A bid has just been followed by three Passes. You are on lead and the auction is over. Or is it?
This discussion is about games played under ACBL regulations (there are some differences in other zones). It seems a lot of players do not have a clear understanding about the end of the auction and the asking of questions about the auction.
I want to focus on that short period of time between a bid being followed by three passes and dummy’s hand being faced on the table. The major reason involves one of my pet peeves — Unauthorized Information.
Let’s tackle that first question. We think of a deal as being split into two parts: the auction and the play. We also tend to think of the auction being over once that final Pass has been made, but that is not strictly true.
The auction is truly over, only when the opening lead has been faced. A reminder: in the ACBL the opening lead is to be made face-down. A lot of things can happen between that “last Pass” and dummy’s hand being displayed on the table.
There can be misinformation by either the defenders or the declaring side, but I only want to consider misinformation by the declaring side. This can be a an incorrect explanation of their partnership agreements or the absence of an Alert (or “Announcement” — I think of an announcement as being a weird alert).
If either member of the declaring side knows (or believes) there has been misinformation, he is required to call the director before the opening lead is faced.
Suppose there has been misinformation. Then the Director may allow (not necessarily “will allow”) the defender who made the final Pass to retract it and make some other call. In this case, the auction did not end with that original third Pass.
In a similar vein, if the face-down opening lead has been made before the Director was summoned, the Director will normally allow the card to be returned to the defender’s hand (and of course, this happens if that third Pass is retracted). This allows the defender to reconsider his opening lead in light of the correct explanations.
The Face-Down Opening Lead
Before he makes the face-down opening lead, the defender on lead may ask for a review of the bidding and request explanations. He then selects his lead and makes it face-down. This is important: his partner is not entitled to ask any questions (or indicate he has no questions) until after that. So the traditional “Any questions partner?” should not be asked until after the face-down lead.
The opening leader’s partner may only ask for a review of the auction and explanations after the face-down opening lead has been made. The objective of this rule is to avoid questions (or the lack of questions) influencing the opening lead.
Bidding Boxes — A Suggestion
The use of bidding boxes is virtually universal in duplicate bridge, but the ACBL Bidding Box regulations say nothing about when the bidding cards that are on the table are picked up.
When playing at the local club, the players pick them up and put them back in the bidding box immediately after the “final Pass”. Sometimes players make the annoying, and sometimes incorrect, assumption that the opponents are going to Pass before the final Pass has been made.
I am not the first to make the suggestion that the bidding cards should remain on the table until the opening lead is faced. It avoids any need for an opponent to verbally repeat the auction and it makes it easier to ask questions about the auction. And it requires no additional effort!