By Bill Michael, Colorado Springs, Colorado

When do we adjust boards? In order for a score adjustment to be made, three requirements must be met. First, there must be an actual infraction of law. Second, there must be damage to the non-offending side. Third, the damage must be a direct result of the infraction. In an earlier article, I presented an example of a hand where the non-offending side contributed to its own damage and was therefore not protected. In that case there was an infraction and there was damage, but the damage was not directly related to the infraction.

This month, I discuss a case where there was an infraction of law but there was no damage, thus failing the second test for adjusting a board, and rendering the third requirement moot.

Vul: EW
Dealer W

S K Q 3
H K 9 8 7 3
D T 8 6 2 
C 4

S 8 4 2 
D J 5 4
C K J 8 6 5 2

S A T 6 5
H T 6 5 
D A 3 
C A Q T 7
  S J 9 7
H A J 4 2 
D KQ 9 7 
C 9 3


North East South West
Pass Pass 1C Pass*
2C** 2H 2S 3H
4C Pass Pass Pass
*> Disputed Break in Tempo (10 seconds alleged)
**Alerted, no explanation asked.; after the auction, West said it should not have been alerted.

Result: 4C -1. Opening lead: 9C

The first task in making a ruling is to decide if there was a break in tempo (“BIT”). In cases of disputed facts we apply Law 85:

“A. Director’s Assessment.
  1. In determining the facts, the Director shall base his view on the balance of probabilities, which is to say in accordance with the weight of the evidence he is able to collect
  2. If the Director is then satisfied that he has ascertained the facts, he rules as in Law 84.
B. Facts Not Determined.If the Director is unable to determine the facts to his satisfaction, he makes a ruling that will permit play to continue.”

As you can see, this is a very subjective realm for directors. Disagreement over BITs are fairly common, as people often honestly believe that they did not break tempo, while their opponents equally honestly believe that there was hesitation. One question we frequently ask is “how long was the break, in seconds?” The answers vary from “I don’t have a stopwatch” through “three minutes.”.

In this case, we need to look at the South hand. It is nearly a takeout double, a call that many people would consider, if not actually make. This is highly suggestive that South did have something to think about, which lends a lot of credence to the allegation of a BIT. Additionally, the person doing the thinking is the player most likely not to be aware of how long it took him to make his call.

With those two pieces of evidence, part one of the ruling should be “Yes, there was a BIT.” The hesitation now being established brings Law 16 (Unauthorized Information) into play. To wit, do we find that 2H was demonstrably suggested by the BIT? It certainly seems so - the suit is of low quality, and partner is an unknown passed hand. The hand is at best minimum to come in freely at the two level. Additionally, we should assume that North thinks that West has more values because of the alert of 2C. Part of the mechanism for determining what adjustments, if any, are proper requires the director to assume a hypothetical auction if a call(s) is disallowed under Law 16. Our hypothetical auction now goes:

P – P – 1C – P2C – P – 2S – X3C – 3H – P – P4C

The fact that West bid 4C over South’s 3H bid in the actual auction cannot be ignored. It seems to us that most roads, perhaps all roads, lead to 4C by East/West. There is a fair presumption that N/S will still compete; South’s hand is pretty good and, after a disciplined pass over 1C, South has some room to maneuver. A takeout double after the 2S bid seems pretty much automatic. After South doubles it seems unlikely that North will sell out below the three level. Our final ruling in this case was that the result stands - even though we did find there was a BIT, and we found an infraction of law ( we ruled that the 2H bid was demonstrably suggested by the BIT, and therefore is a logical alternative we would not allow) - we did not find that there was any damage. Our hypothetical auction led us to the actual table result, so there was no basis for adjustment.
I’ve used the plural a lot in this article (“we did not find that there was any damage”) as this was an actual ruling at a tournament, with most of what I’ve described being actual conversations among directors. The decision was a joint decision, as most judgment calls made at tournaments are.

Please keep send ruling questions to me at Don’t include names other than your own, and let me know if you want to remain anonymous, should I happen to use your ruling for my articles. Thank you.

See you at the tables!


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