The principle of active ethics requires players to adhere fully to the disclosure rules and guidelines set down in the game. Only full disclosure can provide equity.
However, here lies two thorny problems : is it possible for full disclosure to ever take place, and how can anyone be certain it has taken place ? Winning is only legitimate and fair if all your opponents had received all of the information to which they were entitled. This requires players to have access to opponents' convention cards, which not only must be complete in detail and identical.....but also capable of being read and understood. How much time has anyone got to look at opponents' convention cards at the start of any round ? Answer : none.
Moreover, players who practice active ethics must give their opponents full disclosure of partnership agreements whenever appropriate, especially if the bids are alertable. Not only that but players are required to :
(a) give complete answers to all requests for information
(b) only use conventions that have been fully discussed with partner, such that questions can be answered correctly
(c) make sure that when they are playing with a regular partner, who knows all about their bids, and bidding style, to include the latter within the full disclosure principle
One appalling breach of active ethics is when a player finds himself in that awkward situation of not knowing what his partner's bid means. Not only will this cause him to go into the tank giving his partner the message he is having this problem, but should his opponents ask about the bid, incomplete, false or ambiguous answers will follow. If tops are achieved through misinterpreted bids, based on ignorance, forgetfulness and/or confusion.....all of which are both unfortunate and unnecessary......they must be classified as hollow and undeserved.
However, the most serious breach, in my opinion, occurs when partnership deviate from their system card, having tendencies to open light in 3rd position, to pre-empt ( say at the 3 level on a 5 card suit ), and to make off-centre or unbalanced 1NT bids. Often, these tendencies have developed into some kind of understanding, but will they be marked on their card.....or verbally communicated to their opponents ? Only when this happens will the opponents get access to the same information about the existence of these possible bidding deviations. But do these deviations lead them into trouble? Not on your life....because if a bid could be weak or strong, clarification or asking bids will certainly be employed. Indeed, one of our club's best players often sticks in a light opener in 3rd position, especially when the circumstances are right, and it's the type of hand makes it perfect sense. When I asked him afterwards his reasoning for sticking 1C bid in on 8HCPs, his answer was most comprehensive : " Not likely to be doubled....favourable vulnerability ....my QJ108 of clubs provides partner with a safe lead if the oppo get to 3NT.....partner won't go wild having already passed.....and the oppo might well place me for having a card that is in my partner's mitt... "
Yet my issue with him was that did his partner have an understanding about the likelihood of light 3rd hand openers, based on either his reputation, and/or past experience ? Were these stated conditions ( circumstances ) those his partner was fully aware, where the possibility of such a frisky opening bid was that much greater ? A grey area indeed. If any type of violation or deviation from the system card can be anticipated or expected, then disclosure of such a possibility must be made.
No player of course is required to adhere rigidly to what is marked on hisher card, and psychs for instance are both an ethical and exciting feature of the game. Without doubt, the art of deception is what makes bridge such a beautiful and abstract game. But the deception has to apply equally to all 3 other players, not just the opposing pair. The surprise element must be the same all round for equity to remain uncompromised. I remember one instance when our own senior TD, who was partnering this same great player, saw the opponents sail into 3NT after his partner had opened the bidding....and he had useful values himself. At the end of play, when the contract failed by 1 trick he boldly announced : " If I had been partnering anyone else I would have doubled ". Now what does that tell you about full disclosure and active ethics ?
And on a final note, I want to come back to my gripe about overly complex bidding systems and system cards that come bound as books. These players know damn well, their cards can not or will not be read fully ( let alone understood ). They also know that any questions asked might well involve lengthy answers, which become by definition incomprehensible, or abbreviated answers that clearly fall short of full disclosure. Add to that the multitude of artificial bids that warrant a barrage of enquiry bids before one of the possible hands explained finally emerges as the reality, then whatever was said at the beginning was nothing more than a confusing fog.
Bridge will become a much better game when the playing fields really start as as level. Bridge players, like all other sportsmen, should play with equipment that rigidly adheres to internationally agreed specifications. The game's administrators have allowed the proliferation of complex bidding systems, conventions and gadgets to get so out of control...............that the quest for full disclosure is nothing more than a joke.