Paul Cronin

You DONT say!

After your RHO passes, you open 1NT (15-17), your LHO bids 2 , and this is alerted by RHO. When asked for an explanation, RHO replies “DONT -spades and hearts”. The opponents eventually end up in 3 , and you defend by leading hearts every time you get in so as to prevent LHO from ruffing his losing spades (your spade holding is KQJx).  This defense proves costly, as LHO does not have  s and  s, but only  s. When the defensive debacle is over, your LHO says to his partner “I didn’t think we played DONT when you are a passed hand”. Now the question is – if your LHO actually believes that he and his partner do not play DONT in this situation, is he obligated to say so before the play of the hand starts, and explain that misinformation has been given? If not obligated, would it be courteous for him to do so? Looking at the opponents’ convention cards will do no good here, as there would be no indication there as to whether DONT was still on when partner is a passed hand. 


bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2014 at 1:45 am

Hi Paul,

My sympathies for having to deal with convention disruption (CD) a common malady among a large percentage of our bridge players, going right up to the top, only not quite as often, and sometimes only with the sophisticated aspects of whatever convention.

However, all of my explaining, plus all the King’s men will not come to your aid, since the powers that be who make the governing rules allow CD as long as it is a misbid and not a misexplanation. Why, you may ask?

Because Edgar Kaplan (bless his productive bridge soul) once told some of the then lawmakers that to do otherwise would violate a traditional part of our bridge history, e.g. the right to psyche whatever we are playing, therefore as long as the opponent’s are playing (in your case, the 2 heart bid showing both majors) then they are free to do anything they want, certainly screwing you and your intended defense.

If simply we penalized CD out of existence, partnerships would learn their conventions or cross them off the card, and nothing resembling the injustice done here would ever occur. But the ACBL, in their infinite stubbornness or worse refuses to address such a need and the beat goes on. I have tried for years (got it fixed with the WBF) but cannot seem to get out of the batter’s box with the ACBL and furthermore no one I talk to even knows what I am talking about.

I hope this strikes home and somebody does something intelligent, but neither one of us should hold our breath.

Kind regards,


Howard Bigot-JohnsonMarch 25th, 2014 at 8:56 am

HBJ : Surely , if you have been given incorrect information ( for whatever reason ) which compelled you to adopt this reasonable albeit inferior line of defence , then surely the director is entitled to give you a score adjustment.
It is this type of thing that occasionally causes little incidents at the table , and so the real villain of the piece is not the one who gets vexed and annoyed….. but the one responsible for the provocative act.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2014 at 11:38 am


Right you are and in NT. However power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When the robot minded enforcers not only do not appreciate nor probably understand the ridiculousness of their allowing CD, together with a group of very high level players wanting to keep this aberration just like it is, since they feel that whatever side they are on they can use their clout to win whatever argument they want, it becomes difficult, to say the least, to make inroads on what should be a “slam dunk” to change and therefor eradicate and restore justice to this subject.

But all I can repeat telling you is that this subject has been discussed in detail for so many years, but the ones in control refuse to budge since they like it just like it is, for others to be ravaged by it, but for them to ward off the bogey man with their connections, in case they need to do it.

I would just like to know where the leadership has gone which continues to allow this horror to continue to perpetuate.

What can possibly be wrong in requiring players to remember their conventions rather than, in fact, giving them a license to both deny and ignore the negative publicity which these individual cases always produce?

What is the defense against it? Pretend that these conventions are always misunderstood by their opponents and try to figure out how to defend against players who represent at least one suit which they do not have? Should these unbelievable distortions be continue to be allowed and not punished?

When will some of us rise in indignation against such a practice or am I just expecting too much? I guess the ACBL should just feel sorry for all those miscreants who shouldn’t be playing conventions they do not remember, regardless if it turns our game into total chaos without the proper laws to immediately stop it or suffer the consequences. Who is kidding whom?

richard willeyMarch 25th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

If misinformation has been provided, the offending side is obligated to point this out at the first opportunity.

In this case, LHO should have noted that the alert was mistaken after the bidding had finished and before the opening lead was made.

It’s worth mentioning that the precise same procedure should apply regardless of whether the misinformation involved a conventional sequence or a natural sequence.

paul croninMarch 25th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hi HBJ, Bobby & Richard,

Thanks for your input on a really difficult subject. And made even more difficult when the opponents don’t agree on how they play the 2H overcall when partner has passed, because then it’s not possible to determine if misinformation has been given. We are not entitled to know what our opponents actually hold, but only what they should hold according to their agreements. When two opponents don’t agree on what they should hold, I guess we’re only entitled to know that they don’t agree. Bobby hits the nail on the head about convention disruption, and clearly this is where action needs to be taken. Maybe the only redress for this kind of situation is to have a separate penalty for not knowing what the partnership agreement is. But even without that, when there has been CD, and the offending side ends up declaring, I believe strongly that the one who knows that the alert explanation does not describe his hand should volunteer the correct explanation.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Hi All,

In my experience, the damage is more often done in the bidding than the play, as it eliminates the ability of the non-offenders to compete in a suit which the offenders have (at least theoretically) shown to have. With a key suit “frozen” it is usually too late, except by a TD or appeals committee to restore equity to the non-offenders, besides the overall ridiculous situation of the bidding being so distorted with really no hope of artificially “righting the wrong”.

Bridge, particularly the above average variety, is totally dependent on both their own bidding and, just as important, what the opponents also announce they hold.

How can that be righted, when first they hear about it after the auction is over, or even in actuality, once the erroneous bid has been made and the first non-offender has then subsequently acted? The easy answer is that it cannot and often the hand should be ruled back to that point, an artificial score should be determined if possible, but when not (90% of the time), the non-offenders should be given the equivalent of either their percentage score for that session or an Average + (usually around 55-60%) and the offenders be given a zero, emphasizing the harm they do to the game.

It is not embarrassing (nor shouldn’t be) for offenders to then make up their minds the importance of remembering their chosen conventions with a significant penalty awaiting their failure to do so.

Players will then begin to stop at red lights, because of the real dangers they face by not doing so. And what do you know, their partnership abilities rise with their harder work paying off in fewer misunderstandings and better bridge for all is the end result.

JRGMarch 26th, 2014 at 2:25 am

Almost. One does not point out a mis-explanation by partner during the auction. If a person realizes he has given an incorrect explanation, the Director should be called immediately (damage may, or may not, have been done already).

If the offending side is declaring, then the mistaken explanation should be corrected before the opening lead is made (if the lead had been made face down before the explanation, I would allow it to be retracted).

If the mis-explanation were by a defender, it should not be pointed out until the end of play.

When I’m directing, I dislike mistaken explanation situations intensely. As Bobby Wolff likes to point out, not only is there usually damage (and determining equity can be difficult), but it spoils people’s enjoyment of the game.

If the opponents don’t have an agreement, it’s undiscussed, then explaining the meaning as DONT (or whatever) is also mis-information.

RGR NacogdochesMarch 28th, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I would like to make a few counterpoints. First bidding misunderstandings more often than not harm those who make the mistakes, providing unwarranted gifts to their opponents. It is a rare instance when players actually benefit from such mistakes.

Second, since the bidding mistake should be announced before the play of the hand begins. There is existing redress to the type of situation described and failure to announce the mistake is correctable under the current rules.

Finally, to put in a “Patriot Type Act” to punish simple misunderstandings would be incredibly punitive to the vast majority of ACBL members that simply are not professionals or near professionals. They would most likely be prohibited from using most conventions for fear their new partner or pickup partner might forget some minor aspect of the convention. Unless the pros no longer want a large body of weaker players to support their clubs and tournaments, I suggest the rules in this area be left as they are.

Making draconian changes in this area would have the long term impact of allowing only those who live and breathe bridge to use most conventions. This in my opinion would be counter productive to the over all goal of promoting bridge and increasing the membership that supports all the professional and near professional players.

Frankly I do believe there is a tendency among many of the less experienced players to add far too many conventions on their cards and have only a passing knowledge of how to use some of them. However, as one director once told me, there is no penalty for bad bridge and I think that is how it should remain.

Greg NowakMarch 29th, 2014 at 1:10 am

The majority of ACBL members has fewer than 200 masterpoints. If a forgetful, unsympathetic, never-forget-a-convention, minority takes away the rights of the majority to practice and learn; then that minority deserves to have only themselves left to play with.

Bobby WolffMarch 29th, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Hi RGR & Greg,

First of all and sincerely, I realize that my views are outnumbered significantly and by usually fun loving people who only want to be entertained.

However (I suspect you figured that word was coming), competitive bridge (tournaments) is about the only competitive exercise which is played by the best and the not so, all in the same room holding the same cards. Not football, basketball, baseball, hockey, track & field, soccer, tennis, golf or for that matter competing in mind game shows like Jeopardy or The Wheel of Fortune.

While the above facts do not rule out your good arguments about allowing people to do whatever they want without fear of violating, it still has a major effect when it comes to creating a body of laws which do not totally distort the whole game, mainly the game which is played internationally and for great respect, if not money.

When CD appears, possibly making a bid which shows the red suits but in this case is interpreted by partner as the black suits, our whole game stops and nothing but chaos, plus sometimes hard feelings, occur. In other words, when one talks about one little violation, is he (or she) talking about only forgetting what a conventional bid was supposed to show. Granted to that partnership it was a small slip of the memory, but to the game itself it is far more than that.

Since money is usually restricted to rubber bridge, not tournaments, the only thing lost to the transgressors is perhaps a little pride and nothing else, but to those who take it seriously and try and work hard to improve, CD becomes treacherous.

Sure the ACBL does, thinks and acts in favor of what you suggest, but in my day, perhaps a hundred years ago (but at least 65) the players who were learning always (well, almost) looked to play against the best players they could find, because of the opportunity to be able to learn and one day get to be as good as their teachers.

Bridge offers many ways to think logically, numerically, solve problems, communicate (with code language, bidding), and show competitiveness (not boxing or wrestling) and because of that is a great mind developer. All those good things, if we all agree that they are good, come apart at the seems when one or more pairs lose interest and sometimes selfishly do not take the game seriously.

Again, nothing I am saying is in contention with what you two express. Only that CD is destructive enough to take the game apart, so there should be a move by our governing authority to not play unusual conventions without understanding them and at least come close to playing them accurately, otherwise other people, and especially the game itself will be severely damaged.

While I do not know RGR, I do know Greg and he is a good player, way above average, so I am not sure who will read our back and forth discussion but I am hoping that some, perhaps 25%+, will agree that CD, practiced often, will cause more grief than imaginable, and besides all of us like to score well, and deciding playing conventions, played correctly, makes everyone happy, both those playing them and, of course, those playing against them.

JRGMarch 30th, 2014 at 4:43 pm


Actually “bidding mistakes” should not be announced at all.

The only things that should be revealed are mistaken explanations (which include failures to alert). The two things are very, very different.

What is to be revealed are a partnership’s actual agreements, not whether a member of the partnership has violated those agreements (accidentally or otherwise).

Additionally, if the misinformation was perpetrated by the defenders, it is not to be revealed “before the play of the hand begins”, but at the conclusion. Only if the failure is by the declaring side is it to be revealed before play commences.

This difference is because the revelation by a defender conveys unauthorized information to his partner, who thereby might avoid making catastrophic defensive errors (and paying the cost of forgetting their agreements).

While even at the club level, “The Laws” are to be enforced, club games are often more social and there is some latitude in assessing procedural and disciplinary penalties.

I (and I hope many club directors) tend to be quite lenient, but use the opportunity of making these rulings to educate the offenders.

At the club level (with the exception of a few “special” ACBL events), we are allowed to restrict or loosen what conventions may be played. This allows clubs to tailor their games to their players.

I use this as a weapon against CD. We don’t want players who do not learn the conventions they play to spoil the game for the other players. So when both mistaken bids (I forgot our convention) and misinformation situations arise, I warn the offenders that the occasional error, especially when first playing a new convention, is not a problem, if they continually mess up, they will be forbidden to play that convention.

Of course, it’s always a “problem” and as a director I get stuck trying to restore some semblance of equity. I say semblance, because I’m often left with a nagging feeling the offenders should be punished and/or the non-offenders not be the recipients of such a windfall (if the offenders really mucked up and got a terrible score, the result stands).

That probably sounds fair, but is it? Remember that the real opponents of the pair that got the windfall are not the opponents who gave them the present, but the pairs who play the deal in the same direction.


Gary MugfordApril 1st, 2014 at 3:24 am

Hi all,

It’s obviously just me, but I find the explanation of the misuse of their agreed-to intervention over NT to be facile. What would prompt a change from a two-suited overcall to a single-suiter due to passed hands being involved? That’s … wrong on so many levels that I wouldn’t play with a partner who conceived of the logic. Well, not twice.

Whether the organization allows ‘psyching’ conventional bids or not, at whatever level of bidding, at whatever level of competition or not, the bid, as described, should be registered as a psych (which will allow Edgar to continue smiling down from above). I don’t buy the explanation. Not for one bit. At the table, I would not have reacted with Paul’s equanimity. I’d take my low score and then pulverize the opponent for the rest of his life. I hold grudges. I am not a good man. Admittedly, I would have been tempered with the words “I forgot,” and moved on. But the nonsensical explanation given would have driven me nuts. Not that I’m not there already. Again, obviously just me. But, just sayin’ …

When I was growing up in the Bridge world, I heard more than a few times that players were entitled to forget their conventions … once. It was filed under ‘concommitant unusual action’ after that. And then, the onus was on the pair to adequately explain their agreements, and then their occasional ‘forgetting’ of those agreements. Which turned out to be a flaw. It extended the explanation time AND it had the opposite effect (Law of Unintended Consquences) of leaving opponents FURTHER in the dark. So, I guess, the concept went away.

But the residue is what has stuck in Bobby’s craw all these years. Bluntly, the only sensible response to forgetting your conventional agreements is to treat it like an accidentally dropped card. That’s (almost) never an intended cardsharp play outside of Mollo’s books. The odds of benefitting from such a thing are extremely low. And nobody’s feelings get all that hurt when it happens. Life happens, as understand by all around the table.

So, forgetting at the table now means a BAD result that you keep or an adjusted below average result (average minus) when the BAD result doesn’t happen. No winning strategy, no blaming the victims, no advantage for misremembering conventions just at the right time. My memory isn’t all that good anymore and I’d like to continue playing my encyclopedia card, but I know I will forget SOMETHING every now and again. Under the common sense rule that Bobby is going to promote until he can’t do it any longer, I won’t feel guilty about doing it, when it happens. I’ll resent one person and one person only for the bad result. Me. I’ll put it on the shelf where I keep all the dropped cards.

Afterall, my fingers aren’t so limber these days either.

intoitevents.comMay 29th, 2014 at 6:58 pm

In this article, I will attempt show you how to pick the most probable
winner of any given race in a matter of seconds.
Your horse could be covered from head to toe with horse tack gifts, but you must understand
that your horse should know how to keep you safe during a ride.

Foaled in 1704 and brought to England via Constantinople by Sir Robert Sutton, all thoroughbred.

Leave a comment

Your comment