Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What does a Hesitation Suggest

I was involved in more director calls about hesitations last week than I think I ever have been. I was never the hesitator. According to the director's handbook, there should only be an adjusted score due to a hesitation when: 1) a call was made with undue hesitation (typically more than 10 seconds), 2) could the innocent side have suffered damage? 3) were there logical alternatives to the call chosen by hesitator's partner, AND 4) could the hesitation demonstrably suggest the call chosen would be more successful than the logical alternatives?

I seem to have not brought back hand records but in one case, my LHO held: x, AKQxxx, Kx, AQxx at unfavorable vulnerability. I opened 3S, he bid 4H, partner bid 4S, long hesitation-pass by RHO, and then this guy bids 5H. I think the hesitation certainly suggests that he has values. Is pass a logical alternative in this case? If so, he should be required to pass. I would say pass is a logical alternative, despite the huge hand. 4S could easily be making 5 on this auction (sans hesitation) with the DK and CQ finessable and bidding again opposite an partner with virtually nothing could garner -800 or -1100. Anyway, the director ruled that pass was not a logical alternative and the hesitation did not suggest 5H instead of double or 5C. Eh. They made 5 and we got a really bad score. But then again, partner should have bid 5S with 4 spades and a stiff and only the A of diamonds for defense.

One or two other hesitation calls turned out to be nothing and then this one in the final session of the Red Ribbons, which was possibly the most miserable session of bridge followed by the most miserable night I've had in a long long time. I held approximately xxxxxx, xx, Qxx, xx. None vul., partner opens a strong NT, RHO bids 2NT, I pass, LHO bids 3C, partner checks the CC finding a slew of other information about their defense against NT openings but no information about the 2NT bid, then asks and is told it shows the minors. For some reason, she then takes another 15 seconds to pass. What could the NT opener have to think about in this situation? Bidding a 5 card major, doubling (which I guess would be penalty), or just general confusion? Anyway, director is called on the hesitation and when 3C gets back to me, I bid 3S anyway. I think it is a normal action. Maybe if we were vulnerable this wouldn't be a good bid but white, it seems normal to compete to 3S. However, I wouldn't argue much about pass being a logical alternative. I did argue that the hesitation suggested bidding 3S would be better than the logical alternative of pass. If anything, I think the hesitation might suggest good clubs and therefore indicate that bidding again would not be better than passing. The director said that it doesn't matter what the hesitation suggests as long as it could suggest something, so he supposedly polled 3 peers (yeah, nice sample size), two of whom passed and 1 bid 3S. Therefore he decided both are logical alternatives that could have been suggested by the hesitation and the result we get should be the worse of the two. So, he adjusted it from 3S down 1 to 3C making 5, which was still a good score because they were cold for 5H, but I don't like the ruling.

Your thoughts, please?


  1. Yep, pass is a logical alternative in the first one. I don't see why 5H and 4S can't both be down one. Give his partner Ax, xx, xxxxx, xxxx. 5H loses three tricks in the minors (assuming 3-2 hearts) and 4S loses a spade, two hearts, and a club.

    Of course, I'm bidding 5H and most people would too (unless they get fancy and try 5C). I think I might have doubled 3S. I'll ask Megan what she would have done.

    I agree with you about the second one. I think 3S is pretty automatic, and the hesitation actually argues against it so you shouldn't apply any adjustment.

  2. On the 3S-4H hand: There used to be some principle that said "if a significant minority might have chosen another call ..."
    In my opinion, even though pass over 4S might be a "logical alternative", I don't think a "significant minority" would have chosen that call.

    On the hand where it went 1N-2N, I think that not allowing your 3S bid after partner's hesitation was absurd.

  3. I think a significant minority (what's that? Like 20%) would pass 4S. I may even be one of them. Maybe I'll put it to a poll.

    Glad you agree with my 3S bid, but still 3C making 5 was one of our best boards anyway -39 out of 64 mp. If we had a few other good boards, I would have taken it to a committee.