Hesitation Blackwood

May 3, 2013

At the outset, let me hasten to explain, that I am not about to add a new convention to the existing plethora of conventions. I only intend to clear some misgivings of the Bridge players about taking a pause or bidding after partner has taken a pause.


First of all, taking an unusual pause to make a bid is, in itself, not a crime. A player may, in tricky situations, take a pause to bid. What is not permissible is to take advantage of the pause. To quote the law verbatim “ If the logical alternative to the bid after a pause” is a pass, then the partner is not allowed to bid. If, in spite of the pause your hand warrants a bid you may make a bid.


But the most blatant case of taking advantage of the pause occurs while bidding a slam. One player takes charge of the bidding, by launching into
Blackwood. His partner answers his queries, & then the player signs off in a 5 level contract, after a discernible pause.( This is what is termed as
Hesitation Blackwood) Now it is unpardonable for the partner to correct the contract to 6. The reasoning is very simple. The player who has used
Blackwood is the captain of the ship. He has decided on a certain course. Now the others have no moral right to change the course. I will give you an example:

This 6S is criminal & unethical. For all south knows 2 A’s may be out, yet he is venturing to bid a small slam, only because he knows North has some problem. North has some feature in his hand which he is not able to communicate by a legal bid, hence the pause. Only in one case you may convert the 5 into 6. If you are playing RKC, & your answer to partner’s 4NT is 5C or 5D ( 0 or 3), you may convert the 5 to 6 because partner would give you 0 key cards & sign off. But to justify bidding 6 after the pause by saying “ I had a 7 card suit, or I had a void in a side suit”, is violating the spirit of the game. If you feel your hand is good enough to bid 6 after partner signs off in 5, you should bid 6 without bothering to answer the
Blackwood. Or there is one more ethical way of doing it. The moment partner bids 4NT before bidding further call the director, take him aside & tell him “ I am replying to Blackwood but I will bid 6 if partner signs off in 5”.


In one of the recent Nationals the bidding went something like this:

The contract was unbeatable. The director disallowed the grand slam & corrected the score to 6 making 7. The offending side appealed. The appeals committee deliberated for a long time & unanimously allowed the grand slam, overruling the director. The team which was damaged felt cheated, so they sent this case to 25 international experts outside India, for their opinion. You will be shocked to know that all 25 rejected the grand slam saying it was a travesty of justice. A couple even went as far as to say that the credentials of the appeals committee should be scrutinised. Quite a few said that the gentlemen on the appeals committee should be debarred for ever from appearing on the appeals committee. Yes they feel very strongly about violation of ethics abroad.


I would suggest to all the Bridge players that if your partner takes a pause & bids, you should bend backwards & pass. Either ask your partner to change his unethical ways or you change your partner. Would you like the world to brand you as a cheat at the table.


Remember sometimes if you stoop, you pick up nothing except your dignity.

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posted on May 3, 2013
in Articles, Bidding Systems and Methods, Laws, Ethics and Rulings
tagged , , , , ,
about author Ananth Bhagwatanant_bhagwat

Ananth Bhagwat

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