The Top Ten
Most Frequently Violated
Laws of Duplicate Bridge
1. Not calling the Director
2. Changing Calls
3. Use of Unauthorised Information
4. Contested Claims
5. Exposed Cards
6. Insufficient Bids
7. Lead Out of Turn
8. Alert Errors
9. Playing from Dummy
10. Touching the Cards
The purpose of this listing is to familiarize players with the more significant, yet lesser known, aspects of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge.
1. Not Calling the Director
Law 9.B.1.(a): "The Director must be summoned at once when attention is drawn to an irregularity."
Note that Dummy may not draw attention to an irregularity until after play ends, but once attention has been called to an irregularity, anyone, including Dummy, may (and should) call the Director immediately.
When an irregularity occurs at the bridge table, the average player's first reaction is to point out the infraction to the offending player, who then either agrees and tries to correct the problem, or disagrees and an argument ensues, and the Director is called only as a last resort.
Not only does this violate Law 9, making both players subject to penalties for that infraction, it often leads to other problems:
1. Incorrect Corrective Action:
The seemingly simplest infraction, such as correcting an insufficient bid, has complications about which very, very few players are aware. Yet players are often willing to take the word of their opponents about corrective action to be taken for this, and even more complex situations, rather than calling the Director.
2. Loss of Rights:
Failure to call the Director right away can lead to loss of rights under the Laws of Duplicate Bridge.
By definition, if you wait until you and your opponents fail to agree about resolving a problem before calling the Director, the level of tension in the room has already gone up. Then it is often difficult for the Director to quiet the combatants down enough to find out what has happened.
Unpleasantness between opponents can be avoided completely by one simple step -- never argue, call!
When you think there might be a problem, do not speak to the opponent about it. Instead, politely say:
"Just a moment, please -- I need to ask the Director about something."
Or if an opponent tries to tell you that you have done something wrong, just say with a smile:
"I won't be offended if you would like to call the Director."
If the opponent persists, you can then say:
"We had better call the Director."
But you should never let yourself get drawn into an argument with opponents.
When the Director arrives, only the person who made the call should talk. If you disagree with what is said - bide your time. The Director will NOT make a ruling before he verifies the facts with the opponents, so there is absolutely no reason to get excited and interrupt the opponent's explanation.
Likewise, when it is the opponent's turn to talk, the other players should not interrupt. If the opponent's version of events differs, the Director can ask specific questions to arrive at the facts. Interrupting the Director or the opponents will only slow things down and lead to hard feelings.
Some people get angry with the Director when a Law does not go their way. Just remember that the Director did not write the Laws, he/she is just quoting them to you. Directors are supposed to read applicable Laws to players when making a ruling rather than relying on memory, but many Directors do not do so.
If a Director does not read the Laws to you, and if you think he might have the Law wrong, just ask him to please verify it by looking it up. (But if the Director instructs you to continue play meanwhile, you must do so.) If you think the Director may be misinterpreting either the Law or the facts, you may ask the Director about making an appeal.
2. Changing Calls (Bids)
Law 25.A: "A player may substitute his intended call for an inadvertent call..."
This Law is almost always misinterpreted by players.
North opens 2-NT. South sees it incorrectly as 1-NT and pulls the 2-Club card from the bidding box to bid Stayman. Before laying the 2-Club card down one of the following cases occurs:
South immediately says "Oops, I was reaching for the 3C card and got the 2C card instead." and changes it. This is a proper application of Law 25.A. South made a slip of the finger.
South looks up, sees that partner opened 2-NT, not 1, and says "Oops, that isn't enough." and changes it. This is an illegal change of bid. (And the penalties are not pleasant for this particular case! See below.)
People see "inadvertent call" in the rule and think it covers slips of the mind, as well as slips of the fingers. It does not. Note that the rule states "a player may substitute his INTENDED call...".
In Case 1, South's INTENDED call was clearly 3-Clubs.
In Case 2, South's INTENDED call was clearly 2-Clubs, but he changed his intentions after realizing that he had seen his partner's bid wrong.
Notice that in neither case did the player do any more than remove the bidding card from the box. Duplicate Decisions says that a bid is considered made once a card has been removed from the bidding box. This is in contrast to playing, when a card is not considered played simply because it is removed from the hand.
PENALTIES IN CASE 2:
Most players think that even Case 2 is much ado about nothing. After all, a player is always allowed to make an insufficient bid sufficient, right?
Wrong. An option available to the non-offending side is to accept the insufficient bid. Perhaps West wants to bid Hearts on the 2 level, in this case, and wants to require South to leave the insufficient 2C bid in. Yet almost everyone who makes an insufficient bid tries to simply make it sufficient without giving the opponent's their options and without calling the Director.
If West does not want to accept the bid, South is in trouble this time. Law 27.B.2 states if either the insufficient bid or the sufficient bid may have been conventional, the offender's partner is barred from the bidding.
That means that South's 3-Club bid stands and could get passed out, since North cannot bid to save South.
This will almost certainly be a bottom score for North-South. Had South called the Director instead of pulling out the 3-Club card, he could have at least salvaged the situation by substituting 3-NT instead of 3-Clubs.
3. Use of Unauthorized Information
Law 16.B.1.(a) "After a player makes available to his partner extraneous information that may suggest a call or play, as by means of a remark, a question, a reply to a question, or by unmistakeable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement, mannerism, or the like, the partner may not choose from among logical alternative actions one that could demonstrably have been suggested over another by the extraneous information."
Law 16.B.2 says that when a player thinks that an opponent has made unauthorized information ("U.I.") available to his partner, he may announce that he reserves the right to call the Director later. Unless prohibited by the regulating authority. In this case the club.
Now, back to the presenting of U.I. -- How many times have you heard an opponent (or partner, or yourself!) make some comment about not knowing what he's doing when he bids, or make a prolonged sigh, or grimace in response to partner's call, or banging down a bid card? These are more examples of passing U.I. to your partner.
Another common source of U.I. is from partner's explanation of a bid or play. For example, your LHO opens 1-Spade, your partner overcalls 1-Notrump, RHO passes, and you bid 2-Diamonds, intending to show a weak hand with a Diamond suit. Your partner alerts and tells the opponents that you are transferring to Hearts. Partner then bids 2-Hearts.
You have three Hearts, but you know that partner may only have 2 or 3, so you bid 3-Diamonds. This is an infraction. Without partner's alert, you would have believed partner to be showing 4+ Hearts and denying Diamonds, so you would have passed. Therefore, you must still pass, even though you know your partner misunderstood your bid.
Once you have received U.I., you must bend over backwards not to act upon it. For example, say that after your 1-Heart opening bid gets overcalled 1-Spade, your partner fidgets away, fingers the 2-Hearts bidding card (without taking it out) and finally passes.
After RHO bids, some people would bid 2 Hearts like a shot. Other people who know that you should not use U.I., think that you are required to pass after partner gives you U.I. Not so.
If you have a hand which clearly would have supported bidding 2 Hearts over an immediate pass by partner, such as 17 points and/or a good 6-card suit, you can bid again, but if you have 13-15 points and/or a 5-card suit, the director should rule that you bid because your partner gave you U.I. that he could almost raise you.
Unauthorized Information from Other Sources:
You can receive U.I. from other sources, such as by overhearing discussion at another table. The Director must be called immediately by the person receiving the U.I.
If the Director believes the U.I. could interfere with normal bidding/play, he may:
- Swap the position of partners if he believes that will minimize the problem.
- With the concurrence of all four players, appoint a temporary substitute for that board.
- Award an artificial adjusted score.
The Director may also penalize the player(s) at the other table who was responsible for creating the problem.
4. Contested Claims
Law 70 describes the procedure to be followed in contesting claims.
1. Once a claim has been made, all play must cease immediately!!
2. If an opponent wishes to contest a claim, the Director must be called immediately. The players must never begin a discussion amongst themselves about the claim nor (other than the claimer) show their cards.
3. The Director will require the Claimer to repeat the line of play ("Clarification Statement") made at the time of the claim, if any. Claimer may not change his Clarification Statement once made, nor invent one not made.
4. Only now would the other players face their cards.
5. The opponents now state their objections to the claim by stating a less successful (for Claimer) line of play. The alternative line of play can specify a play by the Claiming side that might be careless or inferior (example: not ruffing high when it turns out that the next player can overruff), but not completely irrational (example: throwing away or ruffing his own obviously winning cards or not taking a marked finesse).
Law 70 also states that any doubtful points shall be resolved against the Claimer.
Note that as always should be the case when any irregularity occurs, the players should not start discussing it among themselves before calling the Director. This is particularly true of contested claims, because once opponents begin discussing it, then conflict invariably arises over exactly what the Claimer stated in his claim before the discussion began.
Look at this example, West was to lead when North, the declarer, said "I have the rest of the tricks." East protested that he had trump left. North said that he had high enough trump to draw them once he got in. West said "What if I lead this." and led a Club, which he (but not Declarer) knew that East could ruff.
North hesitated, but realizing now that East could ruff this trick, he ruffed high, then proceeded to draw trump.
How many infractions can you spot? First, North should have stated a line of play when he claimed. Then all play should have stopped. Nobody should have shown their cards. East should have called the Director.
The Director would have asked North to repeat the line of play which he stated at the time of the claim. Note that since North did not state a line of play, it is too late for him to do so now. So the Director would have then instructed the players to all face their cards and East could then specify the play of the cards, including plays by North which might be "careless or inferior, but not irrational". So East could have asked for West to lead a Club and for North to ruff low. The Director would have awarded this trick to West since ruffing low qualifies only as careless or inferior, not irrational, and also because "any doubtful points shall be resolved against the Claimer".
Another common error is the unintentional claim. Law 68 defines a claim as "any statement to the effect that a contestant will win a specific number of tricks... or when he shows his cards". If, for example, when dummy is faced, declarer says "Oh heck, we bid 4 and we're going to make 6." That is a claim and all play must cease. Otherwise, players could make statements like this which are not accurate, but which would influence the opponents to try inferior lines of play.
5. Exposed Cards
Law 49: "When a defenderís card is in a position in which his partner could possibly see its face, it becomes a penalty card. Law 48: Declarer is not subject to penalty for exposing a card.
Here are some frequent misunderstandings about exposed cards:
- A defender pulls a card from his hand to play, but changes his mind and puts it back in this hand. Declarer says: "I saw that card. Itís the King of Spades. You have to play it."
This is not correct. If the card were exposed where the defenderís partner could possibly see its face, the card must be played, but not if it were held so that Declarer could see it but not the defender's partner.
- A player drops a card face up on the table, but picks it up real fast. He asks his partner if he saw the card and his partner says no. He puts the card back in his hand.
Bad move. It is not required that the partner actually saw the card; it is sufficient that the card was exposed in a way in which it is possible that it could have been seen. If the card was face up and partner is at the table, itís exposed.
- During the auction, East drops the 9 of Clubs, and it is left face up as a penalty card. During play of the hand, Declarer (South) leads a club towards Dummyís Ace-Jack and plays the Jack. East plays the Queen from his hand and wins the trick. South protests that East must play the penalty card.
Not so. A card below the value of a 10, which is accidentally exposed, becomes a minor penalty card. It must be played the first time the suit is led, with the exception that an honour (10 or higher) in the same suit can be played instead.
- West has the Ace of Spades as a penalty card. East is on lead with K-Q-2 of Spades. East leads the deuce of Spades. Declarer calls the Director and claims that East only made that unusual lead because he saw his partnerís Ace.
This play is legal. Law 50D1 says "the fact that offender must play the card is Authorized Information for his partner."
However, Declarer has several options regarding a major penalty card when the offenderís partner is to lead:
- Require the lead of the suit of the penalty card, or
- Prohibit the lead of the suit for as long as he retains the lead, or
- Neither require nor prohibit a lead, in which case the penalty card remains a penalty card.
If Declarer chooses either 1 or 2, the offender returns the penalty card to his hand. In the case above, the Ace of Spades is no longer a penalty card, so it is Unauthorized Information for offender's partner.
6. Insufficient Bid
The important thing to remember about insufficient bids is that you may not simply make the bid sufficient without calling the Director. Your opponent has other options, and making it sufficient is not allowed by the Laws in some cases.
To avoid making an insufficient bid, follow the woodworker's maxim of "measure twice, cut once" by looking at the other bids twice before reaching for the bid cards.
7. Lead Out Of Turn
Most leads out of turn happen on the opening lead, which results in the most complex set of options in all of the Laws for the non-offending side.
When Declarer's Right Hand Opponent leads (face up) instead of the LHO, Declarer has the following options:
1. Accept the lead. Declarer then is next to play, but Dummy is faced before Declarer plays.
2. Accept the lead, but Declarer faces his/her hand and becomes Dummy. Declarer's partner
plays the hand.
3. Reject the lead and require LHO to lead, which brings with it two other options:
a. Declarer can either require LHO to lead, or prohibit LHO from leading,
the same suit led by RHO. If Declarer accepts this option, RHO puts the
offending card back in his hand.
b. Declarer can allow LHO to lead anything, and the offending card becomes
a penalty card for RHO.
It is very easy to avoid making the opening lead out of turn. The Laws require that the opening lead be placed face down on the table. The opening leader should then ask "Any questions?" and if one of the questions is not "Yes, why are you putting out a card when it is your partner's turn to lead?", then turn the card face up.
Note that while the leader may not change the opening lead after placing the card face down on the table, this does not mean that Dummy should face his cards before the opening lead is turned face up.
Say that East leads face down and South faces his cards before someone remembers that South was the first to bid the trump suit. Since East did not expose his card, he may withdraw it without penalty and West must lead, making South declarer. South may pick up his cards, but the opponents have the advantage of having seen them all.
8. Alert Errors
Most players think that it is a violation of the Laws any time one player describes his partner's bid and the partner has something other than what is described or other than what is on the convention card.
It is not un-Lawful for the opponents to make a bid that does not conform to their partnership agreement.
For example, North opens 2NT and the convention card shows a 21-22 point range. It turns out that North only has 19 points.
That is not a violation of the Laws unless there is reason to believe that this variation happens often enough to have created an implicit (and secret) partnership agreement. It is a good idea just to let the Director know, however, since otherwise the Director will not know how often these players make that bid.
To repeat: if a player, when asked, correctly states the partnership agreement, there is not a penalty if his partner has not bid in accordance with that agreement. The bidder is not required to inform the opponents that his bid does not mean what his partner said it means.
However, if the player incorrectly states the partnership agreement, then he has given inaccurate information. The bidder must call the Director and inform him and the opponents at the appropriate time. If you are Declarer, the appropriate time is at the end of the auction; for Defenders, it is at the end of play.
9. Playing From Dummy
Law 45.C.4.(a) "A card must be played if a player names or otherwise designates it as the card he proposes to play."
Law 46 A. covers ways in which Declarer can designate a card from Dummy:
- "High" means to play the highest card unless Dummy is last to play, in which case it is the highest card necessary to win the trick (as are "cover" and "win it").
- "Low" means to play the lowest card in the suit.
- Rank named, but not suit -- play the named card from the same suit as played on the last trick if on lead or of the suit led to the current trick if not on lead.
- Suit indicated, but not rank -- play the lowest card from the named suit.
- "Play anything" -- Either defender has the right to designate the play from Dummy.
So if West leads the King of Spades and South (Declarer) says "Play" with the Ace-Three in Dummy, the Three must be played. You will often hear a Declarer say "Play", then realize he should have won the Ace, and tack on "The Ace" to "Play".
Most defenders will let Declarer get away with this, but it is a violation. The Laws allow correction of a slip of the tongue, but not the correction of an oversight, no matter how quickly done.
Law 45.F: "Dummy may not touch or indicate any card without instruction from the Declarer."
How many times have you seen a Dummy reach for a trump to ruff Declarerís loser even though Declarer has not called for a card? Even holding a hand over a specific card or suit without actually touching one is a violation.
An interesting side note is that when an over-anxious Dummy pulls a card from Dummy before his Right Hand Opponent has played, the LHO can play out of turn without penalty.
Law 42.B.3: Dummy may not draw attention to an irregularity until after play of the hand is concluded.
For example, if you are Dummy and see a defender drop a card face up on the table and quickly pick it up, and neither Declarer nor the other defender say anything, you cannot say anything either until play is done.
However, once attention has been drawn to an irregularity, Dummy may initiate a call to the Director.
10. Touching The Cards
Law 7.B.3: "No player shall touch any cards other than his own during or after play."
If you want to see your partnerís hand after play is concluded, he can show it to you, but you cannot pick up his hand to look at it. This can lead to fouled boards, if nothing else.
In addition, players should not pick up their cards to play unless the opponents are at the table.