Here is a fictional story I wrote several years ago about hesitations after the Bridge Today magazine recommended take action when partner hesitates.
Just Plain Lucky
My nickname is "Lucky". No doubt, this is the result of my "luck" with women (two divorces and countless failed relationships) than because of my rare success at the bridge table. Sometimes, though, I am actually lucky at cards, even if I don't want to be, as at the last regional.
In the Swiss event Swifty, my regular partner, and I were teamed up with the "Infallibles", a husband and wife partnership who are famed for their consistency: they infallibly miss a slam once a session and they infallibly argue about it. We had won our first three matches and were playing the last match before dinner: a match I hate to lose because the pizza never tastes as good as when one wins. I picked up in first seat:
S 105 H AQ986 D A C AQ743
Our opponents were supposed to be some "expert" team but I just couldn't place the two guys with beards sitting at our table. I opened one heart and LHE (left hand expert) overcalled two spades, weak. Swifty passed, in tempo for most players, but I detected a definite hesitation, as Swifty is one of the fastest bidders this side of Al Roth.
This was clearly a situation to "go the other way", as the editors of Bridge Today have advised. I passed, and we easily defeated two spades three tricks, luckily avoiding the zero play games, for a nice gain. The expert on my right (RHE) asked me why I passed two spades.
"Just trying to hang partner" I explained. This produced a puzzled look on the faces of both experts. Probably not subscribers of Bridge Today I thought.
My next hand was:
S AKQ3 H AKJ2 D --- C QJ532
My RHE opened three diamonds, and I doubled. LHE jumped to six diamonds.
Over the six diamond call, I distinctly picked up another hesitation by Swifty. There was only one solution: pass.
With the appropriate wild distribution, the slam made on the nose (needless to say, the Infallibles missed the slam. The experts were eager to know why I did not double their contract.
"For the game" I replied, meaning, of course, for the good of the game. This did not seem to really satisfy them. The next few boards flew by (especially with Swifty being declarer on two).
The last board of the round produced yet another problem. I held:
S 102 H K64 D K972 C QJ83
LHE opened three spades, doubled by Swifty. RHE passed and I paused to evaluate my hand based on the bidding.
I thought about this for a few seconds, then suddenly realized that I had hesitated. In fact my tempo is usually slow, but I knew my thinking had shown I had a problem and thus I had entered the "hanging zone". The longer I thought, the more I knew partner would have to hang me and the less I knew what to do.
Finally it came to me: I would have to place the contract!
Now, where? My mind wondered back to Bridge Today. The editors would be proud of us, I thought, for being so ethical, but I was beginning to wonder what our team-mates, the Infallibles, would say if the "hang your partner" approach cost the match. Then I thought of a Bridge Today Lesson Sheet pointer - "risk a notrump bid without a stopper." Amazing, I reflected, I would never have considered this if I hadn't hesitated.
My call of three notrump was passed out as expected. When spades blocked and a couple of finesses worked, we scored up our vulnerable game (as it turned out, the swing necessary to win the match). I saw RHE raise his eyebrows as he wrote down the result.
"I had to place the contract for I knew partner would have to hang me" I told him. RHE contemplated this for a moment. Then as he got up to leave the table, he stopped, and looked at me.
"Just a word of advice" he said. "This game is hard enough, without having to be your own judge and jury. Just make your bid and most people will be happy. The others will never be."
It was one lesson I was lucky to learn.