Some rules in bridge cause more grief than game really needs. In fact, some rules are both absurd and illogical. And one rule in point relates to a situation where declarer calls for a card from dummy, only to change his/her mind immediately after. The correction of an inadvertently named or designated card is covered by the following rule : " a player may, without penalty, change an inadvertent designation if he/she does so without pause for thought ". A remarkably forgiving rule in my opinion.
But how easy is this rule to implement one may ask ? The card initially called for ( and possibly played ) might be the one declarer intended to play at that " moment in time ", only to be followed by an immediate realisation that a severe mental aberration has taken place...........clearly indicating that the card called for was an act of insanity, based on a moment of madness.
A glance at the dictionary tells us that inadvertent means " not intended " ......" accidental ", and accident embraces the notion of " mishap ". In the realms of bridge play, an unintentional call suggests a sudden split-second malfunction of the thought process, an inexplicable mind switch off, which appears to be accidental.....perhaps triggered by an distracting event beyond declarer's control.
And as for the meaning of the phrase " without pause " well this really is open for debate. If one was to refer to the Thesaurus, several definitions quickly come to view : " instantaneously, at lightning speed, in the same breath, in a trice, quick as a flash, instinctively, before one can say Jack flash, in a twinkling, within a second, immediately after, straightaway, straight after, almost simultaneously ". So yes, even within these terms differences and distinctions exist. So which one does define without pause correctly ?
So interpreting this rule requires careful scrutiny and interpretation of its words, in order to obtain a clear definition of its true meaning and appropriate application. It is not there to protect declarers who have lost the plot, focus or concentration as a result of going walkabout, mental laziness, falling asleep. Or declarers, who are victims of their own impatience and impetuosity, where they so often get completely ahead of themselves. It is there to protect declarers who become the victims of mishaps, beyond their control, that unfortunately can cause such mental aberrations.
So let's look at a typical scenario where declarer plays his queen towards his AJ10 holding in dummy, expecting on the bidding for his RHO to have the king. Already in his mind, he intends to call for the 10 to be played. However, just as his LHO produces the king, declarer is already blurting out a call " play the 10 "....only for him to stop in his tracks.....and splutter out a reflex response " Oh no.....play the Ace ! " Well, applying the rule here is a simple task. Was the call inadvertent given his initial view as to the location of the king ? Had the change in instruction been made in the same breath ? Surely, there has to be two strong presumptions in resolving these situations. Firstly, that the card called for was the one intended, and secondly, that if the instruction was completed then it must stand. Incorrect analysis and impetuosity are factors within declarer's control, and nothing should be done to allow him to escape from the consequences of his mistakes.
Declarers will of course come up with all sorts of excuses to explain their aberrations, hoping for some reprieve from either the opponents or the TD:
- " I thought I had called for the Ace......? "
- " I meant to call for the Ace.....but noise from elsewhere distracted me "
- " I'm on medication...that cause weird neurological side-effects "
- " I was a trick ahead of myself.....I wanted to play the 10 after the Ace "
- " I had a senior moment ...."
- " When the King came down, it took me by complete surprise....I got so flustered I called for the wrong card "
I would dismiss them all. In most cases declarers have just simply had a lapse in concentration, failing to spot what card the opponent has been played, or failing to realise that an immediate change of plan was called for. Reckless impetuosity and autopilot responses are not examples of inadvertent thinking.
So finally,I want to review the hand that Judy Kay-Wolff wrote about in her excellent May 19th article, where declarer had an easy 6C slam to wrap up by simply continuing to pull trumps at trick 4. But in the story declarer called for another suit to be played ( spades instead of clubs ) allowing the defence to seize the trick with the King, and secure a club ruff in hearts at trick 5. How declarer managed to get a reprieve on this board to set the score back to 6C making truly makes the world of bridge incredibly bizarre.....not to mention unjust. Firstly, declarer had not been distracted by anything outside or beyond his/her control. The call for a low spade had been fully given, and implemented. This was nothing more than a complete lapse of concentration. The realisation afterwards that ( a) East had won the trick , and (b) the plan to extract the remaining trumps in clubs had somehow gone astray ......came a split second later, when " oh shit " vocalised the next thought that came to mind. The implied message that this carried ( please let me change my mind and play a club instead ) was not made in the same breath......since there was clear evidence of a momentary pause. No wonder debate raged on about the ludicrous ruling that was given by the appeal panel. No wonder Judy has brought this whole issue back into the bloggers' debating forum.
Bridge should take a lesson from the rules of chess: should you just merely touch a piece, you are obliged to play it. Therefore if the spirit of this rule is applied to bridge, then whatever card you called for....or was clearly on the verge of calling for..... this is card which must now be played. It is therefore imperative for all declarers to watch and wait to see what cards the opposition have played FIRST, before deciding on what cards they want to play after. How simple is that.