District 6
Shawn Stringer, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Jun/JulArticle by Steve RobinsonOct/Nov
ArticlesHuddle (Aug/Sep 2007)
I asked my expert panel the following: You hold QJ98754352K92. You're playing Swiss teams against a good team and you are vulnerable in second seat. 

RHO     You      LHO    Pard
Pass     2       Pass    2NT(1)
Dbl       3(2)  4       Dbl(3)
Pass     ??
1) Ogust
2) Good hand bad suit
3) 30 seconds

1. Would you bid 4 without a huddle?
2. Would you bid 4 with a huddle?
3. If you were on an appeals committee would you allow the 2 opener to bid 4 after partner’s thirty-second huddle?

4 made five for +650; 4 doubled went down one for +100

This game would be a lot easier if you could use adjective bidding. They open 4 You say ’ penalty double’ holding AQ109 of spades. You say ‘takeout double’ holding 0-4-4-5 distribution or you say ‘optional double’ holding a balanced strong notrump. This is not how bridge is played. When you double 4, partner has to know which type of double you have.

In the above weak-two auction, you could also use adjective bidding. ‘Penalty double’ tells Opener that you have KQJ10 of hearts. ‘Optional double’ tells Opener that you’re not sure whether you belong in 4 doubled or belong in 4. Again, this is not how bridge should be played. Players sometimes have problems and have to take some time in order to make the correct decision. Even though there is no law against thinking, a thirty-second thought and then a double adds an adjective to the double. The thirty-second thought tells Opener that you’re making an optional double. Law 16 in the ‘Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge’ says, “After a player makes available to his partner extraneous information that may suggest a call or play, as by means of a remark, a question, a reply to a question, or by unmistakable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement, mannerism or the like, the partner may not choose from among logical alternative actions one could that could demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information”. Opener cannot make the bid that is suggested by the huddle. If the huddle suggests that you bid 4, but the alternative action, which is pass, is a reasonable alternative, you MUST pass. When partner huddles, Opener knows its right to pull. If Responder doubled in tempo he could have xxKQJxKQJxAxx where it’s right to sit. The huddle gives Opener unauthorized information and that has been given the initials UI.

There is a heavy price to pay when you huddle. After you huddle, your decision is very likely to be the final decision. In this case, 4 doubled became the final contract. Not at the table, but when Opener pulled the thirty-second double to 4 and it became clear that pass was a reasonable alternative, the Director changed the final contract to 4 doubled and the committee unanimously agreed.

There’s a bigger price to pay when partner huddles and you overrule him. Unless the action you take is almost clear-cut, you give your opponents a two-way shot. If you pull your partner’s slow double to 4 and you are wrong you have to live with your 4 bid. The opponents will not complain if both 4 and 4 go down. However, if 4 makes and 4 doubled goes down less than 800, the opponents will get that score. The opponents will get the better score between 4 and 4 double. There is an additional bonus for the non-offending side. When the director looks at the play in 4, he will let declarer make reasonable guesses. For instance, if Declarer at 4 has a two-way guess for a queen or a jack, and there is any reason why he might guess it, the director will let him guess it right.

The following sixteen experts would bid 4 without the huddle, but with the huddle cannot overrule partner

Jill Myers: YES I would bid 4 without the huddle, since I have the surprise seventh spade but I think it is close. NO I would not bid 4 with the huddle since, I don't think 4 is clear and pass is a reasonable alternative. If I were on a committee, I wouldn't allow the 4 bid. 

Michael Kamil: Yes I would bid 4 without the huddle but would pass with the huddle.

I would return the contract to 4 double. I must say that this is a very difficult problem to answer since I don't agree with the context. That being the case, I suggest that if this hand was considered "good" before, what's the reason for the change now...except for the UI.

Lynn Deas: First of all why would I ever show a bad suit with seven-card trump suit when partner is expecting a six-card suit? Yes I would bid 4 without the huddle. No I wouldn’t bid 4 when partner huddled. I would definitely rule against 4 as it is clear from the huddle that partner doesn't have a trump stack. Usually, but not always, 2NT shows a fit in the weak-two suit but unless that is discussed there are a few hands where maybe partner was looking for 3NT. The huddle has taken the option of pulling away from me.

Bobby Wolff: I would bid 4 without the huddle, not expecting to get doubled, and doing it as a two-way action. I could get lucky, with the seventh spade, and make 4 spades or go down one or two and not be doubled. With the huddle, I would pass the double. I would rule it back to 4 doubled and give an extra disciplinary penalty to the hesitating side. The high-level game cannot survive good players being allowed to take this 4 double out. If the offenders claim that this is a tough situation and some leeway must be given, the more they claim that, the more severe I would make the disciplinary penalty. Until every high-level player and committee realizes this, we will never achieve what we must achieve. If a good player bids 4 after the 30 second double, he is openly being unethical, but worse yet, if a committee or even just a committee member allows him to do it, he deserves to not be allowed on any high-level committee in the future.

Wolff would give a disciplinary penalty to the 4 bidder.

Chip Martel: Yes I would bid 4 if partner doubled in tempo but would pass if partner hesitated and then doubled. I would put it back to 4 doubled.

Billy Pollack: I must admit that I would open 3, but can live with 2. I think it's clear to then rebid 4 over the double of 2NT, which happens to avoid this mess. So, yes, I would pull to 4 without the huddle. It's clear, however that now that we've made our bed, we must lie in it. If we didn't bid 4 over double, we invited partner to weigh in. He did. So I think we now have to pass, once given UI. Since the huddle made pulling clear-cut, I think the committee should disallow it. Opener had two chances to avoid this mess, so he's stuck with +100. 

Richard Freeman: I might bid 4 without the huddle but wouldn’t when partner huddled. Revert to 4 doubled. What an absurd good hand bid.

Barry Rigal: I would bid 4 without the huddle. I would not bid it with a huddle. If the director disallowed the 4 bid and so would I, he might tell the offenders their appeal was frivolous. If the director ruled for the offenders I'd be very unhappy.

Ralph Katz: No I would not pull the double. When partner bid 2NT I think I have the right to bid 4 over that. I guess if you force me to bid the hand this way I made my bed. But pulling here is much closer. I would rule 4 doubled. How would partner bid the hand with xKQJAKxx QJxxxx?

Partner’s huddles tell you that he doesn’t have xKQJAKxx QJxxxx. Adjective bridge is not allowed.

Carol Simon: The pair holding these cards are probably not experts, since I doubt an expert would play their normal Ogust response over the double when given not ONE, but TWO additional responses to make a meaningful bid. Hence, this hand should have an opportunity to make a descriptive 3 bid with pass/redouble reserved for normal or defensive hands. Back to the problem - if QJ seventh thinks 3 described the hand at this point, then he cannot change his mind, huddle or no huddle. The problem obviously is that he DIDN'T think this was the correct call and therefore should not have made it.  After making this call he is obligated to abide by his partner's decision. I would bid 4 without the huddle, but then I would NEVER have bid that silly 3 or the sillier 2 in the first place. I would NOT bid 4 with the huddle. If I were on the committee I would rule harshly against the 4 bidder.

Bart Bramley: I would bid 4 without the huddle. I have a deviant hand for my previous actions, both of which I disagree with. Prefer pass on the first round, not my style for a weak two. Prefer 4 on the second round, implying extra shape but not extra high cards, exactly what I have. With a good hand I could always redouble instead.  If 2NT implied some support, then I could reasonably drive to 4 later no matter what I did immediately over 2NT-Double. If 2NT could be bid on a misfit my problem is harder. After the huddle, I can’t bid 4. I made my bed and I must lie in it.  While I personally think 4 is right, I believe pass is a logical alternative, PARTICULARLY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS CHOSEN MY PREVIOUS ACTIONS.  My hand bears SOME resemblance to what I have shown, in that I have no top spade and a big side card. Partner may have them clobbered. As you can deduce from (2), I would change the contract to 4 doubled.

I can see that the alternate decision is possible. RHO is a passed hand and LHO couldn’t act immediately over 2, so the opponents seem to be saving. My seventh spade and singleton heart suggest that 4 is likely to be cold. Nevertheless, I ceded captaincy by making the Ogust response, so I cannot overrule partner without a more extreme hand than this one, i.e., a hand that more strongly suggests that I was bidding tactically earlier.

Rich Colker: In my opinion I've misdescribed my hand: I would have valued that as a good suit and a bad hand instead of the reverse. If I had correctly described my hand I would pass the double. If I truly believed my hand was as I described (bad hand, good suit) then, again, I'd pass the double. But given my true opinion I am tempted to bid 4. However, if partner huddles before doubling, which I believe suggests doubt, I think I'm obligated to pass since my hand is consistent with my previous bidding and I have no way to justify overriding partner's decision to defend.  

Since I have no objective way of convincing anyone that I do not think I've already adequately described my hand with my previous bids (i.e., that I have a "reasonably normal" second-seat vulnerable 2 bid and with a bad suit in a good hand) I believe I am obligated to pass. If I bid I think I'd have no chance, if my pull turns out to be the winning action, to defend my action to a tournament director or an appeals committee as having been uninfluenced by partner's huddle. Indeed, I think pass is the indicated action, if this hand is thought to be consistent with my previous bidding and even if it isn't, I think passing is a reasonable (if minority) action - that is, it could easily work out best.  

So my answers to your questions are: Yes, I would bid 4 because I think I've misdescribed my hand (I would have opened 3 to begin with and having opened 2 I would have shown a good suit in a bad hand). If partner huddled, I would not bid 4. In fact, I think bidding 4 with the huddle is unethical and I'd hope a tournament director would assess a procedural penalty to a player who did it. I'd certainly vote to assess one if I sat on an appeals committee that heard this pair appeal a tournament directors’ decision to disallow the pull. As indicated in #2, I'd disallow the pull and assess a procedural penalty for failing to obey Laws 16 and 73C): a player in possession of UI must carefully avoid taking any action suggested by the UI -- partner's huddle 

Another expert suggest a procedural penalty.

Jon Wittes: Without the huddle, I would probably bid 4, since I have a seventh spade, and since I've announced a good hand and a bad suit, I have more offense and a lot less defense than I've promised. With the huddle, I would pass, since pass is a logical alternative, though certainly not overly attractive with my actual hand. Although I have some sympathy for bidding 4, if I were on the committee, I would not allow the bid.  The 4 bidder certainly got additional information he was not entitled to with partner's lengthy hesitation. 

Peter Weichel: First off, I would definitely have opened 3 and avoided this entire problem. I also would have bid 4 over their double of 2NT, clearly the correct bid, thusly, again avoiding the problem. Finally, having done the wrong things to get into this dilemma, I would bid over a fast double and have to pass the slow double which is the ethical thing to do, because I hadn’t bid 4 previously, obviously making the pass a logical alternative. That makes my answer to three equally obvious. By the way, how is that a bad suit if it can play for one loser opposite a stiff honor, which, in part, explains why it is a three-bid not a two-bid?

Dan Morse: I would bid 4 without the huddle but would pass if partner huddles. I would rule against the bidder after a huddle.

Marty Bergen: I would bid 4 if partner doubled in tempo. It would be very sticky if partner huddled. The player would have to prove without any doubt that he was driving to 4 after 2NT (as he clearly should).

Marinesa Letizia: I would bid 4 without the huddle but would pass if partner huddled. I'd rule it back to 4 doubled.

The following six experts would not overrule partner even if he doubled in tempo. You can add to this number the experts who would probably bid 4 without the huddle. This makes passing 4 doubled a logical alternative.

Drew Cason: I would NOT bid 4 without the huddle. I would NOT bid 4 with the huddle. I would not allow the 4 bid as a committee member. My partner asked me a question, and I answered it. He is now the captain. If I had made the correct response of 4 over 2NT, perhaps I would not be so inclined to correct my obvious earlier misbid on the third round if bidding. BTW I agree that this hand is only worth 2 as a vulnerable opening preempt.

Henry Bethe: With a normal weak two, e.g. no voids, no 6-5, I cannot conceive of a hand that pulls the double in any tempo. If I opened a weak two for some reason with a freak, say, QJ108xx-AQ10xxxx, I cannot conceive of sitting the double in any tempo. Of course I would be more likely to open 4 than 2 with that hand.

Fred Stewart: I would not pull the double if partner doubled in tempo or huddled and doubled. The 4 bidder should be drawn and quartered. First, I'm not wild about weak-two with seven-baggers, but I am loyal to the second seat, thus presuming it is indeed unfavorable, I can live with 2. Given that, I think I've described my hand. Surely partner might have been angling for 3NT, thus I will live with his decision. Some purists might say "just bid your cards", but in the real world it is difficult sometime to ascertain to what degree one has been swayed. Thus, bidding on without a 100% clear-cut consensus is just wrong. This should be cut and dried. As it is not in this case, the bidder should be drawn and quartered.

Stewart would draw and quarter the 4 bidder.

Karen Allison: No I would not bid over an in tempo double. I believe partner has taken captaincy here and my hand is known, though 'good hand' is not what I would want to have shown. My club King can be a trick and surely I am headed for a minus if I bid. Over a huddle emphatically I would not pull for all those reasons. The hesitation typically means doubt and this hand now would want to remove the double. I would revert the contract to 4 doubled.

Gary Cohler: I would have jumped to 4 but not having done that I would sit for the double regardless of the time it took. Therefore, I would not allow a pull. 

Steve Bloom: This is a very weird problem. Imagine this auction without knowing the hand: I describe a weak two-bid fairly well, i.e., extra values, but not a very strong suit, thus putting partner is a fine position to place the contract. Moreover, partner has made no descriptive bid, so I would never have any basis for overruling partner. Add to this a long huddle, and I couldn't ever bid 4 given the huddle, and would never allow this in committee. Now to the problem:  I have misdescribed my hand at every chance!  I have a reasonable seven-card suit, rather than a poor six-bagger, and I have a poor hand, not a maximum. Let's be charitable, and assume that I was bidding tactically, always planning on bidding 4. Then, obviously, I would bid 4 without the huddle. Would I allow this to stand on committee?  Probably not. There is too good a chance that the opener thought the hand worth 2 followed by 3. Why should I allow a player who has misbid once, perhaps twice, to reevaluate based on partner's huddle. The player would have to convince me that all of this bidding was in jest, trying to mislead the defense when the final and obvious contract of 4 was reached. The answer to question #2 depends entirely on my reason for bidding 3. If I misevaluated my hand, then I would live with my error. I feel quite strongly that players should bend over backwards to protect their opponents whenever they have UI. If the losing action is even remotely feasible, choose it.

Dave Berkowitz: I would have bid 4 last round, but that notwithstanding I think I would not allow a pull in committee. This is analogous to a slow 4NT-5NT KCB auction where the responder bids seven after a slow six. If you are going to bid 4, do it the round before. As an aside, I would like to slip partner the KQJ10 of hearts, and see how many people would pass. It would be scary.

On the other side, if you held KQJ10x of hearts, you are not allowed to think for twenty seconds and then double. You also are not allowed to double before the 4 bid reaches the table. Unless there is a skip bid, even if not announced, I count to ten. I always count to four before making my other bids.

The following experts would not allow a pull of a slow double.

Bob Hamman: I would not allow a pull of a slow double. I would back it up to 4 and tack on a penalty. 

Another penalty-giver.

Nick Nickel: It is inconsistent to bid 3 to describe your hand and leave the decision to partner, and then to overrule his decision. I would not allow the 4 bid. The hesitation surely should bar you. You may disagree with the answer to the question #1, but after the hesitation, a pass is required. By the way, this hand falls way short of a “good hand” for a vulnerable weak two-bid, in my humble, and perhaps old fashioned, opinion

Kit Woolsey: South's hand is way on the offensive side on an offensive/defensive evaluation. It looks more like a 3 opening to me. The 2NT call figures to show some kind of spade tolerance - with no interest at all in playing in spades, North would have simply bid 3NT. In other words, if the opponents hadn't been in there and North had bid 2NT and then 3NT I believe South should correct to 4, while if North jumps directly to 3NT South should pass. Since in essence that is what has happened, I think South has a very clear 4 call. Assuming I was filling in for somebody who had opened 2 and then got sick when he realized what he had done, I would bid 4 with or without the huddle. There is one thing that bothers me, however. Good hand, bad suit??? This looks like good suit, bad hand to me. So, I would want to know if there are any definitions on what a good suit or a good hand is. If there are (such as a good suit being two of the top three honors), then I would allow the 4 call. But if the 3 call was just a judgment call about the hand, that is a different story. Now South has (in his mind) described his hand type to partner, so the double should be respected. In that case, I would not allow the 4 call.

Kerry Sanborn: I'm in the 40-60% range to pull to 4. If I value a pull at 40-60% then I have no business bidding 4 after the huddle. It now becomes a clear action prompted by the slow double by partner. Sure you can say that partner might be barring you from bidding again and really wants to defend, but in real life, that is never the case. Partner was always thinking about whether to bid on or double. I would roll it back to 4 doubled. You cannot have a two-way shot. I once made a slow double on the same type of auction, except that partner had opened 3 and they had overcalled 3, and when I laid down AKQx in partner's preempt, I commented, "now you know what I have in their suit." I had QJT9xAKQxAxQx. The first card in their suit lived, and we went down one in 4. The slow double is unauthorized information.

Jeff Rubens: If 3 was a correct system description, the normal action is to pass whether partner passes or doubles, so UI should not change that. I would also issue a large black mark to the sponsoring organization for not requiring more detailed method description (or, alternatively, for not providing default definitions). The position would be more complicated if, say, opener had accidentally described "good" when he had meant to say "bad." In that case, I would say it is normal to bid 4 if partner - presumably expecting more defense - passes, and I would allow that even with UI; I would say it is unclear what to do if partner doubles, so I would not allow action aligning with the UI. 

There are nine experts who think 4 is clear-cut.

Larry Cohen: I did not open this hand 2 to defend against 4. I have negative defense with my bad seven-card suit, but extra offense. So, I would clearly bid 4 without the huddle. With the huddle its close I think this is more than 80% action, but I'd feel guilty with the huddle. I probably would allow it since I think it is so clear, but it would bother me to allow it.  

Grant Baze: I would always bid 4, so I am not barred by the huddle. In fact, I would bid 4 over the double of 2NT. I would allow the 4 bid, as it is a 100% action

Charlie Weed: I would pull the double and would allow it to stand if on Committee.

Bobby Lipsitz: I'd have to bid 4 because my response was a total misdescription of my hand. Much closer is good suit, bad hand.

Jimmy Cayne: I would not open 2, just pass! And I would not bid 3 showing good hand, bad suit and I would have bid 4 over RHO'S double of partner’s 2NT! If all your conditions are to be adhered to, it would not occur to me to pass 4 doubled

Fred Hamilton: Since you have totally misdescribed your hand with the 3 bid showing a good hand, and you have a seventh trump, it seems clear to bid 4. Partners 2NT bid showed game interest at the very least, so will have a partial fit, honor doubleton or three of your spades. Since you would pull to 4 (all offense and one defensive trick) without the huddle, you should take the same action with a pause by partner. Committees tend to try to rule in favor of the non-offending side, but here I think the pull to 4 is so clear, that as a committee member I would allow it, even though the pause indicates that action more than a quick double would.

Mark Feldman: I would bid 4, but would have opened 3 to start out. I would probably allow 4, but there are possible issues as to style for a weak two-bid. In particular, as a committee member I would want to know what was the range of hands for the 3 bid.

Mike Passell: The 3 bid is ridiculous. This seems like a 4 bid to me. How can I show a good hand and a bad suit with this hand? This problem is unanswerable under these conditions. I would never sit with a seven-card suit and at most one defensive trick. As soon as partner bid 2NT I was playing at least 4

Curtis Cheek: Partner has game interest, else he wouldn't have bid 2NT. Given that, how do I rate our game chances? 85% or better. I would bid 4 without the huddle. What do I think of my offense to defense ratio? Too large to even consider passing. I give Pass zero, 4 ten. I would rule +650 and wonder why someone made me waste my time.   

Some of the experts do not understand the auction. The 3 bid was not a psych, was not a tactical bid and was not a misbid. He bid 3 because that’s what he thought his hand was worth. When you tell partner what you have, you have no reason to overrule partner when he makes it obvious that he wants you to reconsider your bid. I wonder how many of the above experts would allow the 4 bid if I had made it clear about the meaning of the 3 bid.

Jake Jabbour: I would bid 4 under all circumstances. The 3 bid was some kind of psych, apparently with a view to discouraging the opponents from entering the auction.  Having done that, with a seventh spade and a bad hand, I can hardly allow partner to make a judgment based on weak trumps and a good hand.  They might easily make 4 while I should have a decent shot at 4--at least a 37 1/2% chance and probably more.   If the objective was to talk them out of a save, I may have succeeded. Otherwise, I don't understand the auction. In committee, I would point to my attempt at disinformation to convince them that I had all along planned to buy the hand. As a committee member I would find that argument, added to the vulnerable game possibilities provided by the seventh spade, compelling.

Huddles are legal. If partner huddles and then bids Blackwood, you’re allowed to answer. Blackwood is forcing. If partner huddles and passes in a forcing auction, again you are allowed to bid. However, if partner huddles and there are two possible actions, the ethical player takes the action that is not suggested by the huddle. Usually that means you pass in non-forcing situations after partner has made an adjective pass or double. You can avoid these situations by making all your calls after counting to four. If you make the wrong bid in tempo, partner can still save you. If you make the wrong bid out of tempo, partner probably can’t save you.
Don Berman, Web Master.