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The STOP card in bridge is used in order to help all players keep their rights, as far as thinking is concerned. However I have some questions.

  1. When do we have to use the STOP card. Should STOP be used before ANY jump bid? I find logic to use stop in bids like 1S-3S or 1H-(2S). But how about 1NT-3NT. What is the official rule?

  2. The second question is about HOW to use the stop card. Here are some options.

    1. This is what i think that should happen

      • Show STOP card
      • make your bid
      • Remove stop card (no waiting)
      • (opponent waits 5-8 seconds)
      • opponent makes his bid
    2. This is what most people think that should happen

      • Show STOP card
      • make your bid
      • wait 5-8 seconds
      • Remove stop card
      • opponent makes his bid

Which one is the official way according to the rules?

The reason why I think that the second option is not "correct", is because the player who used the STOP could wait 10-20 (or more) seconds before removing it. What should the opponent do?

2 Answers 2

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The answer to your first question is that you should use it either for all skip bids, or for no skip bid. Using it only for some skip bids but not for others could result in a director call and a procedural penalty against you for intentionally transmitting unauthorized information to your partner.

As to your second question: option 1 is correct under the jurisdiction of the ACBL (ie essentially all games in the US and Canada), while option 2 is correct under the jurisdiction of the WBF (essentially all other games).

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  • so, if I use stop in the sequence 1spade-4spades, then I must use STOP when i bid 1NT-3NT? Jul 8, 2014 at 13:55
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    @ThanosDarkadakis Yes, absolutely.
    – ruds
    Jul 8, 2014 at 20:56
  • In the Dutch laws, it's also option two.
    – Tvde1
    Apr 17, 2019 at 6:53
  • and now, the ACBL has given in to the people who didn't know/didn't care or actively assumed the STOP card players were passing information, and banned its use. LHO is still "expected to pause after any skip bid", but those that did, will; those that didn't now say "it's not required any more, is it?" Of course, the auto-passers still tank with stuff, and their partners' balancing decisions are surprisingly good...
    – Mycroft
    May 9, 2021 at 18:58
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Ruds is correct1. I want to explain why the "version 2" decision was made by most of the world.

I absolutely agree with you about "if the opponents control the time, how do we stop them from pulling it in '10 seconds' which is actually 3 or 4, and then complaining that we took more time than that?"2

However, experience in version 2 countries shows that this doesn't often happen, and when it does, it gets the director called often enough that that behaviour is moderated (see below for a good way to do it).

The issues with version 1 ("bidder controls delay", as used in the ACBL):

  • people just ignored it and passed/bid when they were ready anyway. Without the opponents' control, they'd just say "I waited 10 seconds" and there was no way to judge. WeaSeL over preemption is played, if not deliberately, and it works3.
  • people who tried to do it every time were readable, because if it was "almost 10 seconds", then he didn't need to think (so could concentrate on counting 10 seconds); when it was off either way, he did (because after thinking, he had to work out approximately how long he had thought and how much he had to pad to get to 10 seconds, and would likely get that wrong - because of course when he was thinking he wasn't keeping track of time!)
  • Absolutely nobody was as consistent as required. I was (and am) closer than most (because I am a director, and more than a bit of a Secretary Bird), and two hands come to mind:
    • Toronto NABC, we're playing EHAA (a system with very unusual preempt style). The auction goes 2[sp]-3NT-p(me)-p; 4[he] and my LHO actually stands on his chair screaming for the director. "[I] tanked, and [opener] bid!" I literally didn't think I had paused until partner said "didn't [RHO] make a skip bid?" "Yes, but I didn't use the STOP card". "Mycroft pauses 10 seconds after all skip bids, announced or not." Director had us continue, it went X-AP, and I dropped a 2=4=3=4 with two jacks - clearly there was no thinking! (Partner was 6=5=1=1, and we lost 4 aces for -1 and a clear top).
    • Washington NABC, we're playing the Spingold against Richie Coren and his 11 seed (we lost). Another 3-round auction to 3NT, passed out. Coren (dummy) was looking at me a little weird, which got weirder as the hand played out. After the hand, he couldn't take it and asked "what were you thinking about?" His (pro) partner said "10 seconds." Coren: "You could bid 4C I guess, but it's going for it's life." Partner: "He paused about 10 seconds over your jump, like he's supposed to. [to me] You know you're the only person in the room that would do that, right?"4

All of this goes away with version 2 (skip bidder controls the time). Sure, instead you get "STOP card starers" who make it clear that they're done thinking; but that can be educated more easily. The key is that the person controlling the time has "nothing else" to do except count to 10, and so is likely(er) to get it right. A trick I've heard from England, which works well, is to sing (quietly, without moving your lips!) the Beatles' When I'm 64:

When I get older, losing my hair...

when you get to "...valentine", that's 10 seconds!

  1. With the caveat I mentioned in comments; the ACBL has deprecated the use of the STOP card completely, relying on "good ethics" for opponents to pause after all skip bids. But when it was allowed/expected, it was your version 1. Note that "good ethics" works just about as well as it did back in the STOP card days, plus despite all attempts at explanation, people now believe "we don't have to pause any more".
  2. This is much more likely than "waiting 15-20 seconds". Players are impatient, and also almost never undercount pauses they are not involved with. Witness all the hands where "it took him 25-30 seconds to make this call" and "yeah, I had to think, but it was about 10 seconds". It is likely that if you're experiencing "waiting 15-20 seconds", it actually was 10, and since you had decided what to do and was just "appearing to think", in your head, it was longer.
  3. Once I called the TD and complained about a fast-pass. My opponent (of course) said "I waited 10 seconds". I waved at my bidding cards, and said "I haven't bid yet."
  4. My response: "normally I'm one of the ones standing around [Directing], but your government won't let me work in the States." My point is that if the best and most ethical players in the world didn't follow "every jump bid" 100% of the time, it's safe to say "absolutely nobody" did.

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