Cogito ergo...

In a bridge monthly I found a law ori­ented prob­lem:



K J 4




Q 10 9 8


A 7 6 3




6 2



In the final phase of hand play South led a spot card and West –  after a small pause – fol­lowed with the nine.    South “of course” put up the king, and “of course” a while later called the Di­rector, who asked West whether he ad­mits hav­ing paused. In­stead of say­ing briefly "Yes. I paused a while" West of­fered an ad­di­tional ex­cuse "I thought a while to con­sider which card would best in­duce de­clarer to make a mis­take". The Di­rec­tor–Au­thor de­ducts then one trick from the de­fen­dants ex­plain­ing that South was dam­aged by West's "man­ner­ism" in the form of a short pause with­out the Ace.


      What a paradox !  A sim­ple re­flec­tion (and short one at that) is con­sid­ered as a “man­ner­ism". Such a typical occur­ance dur­ing play (and this in a so called in­tel­lectual game) be­comes stig­ma­tised and pe­nal­ized by law mak­ers and en­forc­ers which is eu­phomisti­cally called "re­dress for dam­age".
    This is by no means a par­ticu­lar quirk of the Di­rec­tor–Au­thor, but rather the view of the ma­jority lobby of world bridge or­gan­is­ers.  A view which as we shall prove is un­jus­tified and dam­aging to bridge.


   Let us for the time being for­get the Bridge Law and con­sider this ques­tion in the light of Natural Jus­tice:
     What was West actually pun­ished for ?  The answer is ob­vi­ous al­beit quite shock­ing !

     Only for the fact that he was un­able to work out the prob­lem quickly enough !!


   But then what kind of bridge would it be in which every­one is obliged to think an equal pe­riod and quickly at that ?  We would be un­able to enjoy the game for de­prived of our Natu­ral Right to Think, we would be­come hu­man en­slaved auto­mata.


   Some­one might say "Think by all means but without mis­lead­ing".

   But by what mira­cle can West at the same time think and not think ?!

   Further­more West did not in­tend to "mis­lead", he only wanted to chose the best card !  We must not mock West be­cause the problem was sim­ple or that he had the time of a few trick ear­lier... for in our turn we may en­coun­ter a prob­lem that an ex­pert will shrug off.


   What West said about his pause sounds rather na­ive to be sin­cere.

   Probably he paused be­cause...  STOP !


     It is not al­lowed to ques­tion a player's ex­pla­nation with­out proof es­pe­cially when it con­cerns such deli­cate mat­ters as some­one's in­ten­tions which are not ame­na­ble to verifi­ca­tion. It's very of­fen­sive !


     Let us pre­sume then (only pre­sume!) that West said to the Di­rec­tor sim­ply this "Yes. I did pause"  – and then let us re­flect for what rea­son.


     West must have been in a similar situa­tions before but with the Ace !

   On those occa­sions he had to pause a while of course af­ter which South of course put up the King.


     Cer­tainly West was thus ex­asper­ated; "I lost not be­cause I was worse but be­cause South worked out what I was thinking about. In­stead of ana­lys­ing the situa­tion and work­ing out the odds he ex­ploited my pause like a para­site".

     It can­not even be ex­cluded that if West was a com­plete nov­ice he might have called the Di­rec­tor in the con­vic­tion that it was he who was fouled (!) but to no avail of course.


     In the event West has only one solu­tion (unless he can think like light­en­ing): "I must pause also with the Queen !  Then South will be un­able to de­duce any­thing from my pause. It goes with­out saying that if South was a real gent this extra prob­lem would be un­neces­sary.

   But such is life un­fortu­nately".


     This is ob­vi­ously the only sensible strat­egy uni­versally adopted in many games (how would poker look if one was not al­lowed think with­out rea­son).


     Thus West will start to pause with the Queen on pur­pose !  Not in or­der to "mis­lead" de­clarer but be­cause for him this is the only safety move.

   If he does not he will ALWAYS lose whether with a Queen (for then South will note the lack of a pause) or with an Ace (for South will take note of the pause).


       It is im­pos­sible not to sym­pa­thize with West !


     It must be obvi­ous that he should have the right to think freely with­out it be­ing treated as mislead­ing or man­nerism, and that no one should have the right of en­quiry into the rea­son and con­tent of that thought. Such was also the view of the majority of the readers   whose let­ters were pub­lished in a later is­sue.


     Our case so far was based on Natu­ral Jus­tice but Di­rec­tors are OBLIGED to rely on the Law. Let us then ex­amine what is the letter of the Inter­na­tional Bridge Laws on this matter.


     The Di­rec­tor–Au­thor quotes in sup­port of his de­ci­sion Law 16:

          Players are au­thorized to base their ac­tions on in­for­mation
          from le­gal calls or plays, and from man­ner­isms of op­po­nents.


   This is a very pecu­liar lapse – which no reader has no­ticed – for this law merely states that South had the right to draw con­clu­sions from the op­po­nent's pause (that is if we con­clude that a pause can be termed "man­ner­ism"). But where is there talk of mis­lead­ing an op­po­nent by un­founded thoughts or that a "man­ner­ism" must conform to the actual   hand held ?


   The true ba­sis the deci­sion only comes from Law 73:


73D2:   Inten­tional Varia­tions (in tempo)
It is grossly im­proper to at­tempt to mislead an oppo­nent by means of re­mark or ges­ture, through the haste or hesi­tancy of a call or play (as in hesi­tat­ing be­fore playing a sin­gleton), or by the manner in which the call or play is made.


73D1:   In­ad­vertent Varia­tions (in tempo)
Variations of tempo, man­ner, or the like may vio­late the Pro­prie­ties when a player could know, at the time of his ac­tion, that the varia­tion could work to his bene­fit.      Oth­er­wise, in­ad­ver­tently to vary the tempo or man­ner in which a call or play is made does not in it­self con­sti­tute a viola­tion of pro­priety, but infer­ences from such varia­tion may ap­pro­pri­ately be drawn only by an op­po­nent, and at his own risk.


73F2:    Play­ers In­jured by Il­legal De­cep­tion
If the Di­rector de­ter­mines that an in­no­cent player has drawn a false in­fer­ence from a de­cep­tive re­mark, man­ner, tempo, or the like, of an op­po­nent who could have known, at the time of the ac­tion, that the de­cep­tion could work to his bene­fit, the Di­rec­tor shall award an ad­justed score (see Law 12).


    As is evi­dent the Law–Mak­ers did not take to heart what Gulli­ver ex­peri­enced in Brob­dingnag:

   No law of that coun­try must ex­ceed in words the num­ber of let­ter in their al­pha­bet, which con­sists of two and twenty. But in­deed few of them ex­tend even to that length. They are ex­pressed in the most plain and sim­ple terms, wherein those peo­ple are not mer­curial enough to dis­cover above one in­terpre­ta­tion; and to write a com­ment upon any law is a capi­tal crime.

     I have ana­lysed the quoted para­graphs (and oth­ers) of the Law for 7 months 7 days and 7 hours. It was a gor­dian task of tangled in­sinua­tions and ob­scu­rity, and if anyone doubts let him try to analyse it quicker or pass it over to his worst en­emy. It oc­cured to me for ex­am­ple that every re­flec­tion is un­ethi­cal and that there are no un­in­ten­tional re­flec­tions (!) but to com­men­ta­tors of world re­pute that every re­flec­tion is ethical but... ha­bit­ual and over­long re­flec­tions are un­ethi­cal (!).
   I would gladly like to think for ex­am­ple what would be a Di­rec­tor's ac­tion if he heard: "I paused merely in or­der not to mis­lead my op­po­nent by too short a pause" but I am too weak by now.


     Sadly I must state that the de­ci­sion which in­ter­ests us can­not be over­ruled be­cause West... "COULD have known... that the de­ception could work to his bene­fit...". If it was writ­ten only that he "KNEW" there might have been some hope; but the word used was "COULD".


      What ad­vice can we give West so that he would not be the looser whether with a Queen or Ace...

     He must learn to play more quickly ?


    But even with a freely cho­sen great speed a problem will oc­cur to him (and to you) which re­quires a thought no­tice­able to an op­po­nent.


    He must think 3 tricks be­fore­hand ?



        firstly – he will still be cought about the rea­son for think­ing THEN,

        sec­ondly – the in­forma­tion may ar­rive 2 tricks ear­lier,

        thirdly – a smart South will work out in any case the right rea­son.


   That South should have the duty to pause for 10 sec­onds after the first lead ?


    But that has al­ready in the past: the in­for­ma­tion for the pause  may not oc­cur (as is of­ten the case) till later.


    This is all wasted ef­fort – West is in a no win situa­tion and must lose !

  Not be­cause he is worse (nor nec­ces­sar­ily the quick­est ei­ther) but be­cause


   Do not shrug it off as if it did not con­cern you. After all you are as of­ten South as West and what you gain as one you lose as the other !


     Equili­brum is maintained but Ad­di­tional Losses exist:

       – di­rec­tors have ad­di­tional work being called to adjudi­cate on

         long pauses since this matter is on the in­crease

       – play­ers cannot think in peace (even though they take part in

         An intel­lectual game) to the det­ri­ment of bridge.


    If I dare think I must con­firm be­fore­hand whether my op­po­nent will work out what I am thinking about. If not – I am not al­lowed to think; if yes – I am al­lowed to think (but for what ? I might as well show him my cards).


     The only ones sat­isfied are the Thought­less !  ("Play quicker ! What are you think­ing about ?  You will not rein­vent the wheel") and who knows ? is all this not a con­spir­acy against the Thought­ful (this is similar to re­stric­tions on con­ven­tions or con­gresses where players are forced to play 80 deals per day).


    Legal dis­crimina­tion of the Thought­full re­sults in the


   If you ob­serve from where he det­taches his cards that's a foul. But if you ob­serve how long he paused – not only is this correct but you are sup­ported by the Law.


Here are 10 oc­cur­ances...



   It hap­pened to me that in an identi­cal situa­tion to West's I paused... Not in or­der to mis­lead de­clarer, nor whether I had left my cooker burn­ing back home, but – whether to give a spe­cific card sig­nal (low spot card to en­cour­age a lead from the first lead suit).
    No mat­ter that at that mo­ment I was not aware that my pause could "mis­lead" de­clarer. The Law states clearly (73F2) that foul oc­curs when at that mo­ment I "COULD have known". And that is true, for al­though I did not know, but I COULD have.


   On an­other oc­ca­sion I played a small card from dummy to­wards my KQ double­ton. When RHO played low I visu­al­ised that it would be better to play the King. If it wins then RHO hold­ing Ace without the Jack will not know whether I had KQ or KJ. And the less an opponent knows the bet­ter.
   This took a lit­tle time. The King won and two tricks later so did the Queen. But RHO did not risk anything !  He knew that after my pause he would only have to call the Di­rec­tor if it so hap­pened that I had KQ.
    And so it hap­pened: a trick was de­ducted for my in­telli­gent play while he was re­warded for not having to think at all.  Well... it was of course oth­er­wise sub­stanci­ated but it came to the same.
  I was taught of course that I should have re­solved the prob­lem be­fore lead­ing from dummy. The lesson was not lost on me, but till now I still have doubts that such a pause may also be ques­tioned: "What were you thinking about ?  Was not the play to­wards the king obvi­ous ? You mis­lead me !".


   And here is another case... I was re­flect­ing on whether I had suffi­cient strength to make a jump bid to 4© af­ter 1§ on my right. Most would have bid 4© without hesi­ta­tion, but I – the Worst Theo­reti­cian in the World – had obvi­ously to work out the val­ues (points, tricks, ad­just­ments and such silly things). 4© was passed out and to my amaze­ment I got a top.
   It turned out that with the hand that LHO had, all en­tered in de­fense. My LHO, how­ever, con­sid­ered that my long pause indi­cated the
4© as over­stretched and that de­fense was there­fore not worth­while.
 Instead of thinking "What can each side make",    he re­lied on my pause alone. Para­site !


      Shortly I came across this:





1¨ = Nega­tive ( 0–7 )

×  =  Op­tional (NT with a dia­mond fit )







   Having the values to ac­cept the dou­ble (4 dia­monds and 4333 shape) I paused 10 sec­onds (in­ten­tion­ally! in­ten­tion­ally!) and only then passed. Para­sitic West passed like light­ening having 5 spades and only3 dia­monds (they played with 6 trumps in­stead of 9).


       What about my partner:




































    Dou­ble of 2¨ was pen­alty ori­ented ("Rather pass") but I doubled after an in­ten­tional pause. That was enough !  Part­ner ig­nored our agree­ments and took out the dou­ble to 2¨ with a bal­anced hand. I must how­ever state that he blushed and apolo­gised for the foul. Me !

    Two of my previ­ous op­po­nents did not apolo­gise to their part­ners. Would they have also apolo­gised to me if they had guessed what I was think­ing ?  They vio­lated af­ter all ! No one can con­vince me that draw­ing con­clu­sions from an op­po­nent's pause is ele­gant.   




     Here is what I saw kibitz­ing in the Jun­iors Champion­ships in 1980:






























    PASS = af­ter a very long trance

                    ( for no ap­par­ent rea­son )


and 2 down, for the jun­iors did not think what to bid, but – what was East think­ing about ?



       A too short a pause may also be rea­son for at­tack:


W 9 x x x
A W x x x
x x






3¨ = sin­gle­ton in hearts !


3 NT = with light­en­ing speed













3 NT



   West de­cided to lead a spade. When it turned out that South had only 10xxx in hearts, West raised an ob­jec­tion:  "I was mis­lead by the change of tempo. With such a hand 3 NT is very doubtful and thus should not have been bid so quickly".  Of course – if 3 NT had been bid after a long pause and after a heart lead from West South was found to have KQ10x, West would still con­sider him­self "hard done by".


In a great pairs tour­na­ment against a lead­ing pair this deal oc­cured to me:







1ª = as it turned out was a psy­che by An­drew

PASS by North = after a long pause (he had 15)

4ª = after a long pause (I made cal­cu­la­tion)

PASS by South = af­ter a long pause (he had 14)

PASS by West = af­ter a long pause !



















         Re­sult: down four, a top for WE.


Opponents ob­jected to An­drew's long pause but gained noth­ing. Why ?
Because there was no change of tempo, all thought about the same time of approx 10 sec­onds. Can we blame An­drew for pausing 10 times longer than his hand de­manded ?  It is suffi­cient to consider how ab­surd this ob­jection would have been if all the other 3 play­ers had only paused 1 sec­ond.  One could then of course blame An­drew that he did not pass like lighten­ing !
   Andrew com­mited no vio­la­tion. On the contrary – he fol­lowed the Laws which rec­om­mend simi­lar pauses. Ir­re­spec­tive of the diffi­culty of the prob­lem !
   73E: [...]   It is en­tirely ap­pro­priate to avoid giv­ing in­for­ma­tion to the op­po­nents
                   by mak­ing all calls and plays in un­vary­ing tempo and man­ner.

   Andrew's fur­ther merit was to pre­vent a foul by North ! If he had passed quickly, then North might have (whether on purpose or not) take into ac­count part­ner's long pause. Since in the above situa­tion the chances of ex­tra val­ues were equal both for South and West, North willy–nilly had to re­strict him­self to pure analy­sis.


Parasitism of a less able op­po­nent's pause also be­longs to the basic equip­ment of Ex­pert. He may for ex­ample be able (see Kel­sey's "The Ex­pert Mind") from a short pause or hesi­tation be­fore following to a spade lead de­duce the po­si­tion of the queen of dia­monds and play as if he saw all the cards. I quote:
   – How could you know that ?  You could know I had the queen of dia­monds only if you had seen my hand ! –

     South for­bore to re­play, for it was clear that West did not com­pre­hend the ex­pert stan­dard.

    I do not con­sider this to be the true rea­son. I think that South did not wish to give away his tricks mainly from shame as well as from ego­ism.


To this day I re­call the scan­dal caused by well known op­po­nents when I paused to con­sider the lead against 1NT hold­ing:

                 ª  Q x x x x          ©  J x x x.

Declarer failed mis­era­bly for he as­sumed that I had equal length suits. He in­sisted that with such a hand IT IS NOT PERMITTED to think since a spade lead was ob­vi­ous.


   The higher a player's status the greater and sub­tler be­comes his charge that a pause may have been mis­lead­ing. Eg a su­per­mas­ter may charge an­other with; "What were you thinking ?  With your hand a dou­ble squeeze, isolat­ing the men­ace, is ob­vi­ous". It is not hard to imagine what com­pe­tence will be re­quired with state­ments of that kind and how many books of com­men­tar­ies will be pro­duced.

   All the re­ported here mon­sters were the re­sult of bad Law !

   What must then be done?
           Ob­vi­ously one must change the Law ....

    Since it is clear that;

     – it is im­pos­sible to equal­ise all pauses or thoughts

     – it is im­pos­sible to pre­vent ex­ploita­tion of an op­po­nent's pause.

        (there are al­ready enough prob­lems from ex­ploiting part­ner's pauses)

    it is suffi­cient and neces­sary:

      1) can­cel all ref­er­ences to "mis­lead­ing" by varia­tions in tempo

         (or any hesita­tion un­der­stood as a varia­tion in tempo)

      2) ad­mit that:

(unless such pause de­stroys the tour­na­ment or­der).

  Of course eve­ryone has the right to change any rules in pri­vatly or­gan­ised games. Any four play­ers in a rub­ber game, a club in it's own daily du­pli­cates, and fi­nally local bridge clubs in their of­ficial con­gresses etc.
   Obvi­ously also Na­tional Bridge Un­ions have the right to make what­ever changes in tour­na­ments un­der their own aus­pices even in­terna­tional ones pro­vided that players are for­warned.
    Nor should any rep­re­senta­tives be ashamed to put for­ward such pro­pos­als in the of­fi­cial world bridge fo­rums, which might hasten the change of In­ter­na­tional Laws.


     How­ever it is well known that to make such changes takes a very long time. What can then be done right now?


In the first place:


   BOYCOTT the Law which con­cerns an oppo­nent's pause:

     Do not do to oth­ers what you do not want done to your­self – do not draw con­clu­sions from op­po­nents pauses ! But if you do then do it at your own risk. Do not call the Di­rec­tor when you did not worked out what he was think­ing about (for he has a natu­ral right to think only not to be­ing ex­ploited by you).

   Acting in this fash­ion you will be­have very hon­oura­bly, but oth­ers will still fo­cus on your own pauses (a uni­ver­sal boy­cott is uto­pian) so in addi­tion try...


   APOLOGISE after every pause:

       "Sorry I tranced, PLEASE do not draw any conclu­sions there­from".

   Now you are safe. No op­po­nent may blame you for mis­leading by an un­founded pause ! You have after all a natu­ral right to trance, even with an Ace ! The word "PLEASE" is nec­es­sary for oth­erwise they may catch you if you trance with an Ace ! (I do not joke for I have found it in a book called "Law Com­men­tar­ies").

     If an oppo­nent states that the word "PLEASE" does not con­cern him for he has the right to draw con­clusions from your pause (Law 16) then re­ply thus:  "Cer­tainly you have that right, but your right to an in­dem­nity only ap­plies if the pause mis­lead you. How­ever I warned you".


The above method has two draw­backs;

    1) you feel un­easy for in the main you do think

    2) the ex­planatory phrase is rather long to say.


The best method is to...


      Pre­pare for your­self a folded card to be placed on the ta­ble on

      which will be writ­ten on both sides the fol­low­ing:

 Please ex­cuse me – I OFTEN PAUSE WITHOUT REASON ! 
 There­fore I for­warn you that any con­clu­sions drawn
 from my trances must be made at your own risk !  

Inside the card you may pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion of this ac­tion thus:

If you think and have a rea­son – you give away to the op­po­nents your prob­lem and hand.         If you think without rea­son – the Law consid­ers this as "un­ethical mis­lead­ing of oppo­nents". But you may trance... and apolo­gise po­litely, warn­ing op­po­nents  not to draw any conclu­sions there­from.                       


     Re­mem­ber that those who love to ex­ploit your pauses will be en­raged.
If they rudely at­tack you: "How can you pause without a rea­son ?!", say this to them: "I suf­fer from concen­tra­tion lapses" (which is a rec­og­nised psycho­phisi­cal condi­tion).
But why ex­cuse your­self in any case. You are fully within your rights and if a Di­rec­tor de­cides to read white for black then ap­peal higher up.


   At the last mo­ment !

Analogous prob­lems may arise in connec­tion with ques­tions re­gard­ing part­ner­ship agree­ments (both in bid­ding and lead­ing). Did he have a good rea­son to ask ?  Why did he "mis­lead" the op­po­nent ?  etc. So cut off the hy­dra's last head: all above should also be taken into the realm of ques­tions !

                                     Besides, I think that all re­stric­tions on bid­ding must be de­stroyed.


Written and pub­lished in Pol­ish by Lu­kasz Slaw­in­ski in 1995 ©
Translated into Eng­lish by Adam Marian Ruden­ski ©

This article was pub­lished first in the bul­le­tin of Con­tract Bridge As­so­cia­tion of Po­land in 1995.




Pikier writings