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Convention Disruption
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It's towards the the end of the second and final session of a large Regional pair game.

Chris and John were in 5th place after the first session and are having a good game which puts them in contention to win.

They arrive at the next table and the following ensues:

West
AK73
K4
J103
KQ92
North
106
QJ972
AQ97
J4
East
J9852
1085
K82
85
South
Q4
A63
654
A10763
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

North's 2 bid was alerted and explained upon inquiry from East as "both majors".

The opening lead was the Kand while putting the dummy downNorth said, "While my partner is correct that our agreement is both majors, I forgot we switched to Cappellettiearlier this year. We used to play DONT, where 2 shows diamonds and a major,and it's also what I played yesterday with my other partner."

The director was called and found out that both players had an identical computer-printed card which has Cappellettimarkedas the defense against NT.

The director instructed the players to achieve a result.

2 made and was a complete top for N/S across the 3-section field.

Chris and John asked for a ruling since they feltthey got misinformed about the 2 bid and that they could have competed in spades if they had gotten the correct explanation.

The director consulted with his peers and with the DICand informed them that according to the laws, the result stands since there was no misinformation, only a misbid by North. North was in the possession of UI, but he had a clear pass of 2 in any case.

Chris and John lost the event by a 1/4 of a board.

West
AK73
K4
J103
KQ92
North
106
QJ972
AQ97
J4
East
J9852
1085
K82
85
South
Q4
A63
654
A10763
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

(repeated for convenience)

Chris and John had no reasonable way of defending themselves.

2 Bridge Winners polls, where the overcall was 2 instead of 2 (in links below) confirmed that over 90% pass 2 as West in direct seatand as East in balancing seat.

This is even though the vulnerability was presented as neither vulnerable for the balancing seat poll to encourage action!

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-11849/

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-11924/

What happens if this occurred behind screens?

Behind screens, misinformation laws would apply since there would be a different explanation on one side compared to the other.

If Chris and John were playing behind screens then East would have gotten the explanation "Diamonds and a Major" and would bid 2 when 2 got passed back to him.

If they later got into a bidding accident because West thought 2 was some kind of a cue-bid then they would get a favorable ruling because of the different explanations on both sides of the screen.

What happens if this tournament had been online?

Online, there are self-alerts so the opponents would know what the bidder has and would also sometimes know when the opponents are having a bidding accident when the partner's response and explanation do not match the information they were previously given.

If Chris and John were playing online (and the opponents properly self-alerted) then East would know to bid 2 in balancing seat and West would know to pass that, or to compete to 3 if the opponents competed to 3.

It feels awkward that a simple change in the environment would lead to a radically different, and more equitable result.

I asked two world champions for their thoughts on this situation.

Bobby Wolff calls this "Convention Disruption".

He has stated many times that these occurrences are disgracing the beauty of the game by making it impossible to achieve a normal result.

He has been advocating for decades that the laws need to be changed so that pairs who forget their agreements can be penalized.

He did not, to my knowledge, advocate for a change in the laws to protect a pair like Chris and John who were damaged by the opponent's bungling of their agreements, but did say that he believes they deserve an Artificial Adjusted score of AVE+, notan Adjusted score that hands them an unearned top.

Michael Rosenberg expressed a view that a pair's agreement should be determined not merely by the pair's Convention Card or System Notes but mostly by their actual ability to have the same interpretationfor that agreement.

According to Michael, the fact that half of a pair does not remember the agreement (or interprets it differently) proves that the agreement was not firmly established.

He believes that pairs should be entitled to know not only what agreements the opponents have but alsohow firmthose agreements actually are. While there are scenarios that might warrantpenalizing a regular partnership who forgot an agreement, there is a lot of grey in this area and that we probably just have to live with a lot of imperfections in this regard.

Before I give my opinion, let's examine the possible reasons a player might make a bid that is different then what is on the Convention Card or System Notes.

  • It could be that the bid made is the actual agreement. Maybe the pair agreed to play something and just didn't update their CC and/or notes and one partner thought that it didn't apply.
  • It could be that theagreement applies to a scenario that only comes up infrequently, or that the partnership plays infrequently and the player that made the bid simply did not remember the agreement.
  • It could be that the agreement was established by one partner who might have sent the notes to the other at some point but never followed up on it and the other player just wasn't aware that they have that agreement. (This happens when one partner is the system keeper/developer and the other is just happy to play whatever.)
  • It could be that a player with multiple partnerships was applying an agreement from a different partnership. (I personally think this is the most common scenario.)
  • The last possibility is that the player deliberately deviates from the partnership agreement.

The Laws currently treat all these scenarios as if the player made a deliberate deviation when in reality, most of the time the partnership simply did not have a firm agreement, if they had an agreement at all.

The Laws of Duplicate Bridge state:

"The Laws are designed to define correct procedureand to provide an adequate remedy when thereis a departure from correct procedure.They are primarilydesigned not as punishment for irregularitiesbut rather for the rectification of situations wherenon-offenders may otherwise be damaged."

I do not believe there should be automatic penalties for pairs that create "Convention Disruption" but I do believe that the Laws should protect equity. The Laws currently handle Convention Disruption poorly when a pair presents an agreement as firm when it is not, by treating it as a psych rather than as an infraction. Instead, I believe CD should qualify as "departure from correct procedure", and thus a remedy should be provided. Such cases should be handled as misinformation and not as a psych, with appropriate score adjustment as necessary.

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