“Smart Dummy” is an apparent oxymoron.
The “Dummy” is essentially Declarer’s silent partner that follows Declarer’s instructions, but also has a few rights, duties, and obligations.
What are my duties and obligations to become a “Smart Dummy?”
Here are the principal Dos and Don’ts of the Dummy:
1. Tabling your Hand
a) After a legal opening lead, the Dummy tables his hand. The faced-up cards are placed in columns, sorted in suits, the highest to lowest ranking cards are directed towards the Declarer. The trump suit, if applicable, is placed at the side of the Dummy’s right hand.
b) When placing the cards in columns, be sure to know your Partner’s preference (by suit or color combination). Don’t waste Declarer’s time by having to inform you. Declarer should better spend the time looking at your hand and developing a winning line of play.
c) In a suit contract, table your trump suit cards LAST. The Declarer needs to concentrate his initial thoughts on the other suits where there may be a problem or two to resolve. Initially, place your short suit, a singleton or doubleton, to the left side. This visual reminder may help the Declarer to consider ruffing any losers in the Dummy before drawing trump.
d) In a No-Trump Contract and Declarer has bid a suit, make sure not to place his bid suit on the left-hand side of the Dummy. It is too easy for the Declarer to forget he is in a No- Trump contract rather than a trump contract in his suit, which he might have contemplated earlier in the auction.
e) Be careful to ensure you do not start tabling your hand in response to an opening lead. When there is an opening lead infraction, and the Declarer mistakenly tables even one card, this signifies acceptance of the opening lead. The Declarer must continue to table his hand and becomes the Dummy. The presumed Dummy for the contract becomes the new Declarer, and the play proceeds as usual without any procedural penalty to either side. Under these circumstances, it is probably wise to make a Director call and be informed of the proper procedure to follow.
2. Dummy Deportment (Dummy’s Limitations – Law 43)
The Dummy’s behavior and conduct are specifically defined and limited. Any violation is subject to penalty.
a) Dummy may not exchange hands with Declarer.
b) Dummy may not leave his seat to watch Declarer.
c) Dummy may not, on his initiative, look at the face of a card in the hand of either Defender.
d) Dummy must reject any offer by a Defender to show his hand.
Further, whereas the Dummy must be attentive to follow legal instructions during the play of the hand, he must always be mindful his duties are limited, and the following conduct is strictly forbidden;
e) Dummy should not initiate a call for the Director during the play unless attention has been drawn to an irregularity by another player.
f) Dummy may not call attention to an irregularity during play.
g) Dummy may not participate in the play or make any comment or ask any questions concerning the bidding or play.
Implied other dummy restrictions
From other sections of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge book, the following other implied Dummy restrictions may bring procedural penalties in addition to the explicit limitations identified above:
a) asking for a review of the auction,
b) requesting an explanation of a specific bid,
c) requesting an explanation of the Defender’s carding agreements,
d) adding to Declarer’s request for any of a) to c),
e) asking or state the contract on your initiative,
f) asking a defender about a possible revoke during play.
3. Follow Declarer’s Instructions
One of Dummy’s Absolute rights is the Dummy plays his cards as the Declarer’s Agent and ensures the Dummy follows suit.
a) The Dummy must precisely follow Declarer’s instructions to each trick and play the specified card in a prompt manner and in tempo. Suppose the Declarer calls for an unspecified card in a suit, for example, “Heart” or “A low Heart.” In this case, Dummy must immediately play the lowest card in the suit without delay, remark or facial or other gestures or pause as if asking Declarer to reconsider his call. It is inappropriate and a breach of bridge etiquette to question the Declarer’s card call by saying something like, “Which one” or ”How high?” If the Declarer says, ”Win,” Dummy plays the lowest appropriate card to win the trick. If the Declarer says, “Run the suit,” Dummy plays all the cards in the suit, starting from the top to the bottom-ranking cards. The Defenders can easily have a nightmare or an anxiety attack deciding on the appropriate discards.
b) Be patient and wait for Declarer’s instruction to play, even if the play may be obvious, such as a singleton of the opening lead on board, or the Declarer is stuck on the board and has equal ranked cards left in a single suit. The Declarer will instruct which card to play in due course.
c) Be cautious not to touch or indicate for a play of a card to a trick. Such conduct would mandate a Director call and result in an adjusted score if the Director believes the Dummy’s action suggests a play that damaged the Defenders. No need to keep one’s hand in one’s pocket, but putting and keeping your hands in one’s lap during the play of the hand should arrest the habit.
d) Occasionally, the Declarer may become too cavalier about making a call; without designating either a suit or a rank (as by saying “Play anything” or words of the like meaning). In this case, either Defender may designate the play from the Dummy. The Dummy must remain silent and not participate in the play, or he will violate proper Dummy conduct.
Items a, b, c, and d follow the overriding law that “Dummy must not participate in the play, nor may he (Dummy) communicate anything about the play to Declarer.” (refer to 2g).
4. Trick Arrangement, Inspection, and Count:
Another of Dummy’s Absolute Rights permits the Dummy to keep count of tricks won and lost.
a) The Dummy is allowed to keep track of the number of tricks won and lost. To do so, the Defenders must play their cards in a visible manner to the Dummy. If the Defenders do not, Dummy has the right to ask to see or for the Defender to play in a manner that enables Dummy to see their cards. The Defenders must comply with the request.
b) The Dummy must be diligent in keeping a correct arrangement of tricks won and lost as also required by the other three players. The Dummy must be watchful of the Declarer’s trick arrangement. He must notify the Declarer immediately of an incorrectly orientated card BEFORE the lead to the next trick has been made, which is permissible conduct in attempting to prevent an irregularity. Alternatively, the Dummy can wait until the completion of the play before advising the Declarer.
c) The Law stipulates Dummy may not notify the Declarer AFTER the lead to the next trick of the improperly orientated card. The Dummy may not call attention to any irregularity and take part in or communicate about the play of the hand. The Dummy’s improper action warrants the Director’s intervention. This unauthorized information is subject to possible penalty at the Director’s discretion.
d) The Dummy can also advise a Defender if the card to a completed trick is orientation in the wrong direction but again only BEFORE the lead to the next trick. The Dummy is not allowed to inform the players of how many tricks have been won or lost by each side during the play.
e) It is of paramount importance for Dummy to leave his trick line intact until there is an agreement between all four players on the exact number of tricks taken by each side. If you collapse your trick line, you jeopardize your rights to ownership of doubtful tricks. If the Director can no longer ascertain the facts after a claim (of a Revoke or the number tricks won or lost) has been made, and only one side has mixed its cards, the Director will favor the other side.
5. Lead out of Turn
a) Regardless of the Declarer’s experience, his most common infraction is a lead from the wrong hand. The Dummy should be exceptionally watchful of this possible infraction. Most Dummies are actively interested in the play of the hand. While the Declarer is pondering his next move, it is commonplace to hear Dummy saying, “You’re in your hand” or “You’re on the board,” tapping the table or giving hand signals to remind the Declarer where the lead is.
Furthermore, when the Declarer has tabled a card or called a card from Dummy, the Dummy often blurts out, “You’re in your hand” to signal a possible lead out of turn infraction. All these actions are in direct violation of bridge law. Once Declarer incorrectly completes the call from the Dummy or leads from their hand, the infraction has occurred. It is too late for the Dummy to prevent the infraction.
b) The Dummy has the Qualified right to try to prevent any irregularity by Declarer. When the Declarer detaches a card from their hand, but the lead is in the Dummy or starts to call or points to a card when the lead is in their hand, the Dummy can immediately say something. However, that’s it. The Dummy must remain silent otherwise until after the play is over.
c) Be Quiet! Many Dummies (Newcomers and seasoned Players) have difficulty keeping quiet and, unfortunately, want to participate in the play, which is unlawful and subject to penalty.
The Dummy is not permitted to participate in the play or communicate anything about the play.
Be patient and wait for Declarer’s instruction to play, even if the play may be obvious, such as a singleton of the opening lead on board.
The Dummy must remain SILENT and cannot give the Declarer a too-late warning (as indicated above) by saying, “You’re in your hand” or “You’re on the board”
Bridge Law is precise and definitive: The Dummy may not call attention to any irregularity.
Sure, it is only a cordial club game but better to know and follow the rules than to be penalized by the Director at your first tournament.
d) If a Defender exposes a card in response to the Declarer’s wrongly played or called card from Dummy, it is deemed the out of turn lead was accepted by the Defender and play resumes as usual.
6. Prevent Declarer’s Revoke
a) A revoke is simply the failure to follow suit when able to. Dummy has the Qualified right to ask Declarer when he has failed to follow suit to a trick and possibly revoked. When the Declarer does not follow suit, the Dummy has the right to ask, “No Spades, Partner?” (Spade suit led). After checking his hand, the Declarer replies, “Having none.” Occasionally, however, the Declarer replies, “Oops, I have a Spade.” The Declarer picks up and returns the card played to his hand and then follows suit and plays his Spade.
b) The Declarer does not leave the originally played card exposed on the table as a penalty card. No harm, no foul. The Dummy prevented a costly Revoke by the Declarer, which is typically a one to two-trick penalty. The Defenders have the same privilege to ask their Partner when he does not follow suit in the same manner as the Dummy asks the Declarer.
c) When the Declarer calls for a card from the Dummy that is a revoke call, the Dummy may ensure that the Dummy follows suit and that the revoke is corrected.
d) When a revoke or any irregularity occurs, it is a good idea for the Declarer or Defenders to get the Director involved sooner than later before the matter becomes a nightmare and impossible to untangle.
e) If the Dummy or a Defender is asleep and doesn’t notice the Declarer’s or Partner’s revoke, all is not lost. Law 63 states, “A revoke becomes established when the Offender or his Partner leads or plays to the following trick or names or designates a card to be played to the following trick.” If before any of these events occur, the Offender takes corrective action; the revoke is not established (it never happened).
For example, the Declarer revokes but loses the trick. However, suppose after the Opponents lead to the next trick, the Declarer discovers and announces his revoke before he plays or designates a card from the Dummy. In that case, he can correct his misplay from the previous trick. Any Defender or Dummy who played after the Declarer is also entitled to change their card played on the previous trick if the preceding player changed their card since the revoke was not established. Suppose the Declarer wins the trick by revoking and leads to the next trick. He then realizes he made a revoke on the previous trick. In this instance, it is too late to correct. The revoke is established.
Further, either Defender can correct a revoke even if the Declarer won the trick and has made the lead to the next trick. The only proviso is that the Offending Defender makes the announcement he could have followed suit on the previous trick BEFORE he or his Partner plays. The revoke is not yet established. The Offender can correct the previous trick. However, once the first Defender has played to the next trick, the revoke is established, too late to correct.
When the circumstances are such that a revoke is not established, the following are the appropriate procedures of play; - If the Revoker is the Declarer, the card played is picked up and put back in his hand (no penalty card restriction), and then he plays the card in the suit led. - If the Revoker is a Defender, the card played is left on the table as a penalty card and played at the first appropriate opportunity. Then the Defender plays the card in the suit led.
f) When there is an agreed established revoke, immediately call a Director. Leave all cards on the table as played until the Director arrives. Director will examine the card layout and receive verbal information from players as requested.
The Dummy has the Absolute right to give information in the Director’s presence as to fact and law. The Director assesses the situation and gives instructions on how the play is to proceed. The Director will return to the table after completing the hand and determine the appropriate penalty (usually one or two tricks depending on who won the trick on which the revoke occurred, and any subsequent tricks). The Director will redress damage and restore equity by assigning an adjusted score if he deems the Non-Offending side receives insufficient compensation for the damage caused by the Revoker.
g) Know your rights to inquire about a possible revoke;
- Dummy may ask Declarer.
- Declarer may ask the Defenders.
- Defenders may ask one another and Declarer.
The Dummy may not question the Defenders. The Dummy cannot participate in any discussion or communicate anything about the play to the Declarer.
h) If Dummy suspects that a Defender has committed a revoke, he must wait until the end of the play of the hand before making a Director call and only after no other Player has brought attention to the suspected revoke. Dummy has the Qualified right to draw attention to any irregularity but only after the conclusion of the play.
One last point, if your Partner, whether Declarer or Defender, revokes, it is your fault. Be diligent and pay close attention to all cards played.
7. Prevent a Revoke by Dummy
a) The Dummy can commit a revoke if the missing card discrepancy (occasionally, two cards stuck together or a card on the floor) only becomes apparent late in the play of the hand.
b) The standard penalty for an established revoke is two tricks if the Revoker won the trick when the revoke occurred, and his side won at least one subsequent trick; or one trick otherwise. The Director will redress damages and restore equity by assigning an adjusted score if the Director deems that the Non-Offending side receives insufficient compensation for the damage caused.
c) However, in the case of a Dummy revoke, this rule does not apply. The applicable rule states there is no automatic trick adjustment following an established revoke. A revoke occurs if you fail to play a penalty card or any card belonging to Dummy.
d) The Director has the arduous task of sorting out this infraction. Under these circumstances, the Director must determine the damages to the Defenders and the score adjustment for failure to follow the proper procedure of displaying the Dummy’s hand.
e) Ensuring there are thirteen exposed cards in the Dummy is not a group-conscious matter; it is the sole duty of the Dummy.
8. Claim or Concession
Effective August 2017, the new Duplicate Bridge law ruling permits the play to continue in the usual manner if the Defenders do not accept the claim, AND all Parties agree to play it out. Yes, the Dummy must consent to the Defenders’ request for the play to continue. If there is no agreement, call the Director. A claim call temporarily terminates play. The Dummy has full rights to participate in the disposition of the claim.
9.End of Play
Dummy’s rights include making a Director call to address any irregularity concerning a claim or revoke after completing the hand.
After the play of the hand is completed and the results agreed to, Dummy and the other players collect up their cards, give a quick shuffle, and return them to the proper board pocket.
10. End of Auction
Your duties as the Dummy start at the end of the auction. a) You may be aware your partnership has made an infraction during the auction, a failure to Announce or Alert a bid, or to provide complete or correct information about an Announcement or Alerted Bid or Bid Explanation.
Suppose you are on the Offending side and become Declarer/Dummy; you are obligated to advise the Non-Offenders of the infraction during the clarification period after the final pass and before the opening lead.
The Declarer/Dummy makes a Director call. The Non-Offenders receive a correct bid explanation.
If the Non-Offenders feel damaged, the Director makes a ruling that could include rolling the bidding back to the actual bid, if appropriate to where the infraction took place and allowing the Non-Offenders to bid with the corrected bid information and resume the auction.
b) Also, be mindful that after the final pass, all players, including the presumed Dummy, are responsible for prompt correction of the misstatement(s).