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Discussing Status of a Swiss or KO Match With Pard During the Match

I want to start off by saying that nothing in this article should be construed as accusing any player or any pair of anything unseemly, unethical or illegal.

Three incidents during the recent Roth Swiss in Atlanta got me thinking about whether it is proper (whatever that means) for a pair to discuss the potential IMP result on a particular hand or hands while a Swiss match, or a segment of a KO match is still in progress.

Incident 1: Playing against a pair of very polite English speaking World Class players, I chose to open a 3-6-3-1 nine count and we got to a vul game in hearts that made. One of my opponents said "Joe (name changed but was the person sitting in my seat at the other table) will DEFINITELY (obvious acccentuation) not open that hand." His partner agreed with that assessment. On the next hand, the opponents had what I thought (after the fact) was a pretty strange auction to get to a game with a lot of bidding by a passed hand opposite what turned out to be a third seat light opener. Their game went down but I couldn't help thinking that maybe the comment they had made on the previous hand established some joint "agreement" or "understanding" to push. Maybe I am mistaken and/or nuts and they might have pushed without any explicit conversation but it did get me thinking.

Incident 2: Another World Class pair whose English was not very good but they certainly seemed very forthcoming when asked to explain their extremely complex system (four ACBL prepared defenses that took us time to go through and eventually caused us to finish the match late). After seriously messing up a defense to a game, they started yelling at each other in a foreign language (any discussion in a foreign language is another issue that I know people on BW have addressed) and clearly had pained expressions on their faces. Now, for all I know they could have been discussing their Aunt Ninotchka's recipe for pickled beet borscht but again, on the very next hand (last hand of the match) there was an invite by opener with a sub-minimum and no shape and an acceptance by a minimum raise with no shape. The bidding on this hand was definitely way more aggressive than the way they had bid on the previous hands. They picked up a nonvul game swing when the low percentage game made with the help of a finesse for a king, QJx of another suit on side and then a simple squeeze.

Incident #3: World Class foreign pair with an apparently satisfactory command of English. While nothing really good or bad seemed to be happening, we had six plus scores and had not missed any games or slams. Anytime we competed we seemed to be right and either pushed them too high (one doubled phantom sac by opponents that I thought could easily be duplicated at the other table) or we made what we bid or it was a good sac. One opponents picked up his score sheet before the last board, shook his head and said something to his partner in the foreign language after which his partner shook his head. I had studied this foreign language in school but all I could really understand was "11." I am guessing that they thought they were stuck 11 but, of course, I could be wrong and they might have been talking about what time they were meeting at the bar. The last hand of the match was a straightforward game but again I couldn't help thinking that by discussing the state of the match, a partnership could establish some non-verbal agreement to press the accelerator or, conversely, put on the brakes (although this latter situation seems to me to be more obvious).

Look, I am a talker at the table and that probably is not good. Usually, my conversation is social especially when my opponents are people I know and I have a chance to catch up or joke with friends. I will sometimes ask pard if I got our agreements rights if I wasn't sure of the auction or defense I concocted. I never consciously talk about the state of the match even though I do not know of any rule that prohibits it, probably because I am often oblivious to the state of the current segment (I usually don't keep score as I have lost my pencil by the third hand). Yet, these incidents made me feel that discussing match status could have bad optics at best and implicit agreements at worst.

So there you have it. Am I off base or nuts? Originally, I was going to make this a poll where you could vote on whether I was crazy or making a mountain out of a molehill or both. Again, i am not saying anyone did anything wrong in these incidents - the incidents just got me thinking (something I try to avoid as much as possible).

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