Diamond Slam Appeal

Flight A/X Teams at the Santa Clara Regional
Monday, February 17, 2003
With Frank Smoot, Mark Robicheck, and Franz Lanzinger

This was the first hand of the day (see this hand for another
                                    "First Hand of the Day" bridge hand).

You hold    A

and RHO opens 1 spade.  You double, lefty sticks in a 2 spade bid, and
your partner (Frank) makes a free bid of 3 diamonds - your 5-card suit!
How 'bout that?

I forced with 3 spades and here is where we got in trouble.  Frank
thought a long time before jumping to 5 diamonds.  Well?  What would
you bid?  Does Frank's hesitation change your thinking at all?

I was going to bid one more than whatever Frank bid (5 diamonds over 4, or 6 over 5) and his hesitation didn't stop me from doing that. That's when the director was called for "protection". The opponents wanted to be protected in case my 6 diamond bid was based on my partner's hesitation. The director came over and ruled that play continue and he would come back later and tell us his ruling. (This created a separate - turns out minor, but interesting, unrelated problem for Frank discussed below.) The full hand was A AJT4 K9863 KJ2 KQ763 9852 Q753 9862 7 T5 AQ5 876 JT4 K AQJ42 T943 The opening lead was the king of spades. Frank won, and was able to ruff out the queen of spades, setting up his spade 10 for a club discard from dummy. He then simply played for the opener to have the club ace, so he didn't have to find opener with the club queen, which he had anyway, so it doesn't really matter (there was only 13 HCP missing, so it was likely that opener had it).
The director then came back and ruled that the auction be reverted to 5 diamonds, making 6, which turned out, became the result at the other table, so we didn't gain anything. Frank told the director at the time that he wanted to appeal, and he filled out an appeal form after the round. It turns out we lost that round, but since the event was scored in Victory Points, this slam cost us 4 VPs, and at the end of the day, we were in third place among Flight X, and getting those additional 4 VPs, would push us to second, so we went through with the appeal.
The law says that there is nothing at all improper about Frank taking his time considering his bid and he did indeed have things to think about. What the heck is partner doing with his 3 Spade bid? What does partner want to hear? Should I bid 3 NT? (After a similar start at the other table, his hand at this point did indeed bid 3 NT) Should I introduce my clubs? Should I just bid 4 diamonds? Or should I jump to 5 diamonds? Like I said, Frank eventually chose, what the appeals board later said, was the "aggressive action" of 5 diamonds. But all of this wasn't of interest as far as the Appeals Committee was concerned. What the law says (quoting from Rule 16A) is After a player makes available to his partner extraneous information that may suggest a call ... by unmistakable hesitation, ... the partner may not choose from among logical alternative actions one that could be demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information. What that means in English, is that if Frank's hesitation "demonstrably" suggests that I either pass or bid on, I cannot do so. Frank argued in front of the 3-member appeal panel, that his hesitation did NOT demonstrably suggest one call over another. Frank argued that I had no idea what he was hesitating about and thus, was free to do as I wished. The panel agreed, we got credit for our slam bid and made, and the 4 VPs, putting us in second place, worth 9 gold points instead of 6. Yippee!!! And all that after our team was giving Frank a hard time during lunch, saying that his appeal was extremely unlikely to win. We were wrong.

One interesting side issue that Frank mentioned during lunch, was that he objected to the way the director ordered play to continue before settling the issue of what the contract is. Frank had to play without knowing whether the contract was 5 diamonds or 6!! It didn't really matter on this hand since there was an easy path to 12 tricks, but on some other layout, perhaps Frank would play differently if he were in just game or in slam.

Trivia: Mark & Franz also won 2nd place when this Flight A/X Teams was next held at the Santa Clara Regional, Monday, September 1, 2003 (Labor Day). Here's what you needed to place in this A/X event, based on this event in both February and September, 2003. Feb Mar --- --- A1: 105 101 A2: 101 100 (2/4) A3: 93 X1: 85 101 X2: 79 84 Which is an average of 12 out of 20 VPs for the 7 rounds. X3: 76 79 # Teams: 41 34 X2 Gold: 11.51 9.30