J 8 4 3
♠ Q 10 5 2
♠ K9 7
W N E S
1 1 2*
Pass 3 DBL RDBL
3 4 Pass 4
Pass 4NT Pass 5
Pass 5 All pass
Trick 1: A 4 9 7
Trick 2: 2 A 5 4
Trick 3: A 2 3 7
Trick 4: 6 5 8 9
Trick 5: J 2 3 6
Trick 6: 5 J 8 2
Trick 7: 4 K 3 10
Trick 8: 6 7 Q 3
Trick 9: 8 10 6 Q
Table Result: Not clear
At trick 10, dummy (South) held ♥Q ♦J97 and declarer held ♠J ♦AK ♣9. Declarer, Kranyak, went into a short period of thought (12 seconds) and eventually shrugged. East, Grue, asked "down one?" and showed declarer his cards. All four players put their hands back in the board. After having done so, declarer thought better of it, realizing that at the end position he could play a diamond back to hand and guess what West's remaining black card was to safely ruff back to dummy. Much discussion ensued, and eventually the TD was called. You can see how this played out (without sound) by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3cyslsyrU8
The directing staff followed two paths to make this ruling.
Was Grue's "down one?" and showing of his cards legally a claim?
Law 68A defines a claim:
Any statement to the effect that a contestant will win a specific number of tricks is a claim of those tricks. A contestant also claims when he suggests that play be curtailed, or when he shows his cards (unless he demonstrably did not intend to claim — for example, if declarer faces his cards after an opening lead out of turn, Law 54, not this law will apply).
Grue’s “down one?” could well be a suggestion that play be curtailed, and his facing of his hand may not meet the condition of “demonstrably did not intend to claim”. Additional testimony was given by the vugraph operator (believed to be an impartial observer) that in his opinion Grue claimed.
(A) First we’ll assume that this constitutes a claim.
Kranyak’s temporary agreement to down one does not remove any rights. Law 69 defines agreement of a claim:
Agreement is established when a contestant assents to an opponent’s claim or concession and raises no objection to it before his side makes a call on a subsequent board or before the round ends, whichever occurs first.
Since no calls were taken on Board 2 before North rethought the hand, there was no legal agreement to the claim.
Law 70A tells us how to adjudicate a contested claim:
In ruling on a contested claim or concession, the Director adjudicates the result of the board as equitably as possible to both sides, but any doubtful point as to a claim shall be resolved against the claimer.
(Please note that Law 12C1c – the “weighted ruling” law – does not apply to claims.)
It was deemed a doubtful point that declarer would choose the wrong black suit to ruff back, so (again, on the assumption that Grue’s “down one?” and showing his hand constitutes a claim) it’s clear to rule eleven tricks.
(B) Now let’s go on the assumption that Grue’s actions do not constitute a claim.
Play ceased at trick ten. This was either due to an action by the declarer or something else. Could declarer’s actions constitute a claim? The video was watched several times, and none of Kranyak’s actions were seen to meet the definition of a claim (see above). The staff believed his shrug was not a suggestion to curtail play, as two very similar body actions had occurred earlier in the hand. Kranyak also did not suggest a specific number of tricks.
So neither side claimed, but play ceased, and the directing staff was asked to adjudicate the hand. Play of the last few tricks was projected.
Declarer was credited with playing a diamond next (rather than the immediately fatal heart queen, as if he wasn’t already in a guess position for West’s remaining black card, playing the heart would put him in one), which would tell him about the diamond break and the need to guess the correct black card. Here Law 12C1c was brought in to the discussion. If declarer was, say, 50-50 to guess correctly, the ruling would be something like 70% of making five and 30% of down one, as it was E-W’s irregularity that caused play to be suspended.
Next it was discussed which was more likely – (A) or (B). The directing staff felt that (A) was somewhat more likely to be the case.
With (A) leading to a definite eleven tricks and (B) leading to likely a large percentage of eleven tricks, the score was adjusted to eleven tricks, +400 N-S.
Appeals Committee Ruling
E/W appealed. They asserted that declarer’s shrug implied a concession and that East’s question was merely a confirmation of the concession. They said that declarer had already used up a lot of time during the play, despite which he had not seen the winning line. (This was board 1. Total time was about 14 minutes, of which the play took 9 minutes. Most of that time was used by declarer.) They argued that declarer shouldn’t get credit for spotting the winning line when he had failed to do so up to that point. Moreover, the four-card ending was a virtual double-dummy problem for all of the players.
N/S said that declarer’s shrug did not constitute a concession. Rather, East’s question (“Down one?”) was a defensive claim to which declarer acquiesced. However, after a brief interval declarer realized that he had a winning line and attempted to cancel his acquiescence. They said that the timing was well within that allowed to do so.
The committee agreed with the director’s assessment of North’s shrug followed by East’s question. Specifically, while the shrug implied frustration it did not constitute a concession. However, the question, which suggesting curtailing play with a specific outcome, DID constitute a claim. If so, then the director’s ruling was clearcut. Declarer’s withdrawal of his acquiescence was clearly timely (less than eight seconds, and with the board still on the table), as was his description of the winning line at that time.
The claim laws state that doubtful points should be resolved in favor of the non-claiming side. This meant that declarer was credited with a correct guess for which black suit to ruff in dummy at trick 11. However, the bidding and play up to that point meant that declarer was very likely to get it right anyway.
The committee notes that despite the length of time taken in the play, the defense also did not see that the outcome was still in doubt, else they would have continued to wait. The deal created a blind spot for these four world-class players.
Director's ruling upheld. Result 5 by N, making 5, +400 NS.
Bart Bramley, Chair