Occasionally a player makes a bid that is not “higher” than the previous bid. E.g:
N E S W
P 1♠ 1♦ ?
In a social environment, it’s tempting for West to just tell South to take it back and correct it. South could miss the chance to get a “cheap” 1♥ bid by accepting the call. If the bid is changed to a pass without a ruling by the director, North could have an unfair advantage knowing what partner might have bid. Best call the director.
The technical term for South’s 1♦ is “insufficient bid”. As soon as this is noticed the director should be called. It’s best not to discuss the situation while waiting. In this case, if South didn’t notice East had opened, saying so would tell North that South has an opening hand. If South thought East had opened 1§, then saying so would tell North that the insufficient bid was a simple overcall, and could be much weaker. If, as is usually the case, South simply picked the wrong card out of the bidding box, the bid would be a simple overcall with better minimum values. Best if none of this is discussed.
Law 25 allows a player to correct an inadvertent bid. Sometimes the player reaches for the bidding box, half pulls out one bid, and then says “No, not that one”, drops it back and pulls out the one really wanted. This is OK providing it’s a mechanical error and there is not pause for thought. The law is quite generous. An inadvertent call can be corrected any time up to partner making a bid, or the auction finishing.
Otherwise, the director should apply Law 27 of the International Laws of Bridge 2007.
The first thing this law says is that South’s left hand opponent, West, may accept the call. If West has called, i.e. bid or passed or doubled, the insufficient bid is deemed accepted. If it’s accepted, then West may make any bid from 1♥ upwards. In other words, the auction “restarts” at 1♦ .
If West does not accept the insufficient bid, then South may make any legal bid, or may pass. South is not normally permitted to double or redouble. If South makes a legal bid, the director then has to be sure that the new, legal bid means the same thing to North as the insufficient bid did. If South changes the bid to Pass or 2♥ or anything else, the “leakage” of information is considered unacceptable, and, although the new call will stand, North may not do anything but pass for the rest of the auction. The director must be sure that this incident doesn’t result in North knowing more about his partner’s hand through the correction.
Again, in a club where the bridge is for pleasure, the director knows the players and knows that they play simple systems, this is really all that’s necessary. A director who is also playing wants to avoid delay if it’s reasonable to do so.
In a formal, high-level competition, the director may ask South to leave the table to ask him some questions out of earshot. He will want to know what the insufficient bidder thought the situation was when the bid was made, i.e. was it an opening bid or an overcall etc. The director also needs to know whether the insufficient bid and the new bid have pretty much the same meaning, or if they have different meanings. If the players are using a complicated system this can be difficult to judge. There’s more guidance in the “White Book”. The EBU Laws and Ethics committee had a bit of a workshop on it recently. Their notes are available on the EBU web site as part of the minutes of a Laws and Ethics Committee meeting.