By Bill Michael, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Hot Copy, this month! This is an actual appeals case from the Phoenix NABC (although not from a national event). To set the stage: N/S are very experienced players with an established partnership. East has about 300 points, and West has none.

Vul: NS
Dealer W

S A J 5 4 3 
C J 9 6 4 3

S K Q T 9 3 
H J 9 2 
D 7 6 4 3 
C A K 8

S 8 7
H Q T 7 6 5 4
D K Q 9 5 
H K 8 3
D T 8 2 
C A Q 8 7 5 2
North East South West
- - - Pass
1S 2S* Pass
Pass Pass Pass
*Alerted (incorrectly) and explained as showing hearts and clubs; both E/W convention cards had “Michaels” marked for cuebids

The director was called after the opening lead was made and dummy was faced, showing that the explanation didn’t match the hand. The director determined that by the E/W agreement 2? was Michaels, showing hearts and an unknown minor rather than hearts and clubs. This determination was primarily based on E/W’s convention cards. Before play continued, the director took the south player away from the table to ask what she would have done differently had the correct explanation been given. South said she would have bid 3C.

The director determined that there were two (unintentional) infractions of law by E/W. The first violation of law was the mistaken explanation of “hearts and clubs” instead of the proper explanation of “hearts and a minor.” The second infraction was E/W’s failure to let N/S know, before the opening lead, that there had been a mistaken explanation.
In order to adjust a board, a director needs to find three things:(1) There has been a violation of law.(2) There has been damage to the non-offending side.(3) The damage is directly related to the infraction.

We have determined that there were two violations of law, not just one, so the first requirement has been met. Regarding the second requirement, the question to ask would be something along the lines of “whether N/S was likely to receive a higher score than +50 had the infraction not occurred?” It seems, without thinking too hard about it at this point, that N/S would likely be in a club contract without the infraction, which would score +190 at an absolute minimum. So, yes, there was damage. The third requirement is also met, as the mistaken explanation clearly dissuaded both North and South from bidding clubs, eliminating N/S’s possibility of playing in a club contract. With all three criteria met, we need to adjust the board.

The next thing to determine is what adjustment to make. Law 12.C.1.e tells us that an offending side is to receive “the most unfavorable result that was at all probable had the irregularity not occurred.” For the non-offending side, the adjustment is to be “the most favorable result that was likely had the irregularity not occurred.”

To decide what the adjustment should be, the table director polled several players about possible auctions. Three players (with 4500-5500 MPs each) were given the North hand, and invited to choose a call on the auction P-1S-2S-3C-P-? All three players said they would bid 3H. Three players were given the south hand and asked what they would respond to a 3C bid by north. Two said that they would bid 4C (agreeing that it was a stronger action than 5C - 3H was unanimously agreed to be game forcing); the third would have bid 5C. A different group of players was now asked what they would bid after 4C. One would have bid 5C; two would have bid 4D, both saying that it was a generic slam try. All three considered bidding more, but none did, after 5C was given as the response to 4D. The (hypothetical ) auction now is P-1S-2S-3C-P-3H-P-4C-P-4D-5C. Based on these answers, the director determined that 5C was the appropriate contract for N/S and, as the hand easily makes seven, the score was adjusted to N/S +640.

North/South appealed the ruling, contending that they would have been able to get to 6C absent the infraction.

The appeals process for regionally rated events at NABCs is a bit different than at your local sectional or even regional tournament. There is a panel of directors who sit as the committee, and one lead director who meets with the players and screens the appeals. The screening director’s job is to review the facts with everybody, hear objections to the ruling, explain the laws when appropriate and, finally, present the case to the panel of directors. The screening director is a neutral director assigned to this duty for the day; he can often dig more deeply into cases than the table directors can, find different people to poll, and focus strictly on the ruling, whereas a table director may have his attention split due to his other duties. In this case, one advantage that the screening director had over the table director was the ability to check with 10,000 MP holders, which is more in line with North’s MP holding.

The screening director found that of the three such players asked, every one of them found their way to 6C. The auction for all three turned out to be P-1S-2S-3C-P-3H-P-4C-4D (which all three said was RKC). The auction was presumed to carry on from there, making 6? a result that was “the best result likely.” The panel overturned the table director’s ruling, and adjusted the board to 6C making 7, N/S +1390. This was also found to be “the worst result at all probable,” so E/W received the score of -1390. (Adjusted scores are not required to balance.)

Happy holidays, and we’ll see you at the tables!

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