Judy Kay-Wolff



Why?  The gurus on high who have the power of appointment either don’t understand the game or don’t want to understand it as it is to their advantage and the appointments are often political – not in the best interest of  the law-abiding citizens who live by rules.  I am sick and tired of hands-tied directors saying he or she can’t do anything about it as the ludicrous Holy Bridge Bible of the so-called knowledgeable player committee orchestrating laws which favor people, especially playing conventions which are designed to  show weak distributional hands with certain suits where many times partner forgets which suits they are.  Such a development makes it impossible for the opponents to affirmatively bid their suits that supposedly are inferred in length by one of the opponents.  When the authorities don’t crack down on the opponents who either intentionally or unintentionally forgot the convention but nevertheless cause terminal damage to the opponents, it is a sad state of affairs.   For our authorities to not address these wrongdoings is to completely abrogate their responsibilities in trying to make (especially tournament bridge) intelligible. 

INCIDENTLY THIS WAs THE SECOND DAY IN A ROW that CONVENTION DISRUPTION OCCURRED against us as the opponents don’t know what the hell their bids mean and massacre innocent opponents because they have no recourse thanks to the stupidity of the laws on this subject.   Here is yesterday’s one of many debacles we have witnessed with our own eyes:

Bobby opened 1NT (I ANNOUNCED 12-14) holding Q9XX  J10  AQX   KQXX.   THE NEXT HAND FLICKERED A FEW SECONDS AND BID 2H HOLDING  JXX KQXXXX JXX X and when my LHO alerted I asked, and was told  it was THE MAJORS.   My hand was AK10X  X  XX  AXXXXX and since we play double is for takeout. how could I be interested in playing spades as they were obviously stacked on my right.  My other alternative was 3C and we eventually reached 5C (for a 1 out of 8) rather than getting to the obvious 4S contract  (which happens to be cold for 6) getting an average+ instead of a 1.   When (if ever) will the ACBL get off their high horse and surrender to the evils of CONVENTION DISRUPTION.   To me, the ACBL is on a rapid downward slide because of situations like the above.   By the way, the miscreants who forgot are not evil, and, at least in this case, my LHO was telling me what he thought partner had.  They just don’t know any better and since CDers keep getting away with it time after time, with the organization not making an effort to stop it, it will just continue to be a way of life.   As long as the dues and card fees keep rolling in and the professionals are the ones who are on the committees allowing convention disruption, I predict eventually the game with go to hell in a hand basket.



JSJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 12:36 am

I am not a blogger nor have access to power of the press, but I admire your candor and agree with you 100%. Convention Disruption should be halted pronto — in fact — should have occurred a long, long time ago. Thanks for bringing this atrocity to light. I speak for all those who truly love the game.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 12:56 am


The sad side of this occurrence is sometimes (not always) it is done out of intentional devious forgetfulness and other times without intent to screw the opponents. However, it matters not. The fact remains, the opponents are injured and the powers on high have a responsibility to bring it to a halt. Adjusted scores will bring a big turnaround.

These mixups are too frequent and if nothing is done about them, they will continue ad infinitem.

Ellis FeigenbaumJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 9:50 am

A silly question,maybe, But was 2h actually on the opps card as majors?
There is a big difference between misalerting a bid and forgetting what convention you agreed to play.
Also the remedies are different. We do not have the whole auction here, so its almost impossible to give a ruling, but there are points in an auction where it can be rolled back depending on when director was called, ther is also the possibility of an adjusted score, all is dependent on what actually happened and when it happened.

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Ellis,

Please excuse me for intervening, but I will attempt to answer your pertinent questions.

When 2 hearts was overcalled, there was some unrest, with fumbling around, by his partner and Judy then asked what, if anything, was meant by his partner’s 2 heart intervention. Her LHO then explained it is for the majors, whereupon, the card was consulted and sure enough it was there. However, as the hand indicated it was only a 2 heart overcall, meaning, after the description, that a double by us would be TO (for the minors) and either a 2 Spade or 3 Heart bid would be showing that suit stopped with GF values. All basically natural and catering to what I believe is simple and normally effective.

However, when Edgar Kaplan, then in control (certainly deserved by knowledge and work ethic) had argued with me and basically installed in both the ACBL and the WBF that to do otherwise would do two bad things to the opponents and thus to bridge itself:

1. Automatically penalize well-intended opponents from forgetting, hardly to him a bridge crime worth recognizing, much less penalizing.

2. (And foremost) that since TD’s representing the ACBL and certainly club directors, even lesser trained, if at all, would not be capable of establishing equity nor any other form of bridge common sense and thus denying bridge lovers (and I use that term very loosely and sarcastically), the ability to develop home brew conventions, together with built in penalties for forgetting, would stand in the way of improving bridge.

I, of course, TOTALLY disagreed and strongly desired penalizing CD out of existence, and holding to the caveat of the offended side, in this case us, would only get either an average or our percentage score based on the rest of our game in order to protect the match point field (remember when CD strikes, bridge, as we know it, immediately stops being played on that hand). Edgar DID NOT think that either the ACBL directors, or certainly club owners could cope with such a law, so he would not recommend it to the ACBL nor to the WBF.

I succeeded in getting it into WBF law, although I am not now sure what is being ruled since I have (because of my lack of hearing) withdrawn keeping up with what is presently going on with the WBF.

Currently home brew conventions, even if played incorrectly or, of course, completely forgotten, now become very effective and when certain vulnerabilities combine themselves with certain distributions all havoc can be wreaked by even top-level partnerships with interventions which are basically complete psychics and without much, if any, risk. Because of those poison gas labs (my descriptive term) are commonplace among certain very high-level partnerships which allow for certain distortive bids to happen frequently, exactly raising my greatest fears for what can and does happen when bridge laws fall into the advantage taken by amoral players.

At least to me, the bridge leadership (which IMHO is totally absent) at our higher administrative BOD level simply because we now have no one capable or encouraged to try and protect the game as it should be done, and, at least at this present time there is no one on the radar with any cogent thoughts of being our savior, rallying in bridge’s protection against this clear and present danger.

It distresses me continually that I have not succeeded in finding a hero who wants to fight the professional lobby who, as a group, will benefit mightily by leaving things exactly the way they are and I must confess this whole scene reminds me of a movie produced long ago, called “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, whose mere name would suggest what the story was about.

You, yourself, have the bridge acumen, experience and intelligence to understand what is happening, but instead you seem to prefer playing the Devil’s Advocate rather than thinking through exactly what is going on and, more importantly helping lead the crusade against it.

As an epilogue, I hope Judy soon goes on to explain the hand which came up against us in the very next session we played which is even a stronger indictment of the horrible rules we have which not only does not immediately discourage CD, but rather could be a poster child for encouraging it.

Thanks for listening, but awaiting your thoughts, if any, on the above. I’ll certainly understand, if you wait till Judy posts her next comment, before Judy and I hear from you.

Larry LowellJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 5:20 pm

“I succeeded in getting it into WBF law,” – BW


Perhaps if we knew that WBF law we could start a campaign to address the issue with ACBL?

Also, aren’t the Laws of Duplicate due to be reviewed by an ACBL Committee, so we could also communicate with that committee?

This problem needs to be addressed, but I don’t think you will be successful in trying to penalize it out of existence for it will always be with us as revokes and leads out of turn, etc.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Here is another citation (perhaps an even better example) of CONVENTION DISRUPTION (CD) in all its gory intrusion resulting, at least on any one hand, of abruptly stopping bridge being played as soon as CD occurs.

The auction started: Pass by East, 1 club by me as South with K10x KQxx Ax 10xxx — 1NT by West (12-14) holding Qxx xx KQxx KQxx — Double for penalties by Bobby, with AJ AJ109xx J10x xx (my partner and North). East bid 2 hearts, holding 10xxxx x xxxx AJx which was alerted by his partner and when I asked, stated spades and hearts. I passed showing a minimum opener where double would mean extra, but balanced, and of course, a suit bid by me, would show at least some unbalanced distribution. East corrected to 2 spades and Bobby then had a problem. Any heart bid by him except perhaps 4 hearts would be a cue bid showing that suit stopped and asking me to bid NT if I had spades stopped. He, a few seconds later, offered 2NT which then became the final contract. The NS field, of course all played 4 hearts with almost all making 5 without a club lead. It should be mentioned that the EW pair is a long established honorable husband and wife partnership, which one might think would know their conventions. It turned out not to be the case.

How would we, without violating standard treatments, ever now reach the normal 4 hearts, with Bobby thinking I must be a minimum hand and almost certainly a singleton heart assuming the NT bidder had at least 2 and East 4. However the rules allow such a thing to occur without penalty, which whether one wants to be realistic or not, might encourage partners to think about contriving such sequences in order to distort the bidding and by inference make it well nigh impossible for their opponents to intelligently bid to the right contract. In no way was there anything done intentionally deceptive at our table, but is it too much to expect experienced players (particularly a very long standing partnership) to know and understand fairly common bidding agreements?

Is it any wonder that very high level players have poison gas laboratory meetings discussing just such things in order to use the laws, (or rather the absence of them), making it cricket to do anything that a partnership can legally do, to win.

How could we ever reach our AJ109XX heart fit opposite KQXX when we were alerted the 2H overcaller had both majors? So — why bother call the director. The rules allow it 100%. There is no provision for not knowing your system and cremating innocent opponents thanks to the hard and fast laws of the ACBL. Protesting would be like banging our heads against the wall as the directors have no discretionary power. It is time the ACBL got off their high horses and re-examined CD.

Mark HangartnerJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 7:20 pm


My understanding is that you can expect a correct explanation of the opp’s system, but have to accept that if one made the wrong bid, and the other didn’t act in a way to show they knew there was a system violation, that is part of the game. Have I got that right?

a couple of questions:
Psyches are pretty rare, but very light openings not so rare. Do you think that psyching should be outlawed?

Most of the time the “offenders” get a rotten board when they forget their system, is that penalty enough?

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Hi Larry,

The law reads (or did) that convention disruption (CD) is usually construed by one partner as what the actual agreement is between the partners, but by the other (and, of course, at that time not consulting ones own convention card) as something materially different which can and DOES have an effect either on the bidding, play, or defense of the hand which, because of the misunderstanding causes the non-offending side to get the worst of it (in other words CD, in order to be penalized, needs to produce actual damage to their opponents). The partner who is privy to an incorrect explanation by his partner, MUST NOT take advantage of the unauthorized information (UI) given him e.g. that his partner is taking the bid or possible incorrect description of a defensive signal and bid or defend the hand as if his partner knew what the right bid or play was according to their system. However, if the CD does injure the opponents the perpetrators of the CD should receive either a zero at matchpoints on that board or an appropriate IMP or B-A-M penalty at those games. At the same time, if it is possible and it usually would be at both matchpoints and B-A-M, but not at IMPs. the non-offenders would not benefit by a windfall result (because of protecting the field, PTF) if possible, but rather treat that hand, for them, as just an average result for that particular partnership (or team) in the game they were playing.

Yes, the laws will be examined by an ACBL drafting committee which is the starting place for such a change.

In answer to your last paragraph, yes you are correct such as in Judy’s first CD example above, like revokes and leads out of turn, it was indeed done totally unintentionally, but still the patient (their opponents) suffered and so hopefully the new law will suggest to new convention users to take responsibility for knowing all of their conventions or else pay a price for not. They can always scratch their new found toy off the CC until they are both confident of remembering it.

In that way their partnership will move up a notch in effectiveness, which is not a bad result for everyone, certainly including the game itself.

NOTE: Along with the above description should be some examples of what is expected from a non-offending partner in case his partner has misdescribed what the bid or play is supposed to mean.
With the above in effect I would expect most partnerships to become more responsible in order to eliminate being penalized and/or, at the very least, to scratch a possible little used convention off the card for either the fear of forgetting it or for not really understanding the purpose of the convention from the beginning.

Trivial things which could happen may and should cause the TD to suggest to that partnership that they would be wise to either get on the same wave length regarding what happened, but no penalty will be given this time, because there was no damage to their opponents.

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Hi Mark,

You are not only correct in what you have been told, or possibly read and interpreted what was written correctly.

However, if even a very good surgeon operates and the patient dies, it is not good news.

Such is the case with the ACBL laws in not punishing CD since when it occurs, bridge suddenly stops and all four of the players become bewildered. Obviously sometimes, as in the now two cases above, where Judy wrote about what happened in last weeks club duplicates.

Why should we, as bridge players, ride side by side with transgressions which are very harmful to the game itself and, in addition only add to discomfort, when they occur, and from the get-go.

One may say that the current laws are similar to the long time ago law against, at least somewhere in the USA, that one cannot wear green on Sunday. When a law brings discomfort and at the same time allows, and at least according to me (and others) sometimes serves to bring about shady dealings (like intentionally forgetting in save situations what partner’s two suits happen to be) can anyone, with a straight face, comment that so what, this is what the law says so all that is legal and I do not want to discuss it further.

At least to me, bridge, because of new bidding ideas, and greater emphasis on partnership understanding should not accept a law which sometimes (all too often) makes bridge unplayable and at the same time could lend itself, like total odd and even signalling, to illegal motives.

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Hi again Mark,

I did not answer your direct question about the propriety of psychic bidding.

Yes psychic bidding is a big part of bridge tradition and should be allowed. However, it is always suspect when the partner of a psychic bidder seemingly too often picks up what partner is up to and allows for it.

Light openings are certainly allowed as long as they are alerted and explained, if necessary, to the opponents.

Contract bridge, during its early beginnings about 85 years ago, was then known as a gentlemen’s game which to me referred to a certain amount of trust given back and forth between the partnerships. During my rather long life (at least my preference) I am not sure that the total trust still results and whether or not it still even exists.

Perhaps the immediate above has something to do with how the laws should now be formulated in order to insure that trust not be violated, but since subjectivity is usually involved there are different opinions from various people.

You have hit upon what psychology should perhaps be used and why, but although I wish I could answer it truthfully, I do not know nor have any confidence in what should be done next.

All I, you or anyone can hope for is that bridge players, at least for the most part, be always aware of the sanctity of the game and cater to the sacred part of the partnership angle which is always involved.

Bill CubleyJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 8:33 pm


Another issue is players who put Gerber on the card and the bididng then goes
1NT – 4NT, 5H
Directors continually rule this is legal. Try doing this in a Yellow Card event where Gerber is required. Directors also refuse to allow questions on methods so opponents can determine when they do bid Gerber or 4NT.

It seems one solution might be to give TDs authority to rule. I suggest the opponets are in slam if there are insufficient aces, and game if ther are sufficient aces to go to slam. This would mean you usualyl will not profit by refusing to bid such a common ocnvention.

Similar rulings should be made in convention disruption. When the best you can do is get an average and you shoulde be getting less, such as a penalty, than oyu might ocnsider remembering your card.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Yes, Bill, it is hard for me to understand people using Blackwood when Gerber is the convention of the day as agreed on the Yellow Card.

Reminds me of a story I’ve told before about filling in for my mother at her Wednesday night game when she was out of town some fifty years ago.

My partner bid 4C and I asked (it was a mama/papa type of game where you could talk across the table) if that was Gerber. When no reply was received, I asked again.

Finally she replied, “As a matter of fact we all use Mr. Sparks. He is much cheaper than Mr. Gerber.” Would you believe these women had been playing at least 40 years and the Gerber convention was not in their repertoire!

To explain — Messrs. Gerber and Sparks were two neighborhood plumbers — no association with Johnny Gerber of Gerber fame. They had no clue what I was talking about.

Jeff HJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 5:16 am

Having been on both sides of CD, I have mixed feelings about whether it should be penalized, at least among less experienced players. (A group that I still sometimes have to include myself.) A friend once sais that you do not really understand a convention until you have screwed it up at least 3 times. I sometimes play against opponents who cannot seem to get rtansfers right. To penalize a beginner just because he makes a mistake with a convention may drive him from the game.

I can perhaps see some merit in penalizing CD at higher levels, where partnerships are supposed to know their systems.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 6:48 am


You have to start sometime. I can think of nothing worse than recognizing and being aware of an icky situation and ignorning it because it can only worsen. At the club level, a director (if she is a knowledgeable one) will tactfully and diplomatically explain the unfair consequences of such action.

In fact, one of ours in a very nice fashion every now and then announces when she welcomes everyone at the start of the game.
“Remember, if you study a long time and pass, you will bar your partner from bidding unless she or he has automatic action.” You can’t imagine the change in ethics by those few words.

If people intend to play a new convention they must discuss and practice it to make sure they both understand the ramifications. You cannot make your opponents the guinea pigs because you get mixed up.

JaneJanuary 24th, 2012 at 3:28 am

Hi Judy,

Since my partner and I were the victim of an intentional and admitted CD a few weeks ago (discussed in Bobby’s blog a few days ago), I emailed the ACBL to ask their opinion about CD. I am copying and sending below the response they sent me today. I give the ACBL credit in that they answered me within a 24 hour period, but as you can read the answer they sent, do you believe a director should, or could, be expected to prevent partnerships from playing a convention? How could a director monitor that while setting up and directing a game, make rulings on other director calls, enter the scores when necessary if no bridge mates are available, and all the rest that goes with running a club game. Below is the answer I received. I like that the ACBL seems to acknowledge the fact the repeated CD bids are destructive to the game.

“You are correct that there is no rule against forgetting your convention.

However, in the case that you gave where the person intention did this
mainly because they didn’t like what partner put on the card, I, as the
director, would have thrown the result out and given that person (pair)
a procedural penalty.

In addition, if a pair routinely forgets their methods the director can
forbid them from playing the conventions that seem to be causing.

This is disruptive to the game and the same people can not continue
to do this with impunity and fall back on the “I forgot” time after time.”

Bernie Gorkin

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 6:40 am


Perhaps this excerpt from Mr. Gorkin should be shown to our directors where he is obviously vehemently against CD — especially if it happens time and time again by the same violators!

Thanks for being so conscientious and checking it out.


Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 24th, 2012 at 9:58 am

HBJ : I would recommend a simple rule for an established convention violation : AN AUTOMATIC BOTTOM FOR THE OFFENDING PAIR.
Now how simple and effective is that !

Scott NeedhamJanuary 24th, 2012 at 1:50 pm


I struggle with many aspects of UI and MI rulings, but I wonder: Why, specifically, is the average CD scenario not a subset of the MI rules?

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 4:27 pm


There are various ways of handling CD but ignoring it is not one of them. Bobby has written much on the system and has jostled windmills for twenty-five years with the ACBL. And ignoring it at the club level is the worst — as there is where it is probably most prevalent and totally disregarded as they say there is no provision in the holy laws to adjust or modify CD.

At least this blog has caught the attention of the public as it has been a thorn in many players’ sides for decades.
Thanks for writing.


bobbywolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 4:57 pm


I agree with your categorical zero to players who commit CD and should know better.

Perhaps they, like certain dog laws at least in the USA, should be entitiled to one bite before the zero, but also in order to be fair to the field (in a match point event) the non-offenders should not receive the reciprocal of the zero (a top) but only secure a fairly average result since they are merely bit actors in this episode.

Our remedy should always be an EDUCATIONAL experience not a punitive one. And please, NEVER FORGET that remembering one’s conventions accurately is also a significant plus for that partnership so that in all four cases, one who commits CD, his partner, their opponents, and the game itself, will result in a decided advantage for all.

Thank you for your opinion and particularly your interest in this important subject.

James McJanuary 24th, 2012 at 6:43 pm

As a lower level player (intermediate), I am loathe to comment. I have been guilty of forgetting the correct responses to conventions, and making other mistakes (many) in the bidding. I think you are telling me that I should not be playing at all unless I can bid up to your standards. I completely understand when players make bids with the intension of disrupting or distorting the auction. When I make a mistake in the bidding, I am lying not only to my opponents, but also to my partner. Many times we end up in the wrong contract, and are punished for the poor bidding with a poor result. I hear you saying that you want protection against my poor bidding by assigning a bottom for a mistaken bid. This is not the way to encourage aspiring players to improve.
Thanks for any response.

bobbywolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hi Scott,

Your question is indeed a good one and I can only guess at why it is not included or probably even discussed.

First, the ACBL does not want to discourage relative beginners from trying to learn simple conventions in order for them to improve their results, feel good about themselves, and continue to play and perhaps even more often.

They also realize that the average age of the ACBL member is directly going
up and with it, the ability to remember as well as they used to. Consequently they probably feel, that even with the cost to the game itself, rendering it unplayable for all when CD strikes that the price for that is worth it in order to not penalize CD out of the game itself.

At least to me, by choosing that. it is similar to not educating one’s children about manners and expectations about other people’s reactions to rude treatment. By consenting to playing a convention and not learning it well enough to explain it, much more totally forgetting what it means, is a blight on the game which, when it occurs, makes the game unplayable and therefore becomes a bridge atrocity which should not be countenanced nor tolerated.

If I am right or even close to being so, the ACBL’s choice, at least to me, is hideous and should be immediately changed, otherwise our game itself will have a glass ceiling beyond which we cannot rise above.

bobbywolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Hi James Mc,

While trying to answer your to the point letter while I am on the way to an appointment, I’ll try to be brief.

Sure, you should continue to play, but if faced with playing a convention which is trying to tell your partner more about your hand, you need to decline to play that convention unless you understand what responses you are supposed to make and probably the reason why that convention is played by others.

While you sound like a very kind and worthwhile person who is only interested in having fun and socializing with others, by playing tournament bridge you do have a minimum responsibility to keep the game intelligible for both yourself, your partner and the worthy opponents.

Only you know whether that is possible and if so your mind will benefit by the discipline necessary to be a tournament bridge player and I, for one, wish you great luck in getting it done.

Any more that I could or would suggest might be just blather and not of much use.



roger pewickJanuary 25th, 2012 at 1:07 am

It is getting difficult to take you seriously.

While your vitriol towards the ACBL and the WBF is probably well founded, your vitriol against those opponents probably is not- at least not for what you consider their transgression to be.

They told you their announced agreements and that is as much as you are entitled to expect. It was the matter of your judgment and that of your partner that chose a method that slices you to pieces when the opponents do not bid in accordance with their announced system. So, your vitriol is wrongly placed against CD.

I did ssuggest that it was unlikely that your vitriol is not justified against those opponents, which of necessity allows for the possibility that some vitriol- for a different reason might be justified. Consider the possibility that the opponents had a system of communication other than by call or play [a breach of L73B1/2] for instance, what if the fumbling with the bidding cards was a signal that your evil person was breaking system somehow. In that event the partner could be aware that something was up and be in a position to play along. Yes, that would justify your vitriol- but not vitriol against CD.

Yes, there are things that can [and ought to] be done and after having done them would result in your beloved CD disappearing. But those things include nothing that you have ever suggested. Now, not that I would wager on it but maybe in three or four months something relevant will show up in TBW.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 25th, 2012 at 2:00 am


You say “They told you their announced agreements and that is as much as you are entitled to expect.”

YOU MUST BE KIDDING. I expect THEM to know their conventions as the other contestants do. This is not a crap shoot!

Equity must begin somewhere and you and your partner being on the same wave length is a good place to start. I don’t buy the other garbage and never will!

Ellis FeigenbaumJanuary 25th, 2012 at 2:31 am

Dear Bobby,
Thank you for your kind sentiments, however unworthy I feel of the praise.
I have been away for a few days and in general have been exraordinarilly busy, so have not had time to check the blog.As I write I am almost out of the door to yet another engagement, thankfully this time of the bridge variety.
I will try to formulate some coherent thoughts about where I think the game stands vis a vis club/ versus tournament. As well as the position of club owners/directors. Along with some possible ideas of what we should be trying to achieve. Which of course often differs from what the ACBL is trying to acheive.

Stuart KingJanuary 25th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I am wondering what the difference between a psych and CD is?

Scott NeedhamJanuary 25th, 2012 at 2:21 pm


Let me restate my question re: MI: Can’t all CD problems be dealt with as a subset of MI? If a p’ship has given an incorrect explanation, resulting in damage, then why can’t a director rather simply apply MI standards?

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi Stuart:

According to the official bridge encyclopedia, a “PSYCHE is a bid that bears little or no resemblance to a logical choice for the hand in either a natural sense or as a conventional or systemic partnership agreement. Such bids are made primarily to make it more difficult for the opponents to find their optimum spot. The bid has been defined as one which grossly misstates either the high card count or the suit distribution.” It is perfectly legal and must be written on the convention card.

On the other hand, CONVENTION DISRUPTION (CD) may be either deliberate (but usually accidental) for a partnership not to be on the same wave length. It is a bid that miscommunicates the description of the bidder’s hand leading all three players astray but almost always injures the opponents rather than the side who has made the breach. If a partnership is going to play a convention, they are dutybound to know what each of their bids mean; otherwise, once CD appears, bridge stops. Accidents can happen but CD occurs more frequently when the parties carelessly and irresponsibly do not know what their system bids mean. EITHER KNOW YOUR CONVENTION OR DON’T PLAY IT. SIMPLE AS THAT.

At present the laws do not protect the innocent victims (perhaps only at the higher levels) but a strong movement is afoot to investigate and punish CD out of existence so that our beautiful game will once again become bridge as we knew it in the early days when it graced our lives.

bobbywolffJanuary 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi Scott,

Yes CD could be dealt with in the same manner as MI, but the ACBL, (believe it or not, I think, through their good but amoral players influence) that CD should be handled specifically and with more deference since, according to them, new conventions (NC) should be allowed greater freedom since:

1. By playing NC, they need actual playing experience and by being tough on those who try, we are putting tacks in the road (automatic rulings against forgetting) which may result in them being used less frequently.

2. Good players, when appearing in front of committees, will have much better reasons for their experimentation, plus more respect among the committee members, thereby having TD rulings against their forgetting, reversed in their favor.

Whatever I, or probably anyone else, could say only is an attempt to make wrong appear right, a condition which also permeates our daily lives, mostly in our current corrupt self-serving, political world.

Some cry out, “Save our whales”, my hope is “to Save our game”.

Gary MugfordJanuary 25th, 2012 at 8:21 pm


Club bridge not a crap shoot? Hmmm, you and Bobby play in better clubs than I did when I did play. Can’t remember if I told you the story of why I quit playing locally, but the tale bears repeating.

My partner and I, probably (if immodestly) the best pair in the room, sat down to play against a younger player and his father, both salt of the earth types. The young ‘un was somebody I thought I might be an up and comer. I had played with him in an Epson World Pairs and he showed me a lot of potential. His father used the Thursday night Bridge game to escape the house and let his wife do what non-Bridge playing wives do when the card-shufflers are out of the house.

On the two hands, my partner or I got chances to open a spade and we each got to declare a four-spade contract. In the play, we failed to account for the young ‘un passing an opening bid … with five spades once and four spades the second time. We didn’t do all that well on the scoreboard (but, I will point out, still finished first on the evening). I was … perturbed. I asked (okay, I yelled) why this sorta decent player had passed opening hands. TWICE? “You and Danny are the best defenders in the club, I thought I’d take a shot at passing instead of risking bidding opposite a passed partner.”

He didn’t break a single law. He had no foreknowledge of the results. And he, alone, cost my partner and I the chance to play bridge for two hands. I stopped playing regularly locally that night. And aside from some practice games before major events, haven’t ever gone back. (And yes, the now not young ‘un didn’t ever amount to much).

The CD’s with the properly-marked card are like my poker-playing opponent. Entitled by law to their ‘mistakes,’ which sprinkle tops and bottoms around the room. That it rankles is undeniable and I would applaud any club that states that there is a policy of knowing what you have agreed to play. Sort of a “One concomittant action and after that, you will be adjudged to have an assumed partnership understanding.” THAT law allows for adjustment.

Or it did back in my local playing days last century.


RyanJanuary 25th, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I played a few sessions in Seattle with a new pick up partner.

We did quite badly, so perhaps the bridge gods were paying attention, but at least a part of it was that my partner gave me a long list of conventions she desired to play. I thought a simple card would be preferable, but thought it best to accommodate since I thought she’d play better in her comfort zone.


Several times when I alerted things we agreed to play, she would give the startled look that tells me unequivocally that she had forgotten our agreement, leaving me to bend over backwards to not take advantage, sometimes by driving us off a cliff.

I am far too unskilled a player to say what law there ought to be, but I think that if you agree to play something you have an obligation to actually do so! It might encourage people like this partner to not add things to their card that can’t remember!

Bobby WolffJanuary 26th, 2012 at 1:39 am

Hi Ryan,

You were probably writing to Judy, but your story touched me to respond.

The key word in this subject is responsibility. Sure the main motive for playing tournament bridge is to have fun and to try and win, but the unseen and usually undiscussed secondary goal is to be a responsible player to not rain on another partnership’s parade.

Players can say what they want, but there are very few worthwhile things in life which do not require responsibility and you Ryan, are telling a story which happened and is the very essence of what the whole trouble is about.

Sure the ACBL wants and needs players to pay the tournament’s expenses, but when the game starts suffering by the carefree disregard to what is expected from the players, it is time to intervene in favor of the game itself.

At least as far as I am concerned, your story is all that needs to be said to suggest to the ACBL that they need to require, not only civilized behavior, which they do under the zero tolerance banner, but they also need to ride herd on way too many people who play conventions and really have no idea of what the convention means, what it is intended to do, or what to bid and respond.

It is the ACBL’s responsibility to make sure others enjoy their tournament play by creating more attention to what is expected by every player. Without doing that minimum duty, all who play seriously, behave well, know their conventions, and pay their entry fees are entitled to at least that minimum behavior by all who participate.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 26th, 2012 at 2:46 am

Dear Gary:

It was nice hearing from you and believe me, I sympathize with your father/son duo episode!

I am far from an expert at the game or with rules and laws and don’t profess to be, but I would adjudicate your incident as a psyche. If they have tendencies (even occasionally to not open normal opening bids), I believe it should be noted on the card.

If they are aware of laying back and waiting, you are entitled to the same information. It is not like not missing seeing a king and thinking you only have ten points. It was done with malice aforethought and if that is their (or his style), I feel strongly it must be noted under opening bid range as you are entitled to that information as well.

I can understand your furor. I would have felt the same way.



Ellis FeigenbaumJanuary 26th, 2012 at 6:03 pm

My thoughts such as they are:
Convention disruption is annoying, it creates situations where a non offending side can in effect be penalized for nothing more than existing, and on occasion in team games can have an effect on an event which is beyond the match in question.
In order to tackle it, you have to decide on a course of action. However what the course of action might be is dependent on how you view the problem? Also to a large extent it is dependent on how the league views the problem.
Duplicate in the main is played at local clubs, there are more boards played in local clubs in one month than the whole of the National, Regional, Sectional travelling circus plays in a year.
The league has a very strange relationship with the clubs. On the one hand clubs are the life blood of the league; on the other hand the league will not be involved in any situation that involves C&E at the club level.
Even outright cheating at the club level which in theory is still in the domain of the league is in effect ruled mostly by the owners /managers themselves. Yes there is a process in place if you have a major ethics problem but it is in the main ignored.
The League would in effect like to collect its sanction fees from the clubs and have very little else to do with them. At least little else that is beyond attracting new players to duplicate and giving clubs help in making duplicate” fun for everyone”.
So I have by this logic, to reach a conclusion, that clubs are in effect viewed as the minor leagues, whereas other sanctioned games are viewed as the majors. If this is the case then the only way forward at least at the club level is by example, and the trickledown effect of what happens at the majors.
As far as regional and upward events are concerned, the main problem we have is with Directors. This is an extremely vast and unwieldy problem which touches on every area of the game.
As far as CD is concerned that basic rule should be that if a non offending side is damaged, then the best equivalent of equity should be attempted to be restored. This may be via a split score or the award of an average plus or minus as the case may be. The trouble in the main is that too often Directors are not good enough to work out that damage has occurred, or even that advantage was taken by the offending side.
We also have the problem, especially in smaller regionals where there are just not enough players to take a reasonable poll.
By applying logic to these thoughts I reach the conclusion that the way forward is education, education, education. At all levels and in all situations.

Jeff HJanuary 27th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Where does one draw the line between CD and a mistake?

In the finals of the Senior trials last year, a player erred in a RKC sequence (it may have been a misinterpretation and not a mis-bid) and the pair found themselves in an unmakable redoubled slam. If it were a misbid and the contract had somehow made, are you arguing that there should habe been a penalty.

In the finals of last year’s Vanderbilt, there was a grand slam bid at both tables missing the Ace of trump (and there was a RKC sequence at each table). In each case it seems there was some misinterpretation/misapplication of conventions. Does this constitute CD?

Now, in each of te above cases, CD (if it existed) dealt its own punishement.

One of my own personal faults is that I sometimes get confused responding to Gerber. I mistakenly give responses along the line of Blackwood (responding 4D with one Ace when I should respond 4H, etc). Is this mistake CD? It usually serves as its own punishement, keeping us out of a good slam. But if we happen to stop short of a good slam that happens to be unmakable due to the location of certain cards ot bad breaks, is this something that should result in an adjustment or is this just bridge?

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hi Ellis,

At least to me, you have done your mental research, have now established what the right, and perhaps only, way to go forward and have so stated it. The only additional statement I could make is that even if the ACBL agreed to act, it is very doubtful they would take the time to be educated on just how, at least in the case of CD, damage could occur and with it just how terrible it is for the future of our game.

In any event I applaud your final conclusion and would then appreciate you doing and writing what you can to help with the education of the masses both with their responsibilities and what they need to do to generally improve our methods.

Thank you for your involvement, even if time prevents you from doing much more in the immediate future.

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Thanks for writing, asking for interpretation, a process I sincerely wish all would accept and of course, cooperate and do.

First, I am very familiar with both hands from the Senior and Open trials since I was at the other table in the Seniors and was watching the Open on BBO.

Neither of those happenings (misunderstandings) have anything to do with penalizing CD. Whatever happened and whatever resulted from both of those hands stands. I can liken it to a receiver cutting the wrong way in football resulting in the quarterback throwing the ball in a different direction and whether the ball was incomplete, intercepted, or completed to an unintentional receiver all results stands and now getting back to bridge CD, as we know it, is not in any way culpable or even involved.

Involved CD has to do with a partnership playing a convention (usually one which would be considered a minority convention, played only by a very small percent of the players, but not just restricted to that definition) whereupon one (or possibly both but that would be highly unusual) misdescribes it causing his opponent to be misled as:

1. To the distribution on that hand either in the further bidding or perhaps on opening lead or up to the time the defense to that hand may be effected by the incorrect knowledge.

2. The defensive (non-offenders) communication may be off center (particularly the opening lead, and the signal given by his partner, again based on the misinformation) because of the errant description and the necessary inferences which bridge is about (especially high-level bridge).

3. Any other factor which could rise and make it more difficult such as choices in the bidding, using what has been said as gospel and allowing that (as any top player will swear by) to help the non-offender glean as much information as might help him defend.

Breaking the above down, we come to the following general statement:

Only on hands where none of the above would have any general effect on the final result, the contract bid to could not be defeated or whatever (even involving possible overtrick(s)) therefore putting paid to overturning the hand and thus being thought of as normal playing luck (NPL) and thus being allowed.

Remember, if the right description was given the TD (and then possibly the committee) would determine whether the misdescription prevented the opponents from entering the bidding and possibly, by doing so, been effective in achieving a different result.

Of course, all reasonable doubt (but not going too far) should be resolved in favor of the non-offenders in determining the final result.

Before signing off in this too long description please allow me to say that when a partnership, for example, shows two suits by some special bid and those two suits are claimed to be different than they are, this would be the classic case of being subject to the penalty of CD, if when damage (and most likely it would be) occurs.


Jeff, I appreciate your question which may serve as a bridge to better learning of what this important subject, at least in our game, is about.

nickJanuary 28th, 2012 at 12:37 am

Hi Judy (and Bob),

I too had a partnership agreement issue lately and wondered whether I did the right thing.

It was the Thursday morning duplicate session at the local Senior Citizens Centre. My partner and I are not experienced but have put a lot of time into our card play and have made a firm agreement if there is a two way finesse for a Queen, then we play LHO for the lady on odd days of the month and RHO for the queen on even days. So far I think we’ve been successful about half the time.

Anyway… to cut a long story short, last week my partner was in 2H missing a bit including a two way guess for the spade queen. But here’s the rub – he’d just flown in from visiting his family in Jersey and couldnt recall what date it was – and promptly finessed the wrong way (anti partnership agreement) and found the queen and scored 9/12 on the board.

I was livid as were our opps (we had told them our agreement) and called the Director. After all, I didn’t think it fair that our opps should be damaged after my partner forgot our agreement. I asked the TD whether the opps should be entitled to redress but he said no.

And I told him in no uncertain terms that I thought this was inequitable.

What do you think?


Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hi Nick,

The TD was definitely right, since that is not what a convention card is for, telling one’s opponents how your side is going to play the hand.

When the then famous comedian, Lew Lehr, make his famous remark, “Monkeys are the craziest people” he might as well have been talking about bridge players.

Whatever is written on convention cards only applies to bidding, its nuances, opening leads, and tendencies such as psychic bidding or light or standard valuations, it cannot have anything about how a declarer or defense will play or defend a hand.

Perhaps you will feel less guilty about what happened, but in any event your question has now been answered.

Good luck and may most of your finesses work whichever way you decide to take them at the table.

John PortwoodFebruary 20th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Maybe it would be a good idea to have a rule about CD and the penalties imposed.

In the EBU there are various classifications of tournaments e.g. no-fear where conventions are limited to Stayman and Blackwood, level 2, level 3 and level 4. It would be a good idea so that at (say) level 2, there were no penalties for CD on the principle that there are bound to be players of a lower standard, but also that fewer conventions are permitted, whereas for level 3 and 4 a penalty could be imposed (a higher penalty for forgetting a level 4 than a level 3 convention). For international tournaments an extended penalty could apply (loss of 3 imps on board/ loss of a victory point) – after all world-class bridge players are supposed to be capable of remembering the most esoteric sequences.

In that way players would be encouraged to learn the conventions thoroughly as they progress through the ranks.

As an aside – I was amazed that Gerber is the standard Ace enquiry mechanism in the USA – Surely there is more chance of mistaking a 4C bid for a cue bid/ swiss/ splinter instead of Gerber rather than a 4NT enquiry?

Bobby WolffFebruary 21st, 2012 at 12:58 am

Hi John,

Yes, some kind of universal rule, with a stated penalty, may slow down the horror of CD.

However, since bridge organizations around the globe, usually depending on how seriously they take the game, vary in just how hard they penalize misuse, it may be prudent to let them decide on their own punishment. In any event, whatever the decision by the governing authority, of how strict they intend to be, is fine with me as long as CD becomes less and less over time.

BTW, Gerber is really not the method of choice in the USA for asking about number of aces. If and when it is played, most experienced or better partnerships play it only if the first or last bid has been some number of NT and it is a jump to 4 clubs which together could only then be used over 1NT or 2NT.

I’m sure that because of what you fear about it being misunderstood is the main reason why most bridge lovers who play Gerber have tried to simplify it.

Thanks for writing.