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Rules of the Week
Rules of the Week

Each week we will be publishing an explanation of a rule on the website, in the club-house and by email, to clarify some commonly misunderstood rules.   Our thanks to President and head Director, John Hetherington, who has compiled these.

The intent of this publication is not to persuade players to make their own decisions about infractions at the table, in fact, the exact opposite.  This is a process to educate people that at any time there is some uncertainty, that the director should be called.

Secondly, players should not feel intimidated about calling the director feeling that their opponents may think them “poor sports”. If you make a mistake your opponents are entitled to call the director so that they are not disadvantaged. The onus is on you to be more careful in your play, not on your opponents to forgive your poor play.

Thirdly, the director is a volunteer who gives their time, sometimes at a reduction of their own playing concentration and enjoyment, so that the rest of us can all enjoy our play.  It is critical that we all respect the director’s ruling, whether we agree with it or not.

All the rules will be on this website under the heading Rules of the Week on the left. 

Wayne's list from Matthew McManus - NSWBA

Just because an opponent claims and there is a trump outstanding, it doesn’t mean that you will get an extra trick. There are a range of tests that the director has to use before deciding what the appropriate ruling will be. In many cases, it will result in an extra trick or tricks to the non-claiming side, but it is not automatic.

Just because someone revokes, it does not mean that there will be an automatic 2 trick penalty. The rules for revoking are quite complex – call the Director – make him do his job!

Just because on the hand records says that partner can make 7NT, it doesn’t mean that she has misbid and misplayed when she only makes 9 tricks in 3NT. The hand record analysis can frequently be quite misleading. It is based on what you could do if you saw all the hands. Sometimes making the same number of tricks as the hand record can be indicative of bad play, not good play. Suppose you find yourself in 7NT and have to make 4 tricks out of this suit combination: J T 9 8 opposite A Q 7 6. The hand record makes it by playing the ace on the first round to drop the singleton king. However, in real life that would be a very bad play. You would be taking a line with a 2.5% chance of success, as opposed to the 50% chance by finessing.

Just because you think it is boiling hot, it doesn’t mean everyone else does. Please remember!

Just because a special agreement is on the system card, it does not mean that you are excused from your responsibility to alert it. For example, the opponents open 1NT, your partner bids 2♥. You play DONT, so this shows hearts and spades. You fail to alert it and the opponents get into trouble when they end up in a spade contract and assume that she just has hearts. If the director is called, it will be no defence to say, “But it is on the system card”. You still have an obligation to alert an agreement which the opponents may not know about.

Just because an opponent claims without stating a line of play, it does not mean that you can tell them how to play the cards. With 5 cards to go, declarer has this club suit: A K Q J 2 opposite 7 6 5 4 3 and just puts their hand face up on the table. You have T98. You cannot make them play a low club first, so you can make a trick. If you object to the claim, you must call the director. The Laws set out a procedure that the director follows in the event of a disputed claim. If there is a careless way that the claimer could lose a trick, then it will be awarded to the opponents. However, an irrational line of play will not be forced upon the claimer. Here to play ♣2 first is clearly irrational and ridiculous.

Just because you expect partner to pass your sign off, you can’t write the contract on your personal score card before he has bid. Nothing more to say!

Just because an opponent concedes one more trick to you, it does not mean that you will get it if there is no possible way that you could win it. For example, declarer claims saying, “I have got the rest apart from your high trump”. Declarer has forgotten that neither you nor you partner has any more trumps. It is unethical to accept this trick which you could not possibly win.

Just because an opponent claims a certain number of tricks, it does not mean that that is the result if they have already won more than that. For example, declarer is in 1NT and takes the first seven tricks. He then concedes the rest, saying, “One off”. You have a responsibility to correct him – “No, you made your contract.”

Just because you say you counted your cards, it doesn’t mean that you will have 13 of them at the end of the hand. The Laws require players to count their cards before looking at them at the start of the hand. It also requires that this count ensures that you have 13. Many players either don’t count or count carelessly. If at the end you find you are missing one or more, expect the worst when the director comes.

Just because the opponents gave you the wrong information about the meaning of one of their calls, it does not mean that the director will adjust the final score in your favour. For the director to award an adjusted score, first he has to establish that the explanation you were given was not according to their system, and then you have to demonstrate how the wrong information adversely affected your side. Only then will the director consider changing the score.

Just because you think it is freezing cold, it doesn’t mean everyone else does. Please remember!

Just because everyone has turned over the cards, it is not too late to correct a revoke. In fact, a member of the non-offending side may even have led to the next trick and it can still be corrected. The moral of the story is: if you revoke, say something as soon as you realise it. The sooner you say something, the less bad it is likely to be for your side.

Just because you have a board left to play in the round, it doesn’t mean that you have the absolute right to play it. If your table is slow, the director has the power to – and should – tell you not to play the board and take an average, or make some other ruling about the board (eg. maybe average plus or average minus). The biggest and most frequent complaints that the director usually encounters are about slow play. One of his responsibilities under the Laws is to ensure the orderly movement of the session. If you are told not to play a board, you should accept this gracefully.

Just because a player hesitates, this does not mean that you call the director. A hesitation, a break in temp, longer than usual thinking are all a normal part of the game. They do not constitute an infraction or mean that the player has done anything wrong. If you do wish to draw attention to the hesitation, you can ask the partner if they agree that a break in tempo occurred. If they do not agree, it is THEIR responsibility to call the director at that point.

Just because a player hesitates, it does not mean that his partner must pass. This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted aspects of the Law. There is a responsibility on the partner to not take advantage of any information they get from the hesitation, but there is definitely no requirement to pass. Just because a player hesitates and his partner makes a bid after that, it does not mean that you call the director then. The appropriate time to call the director is when the player’s hand is revealed and you believe that he may have taken an action influenced by the hesitation. Occasionally, it will be when dummy comes down, but most of the time it will be at the end of the hand.

Just because a defender leads a card after you tell them it doesn’t matter what they play, it doesn’t mean that you will benefit if it turns out there is a better lead. Your statement that it doesn’t matter constitutes a claim under the Laws. When a claim is made, there is no more play. If it is disputed, the director determines the result of the hand. The fact that the opponent may have subsequently played the wrong card will probably not affect the director’s decision.

Just because the opponents revoke, it does not mean that you will do better than you would have normally done. Again, there is a set of rules which the director applies. In many cases (and ideally), this will mean that the result which should have happened is also the final result. There is no automatic penalty simply because there has been a revoke. Telling the director “but that’s what we would have got anyway” is not going to get you anywhere. The director’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the opponents do not benefit when they revoke against you.

Just because, as dummy, you can clearly tell that partner has forgotten that your two of clubs is good, you can’t play it for them. Nothing more to say!

And finally,
Just because the players take the cards from the wrong pocket of the board and look at them, it does not mean that you won’t be able to play the board. One of two things may have occurred: 1. North took out South’s cards and East took out West’s cards, and vice versa. NS still have the NS cards and EW still have the EW cards. The board is played and scored normally. 2. The players take the cards out of the board, but the board is turned through 90 degrees. That is, West has South’s cards, North has West’s, East has North’s and South has East’s. This known as an arrowswitch board, and in most cases the director can allow the board to be played this way. NS and EW will get the score they get based on the cards they actually hold and play with. This is even though in normal circumstances they would have had the other ones. This leads to… It may not be wise to take “so and so told me that” as truth. Just because the hands are arrow-switched, it doesn’t mean that the result will be unfair to your side. In fact, it will not be unfair at all. You will get the result you deserve. Some players are incensed and believe that they are hugely deprived by not getting the right cards. Such thoughts may be real though they are not rational. If one side is disadvantaged, then surely you would think that the other side must benefit. Very recently, I was confronted with the following arguments from both sides about the unfairness of the arrowswitch. According to the hand record, NS could make 6♠. But the board was arrowswitched, so the EW pair got to hold the good cards. NS were furious that they had missed out on a possible slam. (“That’s so unfair”). Their actual matchpoint score on the board was rather good as the opponents who held the cards didn’t bid the slam, but they were still unsatisfied. EW, on their part, were also unhappy – they played the hand in 3NT, which only just made, not a good score compared with the rest of the room. What was their complaint? If they had had the proper cards, they would not have had the opportunity to have the bidding mix up that they did.

Simple game isn’t it?