Judy Kay-Wolff


(1) Weak NT (12-14)
(2) Natural (could be as much as 10 points)
(3) A huddle of about 20 seconds

You are West, holding:


What are your options????


JRGSeptember 12th, 2018 at 8:31 pm

Decades ago, as a youth, we played ACOL with a 13-15 HCP 1NT opening. We just loved these auctions! For what it is worth, here’s my opinion.

Opponents that doubled us for penalties sometimes rued their action and those that entered the auction occasionally went for cash-register numbers and even if not doubled, frequently got poor scores because they didn’t belong in the auction.

That’s not to say we never got punished or had a bad board, but the better players usually stayed out unless they had distributional hands (better than the example, at least in placement of honors).

I passed 1NT initially, I have no real reason to come in now and I personally consider it the only option. In any case, passing is the only logical alternative not suggested by unauthorized information. AND I’M VULNERABLE so going down is 100 a trick even if I’m not doubled.

ChuckSeptember 13th, 2018 at 12:20 am


I’ve enjoyed reading your blog site, but have never commented before. This time I felt compelled to do so! How could anyone consider taking action in balance seat after a noted hitch by partner. If they did bid, I hope their side got punished. OR better yet, called it to the attention of the director and was reprimanded.

Bridge is definitely on the skids.

CarolSeptember 13th, 2018 at 1:34 am

I cannot imagine your approaching this topic if someone had not posed the question. In my eyes, it is automatic to pull out the green card (not to be confused with the one associated with immigration)! Pass or PASS. TAKE YOUR CHOICE. I was delighted to see your post as I am fed up with the staffs of clubs not wanting to make a harsh (though correct) ruling .. for fear of losing newer or weaker clients who don’t know about ethics. Perhaps Ethics and Manners should be taught alongside of Beginners Bridge so they will get it right from the Start!

I know your husband, Bobby Wolff, created both the Recorder System and the Ethical Oversight Committee many years ago. I have NO DOUBT about his belief in West’s choices.

I agree with Chuck. Bridge IS on the skids.

JudySeptember 15th, 2018 at 6:52 pm

I have received some personal emails about the hand, not wanting to go public. I will publish the results in day or so .. followed by Bobby’s analysis.

JudySeptember 17th, 2018 at 2:00 am

O.K. Folks .. here is the actual happening:

East/West VUL. North/South. NON VUL

Only one person committed himself above.

As West, after you pass an alerted WNT (12-14) by South:

Lefty (North) bids 2H (natural/non-forcing) (holding 0-10 HCP)

Your Partner East huddles for about 15-20 seconds and passes

South passes too.

As West holding. AJ63 64 K4 KJ1073





NS called the Director who said to call him back at the end of the hand. When he returned, he allowed the result to stand.


CarolSeptember 17th, 2018 at 4:41 am

When you posted the problem, there was not a doubt in my mind that in balance seat .. West disgustingly took action. Sometimes weaker players don’t know any better, but how can a director not understand the violation himself and allow it to recur?

JudySeptember 17th, 2018 at 4:50 am

Hi Carol,

Obviously, had East NOT huddled (suggesting he was considering taking action) .. West could do anything he wanted! 3C certainly was a consideration .. BUT NOT AFTER THE HITCH!

Art KorthSeptember 17th, 2018 at 3:35 pm


You ask: What are your options?

Based on my experience, I would have acted in direct seat if I had methods which could reasonably describe this hand.

Having passed originally, I would certainly balance with 3C or double.

BUT, if partner huddled noticeably over 2H, I can no longer make my normal balance if there is any doubt that it is the only reasonable action available (I am not going to get into a discussion of logical alternatives, etc). And there is no doubt that pass is a reasonable action.

Query: What would you think if pass resulted in a good result but a balance of 3C or double would result in a poor result?

Bobby WolffSeptember 17th, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Hi Art,

Although one could argue the equity of your query, the pair who called the TD could happily accept the better result of allowing the abuse of UI, but if I was the TD, or on a later appeal committee and, of course, felt that the original complaining side were being opportunists, I might adjust the result downward against them, so that the field would benefit and, at least to me, bridge equity would be better served.

However, in most cases, once the so-called aggrieved side got lucky with the result, the protest would fade away.

Not necessarily fair, but, at least to me, the players now understanding their ethical responsibilities trumps all other priorities.

Paul CroninSeptember 30th, 2018 at 7:43 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for bringing up a very serious situation. Far too many players believe that huddling, body language, etc., are just “part of the game”. And their opponents too often (wrongly) feel that it’s petty to call the director, or don’t understand that the are entitled to protection on the auction. A particularly egregious situation is one like

2H 2S huddle P

So much of this could be eliminated by a 30 second “lesson” before every game, as in “don’t touch the bidding box until you’re ready to take out a card” or “if your partner breaks tempo in bidding and then passes, you should pass unless it is absolutely clear that you have a bid based solely on your cards”. People who can play complicated conventions or bidding systems are certainly capable of learning the proprieties of the game.

Best to you and Bobby,


bobbywolffSeptember 30th, 2018 at 10:27 pm

Hi Paul,

Judy just asked me to confirm your opinion of unauthorized information as applied to bridge.

Absolutely, after one makes a limit bid and assume that his hand is not so freakish such as 6-6-1 or something that unusual, if and when partner now studies before he passes and, of course, the opponents bid something (necessary for the weak two bidder to have another bid) he cannot ethically bid again and if he does, the TD must not only keep him from doing so, but also give him some kind of penalty which should help keep him from repeating the tragedy he has just caused the next time he is in a similar position.

Thanks for you always being a beacon of bridge ethicality. Wish that there were more like you.

Danny SprungOctober 15th, 2018 at 1:53 pm


You ask ‘what are our options?’ The first thing I would say, is that we are not ‘barred’. The notion that a hesitation unilaterally bars partner is a very insidious idea.

The question is, what standard do we need to bid. Edgar Kaplan promulgated the old 70% rule; if a bid would be made by 70%, it is considered ok.

The modern standards are even tighter. If a substantial minority would consider pass, and some would actually choose pass, then it is a LA.

Directors are now supposed to poll other players about the hand in question. I am guessing this did not happen in your example. However, I took a poll on BW, and got the following results:


In a poll of about 50 players, only 9% passed. Does that make pass an LA? In my view it is close. Certainly at an NABC, the sample could have received zero votes for pass. Also note, that if we were living in Edgar’s world, after the poll, this would be a slam dunk in favor of the bid.

JudyOctober 15th, 2018 at 3:53 pm


If I am not mistaken, your poll on BW neglected to mention that partner (with 14 HCP) huddled and noticeably unhappily passed. How can that NOT MAKE AN INSURMOUNTABLE DIFFERENCE in balancer’s action/inaction (unless under extraordinary circumstances)!

Danny SprungOctober 15th, 2018 at 4:19 pm


That is the whole point of a poll. To see what are LA’s absent UI. Here, the poll showed passing is quite possibly not a LA.

bobbywolffOctober 15th, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Hi Danny,

While when and, of course, I am familiar with your correct history of literature and then of course, precedent of the ethical problem cited.

As usual, your conclusion quoted, probably after considering the random experience necessary to be one of the asked “experts”
to become one of the pollees, the result of a poll (similar to the one you took) would likely result to a similar final number as you no doubt surmised.

However, and in this particular event, when 4th seat significantly hesitates (and 15-20 seconds certainly meets that criteria) then, since this situation, differs from other type hitches which sometimes (at least among honest players, assuming there are some left) might only mean that they now know partner will have certain values (since both opponents have specifically limited their values) and only are taking a slight breather to at least think about something small, but when they significantly hesitate as here, different rules need to be applied.

Unfortunately our country’s legal system, as you know stemming from the English Common Law of almost a thousand years ago, was hopefully intended to be manned by practical older and smarter judges experienced in the ways of mankind, thus enabling the English empire to pass down their legal system as both somewhat valued but most importantly, practically enforced.

Thus, now fast forwarding those long ago years to today’s higher level bridge game, one would (should) arrive at the certain conclusion of this situation demanding that the then player who balanced not take advantage of a 100% not risky attempt of what might normally thought to be at least some risk, which may or may not normally keep the potential reopener from bidding.

IOW, an optimist may feel that the law as you see it, is porridge which is OK, while I sincerely think my judgment is more to the point (porridge perfect), and should 100% forbid a balance, unless and until the player behind the weak NTer had something like 7 solid of a suit and only passed hoping NT would be his opponent’s final denomination, but, OTOH if only competition to play another contract, and because of the obvious hesitation from partner is not allowed to take the bid which has stopped being even 1% risky.

Finally I have always been in favor of getting better laws with more experience and that always helps in bridge, at least I think it is, and have always during my long life in bridge of putting that fact into existence. In spite of others who think that they must stop and stay stopped at a red light while on a well-lighted country road at 2:30 in the morning with no other car or person within as far as good eyes could see since the intent of the law has been satisfied whether one does or not.

No offense intended just some advice given whether asked for or not. Something I have always taken the liberty to do, at least in bridge.

Danny SprungOctober 15th, 2018 at 11:49 pm

Bobby: It is not the law as I see it. It is the law that is used in duplicate bridge. What makes you think this is my view?

FWIW, the notion that the hand can only bid with a trap pass is kind of crazy. Selling to 2H at matchpoints doesn’t fill my heart with high expectations.

When I first saw this hand here, my first reaction was that bidding was normal. I then took the hand to BW for an unbiased poll. There, the vast majority agreed.

If I was directing, I would also poll peers of the player who bid. If I got similar votes as the BW poll, I would allow the bid. As a one time committee member, I would certainly uphold such a ruling based on a poll with these results.

bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2018 at 4:49 am

Hi Danny,

Almost all, if not all, said by you is likely true.

However I’ll still stand behind my version as to the clear better way, to deal with such goings on.

Masters to be served:

1. Denying UI to ever allow one’s partner to have 100% advantage for safety.

2. Encourage players to bid in tempo, otherwise no markedly study, then, for example pass, but partner now comes to the rescue by overcoming a wrong decision by partner which, to repeat, is made with no risk whatever.

3. Still allow partner to bid, even after UI if, in fact, partner’s trap pass was made because of an entirely different reason than expected. BTW, not the case with the subject hand.

All the above will keep our game cleaner, easier to police, less acrimony between partnerships, and above all, create much more respect between the two partnerships competing.

Finally AFAIC, there are many laws on the books, which were not given enough thought and are either not complete enough, or just plain wrong.

However bridge jurisprudence being what it is, particularly when bidding systems change, causing current laws to be inadequate, experienced committee chairmen need to step up to quality rather than to make a ridiculous book ruling and hope to change the law later.

Sounds to some like anarchy, but to me, it is just good sense. I won’t attempt to define any of the above here, but if anyone would like examples, just say so.

Danny SprungOctober 16th, 2018 at 3:48 pm

1. Denying UI is a practical impossibility. Screens go a long way in that direction, but there is still plenty of UI that gets passed.
2. Sure, we should bid in tempo. But we are human beings, and sometimes need to think. However, you are completely wrong that passing by 4th hand comes with no risk. If second hand does not have a 90% or whatever action, they will lose any good results by bidding. That is huge risk, and smart, winning players don’t put their partners in heads we lose, tails we break even positions.
3. Sure, this wasn’t a trap pass. But your standard is completely off the charts. There are plenty of hands that are not trap passes, that are completely automatic bids on the give auction. The actual hand is not completely automatic, but still a huge majority choose to bid. Are you suggesting if the original hand was a 4-1-4-4 12 HCP hand they would be barred? That is completely ridiculous.

I will disagree with you regarding experienced committee chairs. Their job is to interpret the law, not apply some standard they think is correct. That is the only way one will get fair and consistent rulings.

bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Hi Danny,

I agree with your #1. However your #2 is a misunderstanding, possibly my fault for not being clear. What I meant (and had said in one of my earlier comments is that once 4th hand (2-4-5-2) studies over 2 hearts then 2nd hand (4-2-2-5) has absolutely no risk when he, in the pass out seat, ventures 3 clubs.

3. There are hands (to me this is one of them, which IMO leans toward bidding later) but once his partner breaks tempo he then should not be allowed to bid. However, just to be clear and repeat, if instead the final player to speak had a solid 7 card suit somewhere, yes he would and should be able to now bid his suit, because the situation is now entirely different.

And yes I would grudgingly allow a decent 4-1-4-4 hand to balance but not before condemning his partner for hurting bridge by studying over 2 hearts by his RHO.

4, I am well aware of my so called duties, but fed up by unqualified players, no matter how bright and well intended, who do not understand what I have said and practiced. Until they do, bridge jurisprudence will always suffer greatly, making me extremely both angry and disappointed to have that our standard.

JudyOctober 17th, 2018 at 11:07 pm

Re-reading the recent back and forths I find amusing!

POLLS/SCHMOLLS!! As Bobby not-too-gently pointed out .. It is by whom the poll committee is selected that determines who are experienced and really familiar and knowledgeable enough in all relevant areas to make equitable rulings! After all, there are very few bridge laws which don’t lend themselves from time to time for introspection and at least small changes!

Gregory NowakNovember 15th, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Rule bending?
Shades of gray on gray.

JudyNovember 15th, 2018 at 7:27 pm

NO, despicable allowance of taking advantage of blatant, obvious hitching by partner with 14 points .. and without hesitation .. bidding with no shame is ruinous of our once fine game. Incidentally, the director who made the ruling was ill an no longer working.

It is obvious directors need better training from more knowledgeable individuals. I have always abided by the old adage (if not forcing) .. bend over backwards!

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