THE BURY ATHENAEUM
THE SURVIVAL GUIDE
NOTES FOR BRIDGE PLAYERS
You enjoy playingbridge – that's why you come to the Bury Athenaeum. Many players, especially those who have attended classes here, join every year and are new to duplicate bridge.For the inexperienced some rules and etiquette of duplicate bridge can be quite strange. These notes are designed to explain the conduct of the game so that a session of duplicate bridge runs smoothly... This should help newcomers (as well as seasoned players!) to avoid misunderstandings and occasional embarrassment.
THE TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR (T.D.)
It is important to understand that the T.D. of each session of bridge is there to arrange seating;to ensure that the movement of players is done in an orderly fashion and, above all, to adjudicate in matters of irregularity. Bridge is undoubtedly acomplicated game – that's what makes it so fascinating – and the rules governing its playing are also complicated. It's not surprising that not all players are as familiar with the rules as they might be and this leads from time to time to some infringements, which need to be corrected.
The T.D. should becalled as soon as any irregularity or failure to follow the rules of of bridge occurs – such as a lead out of turn, a revoke, a call out of turn or any point of disagreement between opponents. Players should never try to settle matters themselves; The T.D. is there to adjudicate. We all make mistakes from time to time and it should be understood that to have the T.D. called to sort out a problem is not a slur on one's integrity! Some players regard calling the T.D. almost as a personal insult involving the suggestion that the offending player has tried to take an unfair advantage, or has not been entirely above board in whatever action he or she has taken. THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG. The T.D. is called as an impartial judge of the matter and to give a decision on the action to be taken; this is fair to all players, not only at the table concerned but to all other players in the room. In thegeneral run of things the T.D's ruling should be accepted with good grace. Ifhowever, the ruling is of such importance to you and seems at odds with the rule book, you can appeal to a specially appointed appeals committee.
This seems a bit cumbersome – it would have to be frightfully important to go to that length!
Rather than give the impression that your opponent has committed some heinous breach of rules or etiquette by immediately bellowing 'DIRECTOR'!! it is helpful to suggest quietly that the T.D. be called to explain and adjudicate on the action to be taken.
In the absence of any agreement, players should at the start of a session, 'cut' to decide the playing direction of the pairs. The T.D. can use his discretion, if necessary.
It is only polite to greet one's opponents at each table when you meet and say thank you when you leave. Some players are so absorbed in discussing previous hands that they fail to be polite... that's their excuse, anyway! Having an apparently solid slam being taken to the cleaners by three tricks doubled is no excuse for this failure-no matter how upsetting it is!!
There are often occasions when we wish to discuss hands we have just played with partner, or perhaps to put it more directly, to point out his errors! Such discussion should stop immediately the next hand is played as it is rude to opponents to delay play of the following hand and in addition it can and does convey information to players at other tables who have yet to play the hand.
It is considered impertinent and bad manners to give unsolicited advice to opponents or comment on how they should have played or defended a hand. Say nothing and just be grateful for the benefit of their errors. Let them find out their own mistakes. Your expert view might, just possibly, be right but they are entitled to be wrong. Some bridge players have big egos!
For the movement to run smoothly, there should be as little delay as possible between hands and also moving from one table to the next.
Before looking at your cards you should count them immediately you remove them from the board. If you do not have thirteen, you should call the T.D. Equally after the hand has been played you should ensure that you shuffle and replace all thirteen cards in the board in the correct slot and that they were all cards you were dealt in the first place.
You should make up your mind what your call is going to be before touching any card in your bidding box. Only when you have decided on your call should you withdraw and table a bidding card. Don't hover over your box or partially withdraw a card and replace it to draw another one. Above all, do not fiddle with the bidding cards and then pass. This could be interpreted as giving unauthorised information to partner – although surely that wouldn't have been your intention! A player may ask questions about an opponent's bid, when it is his turn to call. Questions must be answered only by the partner of the player making the bid.
It is obligatory, by the way, to leave all the bidding cards on the table in front of you until bidding is finished and the lead is tabled.
RETRACTION OF A BID
If by mistake you table a bidding card which you didn't intend to, you may withdraw that card, but only if done without pause for further thought. Otherwise the bid must stand and, if it is illegal, the T.D. should be called. Perhaps this should be explained a little further; suppose the bidding has gone 1C (from your partner), 2D from your opponent and you intend to bid 3C, but in error pull out 3D. If you retract immediately you may then bid your 3C, with apologies and without penalty, but if you delay your retraction the bid of 3D stands.
If, however, you bid say, 1NT in error, even if you correct immediately the T.D. should be called as this is an illegal (insufficient) bid and in addition gives unauthorised information to partner.
When a player makes a bid which has a meaning to his partner other than the apparently obvious one (i.e. a conventional bid), that player's partner should alert the opponents with the alert card. If no explanation is called for, no unsolicited explanation should be given. Certain calls such as Stayman and transfers should be announced rather than alerted.
Before making a call, which is greater than the next step up from a previous bid, the 'stop' card must be shown to opponents. For example, if over your partner's 1D call you intend to bid, say 2H you should show the stop card; this should also be done before a pre-emptive bid of, say 3H, or an opening at the two level. The stop card should remain on the table for about ten seconds and no other bid should be made during this time.
You should appreciate that a long pause during the bidding followed by a pass can, by implication, convey unauthorised information to your partner. It can be considered that the pause suggests to partner that you have some significant holding which could influence the bidding even though you do not disclose it. How long a pause is 'reasonable' is as long as a piece of string and depends on circumstances but is a matter for agreement and discretion. Too long a pause may give rights to your opponents so that you should try to decide in good time what bid you are going to make. Equally a hurried or emphatic PASS should be avoided. You should try to keep an even tempo in both your bidding and the play of your cards and be at least a little faster than either dead slow or stop. Further, when you are defending and sitting in the 'finesse position', for example, when you have to play a card before dummy which has A-Q, to pause when you have the King in your hand is a very revealing and poor play but to pause when you do not have the King is considered 'bad form' and unethical. The aim is play all cards smoothly and at even speed, unless there is some good reason for hesitation. It is not illegal or improper to hesitate but be aware that this may compromise your partner (your partner may be asked to justify any subsequent bid).
When bidding is complete (3 consecutive passes), the defender on lead may ask questions about any bid, before tabling the lead (FACE DOWN).
At that point, the other defender may ask any question. When there are no more questions, the opening lead is faced.
A card which is exposed illegally – a card dropped face up accidentally either during the bidding or played out of turn, gives unauthorised information to one's partner and becomes a penalty card. The T.D should be called to adjudicate the penalty.
Note: Declarer is not subject to penalties for exposing a card during play as any information he may give to opponents could be helpful to them – and obviously it is of no advantage to dummy!
PSYCHE CALLS AND DECEPTION
A call which deliberately exaggerates or makes a gross misstatement of your values (psyche call) is quite legal. Equally, it is legal to make a call or play, which deceives opponents, provided there is no understanding with your partner, i.e.your partner is equally deceived. However, too frequent psyche calls are regarded with suspicion as giving rise to such an implicit understanding.
Psyches should be reported to the T.D. and a record of them kept.
BOARDS DURING PLAY
During the play of the hand the board in play should be retained uncovered (without the bidding box on top of it!) on the table and in the correct orientation – the North position facing North. The recommended position for the board is in front of the declarer.
The number of tricks won or lost should be agreed by all players before the cards are closed together.
The player in the North position is responsible for entering the score on the travelling score sheet. The North player must enter the score without shouting it out. Some bridge players have big ears! It can ruin a hand for following players who already know that 7NT will make! Before entering the score North should obtain the opponent's agreement to the score. It is also part of North's duties to ensure the proper positioning of the board during play and that all cards are replaced in the correct pockets, before passing the boards to the next table.
It is important that players should be familiar with the duties, rights and limitations of dummy. These are set out in the Rules, but as with all rules they are somewhat complicated. The essential ones, however, can be explained fairly simply and are as follows:
1. Play the card designated by declarer – to this end declarer should always clearly nominate a card to be played from dummy. This is the obvious way to avoid possible confusion as to which card declarer intends to play.
2. Avoid hovering over dummy's cards in anticipation of declarer's instructions – this may be interpreted by some (obviously unjust) suspicious person as suggesting which card declarer should play.
3. Never play a card, however obvious it may seem, without instruction from declarer.
4. Keep track of tricks won and lost. Dummy may advise declarer if he has placed winning/losingtricks in the wrong direction.
5. Prevent any irregularity by declarer – e.g. leading from the wrong hand.
6. Prevent a revoke by asking declarer – but not opponents –if he has no card of the suit led.
7. Not call the T.D.– except if any irregularity has been pointed out by another player.
8. Not draw attention to an irregularity by defenders during play but may do so after play has concluded.
IRREGULARITIES IN BIDDING AND PLAY
Most irregularities in bidding and play have some penalty attached to them. It would be wise for all bridge players to be familiar with the most common irregularities and the penalties attached to them (a counsel of perfection?) and to try to avoid them. Short of copying the entire Rule book there is no easy way to cover all the ground so that only the most common irregularities can be indicated here:
1. Pass out of turn – pass is called before the correct player has bid.
2. Bid out of turn – a bid made before the correct player has bid.
Note: In both the cases above, if the correct or next player bids or passes before attention is drawn to this irregularity, then it is condoned and bidding proceeds without penalty.
3. Insufficient bid - An insufficient bid may be accepted or if left-hand opponent passes or bids, it is deemed to be accepted
4. Opening lead out of turn – the wrong defender faces a card as the opening lead – the declarer has a selection of penalties for this.
5. Declarer leads out of turn.
6. A player does not follow suit when he has a card of the suit led (revoke).
Note: In all cases where such an irregularity has occurred, the T.D. should be called unless it is accepted, i.e. condoned.
Sometimes before all thirteen cards have been played to complete a contract, declarer can see how many more tricks he is likely to win or lose. He can then make a claim stating how he intends to play the cards and what tricks he will win. In making a claim, declarer must table his cards, state the order in which the cards are to be play and how he intends to win whatever tricks he is claiming. When this happens further play stops immediately and the claim is either accepted or disputed. This claim may not be altered later. Failure of a declarer to explain his play, mistakes in explanation, or failure to take account of an opponent's outstanding trump, may nullify a claim and give opponents a trick or tricks.
Where there is any disagreement the T.D. must be called to adjudicate.
Note: If there are any doubtful points about the claim, they are resolved against the claimant. So....it is often better to play the cards out than make a claim, which is wrong.
SOME GENERAL POINTS
It is accepted that a room full of Bridge players will never be the quiet haven suitable for meditation and contemplation about the mysteries of the universe. Equally there is no necessity for it to resemble a railway station in Hong Kong during rush hour or an Australian bar just before closing time. Sadly there are many occasions when the noise is reminiscent of such places and a despairing T.D's bellow for quietness is itself drowned and futile. If there must be discussion – and this is doubtful – it should be in quiet tones and only when all the boards at the table have been played. You must appreciate that your table companions may not have as keen an ear for music as you have, so that your humming, whistling or hissing gems from the classics will not always be appreciated. Likewise, knee trembling, finger drumming, toe tapping or audible ear twitching.
At the end of the evening, players should deliver boards, score sheets and table numbers to the T.D. as he instructs and bidding cards should be returned to the bidding boxes.