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From the Chief TD
WE THINK; THEY HESITATE (an irregular verb)

This is the fourth in an occasional series where I will look at certain Laws based on incidents at the OBC, sometimes observed by me or otherwise reported to me.   The series is intended to help players improve their understanding of the Laws.

I am quite often told that “I was not hesitating, I was just thinking about what to bid” which makes it easy for me to rule that the speaker had, indeed, hesitated. If you think for any length of time about what to bid then you are hesitating. There is absolutely nothing wrong or illegal with thinking about what to bid – bridge is a cerebral game after all.  However, if you hesitate it places significant restrictions on what actions your partner can subsequently take.   

Your hesitation has given your partner unauthorised information (commonly referred to as UI) even if your partner does not actually know what you are thinking about. Law 16B(1) then comes into play: your partner may not choose a call that is demonstrably suggested over another by UI if the other call is a logical alternative. A logical alternative is an action that a significant proportion (say, more than 1 in 5) of equivalent players would seriously consider and some (more than the odd one) might select.  Partner therefore has to be very sure that their hand clearly justifies any bid that they subsequently choose to make after a hesitation by you.

Martin Illingworth, Chief TD
September 2019

TO CALL OR NOT TO CALL THE DIRECTOR

This is the third in an occasional series where I will look at certain Laws based on incidents at the OBC, sometimes observed by me or otherwise reported to me.   The series is intended to help players improve their understanding of the Laws.

I frequently receive comments such as “I did not want to bother the director ….. as they were busy/it did not seem important enough/ the opposition seemed to know what to do/I did not want to make a fuss”.  Any of these statements may be true but the director should be called anyway. Law 9B1(a) is clear:  “The Director should be summoned at once when attention is drawn to an irregularity”.  Here, an irregularity is any deviation from correct procedure and that includes behaviour or actions that are not in accordance with Law 74 (on Conduct). 

Directors prefer to be called even when it is not really necessary rather than not be called when it is.  It takes very little time to deal with an unnecessary call.  However, if a director is not called when they should be, it can take a lot of time and effort to sort out and can leave everyone feeling dissatisfied.

Please call the director – they are there to help. However, please call for the director in a courteous way: no-one likes to be ordered about!

Martin Illingworth, Chief TD
July 2019

LAWS - THE DECLARER CAN MAKE MISTAKES

This is the second in an occasional series where I will look at certain Laws based on incidents at the OBC, sometimes observed by me or otherwise reported to me.   The series is intended to help players improve their understanding of the Laws.

You are sitting East, declarer is South and has just won a trick in his hand. Declarer calls for a card to be played from Dummy, Dummy says “you are in your hand”, so Declarer leads a card from his hand and everyone plays on.  What has just happened? 

Perhaps not a lot but perhaps quite a lot.  Under the Laws of Bridge, there have been three infractions and you have given up potentially valuable rights.  Declarer has led from the wrong hand (Law 55), Dummy has drawn attention to an infraction (Law 43) and the Director has not been called immediately upon an infraction being identified (Law 9). In reality, none of these infractions are too serious by themselves provided everyone at the table understands what is going on.  The key issue, however, is that either defender can accept the lead from the wrong hand (Laws 53 and 55) and if the defenders choose differently, the defender who is next to play after the incorrect lead (i.e. you in this case) chooses what happens. Often it makes no difference but there are occasions where it can have a material impact on the final result.

Martin Illingworth, Chief TD
June 2019

LAWS - THE RIGHTS AND WRONGS OF DUMMY

This is the first in an occasional series where I will look at certain Laws based on incidents at the OBC, sometimes observed by me or otherwise reported to me.   The series is intended to help players improve their understanding of the Laws.

Laws 42 and 43 cover what Dummy can and cannot do.  Basically, Dummy cannot do very much.  Dummy may keep count of the tricks; Dummy plays cards as directed by the Declarer and makes sure that the dummy hand follows suit.  Dummy may ask a Declarer, but not a Defender, whether they have no more in a suit once they have not followed suit. Dummy must not participate in the play in any way and must not look at cards in anyone else’s hand.

Importantly, Dummy may try to prevent an irregularity but may not call attention to an irregularity during play; Dummy must wait until the hand has been played before calling attention to an irregularity.  So, if Declarer looks to be about to lead from the wrong hand, Dummy can advise Declarer where the lead is.  However, if the lead is in Declarer’s hand but Declarer asks for a card from the dummy hand, Dummy should just play the designated card from dummy and do absolutely nothing else.  I am sure most of us have broken this Law at some time (I certainly have): it is a natural reaction to say something, but that is the wrong thing to do. More on a related topic next time.

Martin Illingworth, Chief TD
May 2019