you agreed to play weak 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) and partner indicated Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes)). Law 75 (D) states that you must correct a mistaken explanation by partner. However, you cannot provide partner with any unauthorized information. You cannot correct the explanation until the auction is over (if you become declarer or dummy) or at the end of the play (if you become defender). Law 75 (D) also states that you are not entitled to the unauthorized information provided by partners description (in our case the fact that partner thinks you have a Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) hand). At the appropriate time (before the opening lead or after the play is complete) you should summon the director and inform the opponents that partner provided an incorrect explanation.

Follow up - Partner bids 2NT after LHO passes. Your agreement is that 2NT asks for a feature. What should you bid?

Since you are not entitled to the unauthorized information that partner is on a totally different page you must continue as though the conversation between partner and LHO had not occurred. You must rebid 3diamond.gif (837 bytes) to show no outside feature. Any bids by you must be made with the same type of mindset.

You Partner
2diamond.gif (837 bytes) 4heart.gif (841 bytes) / 4spade.gif (842 bytes)

Over a weak two diamonds you would expect partner to have a self-sufficient heart or spade suit. You should pass (yes I know that partner expects you to hold 5 hearts and 4 spades).

You Partner
2diamond.gif (837 bytes) 2NT
3diamond.gif (837 bytes) 4NT

This is Blackwood. Tell partner how many aces you hold. Will all this yield a poor result for your side? Yes, probably. If the misinformation from partner causes damage to the opponents, then the director may award an adjusted score. You should accept the ruling without argument. Remember that your side created the problem.

Case 2

Your actual agreement is that you play Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) which you simply forgot. Has there been an infraction of the law and what should you do?

Law 75 (C) states that the opponents are entitled to an accurate description of your partnership agreements. Here there was NO infraction of law as partner did convey to the opponents an accurate description of your agreement (you agreed to play Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) as partner indicated). The fact that you do not hold what you and partner agreed is not germane. However the same rules apply about unauthorized information. You must remove from your thinking the wake-up call that you heard when partner alerted and explained your bid. The alert and explanation were for the opponents not for you. That is information to which you are not entitled and you may not act on it. You should continue the bidding firmly rooted in the belief that you and partner are playing 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) as a weak two bid. That is clearly what you thought prior to the alert and you have no facts (other than the unauthorized information) upon which to alter your opinion.

Follow up - Partner bids 2NT after LHO passes. Your agreement is that 2NT over 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) Flannery asks for your shortest minor suit. Your agreement is that over weak two bids (2heart.gif (841 bytes) and 2spade.gif (842 bytes)) that 2NT asks for a feature.

What should you bid?

You must bid 3diamond.gif (837 bytes) to show no feature. Once again follow up bids must be made from your understanding not taking into account the information that you received from the alert or subsequent explanation.

In either case to pass 2NT, to bid 3NT, to jump to 5diamond.gif (837 bytes) or any other rescue bid (clearly based both on your desire to save the result and on the unauthorized information) is inappropriate and unethical. The director should award an adjusted score (which might include a penalty for your side) if you act in such a manner. This is the price you pay in order to play a bidding system full of conventions. The best way to keep on track is to remember that the alert procedure (an imperfect process at best) is for the benefit of the opponents and not for your side to issue reminders to one another. You must act without any information imparted from alerts or descriptions.

Let me close by commenting on the things from the other perspective. If your RHO opens 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) (which is alerted) and you do not intend to bid irrespective of the meaning, then PASS and ask for a description after the auction is over. This greatly simplifies and in many cases eliminates the problem.

Be actively ethical and always take the moral high ground. The game is better for it. Let me hear from you.

Thanks!
Gary King

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