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What does this hesitation suggest?

#1 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-12, 18:48


League game of average standard. Opening lead 10

Declarer won West's queen of spades with the ace and led the two of diamonds. East broke tempo before playing the seven, thought to be about 5 seconds by North-South, less by East.

Declarer played the jack and now went one off after a club return when diamonds did not break. The TD was called when the jack lost to the ace as declarer's original intention was to play the nine, but North (correctly) thought that if the ace of diamonds was with East, the odds would change. The hesitation was agreed, and the TD adjusted the score to 40% of 3NT= and 60% of 3NT-1. The TD stated that he agreed that declarer would have played the nine of diamonds without the hesitation, and indeed North thought for about 10 seconds after the hesitation, but the TD thought that declarer would have only made the contract 40% of the time, even though playing the 9 makes the contract 100% of the time.

The referee upheld the TD ruling on the basis that "one could not conclude from the hesitation that East had the ace of diamonds as there would be no bridge reason to play it, and that it was not just a case of the percentage line in the diamond suit alone." The referee did not comment on whether there was a bridge reason to break tempo with Txxx.

North-South are considering appealing to the National Authority as they believe East had no demonstrable bridge reason for the break in tempo (He stated at the table he was considering giving suit preference) and that declarer would have made the contract 100% of the time without the BIT. What do readers think?
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#2 User is offline   TylerE 

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Posted 2019-December-12, 21:06

I'm not particularly convinced 5 seconds at trick 2 IS a break in tempo.

In the words of George Clinton: Think, It Ain't Illegal Yet.
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#3 User is offline   FelicityR 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 01:50

Defenders are allowed to think, too. After a helpful opening lead for declarer, East could play 'second hand plays low' parrot fashion without giving one iota of thought to the subsequent defence. West at this juncture doesn't know if East has made a speculative lead from K1097(x), preferring this lead (to 4th best) trying to snuffle a potential J in dummy.

Declarers who expect defenders to assess quickly any situation without a moment's thought are arrogant. We all know that defence is a lot harder than declarer play. Five seconds is immaterial.
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#4 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 05:01

So, you both think that a 5-second break in tempo at trick two with Txxx under J9 doubleton is acceptable?
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#5 User is offline   jvage 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 05:19

You didn't mention wether declarer took some time at trick one. If trick one and the lead to trick two came (relatively) quickly I would tend to give East more than 5 seconds to think about the complete hand. If so it doesn't matter if (s)he had a problem at trick two.
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#6 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 05:22

View Postjvage, on 2019-December-13, 05:19, said:

You didn't mention wether declarer took some time at trick one. If trick one and the lead to trick two came (relatively) quickly I would tend to give East more than 5 seconds to think about the complete hand. If so it doesn't matter if (s)he had a problem at trick two.


This.

There is otherwise no bridge reason for the hesitation with 10xxx, and he could if he wanted to think about the whole hand have played a card face down and had his think.
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#7 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 06:00

View Postjvage, on 2019-December-13, 05:19, said:

You didn't mention wether declarer took some time at trick one. If trick one and the lead to trick two came (relatively) quickly I would tend to give East more than 5 seconds to think about the complete hand. If so it doesn't matter if (s)he had a problem at trick two.

Declarer played at normal speed and the hesitation was agreed with East thinking about which card to play, he stated as suit preference. The TD for better or worse found that there was a hesitation, and adjusted to 40% of 3NT= and 60% of 3NT-1. He stated that was because "declarer had misplayed the hand by playing the jack". NS appealed unsuccessfully but the same score was awarded.

The Referee wrote that there would be no bridge reason to go in with the ace on the East hand.

Oddly, last night at the North London Club, the same auction and opening trick occurred on the following hand. Again declarer, continued with a diamond at trick two. This time East went in with the ace of diamonds, the only defence, and continued spades and declarer went one down. If East ducks, declarer can just revert to hearts. Starting with hearts was possible, but that might involve guessing the ten, and playing a diamond looks correct.



So, the hypothesis that East can never be considering playing the ace when he has it is quite ludicrous. It is true that declarer draws an inference from the BIT at her peril, but that does not mean that East can break tempo in this situation.
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#8 User is offline   jvage 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 08:16

The best play in the diamond-suit is actually interesting. It seems the TD gave 2 conflicting statements: "...it was not just a case of the percentage line in the diamond suit alone" and "declarer had misplayed the hand by playing the jack". If you play the 9 and it loses to the 10 you are in practice down (this also loses to a singleton Ace in West, when both plans fail without a defensive blockage in clubs and/or spades). It looks like it is quite close between this and playing a diamond to the J. If the J loses to the A you still make with diamonds 3-3. If the J wins you can either switch to hearts (playing a spade to hand first) or continue diamonds if you think the opponents carding indicates 3-3 diamonds. If the TD thinks that declarer was misled I wonder why he saw the need to say that North had made a mistake. This is nothing near a "very serious error", it seems relatively close.


Regarding the tempo-issue, it might seem obvious to declarer to play a diamond at trick two, but not what diamond to play from dummy. So if Lamford had said it was Charlie the Chimp declaring, one would have expected the first trick followed by a diamond to be fast. Then he would closely follow East tempo at trick 2 and call the TD if he misguessed (yes, I know about the "own risk" in §73D)...
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#9 User is offline   VixTD 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 08:21

I'm surprised that what looks like a fairly run-of-the-mill (although not necessarily easy) ruling in a league game where "average" players are competing has become a possible appeal to the National Authority. From the sparse information given about the TD and the referee's decisions it looks as if they both may have failed to do an adequate job, or at least not explained themselves clearly.

I don't think the speed of declarer's play to trick one is particularly relevant (although excessively speedy play is poor form). If East needed time to consider their play to the second or subsequent tricks, they should have thought about it (for as long as it takes) before quitting trick one, not during the play of trick two.

Deciding whether to signal with otherwise insignificant cards is not considered sufficient reason to pause during the play of that trick (WB8.73.1).

If the TD really is convinced that declarer will play the nine every time without the hesitation, their giving of some proportion of 3NT-1 doesn't make sense to me. Is it possible (despite what they said) that they thought they might play the jack regardless? Were they thinking that West might win, continue spades and that declarer might play a heart before unblocking the diamond?

The referee's conclusion that the hesitation does not indicate possession of the diamond ace may be bridge nonsense (and I agree with Lamford on this), but it's also legally irrelevant. The law that applies here is 73E2, which does not concern itself whether the inference the non-offender has drawn is a sensible or logical one, just whether an innocent player has drawn an inference and thereby been damaged, and clearly that's the case here. The TD (or the referee) should poll some players of similar standard to North and assess the likelihood of playing the nine after an in-tempo play from East, and assign a weighted score based on the probabilities (which may well be 100% of 3NT=).

If either the players or the TD had mentioned on the appeal form the question of whether thinking at trick two was legitimate with only small cards, the referee should have commented on it. (If none of them did, perhaps they should have.)

Quote

[WB8.73.1] Pausing to consider whether to signal is an infraction, under Law 73D1. The player has failed to be ‘particularly careful in positions where variations (in tempo) may work to the benefit of their side’ and to do so is not usually considered ‘a demonstrable bridge reason’ for the purposes of Law 73E2.


Quote

{Law 73E2] If the Director determines that an innocent player has drawn a false inference from a question, remark, manner, tempo or the like, of an opponent who has no demonstrable bridge reason for the action, and who could have been aware, at the time of the action, that it could work to his benefit, the Director shall award an adjusted score.

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#10 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 08:53

View PostVixTD, on 2019-December-13, 08:21, said:

I'm surprised that what looks like a fairly run-of-the-mill (although not necessarily easy) ruling in a league game where "average" players are competing has become a possible appeal to the National Authority. From the sparse information given about the TD and the referee's decisions it looks as if they both may have failed to do an adequate job, or at least not explained themselves clearly.

I don't think the speed of declarer's play to trick one is particularly relevant (although excessively speedy play is poor form). If East needed time to consider their play to the second or subsequent tricks, they should have thought about it (for as long as it takes) before quitting trick one, not during the play of trick two.

Deciding whether to signal with otherwise insignificant cards is not considered sufficient reason to pause during the play of that trick (WB8.73.1).

If the TD really is convinced that declarer will play the nine every time without the hesitation, their giving of some proportion of 3NT-1 doesn't make sense to me. Is it possible (despite what they said) that they thought they might play the jack regardless? Were they thinking that West might win, continue spades and that declarer might play a heart before unblocking the diamond?

The referee's conclusion that the hesitation does not indicate possession of the diamond ace may be bridge nonsense (and I agree with Lamford on this), but it's also legally irrelevant. The law that applies here is 73E2, which does not concern itself whether the inference the non-offender has drawn is a sensible or logical one, just whether an innocent player has drawn an inference and thereby been damaged, and clearly that's the case here. The TD (or the referee) should poll some players of similar standard to North and assess the likelihood of playing the nine after an in-tempo play from East, and assign a weighted score based on the probabilities (which may well be 100% of 3NT=).

If either the players or the TD had mentioned on the appeal form the question of whether thinking at trick two was legitimate with only small cards, the referee should have commented on it. (If none of them did, perhaps they should have.)

I don't think I have anything to add to your typically thorough and erudite analysis.
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#11 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 09:00

View Postjvage, on 2019-December-13, 08:16, said:

The best play in the diamond-suit is actually interesting. It seems the TD gave 2 conflicting statements: "...it was not just a case of the percentage line in the diamond suit alone" and "declarer had misplayed the hand by playing the jack". If you play the 9 and it loses to the 10 you are in practice down (this also loses to a singleton Ace in West, when both plans fail without a defensive blockage in clubs and/or spades). It looks like it is quite close between this and playing a diamond to the J. If the J loses to the A you still make with diamonds 3-3. If the J wins you can either switch to hearts (playing a spade to hand first) or continue diamonds if you think the opponents carding indicates 3-3 diamonds. If the TD thinks that declarer was misled I wonder why he saw the need to say that North had made a mistake. This is nothing near a "very serious error", it seems relatively close.


Regarding the tempo-issue, it might seem obvious to declarer to play a diamond at trick two, but not what diamond to play from dummy. So if Lamford had said it was Charlie the Chimp declaring, one would have expected the first trick followed by a diamond to be fast. Then he would closely follow East tempo at trick 2 and call the TD if he misguessed (yes, I know about the "own risk" in §73D)...

Now that you have told me how you are going to play, John, I will duck the diamond with Axx if hearts are coming in, and win it when they are not. More relevantly, North called the TD immediately the jack lost to the ace, as she had intended to play the nine (which I think is percentage anyway) and she had thought about ten seconds after East broke tempo considering the possible layouts. If East is known to the have the ace of diamonds then the jack is about 3% better.

And Charlie the Chimp knows the game theory here, so he would be East in any story. He breaks tempo with ATxx and Txxx with East (and then denies it of course) and plays low smoothly with Axx.
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#12 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 09:08

The holding I would expect for a think is Ax, so I'd consider playing the J and ducking on the way back
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#13 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 09:23

View PostCyberyeti, on 2019-December-13, 09:08, said:

The holding I would expect for a think is Ax, so I'd consider playing the J and ducking on the way back

Against you ChCh will think from ATx, his only chance ... And he will be ready to say that it is a "bridge reason", so 73E2 does not apply.
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#14 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 10:05

View Postlamford, on 2019-December-13, 09:23, said:

Against you ChCh will think from ATx, his only chance ... And he will be ready to say that it is a "bridge reason", so 73E2 does not apply.


The bridge reason is that he's trying to cheat, there is no legitimate bridge reason to hesitate from this
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#15 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 10:08

View PostCyberyeti, on 2019-December-13, 10:05, said:

The bridge reason is that he's trying to cheat, there is no legitimate bridge reason to hesitate from this

He will say that he was considering winning the ace, in case it was necessary for him to win the trick rather than his partner with a putative king. And considering winning the trick IS a bridge reason.
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#16 User is offline   KingCovert 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 10:59

While I must admit, I'm not particularly familiar with any of the laws surrounding this issue. As a player, I do think it's somewhat ridiculous to consider it unethical to think when making a decision. Sometimes players considering whether they should be giving count, or preference.. etc.. Rather, it's clear to me, that the most unethical player at the table is the one who chooses to read into a break in tempo, and changes their course of action intending to run to the director if they've guessed wrong. It's shameful. If this player had absolutely no conceivable decision, I understand, but it's trick 2, and decisions at trick 2 can have significant relevance to defeating a contract. While I agree that this decision is straight forward, and may well mark the 10 to their partner, this is identical to when a defender is thinking with the King of a suit on the table, does anyone doubt whether they have the Ace? Are they now obligated to play it?
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#17 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 11:21

View PostKingCovert, on 2019-December-13, 10:59, said:

While I must admit, I'm not particularly familiar with any of the laws surrounding this issue. As a player, I do think it's somewhat ridiculous to consider it unethical to think when making a decision. Sometimes players considering whether they should be giving count, or preference.. etc.. Rather, it's clear to me, that the most unethical player at the table is the one who chooses to read into a break in tempo, and changes their course of action intending to run to the director if they've guessed wrong. It's shameful. If this player had absolutely no conceivable decision, I understand, but it's trick 2, and decisions at trick 2 can have significant relevance to defeating a contract. While I agree that this decision is straight forward, and may well mark the 10 to their partner, this is identical to when a defender is thinking with the King of a suit on the table, does anyone doubt whether they have the Ace? Are they now obligated to play it?

It's a tricky balancing act. Players are allowed to think when necessary, and opponents take inferences at their own risk.

But the purpose of that Law is to prevent coffee-housing -- the player must not try to mislead an opponent with their tempo. E.g. the player shouldn't stop to think if they don't have the Ace.

And isn't that exactly what happened here? From declarer's perspective, what else could East have been thining about except whether to play the Ace?

On the other hand, why would anyone even consider playing the Ace when you lead towards a Jack in a NT contract? What 's the rush, and you could crash partner's honor? So maybe declarer should (correctly) infer that East was thinking about something else, like what to signal.

But to avoid this problem, players are expected to plan ahead so they can maintain consistent tempo to the extent possible. If you have the Ace before dummy's King, you decide early on what you'll do if declarer leads towards it. If you decide to duck, you then duck smoothly.

This isn't always possible, sometimes things change unexpectedly and you have to revise your plans quickly. This is why the Law allows you to hesitate if you have a "demonstrable bridge reason".

#18 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 11:25

View Postbarmar, on 2019-December-13, 11:21, said:

On the other hand, why would anyone even consider playing the Ace when you lead towards a Jack in a NT contract? What 's the rush, and you could crash partner's honor? So maybe declarer should (correctly) infer that East was thinking about something else, like what to signal.

Because you don't want to take out partner's entry, perhaps ... especially if he is the one with long spades. And as VixTD says, it is also "legally irrelevant".
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#19 User is offline   jvage 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 12:10

View Postlamford, on 2019-December-13, 09:00, said:

Now that you have told me how you are going to play, John, I will duck the diamond with Axx if hearts are coming in, and win it when they are not. More relevantly, North called the TD immediately the jack lost to the ace, as she had intended to play the nine (which I think is percentage anyway) and she had thought about ten seconds after East broke tempo considering the possible layouts. If East is known to the have the ace of diamonds then the jack is about 3% better.

And Charlie the Chimp knows the game theory here, so he would be East in any story. He breaks tempo with ATxx and Txxx with East (and then denies it of course) and plays low smoothly with Axx.


I guess you meant the opposite, Paul. With your strategy I will always make (while I would sometimes misguess if you had chosen the opposite strategy) :D I think that might just go to show that this defensive strategy would rarely be found in practice. Espescially since I didn't actually tell you how I would play (against most opponents I do however think I would guess the diamondsplit better than just the original odds). My point was just that it's close, possibly closer than the 3% difference that you mention, which is already relatively close.
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#20 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2019-December-13, 12:40

View Postjvage, on 2019-December-13, 12:10, said:

I guess you meant the opposite, Paul. With your strategy I will always make (while I would sometimes misguess if you had chosen the opposite strategy) :D I think that might just go to show that this defensive strategy would rarely be found in practice. Espescially since I didn't actually tell you how I would play (against most opponents I do however think I would guess the diamondsplit better than just the original odds). My point was just that it's close, possibly closer than the 3% difference that you mention, which is already relatively close.

Why would I not lie to you about my strategy? Yes, I agree that it is close. However, if you "know" that East has the ace of diamonds, it is not so close. What NS submitted to the referee was the following:

Without the hesitation, the normal line is to play a diamond to the nine. This succeeds whenever the ten of diamonds is onside and the diamonds are 4-2 or 3-3, Given that they break this well about 85% of the time, this line is close to 42.5%. After the hesitation we “know” that East “must” have the ace of diamonds, or he would have nothing to think about. And giving suit preference is not a “bridge reason” for the BIT.

The new possibilities are therefore East having Ax, ATx, Axx, Axxx, ATxx, and ATxxx. In the last two he would have nothing to think about as he would never play the ace in those situations, and he would probably have led a diamond from ATxxx in any case. However, we shall just consider that he has the ace and no more than four diamonds (as it is not relevant what we play if he has five). The relative odds:
Ax 6.4% (note that AT doubleton has been eliminated from the enquiries)
ATx 7.2%
Axx 10.8%
Axxx 6.4%
ATxx 9.6%
We have eliminated some holdings, as being impossible, and we “know” the ace of diamonds is with East. Of course the above has to be scaled so that it adds up to 100%

That gives
Ax 15.8%
ATx 17.8%
Axx 26.7%
Axxx 15.8%
ATxx 23.8%

So, at the point where the critical decision has to be made, playing the jack works in 44.5% of the cases (we are never picking Ax) and playing the nine works in only 41.6%. It would be a clear error to play the nine, and two very strong players whom I asked played the jack when given the problem (with the hesitation). If one considers, as I do, that East is unlikely to hesitate with ATxx (as he would never think of playing the ace with that), then I think finessing the nine drops to 17.8% - a ridiculous line. I do not pretend for one moment that North did any of the maths at the table, but she did originally intend to play the nine, thought for about ten seconds when East broke tempo, and then judged (correctly) to play the jack. She called the TD and the BIT was agreed immediately. I submit that this ruling is truly awful and not in the ballpark and 100% of 3NT= is correct, which is what we are seeking.

In this example, the play by East of hesitating without the ace should have attracted a procedural penalty. Instead, East benefited by deflecting North from the winning line. I agree that he “was not aware”, but that does not matter. He “could have been aware”, especially looking at Txxx in diamonds!

Now I agree that one might be able to do a bit better by combining chances if the jack wins, as one does not have to play for 3-3 diamonds. However if the nine forces the ace, you are very likely to make. If you play the jack and it holds, then you are probably going to play for diamonds three-three rather than playing for two heart tricks. All this is irrelevant of course; an innocent person drew a false inference from an opponent's infraction, so the TD should adjust.
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