The Director's





Don't Ask - Do Tell


Harry Faulk
[Unit 128 Director]

Reprinted with permission from the May 2001 "Florida Bridge News"

Two of the continuing problems directors have at the table are  unauthorized information and incomplete information. Let's take a look at these problems and how to deal with them.  

You are sitting with - 6542 -763 -T86 -J52, and the opponents have an unopposed auction of 1-2NT-3-3-4NT-5-6. After the 2NT is alerted, you ask for and receive an explanation. At your next turn, you ask what the alerted 3 means and then, at your next turn, you ask, "What kind of Blackwood are you playing?"  

Why are you asking all of these questions? Yes, you have the right to do so - but why would you ask? Do you have any intention of bidding with your 1 count? Why not wait until the auction is over before asking your questions?  

Law 16 states in part that extraneous information obtained from, among other things, a reply to a question, is unauthorized to the partner of the responder - he is not supposed to be able to hear or act upon his partner's replies to the question. But let's face facts - he does hear the explanation and now he knows how partner has interpreted his bid. You have taken the guesswork out of it by asking the question. Maybe he forgot what kind of Blackwood he is playing - but, now that you have asked, he knows what partner is playing. So, though the information is unauthorized, in reality it is hard for a player not to use this information.  

But it is information he does not have if you don't ask the question. And, by asking the question, you may be giving unauthorized information to your partner. So, the best policy is not to ask until the auction is over unless you really need to know right then and there. If the information will affect a bidding decision, by all means, ask. If not, DON'T ASK  

Issue number two is that of full disclosure. When an opponent asks for an explanation, it is incumbent upon you to give a full explanation.  Don't just name the convention tell what it means completely. The opponents should not have to ask the right question in order to get a full explanation. It should not be like trying to pull teeth - you should explain fully the first time.  

An example - after two passes, you open 1, partner bids 2, which you alert. LHO asks for an explanation and you reply "We play 2-way reverse Drury". This is not an explanation! You might as well have said that this is Newton's 3rd Law of Gravitation for all the information that you have just provided.  Instead, you should say something like "This shows a 10-11 point spade raise with 4 trump and it says nothing about diamonds". Now that is an explanation! This is how you should answer all questions of this type - with complete disclosure of your agreements, not just bits and pieces. Full disclosure is the right thing to do, so when the opponents ask, DO TELL!

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