Heart of England
Friendly Bridge for Friendly People

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  Arrow Switching

At Heart of England we favour two-winner movements where there are enough tables for a straight Mitchell movement..

However, sometimes we play movements where there can be only one winner and the movement needs one or more arrow switches. The purpose of an arrow switch is to randomly mix the access of pairs to some hands from the opposite polarity.

Here is a link to an article about arrow switching on the EBU web site http://www.ebu.co.uk/newsletters/?id=22&page=5.

Last updated : 27th May 2023 15:26 BST
  Mitchell and Howell Movements

The beginning of every duplicate bridge session sets a puzzle for the Tournament Director. He or she has to pick out a “movement” or pattern of play consisting of a suitable total quantity of boards, in a suitable number of rounds, that gives the players who have turned up for the session an opportunity to play the highest possible proportion of the boards they can manage in the time, against as many of the other pairs as possible.

If there is an odd number of pairs, there will be a “sit out” round. The TD will try to keep the number of boards per round low so that the sit out time is short.

Suppose ten pairs arrive to play a two and a half hour session of bridge. Generally their pace of play is about 8 boards an hour. It should be possible to play twenty boards. Dividing the boards into rounds of 4 boards would give 5 rounds altogether. The TD might choose that all North South pairs will remain stationary; East West pairs will move “up” one table; and boards will move “down” one table at the end of each round. After two rounds, the boards previously played by a given East West pair will “pass” that pair as they move for round three. The movement will complete when all five East West pairs have visited all five tables and each set of boards has been played at all five tables. Very neat!

This is a Mitchell movement because North South pairs have sat still, and East West pairs have moved up one table. There are many variations on Mitchell movements, but if that is what is (mostly) going on, it’s a Mitchell.

In this case the North South pairs have all played the boards one way, and the East West pairs have all played the boards the other way. It’s effectively two competitions, and is often described as a “two winner” movement with two separate ranked lists.

Suppose that nine pairs had arrived. If you use the above movement, there will be a long sit out round (about half an hour), and some players will play much fewer boards than others. This is a more difficult puzzle. The TD may choose a “Howell” movement.

A Howell movement is based on the principle that the rounds will be shorter, perhaps only two boards, and each pair will play every other pair, making nine rounds of eighteen boards in all. This means that pairs will only sit out for two boards, hopefully about fifteen minutes. All pairs will play sixteen boards. However the room will have to move eight times, taking up time each time. The next step up is 27 boards which could never be played in the time.

Only one pair will remain stationary at a table, and everyone else will find their new position in each round and it may be either North South or East West. There will be no discernible pattern in the table numbers. TIP: Work out which pair you are “following” and look around for where they are at the beginning of each round. Then just go to that place at the end of the round.

Most pairs will play some boards as North South and others as East West, so the results are well “mixed up”. There will be only one ranking list, and this is described as “single winner” movement.

So there are easy solutions to some combinations of time to play and number of pairs, but others are tricky. The TD has a short interval between the time he or she can be sure of the numbers of players for the session and the time the players expect to start playing to choose the movement, set it up on the computer, distribute the boards and pass out the scorers.

So please try and arrive a little before the start of play, or at least make sure that your partner will, to give the TD time to think. A late pair arriving when the movement has a half table may seem a small problem, but from the above, you can see the TD may have made a very different plan for the movement when there is half table and has to decide if they are committed already or whether they change it for a simpler movement, quite possibly allowing more boards to be played.

Last updated : 27th May 2023 15:26 BST
  Playing in Teams of Four

Playing in teams of four is sometimes considered a bit less reliant on luck than playing in pairs. The reason is that each of your two pairs plays each board, but one as North/South and the other as East/West. This takes the "luck" out of only playing any board from one side when playing as a pair.

Let's say that a given board, if declarer and defence do everything they should provide 8 tricks in No Trumps played by North. If your North/South play it that way, they come away with a score of +120. If your East/West defend it the same way, they come away with a score of -120. The two scores are combined and give a net score of zero. This is good. Net zero in teams is equivalent to 50% in pairs.

However, let's say that, for whatever reason, your East/West team concedes an extra trick, coming away with -150. When the two are combined, the net is -30 to your team.

It's worse if North/South bid 3NT, and now your East/West have scored -400. The net is now -280.

These net scores are converted to units called IMPs (International Match Points). Unlike pairs, where a top is a top, whether by 10 scoring points or 1,000 scoring points, the IMP scale does depend on magnitude.


 Difference   IMPs   Difference   IMPs   Difference   IMPs 
0–10 0 370–420 9 1500–1740 17
20–40 1 430–490 10 1750–1990 18
50–80 2 500–590 11 2000–2240 19
90–120 3 600–740 12 2250–2490 20
130–160 4 750–890 13 2500–2990 21
170–210 5 900–1090 14 3000–3490 22
220–260 6 1100–1290 15 3500–3990 23
270–310 7 1300–1490 16 4000+ 24
320–360 8

So the overtrick just scores 1 IMP, missing a contract by one trick scores 3 or 4 IMPs, but missing a game starts to score 7 or more IMPs. For this reason you use slightly different tactics in teams. In pairs, the difference between making an overtrick, and not making a overtrick, can be the difference between a top and a second score. In teams, it doesn't make much difference. The difference between bidding and making a game, or failing to either bid the game, can result in a big "swing". One or two of those can be very costly.

Teams are often played as "head to head" battles in leagues, but when a field of many tables gets together, the format is know as multiple teams. The clever movements are designed so that not only does your North / South pair get to play the boards as North / South, and East / West as East / West, but that your opponents are the converse pairs from the same team. You probably won't be playing the boards each way in the same round, but as the movement develops, your "matches" against each team gradually get completed and the overall score emerges.

Last updated : 27th May 2023 15:31 BST
  Swiss Competitions (Pairs and Teams)

Our Christmas party bridge takes the form of Swiss Pairs. Swiss Pairs and Teams are very popular at the bridge congresses organised by counties and the EBU.

So, what is a “Swiss” competition?

A Swiss competition starts with a random draw assigning each pair or team to a table by table number and direction (North/South or East/West). The first of a series of head to head matches is played.

At our Christmas Party each match consists of five boards. The whole field, often twenty tables for our party, play the same five boards, so there are many copies of these five boards being shared by two tables, or passed from table to table in a circle.

When all tables have played all five boards, the computer calculates a score for each table distributed between the two pairs at the table. The score awards each pair a share of 20 victory points (VPs). North/South may have won the match 20/0, or drawn it 10.10, or lost it 7/13. The computer makes a list of the pairs in order of the number of VPs they have scored. It then assigns the pairs at tables 1-20 in that order, so that the pair that has done best plays the pair that has done second best at Table 1 and so on.

Players move to their assigned table and direction for the next round, and the field plays another five boards. Again, the computer calculates a result for each table, adds the VPs from the match to the pair’s running total, re-sorts the list, and assigns the pairs for the next round. The computer adjusts the assignments to avoid re-matches.

Each time a pair sits down to a new match, they will be playing a pair doing as well as they are. The pairs doing best are on the tables from 1 downwards and the pairs not doing so well have a party at the highest numbered tables.

It’s a popular format because you play against pairs with a more similar success rate to you as time goes on and you don’t face many pairs much stronger than you or indeed much weaker. It gives every pair a good chance of some good results.

Last updated : 27th May 2023 16:06 BST
  Keeping your Compass Point

A. Initial Position The Director assigns an initial position to each contestant (individual, pair or team) at the start of a session. Unless otherwise directed, the members of each pair or team may select seats among those assigned to them by mutual agreement. Having once selected a compass direction, a player may change it within a session only upon instruction or with permission of the Director.

As you can see, the Laws of Bridge state that players must stick with their 'compass point' once they have played (unless the TD agrees to a change). It's customary for the North player to go East, and the South player to go West when the movement requires a change.
 This matters in teams where the result is being input to the EBU National Grade system. 
If you look at the performance analysis on results loaded to BridgeWebs, (very good, do look), you will also find that there are statistics for each player as an individual. These are based on the assumption that you have kept your compass point(s) throughout.
So best to keep the same seat, check the tablet when you arrive at a new table if unsure.

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 11:55 BST
  Keep Up With the Field!

Every bridge session can only proceed at the pace of the slowest player. All must finish the current round before the move to the next round can start. Some boards are more difficult to play and may slow everyone who plays them down. As a non-playing director, you can often watch such boards go around the room.

However, there are also players who are always last to finish. They seem to resent being asked to speed up. They don’t understand it is not acceptable to hold up the whole room.

If you often play your last boards against rising noise, with the TD standing over you, you are one of these players. The noise is caused by players who have already finished, chatting while they wait for you. You are not popular with the director or other players. You won’t get a lot of sympathy about the noise level.  

Occasionally the director will remove a board from your table to get you caught up with the rest of the room. We don’t like doing this, but sometimes its unavoidable. You should be penalised by a score adjusted downwards. Your opponents should be compensated for losing a board through no fault of their own with a score adjusted upwards. We are probably a bit lenient here as we like to keep things relaxed, but if you persist in holding up play, we’ll get a bit tougher.

There are some simple habits to help you keep up, that don’t lose “playing” time:

  • Don’t chatter at the start of the round. We are amazed how often slow players ignore the next opponents standing by the table, waiting to sit, and yet talk to each other about the last hand (not good practice at any time) and take time greeting the opponents. Just say “Sorry to keep you” and get on.
  • If you are scoring, select the number of each board as the cards are being drawn from it. It avoids mistakes and saves time at the end of the auction.
  • When the auction is over, if you are on lead, make your lead before entering the contract and lead. If you are dummy, wait for the lead to be turned over and then put the dummy hand on the table before entering the contract and the lead.
  • Always enter the lead before the card play starts. It wastes time to find out what was led after the hand is played. If you are scoring, return your cards to the board, shuffled, before entering and agreeing the result. Don’t make the director wait or ask for cards to be returned to the board to move the board.
  • Advise your opponents, if moving, where they are going and encourage your opponents to move promptly. Make a note yourself if you are moving and move promptly yourself Listen for the call to move, and don’t miss it because you are too busy chatting and make the director ask your table to move again.

None of this will cut into your “playing” time and will help the whole session move smoothly for everyone else.

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 12:25 BST
  Partnership Agreements

You and your partner will have partnership agreements. They may be simple. Most of your bids may be "natural". However, there are always some assumptions attached to every bid or call. Many pairs play using well known sets of partnership agreements such as Basic Acol. Other pairs may play their own unique system.

In either case, it's a fundamental part of the laws of the game that these agreements must be disclosed to opponents. It is against the laws of bridge to have “secret” agreements. (See law 40.)

Some agreements must be explicitly disclosed using "Announcements". If you agree that an opening of 1 club may refer to a hand holding no clubs, partner must announce "May be zero". If there could be one club in the suit, partner must announce "May be one", if  it can be as short as two cards in the suit, partner must announce "May be two". The authorities regard opening on a three-card club suit to deny a five-card major to be "normal". However, most of us play ACOL and expect an opening suit to be at least four. For this reason, we have a local rule in our club that you tell your opponents that you are playing five-card majors. This makes them aware that your opening club, and often opening diamond, bid may show a three-card suit.

Some agreements must be implicitly disclosed using the ALERT card. If you ALERT, you do not announce. For example, if you have agreed that your 1C opening shows a hand with 16HCP or more, and says nothing about clubs, then this bid must be alerted.

There are occasions when a bid is made, has an artificial meaning, and is neither announced nor alerted. However, at your turn to bid in the auction, you may ask the partner of an opponent, what they understand by their partner's bid. You should need the information to bid or call. If you do not immediately need the information, wait till the end of the auction and ask for a "Review of the Auction".

In formal competition, partnership agreements are disclosed using written documents called convention cards. There is a specific layout required in the regulations. A convention card is different from a system card. A system card should fully document the agreements of all kinds between the players and is used to improve their success rate. NEITHER a convention card, nor a system card, may be used as an "aide memoire" during the auction or the play of the cards. You must rely on memory.

Convention cards are getting very rare in all but the most competitive clubs. We do ask that you give a general idea of the system you use verbally, and you find out about more details through Announcements, Alerts or by asking Questions as you play.

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 12:30 BST
  What shall we play partner?

You often find yourself sitting opposite a partner you don’t normally play with. You may have only a few minutes to agree your system! Here’s my suggestion of the top things to check with them.

  1. One No Trump Opening strength (12 to 14 high card points)
  2. Four or five card major openings?
  3. Stayman? (Most people play this, but it’s advisable to check)
  4. Transfers? (Less universal, perhaps 50% play them?)
  5. Strength of Opening 2's (Weak in the majors? Three weak twos? All strong?)
  6. Blackwood? (Vanilla/Roman Key Card?) Gerber?
  7. Meaning of discards – simplest is high to encourage that suit, low to discourage.
  8. Meaning of a Jump Overcall
  9. Unusual 2 No Trumps? Michaels Cue Bid?
  10. Splinter Bids? Cue Bids?

Always pick the simplest common methods and never offer, or accept offers, along the lines of: “I don’t really know that but I’ll have a go if you like”.  All methods have complex continuations, knock on effects, and actions after interference. Don’t try it with a new partner. Learn it properly and practice with someone who also knows it or wants to learn with you.

We offer a host at all our pairs and practice sessions. Usually the director also acts as host, though on busy pairs and practice sessions we may have a separate host.

The advantage of this is that you can come to any of these sessions and you will get a game. The drawback is that we cannot guarantee who you will play with. If two singles come to play, we put them together and they may not have the same level of ability; they may not know the same bidding and signalling systems and they may not have the same approach to the game. Sometimes, they get on well and form long partnerships, but usually this is just a one-off.

Be patient and pleasant with an unknown partner. Try to pick the simplest common methods and signalling. Agree that unless specifically discussed all bids are natural.

It is frankly unforgiveable to criticise an unfamiliar partner. Just put up with it. Otherwise both and you and they have a miserable session and we may lose them and you as players, and that’s a tragedy.

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 12:36 BST
  Five Card Majors

The choice and development of a bidding system with a regular partner is one of the great joys of bridge. Although there are a few restrictions on partnership agreements, it’s really up to you what you choose to play.

At our club we teach players to play Standard Acol because it’s a sound system played by the majority of players in English duplicate clubs. Two corner stones of ACOL are the weak (12 to 14) opening 1NT, and the principle that any opening of one of a suit guarantees a minimum of at least four cards, not five, and not three, in that suit.

A common, but different, partnership agreement is that an opening bid of one of either major guarantees at least five in the suit. This is very common in America and Europe and not unusual in England. Many fine players use this agreement. There are “knock on” effects. The partners must agree what to do with hands that contain four cards in one or both majors. These hands cannot be opened one of a major. The partners may opt to open 1♣  on such hands even if there could be two, one or even no clubs held. Any of these agreements must be announced. "Could be one", for example. Alternatively, the partners may agree to open one of the “better” minor. A 1♣  or 1♦   opening bid may refer to a holding of only three cards in this suit. Of course it could also mean four, five, six or more in this minor suit. These openings do not have to be alerted. If the opponents are not aware, they may always assume that the opening of a minor shows the longest suit in the hand is that minor. This can be misleading.  

There’s a fundamental principle in duplicate bridge that your opponents are entitled to know the partnership agreements used by you and your partner. (Law 40). However, the global laws and the local EBU regulations in this area have become a tangled mess, fully understood by few players.

Most partnership agreements are explicitly made known to our opponents through the announcing and alerting laws and regulations. However, the “better minor” approach, is neither alertable nor announced according to the English regulations. Possibly this is because the five card major based system is so common elsewhere in the world.

The uncomfortable consequence of this is that your opponents may open 1♣  or 1♦   when they have three clubs or diamonds and four or one or both majors and you will have no hint of this. If you are very used to ACOL, you may make assumptions about their hands that are simply wrong.

It is good manners, and in accordance with the spirit of Law 40, to tell your opponents you are playing five majors, especially with “better minor”, at the beginning of the round.

In RVBC we have a local rule to that effect. So if you are not so informed, and you think you may have been disadvantaged, call the director.

There are pairs who are very aware that they do not have to inform you about this method, and in my view, take an unfair, if technically correct, advantage of the situation.

So my advice is, if your left hand opponent opens 1♣  or 1 , and you haven’t been informed, ask if their partnership is playing five card majors, especially if you have a long holding in the opened suit and thinking of overcalling.

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 12:38 BST
  Opening at the two level

All openings at the two level require the use of the STOP card, so in all cases, the STOP card should be put on the table first (ten second count starts). The bid should then be displayed, and, after 10 seconds, the STOP card should be returned to the bidding box.

The next player may not bid or call until the STOP has been returned to the box. If less than ten seconds has passed since the STOP card was first displayed, the next player should wait until ten seconds have passed before acting.

There are three kinds of opening at the two level:

  • Opening 2 No Trumps
  • Opening 2 of a suit, meaning that you have a significant holding in THAT suit
  • Opening 2 of a suit, conveying to partner that you have a hand fitting one or more agreed criteria, but not necessarily a holding in that suit


Opening 2 No Trumps

The opening bid of 2 No Trumps is generally assumed to tell partner that you have a strong balanced hand. Since 1st August 2013 the agreed strength of a 2NT is announced by the bidder's partner saying, for example, "twenty to twenty two".  If the hand may contain a singleton, then "may contain a singleton" should be added.

If you have any other agreement about this bid, then it should be alerted.


Opening 2 of a suit showing a holding in THAT suit

If your partner opens with a bid of 2 of a suit, showing you that they have a hand with a holding in the bid suit, you are required to make an announcement.

Such an opening bid is usually used in one of three ways:

  1. It shows a holding of six cards in the suit, and typically 6-9 high card points. This is essentially a pre-emptive opening. In this case opener’s partner MUST announce “Weak”.
  2. If shows a hand capable of taking eight tricks with the nominated suit as trumps, and partner is required to make a bid in response. In this case opener’s partner MUST announce “Strong and Forcing”.
  3. If shows a hand capable of taking eight tricks with the nominated suit as trumps, and partner is NOT required to make a bid in response. In this case opener’s partner MUST announce “Strong and NOT Forcing”.
  4. In some circumstances, particularly "Strong 1 Club Systems" such as precision, the 2♣ bid is agreed to show a holding of six cards in the ♣  suit, and up to 11-15 high card points. Opener’s partner must announce “Intermediate”.

So if your partner opens the bidding with two of a suit, and your partnership agreement is that this bid shows a hand with a significant holding in that suit, you must say something.


Opening 2 of a suit, with an artificial meaning

The most common example of this is the standard ACOL 2♣, agreed to show a hand with 23+ high card points, or 9+ playing tricks, but not necessarily in clubs.

Benji players usually use 2♦  opening for these strong hands, and will use the 2♣  opening for strong two hands and possibly other strongish hands.

A Benji 2♣  opening probably shows either:

  • a hand capable of taking 8 tricks in a major trump suit not yet named; or
  • a balanced hand with an agreed HCP range, often 19-20; and
  • it may have additional possible meaning concerning the minor suits.

You may also encounter the “Multi 2 Diamonds”, where the opening bid of 2♦  means one of several possible hand types, a mixture of strong and weak.

All these openings should be Alerted by bidder's partner. No verbal comment should be added. The next opponent to bid has the option of asking the bidder's partner for an explanation of the partnership agreement. However, if that player chooses not to ask, no comment must be made.


In Summary

  • If a player opens two of a suit, the opener must use the STOP card and there must be either an announcement or an alert from partner.

It is best to stick to the short forms given above, don’t describe the hand any more. It might look as though you are reminding partner about something, (and you might be giving the opponents useful information they are not entitled to).

Last updated : 2nd Jun 2023 12:40 BST
  Double Trouble

There are two important principles in the laws and regulations of duplicate bridge.

  1. Partners may only exchange information, during the auction and play of a hand, using the calls and bids they make and the cards they play. They must not exchange information by facial expressions, body language or general remarks, however witty ☺.
  2. Opponents are entitled to know about any agreements you have made with partner about the meanings of calls, bids and card play.

The EBU introduced Announcing and Alerting Regulations to support the second principle. They have been revised twice. Each time they got more complex. Few club players understand them completely. Try to follow the regulations; consider that your opponents may not completely understand them; and ask for the TD if anyone’s not happy. We do believe in and try to ensure fair play.


  • No double is announced;
  • The regulations assume that if you double any suit bid from 1♣ to 3♠, it’s for takeout. Your partner doesn’t need to alert. Some pairs may agree that they only double for take-out up to 2♠. In this case when one of you doubles e.g. 3♠ for penalties, the other one must Alert.
  • The regulations assume that if you double any NT bid by your opponents, it’s for penalties. Your partner doesn’t need to alert. Some pairs may agree that a double of 1NT is for take out. In that case, partner must Alert.

The regulations assume that if you double any suit artificial suit bid by your opponents e.g. 2 Stayman, you are indicating that you hold that suit, in this case clubs, and would like a lead from that suit. Your partner doesn’t need to alert. Some pairs agree that the double refers to the next highest-ranking suit, in this case showing and asking for diamonds. Your partner must Alert.

Last updated : 4th Jun 2023 16:27 BST
  When the auction consists of four passes

Law 22A1: The auction ends when all four players pass.  The hands are returned to the board without play.  There shall not be a redeal.

Law  77 (part of)  If all four players pass, each side enters a zero score.

Passing out a board is definitely “playing” that board.   I must have scored hundreds of travellers by now, and I have never seen a hand played at more than a couple of tables that was passed out on every occasion it was played.  Players take different views, and have different partnership understandings.  Their view may or may not work out well for them!  They also simply make mistakes. Zero may be a good score, or a bad one. 

Here’s an old traveller I found.   Pairs 7 & 3 passed this board out.  But as you can see, there were some very different outcomes!

The best N/S result is pair 2 who managed to stop bidding at 2  and make it.  This gave them 10 match points for beating five other N/S pairs.  But zero is a good result for Pair 7 sitting North/South.  Four N/S pairs who bid ended up in contracts they couldn’t make, and vulnerable, giving away hundreds of points.

East/West had 2  on, but they get better results if they let N/S get on with it.

If pairs 7 & 3 had played the board first and re-dealt it after passing out some interesting play would have been lost!

Board 26 Both Vul - Dealer East













 E W  
























































Last updated : 4th Jun 2023 16:31 BST
  Fiddling with cards in the Bidding Box

Sometimes when it comes to your turn to bid you haven’t quite made your mind up what the bid is going to be!

You are supposed to bid in rhythm so that your partner, and your opponents, don’t know which are difficult decisions (where you had reasonable alternatives) and which are simple.

This information is useful for your opponents. Under the laws of bridge they are not permitted to take advantage of it but it’s really difficult to ignore. It’s not good bridge to put them in this position.

More seriously, your partner is in more serious breach of the ethics and laws of bridge if they interpret your action as, for example, “passed but could have bid”.

The bidding boxes are a great boon to duplicate bridge. They are clear, and by staying out on the table, they save us from relying on our memories!

You should not touch or approach the bidding box before you have made up your mind what you are going to bid. Don’t rifle among the cards, or go from one card to another, or go from the passes to the bid cards and back again. This is irritating, but worse, you will be apparently signalling to your partner the nature of your dilemma. This is unauthorised information.

When you have made up your mind what to bid, remove the correct card carefully. If you pull out the wrong card and notice immediately you are permitted to correct your “mechanical error”. This usually happens when your eyes go back to the playing cards in your hand as you take the bidding card out of the box. Keep your eyes on the bidding box and it’s less likely to happen.

If you pull out a card, put it on the table, and then notice that your right hand opponent has opened the bidding, you have made a bridge error and you cannot “think again” and correct the bid. If it’s an insufficient bid, or if there is any discussion or discomfort, call the Tournament Director. It’s his or her job to resolve the situation correctly and fairly.

Last updated : 5th Jun 2023 08:22 BST
  Passed Board? Skipped Board?

It is very rare for a board to be passed out at all tables. It seems there is almost always someone who will take an optimistic “view” and open on a light hand. Sometimes opening on a weaker hand results in a good score, but this won’t always be the case. 

So North must enter the contract as “Pass” on the scoring device. East or West should check and agree the score. The score will be zero for each side.

If a board is not played and there is no reason to penalise either of the pairs who did not/could not play it, it is deleted from the possible results of both players and will NOT affect the score of either in any way.

The Tournament Director will decide if a board is not to be played and will make sure it’s deleted correctly. The "score" will be entered as a "Skip".  Tournament Directors are required to penalise one or both pairs when a board cannot be played due to slow play. Our policy is to do this when it is clear that one or both pairs have been unreasonably slow showing a lack of consideration for the rest of the field.

Last updated : 5th Jun 2023 08:25 BST

Law 73A2 and 73D1 encourage players to maintain a steady tempo when bidding in the auction or playing their cards. This law addresses Communication between partners and makes the point that partners should be communicating by what they bid and play and not how they bid or play it.

You should try and avoid hesitation, and it is good practice to make a call or card play in a measured way, even when you know exactly what you are going to do. This means that it won’t draw so much attention when you need a second or two to think. However, it is not illegal to hesitate over a decision. You may find that the opponents comment, perhaps mention reserving their rights, or even call the TD, if there is a substantial hesitation. This only means that the fact that a hesitation has happened is being agreed.

The hesitation does not prevent the partner of the hesitator bidding. However, any bid made following a hesitation by partner must clearly be made on the contents of the bidder’s hand only. It will be very difficult for anyone, including the bidder, to be sure that any bid that seems to rely on finding some feature in the hesitator’s hand, was not influenced by the hesitation.

If a bid is made that appears unlikely to be justified solely by the content of the bidder’s hand, the auction will proceed normally, and the hand will be played in the contract arrived at.

If the non hesitating side feels that the actual result has gone against them, and it may be because the hesitation has influenced the auction, they should call the TD. The TD will have to make a judgement ruling. The principles are:

  • firstly that the hesitation may have influenced the auction; if any calls by the hesitator’s partner seem entirely in accordance with the action that would be expected from any player of equivalent standard, the TD will decide that the hesitation is irrelevant; and
  • secondly the influence on the auction has caused actual damage to the hesitator’s opponents; quite often the hesitating partnership gets into a poor contract, with a poor result, and does worse, or no better, than anyone else with the same cards!
  • if, in the judgement of the TD (and they may decide to consult with others and make a decision after the event, but before scoring), there was a hesitation that may have influenced the result in a way that damaged the opponents, then the TD must “restore equity” by awarding an adjusted score.

All this can, and does happen, without anyone being accused of wrong doing or being punished. It is very difficult to be sure you have ignored a pause by partner when making a bid, so don’t worry if you occasionally get a score adjusted in these circumstances.

If you want the TD to look at circumstances where a hesitation in the auction may have disadvantaged you, call the TD straight away in as calm and polite a way as you can. Don’t get into any discussion with your opponents about it, it’s the TD’s job to work out if anyone was disadvantaged, and to restore equity if they were.

Last updated : 6th Jun 2023 08:38 BST
  No Questions

From the English Bridge Union Blue Book

3Z C End of the Auction 3Z C 1 At the end of the auction the calls should remain in place until the opening lead has been faced and all explanations have been obtained, after which they should be returned to their boxes. If the hand is passed out then the passes are immediately returned to their boxes.

The auction ends when either a bid has been followed by three passes, or there has been four passes. To help everyone be sure that the auction has ended, please actually get a pass out of your bidding box and place it in front of you. Don’t assume the auction is about to end and just tap the table or put your bidding cards away.

Firstly, other players may overcall, or double and missing passes can create confusion. Secondly, in a harsh playing environment, your opponents may argue that you are telling your partner to pass. This would be unlawful. Thirdly, the bidding cards are needed for the next step.

The player on lead can now look at the auction when deciding what to lead. If he or she has questions, they should be put before a card is detached from the hand. If the opening leader has no questions, he or she pauses to allow partner to ask questions. Partner should signal that they are ready to play by saying “No Questions”. Declarer has the right to ask questions and must do so promptly.

In a harsh playing environment, any variation or inconsistency in this routine could cause opponents to argue that there is unlawful communication between the defenders.

It’s to everyone’s advantage to stick to an unvarying, full, routine. Firstly, it avoids suspicion. Secondly, once it becomes an automatic habit it saves the precious power of your brain for the game!

Last updated : 6th Jun 2023 08:39 BST
  Leads and Bids out of Turn

It’s easy for Players and even Tournament Directors to forget that when there is a lead or bid out of turn, the next player due to call, or to play a card always has the option to accept the lead or bid.

This includes any time declarer makes a mistake. When declarer names a card in dummy, the law says that that card is played (Law 45B). If declarer should have lead from his hand, he is usually permitted to lead from his hand. There is no restitution on declarer for the attempted lead out of turn because he does not gain any advantage from it, he may have given away his strategy in doing it.

However, the defenders do have the right to accept the played card (Law 53A). Everyone tends to forget this and you need to be quick if you think it’s best for your side.

Last updated : 10th Jun 2023 09:10 BST
  Looking after the Board during play

Law 7A: When a board is to be played it is placed in the centre of table where it shall remain, correctly oriented, until play is completed. (The red text was added in the 2017 revision of the laws.)

All players should check that boards are the correctly orientated. Listen carefully and check the tablet or table card carefully for “arrow switches”. Many players want to move the board away from the centre of the table, or even off the table entirely.  This is not lawful. The board must remain in the centre of the table during the auction.  Players need to see who dealer is and what the vulnerability is.

If the board is moved, there is always a risk that the cards go back into wrong pockets and the board is “fouled” for the remainder of the session.

Although there is no law, North should be the only player to touch or move the boards. It is rude for anyone else to touch them.
North can remove other boards in the same round from the table, and this will avoid the masking effect of a “tower” of boards.

If the board is moved slightly towards declarer once card play starts, it will leave room for dummy to be laid down.
In our club the board can be moved to the edge or corner of the table. However, the board must not be turned. This often leads to fouled boards.

If the players have taken the cards out of the board to compare the hands after play, they must be extremely careful to put them back correctly.
Again, this behaviour is not lawful. (Law 7C). In our club we do permit this if there is time for discussion, conversation is very quiet, and cards are returned correctly.

Last updated : 10th Jun 2023 09:13 BST
  Making the Opening Lead

When the auction is over, and has ended with a bid followed by three passes, the player on declarer’s left chooses the opening lead from his hand. (Law 41A)

This lead must be made face down, because there is then a pause to allow either defender, or declarer, to ask for explanation of any partnership agreements about any, or all, bids or calls in the auction. (Law 41A/B)

During this period, the bidding cards are left exactly where they are. (EBU regulations (Orange Book) 7.B.7)

When it is clear that there are no questions, or all questions have been asked and answered, the opening lead is turned over, dummy is exposed, and bidding cards are returned to their boxes. (Law 41C)

If it should emerge during the clarification period that the defence has been in some way misinformed by the auction, for example, a conventional call has not been announced or alerted, then the Director should be called. The director may permit the defender on opening lead may reconsider his choice. (Law 47E2)

Otherwise the opening leader cannot choose or change his opening lead in the light of the question process.  This is because of the risk that the nature of his partner’s questions provides him with unauthorised information.  (Law 41A)

Last updated : 10th Jun 2023 13:47 BST
  When is a card played?

It’s common to see a change of mind when a card has been played, or nearly played, to a trick. In a friendly club like ours, and especially on a Lesson or Friendly Practice session, we often allow the card to be withdrawn and another substituted.

However, there are strict laws about it, and it is worth knowing the formal position for the occasions when you play in serious, or external, competition.

Law 45 covers the playing of cards, and starts with the description of how cards should be played:

  • 45A says that each player, at his turn to play, except dummy, detaches a card from his hand and “faces” (places it face up) on the table immediately in front of their seat;
  • 45B says that Declarer plays a card from dummy by naming the card, after which dummy picks up the card and faces it on the table. In playing from dummy’s hand declarer may, if necessary, pick up the desired card;
  • 45C considers when a card must be played. For either defender, any card they have detached from their hand and held so that their partner might have seen it (note, not has seen it), must play the card;
  • A card in dummy must be played if declarer has called for it or touched it. Rearranging cards, or touching one while trying to get to another doesn’t count, but it’s as well to say that you are rearranging cards if that’s your intention;
  • There is a “mechanical error” provision where a player can change a card if it is done “without pause for thought”. So realising it’s not the best card to play is thought and does not constitute a mechanical error;
  • Dummy cannot choose a card to play and any card “moved” by dummy is not considered played until declarer has indicated it should be played. If dummy misplays a card, i.e. mishears the instruction from declarer, it can be corrected as long as attention is drawn to the error before BOTH sides have played to the NEXT trick;
  • Declarer must play a card once it has been turned face up and touched, or nearly touched, the table or it’s been maintained in a position indicating it’s been played. Obviously there is room for interpretation here especially, so declarer really should be clear in movement of cards;

In general, you shouldn't detach a card from your hand until you are sure you are going to play it.  During our practice sessions, everyone is there to learn, and that will often mean a bit a give and take in this area.

In club duplicate sessions, or any external event we cannot expect opponents to tolerate change of cards once they have been seen and put in a played position. If we are put under pressure by opponents to accept their change of a played card, the best thing to do is smile, and say gently: Let’s get the Director to sort it out, and call “TD please”.

We have had an incident where the players could not agree which card they heard declarer call for, or even which card had been played by dummy.

It helps all players to be clear what is going on if the card played is placed on top of previously played tricks, face up, and turned to be horizontal. It’s not acceptable for dummy to tap a card, or give it a little push, so that it is still amongst the unplayed cards. There may well be misunderstanding amongst other players as to which card has been played. No players should place played cards anywhere near the centre of the table because of the risk that cards get confused or mixed up with other players hands.

Last updated : 10th Jun 2023 13:51 BST
  Claims and Concessions

It is lawful for declarer or either defender to make a statement that he expects a specified number of the remaining tricks to be won or lost (L68-L71). This can seem an attractive way to save time. If it’s clear that the remaining tricks in a hand can only win, then it’s not polite to keep playing them one by one.

However, claims are often disputed. It can be that the claimer makes either more or less tricks than anticipated. On balance, if there’s any possible doubt, it’s better to play the tricks out.  

Don’t make a claim in a trump contract until a trick has shown that no trumps remain uncleared.

If a claim or concession is made, and the players all agree to play on, they can do so without calling the Director. However, if there are doubts, call.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:36 BST
  Is Declarer Permitted to touch the Cards in Dummy?

The simple answer to this question is very definitely YES.

The 2007 Laws of Bridge, Law 7B3 says “During play each player retains possession of  his own cards, not permitting them to be mixed with those of any other player. No player shall touch any cards other than his own (but declarer may play dummy’s cards in accordance with Law 45) during or after play except by permission of the Director.”

Law 45B says “Declarer plays a card from dummy by naming the card, after which dummy picks up the card and faces it on the table. In playing from dummy’s hand declarer may, if necessary, pick up the desired card himself.”

Law 45C3 says “A card in the dummy must be played if it has been deliberately touched by declarer except for the purpose either of arranging dummy’s cards, or of reaching a card above or below the card or cards touched.”

So declarer can touch dummy to arrange the cards (it’s probably best to say out loud that the cards are being arranged to avoid confusion.) Declarer can touch dummy to play the cards. Therefore Declarer can touch a card to indicate Dummy should move that card so as to indicate it has been played.

Some players prefer to use this method all the time. If Dummy has impaired hearing, or the room has become noisy, this may be the best way to play.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:37 BST

Call the TD immediately. They will apply the laws to “restore equity”.  There is no intention to “punish”, only to redress any advantage the offending side got from the revoke. There are limits on the right to enquire whether there has been a revoke. Dummy may ask declarer if he has revoked but may not ask either defender. Could dummy be hinting at something? (Law 61).

Don't disturb the quitted (all four cards turned face down) tricks while waiting for the TD. It makes the TD’s job harder if, called to rule on a revoke, he or she finds one or more players have made the order they were played in unclear. Players should not turn over old tricks without permission (Law 66C).

Equity is restored in one of two ways depending on whether the revoke is “established” or not. It is established if the offender or his partner has led or played or called for a card as part of the NEXT trick. (Law 63).

If the revoke is NOT established, the incorrect card is withdrawn from the trick and the player substitutes a legal card. If the card came from declarer’s or dummy’s hand, it is returned to the hand. Declarer already knew what was in his hand and in dummy, so no unauthorised information is available to him. Indeed, he may have disadvantaged himself by exposing the illegal card to the defence.

It’s not so simple if one defender has exposed an illegal card to the other. The exposed card becomes a “major penalty card”. It is left exposed on the table and must be played at the first legal opportunity. Any cards played after the illegal card may be withdrawn and substituted. (Law 62). If the other defender is on lead, they could now have an advantage. The TD may allow declarer to put restrictions on the lead to compensate.

The TD will ask the players to complete the hand without disturbing the completed tricks. When complete, the TD will determine whether any tricks won by the revoking side must be “given back” to restore equity in line with Law 64.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:39 BST
  Why does my score, and even my position, on the scrolling results screen, change while I sit out?

The scrolling results screen is a relatively new feature of duplicate bridge evenings. It adds to the interest of a session especially if you are doing well! It can be a distraction however, and have a bad effect on your play. Many players ignore it until the end!

The display is created by a programme that reads results as they are collected from the radio linked table scorers. Your ranking in the event depends on how you did on the boards you have played compared to other people did playing the same boards.

In Match Pointed pairs no matter how much bigger your score was than the other player, whether you beat them by 10 scoring points or 1,000, you are ranked top (or bottom or equal). You get 2 Match Points (MPs) for each player you do better than, 1 MP for each player whose result you equal, and 0 MP for each player who does better.

In the first round, usually only one result is captured for each board. There is no data for the calculation of ranking. Most scrolling displays don’t display anything in the first round, and table scorers generally show your result as 50%, if anything.

When the second round is played the players of that board can get one of three possible results: 100% (2 MPs out of a possible 2) if they did better than the other player in the same seat; 0% (0 MP out of a possible 2) if they did worse; and 50% (1 MP out of a possible 2) if they got the same result.

During the third round another result is captured for each board, there are now more possibilities: 100% (4 MPs) for a top; 0% for a bottom; 50% (2MPs) for a middle (or for getting the same as the other two players); 75% for a shared top (3MPs)  (0% for bottom); 0% (0MPs) for a shared bottom and 100% (4MPs) for the top on that board.

When a board has been played four times the maximum MP score available is 6, and players may score 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or 0MPs. These scores replace 0-4MPs.

So each time a round is played, the new result causes all players’ scores to be recalculated. Each new result has a smaller effect on the score. For this reason, the first few results will flatter, or depress, your performance. You shouldn’t really take too much notice of them!

You sit out in the fourth round. On Board 1 you had a clear top (100% or 4MPs out of a possible 4), the player now playing the board gets the same result as you – now it’s a shared top (5MPs out of a possible 6) and your percentage goes down (to 83%) while you sit and do nothing!

However, if you were ranked a clear bottom on Board 2 (0%), and the player now playing that board gets a worse score than you, they will be awarded the bottom ranking for the board and get 0%, but your third place on that board takes your position up to ( 2MPs out of a possible 6) 33%.

The percentage shown on the scrolling results screen is the average of each of results on the boards you have played so far, so it will change as each result comes in and the results are recalculated. The last few results can often affect the positions among the leading players, especially if they are close, even if they have all finished playing.

Always remember that the TD may have results to correct, or adjusted scores to enter. It’s not final until results are posted, or e-mailed or printed when the TD has finished all his or her work.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:40 BST
  Calling for cards from dummy

Terse or silent indication of the cards to play in dummy may be a sensible way to prevent unauthorised information leaking to other tables.

Law 46 describes the required effect of various “terse” instructions by Declarer:

A. Proper Form for Designating Dummy’s Card

When calling a card to be played from dummy declarer should clearly state both the suit and the rank of the desired card.

B. Incomplete or Erroneous Call

In case of an incomplete or erroneous call by declarer of the card to be played from dummy, the following restrictions apply (except when declarer’s different intention is incontrovertible):

1. (a) If declarer in playing from dummy calls ‘high’, or words of like meaning, he is deemed to have called the highest card.

    (b) If he directs dummy to ‘win’ the trick he is deemed to have called the lowest card that it is known will win the trick.

    (c) If he calls ‘low’, or words of like meaning, he is deemed to have called the lowest card.

2. If declarer designates a suit but not a rank he is deemed to have called the lowest card of the suit indicated.

3. If declarer designates a rank but not a suit:

(a) In leading, declarer is deemed to have continued the suit in which dummy won the preceding trick provided there is a card of the designated rank in that suit.

(b) In all other cases declarer must play a card from dummy of the designated rank if he can legally do so; but if there are two or more such cards that can be legally played declarer must designate which is intended.

4. If declarer calls a card that is not in dummy the call is void and declarer

may designate any legal card.

5. If declarer indicates a play without designating either a suit or a rank (as by saying ‘play anything’ or words of like meaning) either defender may designate the play from dummy. (Did you realise this??)

So by saying “Win the trick”; or “Low”; or “Heart”, declarer can give away very little information about dummy’s hand to another table. Dummy needs to stay alert (good practice anyway).

But Dummy must be careful not to seem to indicate any particular card or suit should be played….

Law 45F. Dummy Indicates Card

After dummy’s hand is faced, dummy may not touch or indicate any card (except for purpose of arrangement) without instruction from declarer. If he does so the Director should be summoned forthwith and informed of the action. Play continues. At the end of the play the Director shall award an adjusted score if he considers dummy suggested a play to declarer and the defenders were damaged by the play suggested.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:42 BST
  Making plus one ?

At the end of the playing period all four players should positively agree the number of tricks won by declarer before “disturbing” the cards in front of them. Occasionally there is disagreement, and this can be very easily resolved if the cards have been placed as they should be. Any discrepancy can be quickly spotted and resolved. It is much more difficult if the cards have been “scooped up” and shuffled. If the players cannot immediately and amicably agree the result then call the Director. It’s his or her job to sort it out. Calling the director doesn’t imply an accusation of anyone of anything improper, just that a problem needs resolving.

The laws have been designed to keep disagreements to a minimum and to provide quick resolution:

  • Law 65 covers the arrangement of tricks: short side towards the player if their side won the trick; long side otherwise; in an orderly row so that the “history” of the play can be followed.
  • Law 65 also says that the cards should not be disturbed until all four players are agreed on the result. It also says that claims of a revoke, or of doubtful tricks are jeopardised if the claimant has disturbed his cards.

Law 70 says that if the players cannot agree on the result the Director should be called. The Director’s job is to listen to everyone, look at the evidence available and make the fairest ruling he or she can.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:44 BST
  Scoring and Agreeing the Score

It is usually North’s responsibility to record the score from each hand, either on a paper traveller, or else by entering the score on a scoring computer terminal such as BridgeTab. North can delegate the role to South.

When using a paper traveller, North should customarily ask East to check the score recorded for the hand just played. East may choose to delegate this task to West. It is important that both pairs check carefully that the score is correct and readable! The scorer may be up late at night peering at it, trying to work out what it says!

When using BridgeTabs, there is an opportunity for East to check the result entered by North, and to touch the “OK” button on the screen to agree it. There should be no further debate, and both sides will have to agree to request the TD to make any later changes.

Don't forget to give everyone at the table a chance to see the "traveller" and therefore the previous scores on that board.

At the end of the round make sure that the display on the BridgeTab is moved on the instructions for the next move. This ensures that the scores for the boards in the last round are not seen or altered by new players arriving at the table.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:45 BST
  Pairs Scoring versus Match Scoring

Most duplicate bridge sessions, including our Monday evening sessions, are pairs competitions, scored using match points.

Each board is scored separately for the North South pairs and the East West pairs. Each pair is awarded two match points for every pair with a worse result, and one match point for every pair with the same result. The total number of match points available on a board is the number of times it was played, minus one, and times two. For example, if a board is played six times in a session, the “top result” is 10 match points (100%), the average result is 5 match points (50%) and the “bottom” is zero. If you get a “top” of, say 10 match points, it will be the same whether your score was better than the next one by 10 points (eg. 430 for 3NT+1 versus 420 for 4ª by North making 12 tricks, the two scores of 480 against each team on one table versus 480 for each team on the other table cancel each other out. However, if team A play the board in 3ª making 980 on the other, then the aggregate score is 750 in favour of team B. This is “converted” to “International Match Points”, often knowns as “Imps”. 750 is worth 13 Imps, a big score! An extra trick, typically 20-20 points, is generally worth 1 Imp. In teams, players try to make sure to BID and then MAKE their games, as missing out can be disastrous! They will not risk the game for an extra trick.

Last updated : 16th Jun 2023 18:46 BST
  The Laws of Duplicate Bridge

The Laws of Duplicate Bridge 2017 apply to all "competitive" sessions played at the club.

  • These are the international laws of bridge, agreed on a world-wide basis.

  • They are revised every ten years, so an update is expected in 2027.

  • You can order the book from the English Bridge Union (now online) Shop. You can order a better edition from ALFleming online.

  • You can download or read the Laws in PDF form from the English Bridge Union web site (www.ebu.co.uk follow "Laws and Ethics").

Last updated : 25th Oct 2023 17:17 BST
  English Bridge Union and Club Regulations
  • The EBU regulations for the playing of duplicate bridge in England are revised annually, and are published for adoption from the first of August each year.

  • You can look at the current and previous regulations in the Laws and Ethic section of the EBU web site.

They include the announcing and alerting rules updated annually.

These have become somewhat complex. Players are not expected to follow the detail. Players will not be penalised for keeping their opponents informed of their agreements in a way that does not conform in detail with the current regulations. If you feel you may have been disadvantaged by a mistake in the disclosure of agreements, call the TD immediately.


  • Please note this means all opening 1NT and 2NT bids are announced (or alerted if of unusual shape) at this club. (Some clubs in the area have relaxed this rule).
  • EBU regulations require the use of convention cards. However, in our club the use of convention cards is encouraged, but is not obligatory.
  • Convention cards can help you and your partner sort out your agreements, and can help the tournament director when ruling on mis-bids and mis-information situations.

  • If you are not exchanging convention cards with the opponents, and you are playing a five major, or five card spade, system you are required to tell your opponents AT THE START OF THE ROUND.  

    There are some convention cards in this part of the site. They are intended for you to download and edit to meet the agreements between you and your partner. They are not meant to be definitions of particular systems.

    Players are reminded that convention cards are for the oppositions' use, and may not be used as aids to memory. If you have a convention card, but are not exchanging it with your opponents during the round, you must put them out of yours and partner's sight.

  • Permitted agreements are as described as Level 3 in EBU 2012 regulations. Agreements only permitted at Level 4 and above in the 2012 and subsequent regulations are not permitted. This is probably largly irrelevent to our sessions. It might be worth checking the permitted Multi 2 Diamond opening agreements if you use it.

  • Although the use of any aide memoire is forbidden under Law 40C. The laws do permit any player to ask what the contract is at his/her turn to play, Law 41C.

    In our club players are permitted to displace a card in their bidding box to remind them what the contract is.  

Last updated : 25th Oct 2023 17:25 BST
  The TD is the law, and no one else
The TD is the law, and no one else



If any player finds it necessary to inform any other player of a law or regulation for whatever reason, the TD must be called immediately. As always, call the TD in as calm and friendly fashion as possible, perhaps just remarking "Let's get ----- to advise us".



You might like to use the orange TD button on our bridgetabs. This is quiet and your director will be alerted to your call. Please wait for them to arrive.



In our club we have some of the most highly qualified and experienced Tournament Directors in the area. Two EBU County qualified and all the rest EBU Club qualified. We all direct at least once, usually twice or more a week, and we all have experience of large and complex events.

Last updated : 25th Oct 2023 17:35 BST
  EBU Master Points

As an EBU Affiliated club, Heart of England can submit the results of events to the EBU for the award of Master Points. The EBU credits the Master Points won to the accounts of qualifying players.

A minimum number of boards must be played. A minimum number of players must take part. Master Points are awarded to roughly the top third of the field. The quantity of Master Points awarded increases with the size of the field.


Master Points

Local Master


Club Master


Area Master


District Master


County Master




These are the first few Master Point ranks awarded by the EBU when a players total master points reaches the given levels.

There are many more higher Master Point ranks. However, the highest rank a player can reach by earning local or black points is Tournament Master, requiring 40,000 MPs, but can be awarded a "*" for each further 10,000.


Higher Master Point ranks that can only be reached by earning "Green" Points.

Green Points are awarded in events run by the EBU or the EBU Affiliated Counties.

Green Points are worth 100 Black/Local Points. They are often shown multiplied by 100, as they added to a players account.


Blue Points are a kind of "intermediate" scheme.

Clubs can run events that award Blue Points subject to some limitations. The EBU and EBU affiliated counties can run Blue Point events.

Blue points are worth a third of a green point, so about 33.3 black points. Up to a certain limit (50 Green Points), a players blue points count towards the higher Master Point Ranks.



Last updated : 5th May 2024 15:29 BST