Saturday, December 6, 2014

Partners in Crime?

My dear friend Cindy and I have played bridge together for awhile now. You couldn't ask for a nicer, smarter, more pleasant partner in the world. Or more ethical. After playing with her so long, however, I have come to know her body language.

I am not a very skilled bridge player and Cindy has helped me improve my game by example and, occasionally, instruction (only when asked, though). When I mess up a hand, I might ask her what she would have done. She's very good at play-of-the-hand.

Awhile back I noticed while I was playing the hand and while she was the dummy, I was inadvertently watching her face. When I made a tactical error, I detected the smallest change in her eyes and I knew right away that I had pulled the wrong card. Now this did not affect the outcome, as the card had been played and the trick complete. 

I told Cindy this and she was horrified. "I had no idea I was doing anything," she said. And she made a concerted effort to keep stoic during play. But I could still occasionally read her. 

I began to wonder about this interpretation I was making on the basis of my partner's pretty face. Was this legal? Even though it made no difference to the results of the game?

So I asked a long-time player of the game whose partner had been his wife most of his adult life and whom he could obviously read like a book. In his email he said: "No it is not legal to act on inferences drawn from your partner's body language." I had not acted on what I had inferred so I felt better, but now I had to be extra careful in the future not to look at Cindy while playing the hand.

Then just yesterday I was playing with Joan who was wearing a beautiful old solid gold pocket watch on a chain around her neck that had belonged to her grandfather. At one point she adjusted the chain and the watch turned so that the face was against her chest and the shiny gold case was now facing outward. I could see her entire hand in the reflection! We came in first that day! Just kidding. I couldn't make out anything but reds and blacks, but I immediately had her turn the watch back around.

Ethics can be such a nuisance!



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