Commentary on the Changes to the Laws of Bridge, 2017

Friday, 29 December 2017 by Stuart Packington




Bulletin of the Australian Bridge Directors’ Association

Issue No. 53 - December 2017

Editor: Jan Peach

42 Tait Street, Kelvin Grove, 4059.

[email protected]

07 3352 6929        0487 466 109                        Printpost approved PP 424022/00144



Comparable Calls


Judgement Rulings (1)


Law 23C


Information from Penalty Card


Some Lingering Misconceptions


Do Your Players Know?


Do You Know?


Judgement Rulings (2)


EBU White Book


QBA Discussion Group


Dear Director







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Season’s Greetings

The bridge world still awaits the release of the WBF Commentary on the 2017 Laws and any clarifications that may have been decided upon by the WBF Laws Committee. In the meantime directors continue to do their best with any information that may be gleaned from discussions with others.

Season’s Greetings to everyone. All the best for life in general and directing in particular in 2018.

Jan Peach

Comparable Calls

Laurie Kelso - Jacob Duschek

Law 23A – Comparable Calls

The 2017 Laws introduce a new concept: comparable calls. This concept will be used when an insufficient bid or a call out of turn has been made and not accepted; if the offender makes a comparable call at his legal turn, his partner will not be obliged to pass in the continued auction, and there will be no lead restrictions.

In all the examples in this article, it is assumed that South made an insufficient bid or a call out of turn, and it is understood that West does not accept the infraction.

I will make some assumptions about the meaning of the calls, mostly according to popular use among tournament players. In practice, the Director must always investigate the methods used by the actual pair.

Definition of Comparable Calls

Let us first see the definition of comparable calls as given in Law 23A:

A call that replaces a withdrawn call is a comparable call, if it:

1.                    has the same or similar meaning as that attributable to the withdrawn call, or

2.                    defines a subset of the possible meanings attributable to the withdrawn call, or

3.                    has the same purpose (e.g. an asking bid or a relay) as that attributable to the withdrawn call.

The intention is clear: If the illegal call does not provide any substantial information other than what is subsequently conveyed by the legal call, that legal call is deemed to be a ‘comparable call’.

Same or Similar Meaning

In practice there will be a ‘grey area’, as indicated by the wording in Law 23A1, “same or similar meaning”.

A difference in meaning will normally be either in terms of strength or distribution. We will discuss these one at a time.

Similar Strength

Consider the following everyday example. East is dealer, but South opens1 out of turn (not

accepted). East now opens 1:


1          2

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017            Page 2

Obviously, the2 overcall does not have exactly the same meaning as the1 opening. The opening bid shows about 11-20 HCP, whereas the overcall shows about 9-16 HCP.

The difference in the maximum strength of the two bids is rarely relevant in this auction, so let us focus on the minimum. The overcall can be made with reasonable playing strength on a hand which is just short of an opening bid. The difference in strength, both at the top and at the bottom of the range, is small, and we can accept the meaning as “similar”, i.e., it is a comparable call. There is a good chance that South’s mistake will not influence the result.

Should however South’s mistake nevertheless affect the auction or the play, i.e., if the additional information from the illegal opening bid (which is authorized for North) turns out to be useful for North, the Director adjusts the score. Note that the Director must not apply UI principles; instead, he must assess the likely auction and play had the illegal call never occurred at all. (This issue is worthy of a separate article.)

The problem is somewhat different if South overcalls at the one-level after an opening bid out of turn. Now the overcall might be made on certain hands containing just 6-7 HCP, and the potential difference in strength could be quite large. Deeming this type of overcall comparable would now be quite dubious.

Another example of “similar meaning” pertains to a 1NT opening out of turn. Let us assume that it shows 15-17 HCP. When South overcalls 1NT or 2NT in the legal auction, it will be a comparable call even if the overcall shows 15-18 HCP (and promises a stopper). We can also accept this if the opening shows 14-16 HCP, but not if it shows 12-14 HCP.

Similar Distribution

We can also accept differences in the distribution shown, but not as freely as strength differences.

North is dealer, but South opens1 out of turn (not accepted). North now opens1:


1      pass       2NT 1

1) 4-card support, game-forcing.

South’s 2NT response is game-forcing with at least 4-card support. Even if N/S play 5-card majors, 2NT should be accepted as being a comparable call. Both calls show a heart suit.

Let us instead consider the following example: East is dealer, but South opens 2, systemically showing at least 5-4 in spades and a minor, and 6-10 HCP (not accepted). East now opens1:


1         ?

South is facing serious trouble. If he overcalls 2, he shows the same approximate strength, but the call only shows spades. This is not acceptable as a “similar meaning”, and it will not be a comparable call.

Alternatively, South could consider overcalling2, a Michaels Cue bid. We can easily accept “at least 5-5” instead of “at least 5-4” (which we would do automatically under Law 23A2), however, the strength might be completely different; instead of the original 6-10 it could be extremely wide –ranging or maybe even two-tiered. Here a significant difference in strength will mean it is not a comparable call.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017            Page 3

Subset of Meanings

Law 23A2 deals with situations where the calls clearly do not have “same or similar meaning”, but where the error is clearly of no importance because the legal call provides more precise information than the illegal call gave.

A typical example is the following. East is dealer, but South opens a Multi2 out of turn (not accepted).

East now opens1:


1         2

South’s two calls definitely do not have “same or similar meaning” – but when we include the fact that South has (legally) shown which major suit he holds, 2is a comparable call.

Same purpose

The following accident has happened more than once:


2NT           pass 21

1 Stayman after 1NT

South wants to hear about North’s major suits, but he thought he saw North opening 1NT. Does South’s 3bid have the same or similar meaning as 2?

Not if we define “meaning” in terms of the set of the hands that could make the call! After the 2NT opening, South could easily hold 5 HCP and a 4-card major, wanting to enable N/S to make a qualified decision between 3NT and 4 of a major.

South’s insufficient bid tells North that South either has both majors or a much stronger hand than 5 HCP.

We should not really squeeze this in under the “same or similar” clause. But the auction has quite a different balance when one player asks and the other responds. This is the reason for Law 23A3: South asks for majors in both cases, so we deem 3a comparable call.

Opening Pass Out of Turn

There is a particular subtopic of comparable calls pertaining to an opening pass out of turn. If East is dealer, but South passes out of turn, South must also pass at his legal turn regardless what East does. Even if it can be argued that South’s legal pass has no meaning at all because it is required by law, we have to consider it a comparable call, particularly to avoid lead restrictions. And so, since it is a comparable call, information from the opening pass is authorized for North.

If South passes at North’s turn, we must first await North’s call. The most interesting case occurs after 1 of a suit from North, e.g.,1. There are several responses that deny an opening hand, e.g., 1NT and 2.

These are comparable calls under Law 23A2. One might object that South has denied a pre­emptive bid by passing out of turn, which he might have had for a 1NT response, but this small difference is easily contained by “similar meaning” (which is also applicable under Law 23A2). A response in a new suit, being forcing and unlimited, is not a comparable call.

Concluding Remarks

The concept of comparable calls is fundamental to the rectification of insufficient bids and calls

out of turn.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017            Page 4

When determining whether a call is a comparable call, some flexibility towards the offender is in order, especially concerning the strength shown.

If there is additional information from the illegal call, but the legal call is a comparable call, this information is authorized for the offender’s partner. If this turns out to give the offending side an advantage, the Director adjusts the score considering the likely outcome had the illegal call never occurred at all.

Law 23C - Max Bavin

Reproduced here by kind permission of the English Bridge Union

This paper originated as four emails contributed by Max Bavin to a discussion on the European Bridge League TD Forum in September 2017.


In determining whether to adjust a score under this law, I suggest we compare and contrast the following two statements; 'without the assistance gained through the infraction' and 'had the infraction not occurred’. The former of course being precisely what law 23C actually says and means, the latter most definitely being precisely what it does not say or mean. Let us also consider in more detail the concept of 'assistance'. The infractor himself can hardly gain any assistance from his own infraction; in fact, most likely all he's got himself is a load of hindrance and several unpalatable options available to him.

The player who MIGHT have gained assistance is the infractor's partner, as when the subtle difference between the original call and the valid replacement assists him in taking the winning decision. Hopefully this line of thinking might be helpful; it certainly answers what is sometimes referred to as the Prague case* [score stands - no assistance gained through the infraction].


The occasion on which the infractor himself gains assistance is the 23A1-type case, wherein there is a difference known to all the table between the normal systemic meaning of a call and the actual meaning. Jacob alluded to a case of a 14-16 1NT opening out of turn, replaced with a 1NT overcall (normally 15-18 with good stopper in opponent's suit). The TD would be correct to allow this as a comparable call, but 23C might well come into play if the ability to show a 14-16 NT rather than a 15-18 one turned out to be advantageous.

This is a different sort of case entirely to the 23A2-type Prague case, in which, the infractor distorts his own bidding entirely at his own risk.


Now we move to part 3; the Richard Bley side question** in the South African case. Dealer South, North opens1 (not accepted); what if South doesn't make his normal 2opening because North won't have a comparable call available if he does, but does something else instead?

The answer of course is to not dive headlong into 23C just yet, until we have first applied the earlier laws. Opening bid out of turn at partner's turn; 31B1, which includes reference to 16C2 regarding the withdrawn1 call.

In other words, South isn't allowed to know about the1 call just yet so isn't allowed to distort his own bidding - this under the UI laws, nothing to do with 23C. Once we've got over that hurdle, then we can apply 31A2 upon North and the reference to comparable calls therein etc. etc.


Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017            Page 5

Part 4 of 4 is merely to confirm that if we do end up adjusting via this law then we're in the equity laws [12C1(b)etc.], NOT the UI laws; and that the infraction referred to therein is the original call out of rotation/insufficient bid - nothing to do with what happened afterwards.

In other words, to judge what would have happened had the original infraction never occurred. Therefore weighted scores will be quite common, and will quite possibly include some proportion of the actual table result, and may even be lazy sounding 60% - 40% type rulings under 12C1(d).

Also to confirm that the laws are careful enough to specify that lead penalties can never apply once we enter into the world of comparable calls [e.g. 31A2(a)] and emphasise in 23B that neither do the UI ones.

As TDs, we just need to be careful to apply any earlier laws which may be relevant before

rushing into Law 23, and only enter into Law 23 as and when appropriate.


** The South African question was:

A.North is the dealer but South opens out of turn 1(they play 5 card majors), and not condoned.

North opens 2(NS biggest bid)

NS normally play a relay of 2over a 2opening

This response under these circumstances does not seem to be a comparable bid (although the

new laws did talk about relays)

A bid of 2certainly would not mean 12 to 19 points

3? But the holding could be only 5 hearts? And is this comparable?

What would be a comparable response by South under these circumstances?

B.There is also the system where after a 2opening 2is a bust hand, a number of our members

use this.

Again 3? (Certainly doesn’t signify 12 to19 points after a 2opening)

Richard Bley’s side question:

What shall we do with a North who decides not to open 2because of the problems arising

finding a comparable call?

Text Box: Board 14 
East Deals 
None Vul
♠ Q 9 8 7 
♥ A J 3
♦ J 9

	♠ 5 4
♥ 8 7 2
♦ A 10 6 4 3 2 
♣ K 2
♠ J 10 3
♥ 10 6 5
♦ Q 8    
♣ A Q J 9 4	♠ A K 6 2 
♥ K Q 9 4
♦ K 7 5 
♣ 6 3

* The “Prague case”:

West         North           East          South


1♠            TD

11 is better minor (1NT = 12-14)

After West’s bid OOT TD gives ruling and

bidding continues

West         North           East          South

11                 2

2♠            3            4♠         All Pass

East plays 4. Contract made (10 tricks makes unbeatable).

NS call TD “EW reached game on 23 points because West could bid at the 2 level with only

 8 points and a 4 card suit.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017          Page 6

Some Lingering Misconceptions

Jan Peach                           Queensland


Mildly Liberal Interpretations and Law 27B1

There was approval to give "mildly liberal interpretations" to help directors handle the old 2007 Law 27B. It was a specific dispensation for one law that was giving trouble. Directors now have a new Law 27B1 and a brand new Law 23. More precise and clearly written laws. There is no reason to think directors should apply them in any way other than strictly according to what is written.

“Mildly liberal interpretations” lapsed with the old law book.
Law 27D and Law 23C

For the old Law 27B1(b), directors were guided to do the best they could and, should they later decide that they should not have allowed the replacement call, they could mop up using Law 27D.

This policy also ceased with the new clear laws. Apply Law 27B incorrectly and Law 82C Director Error will need to be applied. Similarly for the incorrect application of Law 23C. Allow a call that is not comparable, without applying the requisite restrictions, means Law 82C will come into play.

Normal Bridge

When applying Law 27B and Law 23A, there is no onus on directors to make generous rulings so that “normal bridge” may be played. Being generous to offenders equates to ruling harshly against non-offenders. Being obliged to pass is the price a player pays for belonging to an offending side as are the consequences of not being able to produce a comparable call.

Yes, directors never cancel a board too readily and always try to get a table result, but not by misapplying the laws.

Do You Know?

The old Law 27B1(b) did not use the words “intended meaning”. Finding out the intended meaning, away from the table, somehow became normal practice when handling insufficient bids. It may be that Law 27B1(a) may still need to go down that path however, Law 27B1(b) does not. Law 23A1 speaks of “same or similar meaning as that attributable to the withdrawn call”.

North opens 2and East overcalls 2. Providing that East gives no explanation to the table, North, South and West do not know what East was trying to say with 2. He may have been trying to make a natural overcall in clubs thinking North had opened 1or perhaps was trying to open the auction with a strong forcing 2. Both meanings are attributable and a call comparable with either allows partner to call without restriction. (Ed: This is what many directors thought the 2007 Law 27B1(b) meant until “intended meaning” gained prominence.)


Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017            Page 7

EBU White Book ‘Extremely Serious Error’

It should be rare to consider an action ‘an extremely serious error’. In general only the

following types of action would be covered:

·         Failure to follow proper legal procedure (e.g. revoking, creating a major penalty card, leading out of turn, not calling the TD after an irregularity).

·         Blatantly ridiculous calls or plays, such as ducking the setting trick against a slam, or opening a weak NT with a 20-count. Such errors should be considered in relation to the class of the player concerned; beginners are expected to make beginners’ errors and should not be penalised for doing so.

·         An error in the play in or defence to a contract which was only reached as a consequence of the infraction should be treated especially leniently.

For clarity, the following would usually not be considered to be ‘an extremely serious error’:

·         Forgetting a partnership agreement or misunderstanding partner’s call.

·         Any play that would be deemed ‘normal’, albeit careless or inferior, in ruling a contested claim.

·         Any play that has a reasonable chance of success, even if it is obviously not the percentage line.

·         Playing for a layout that detailed analysis would show is impossible, such as for an opponent to have a 14-card hand.

Dear Director

Q.       A number of questions deal with the meaning attributable to a 1opening bid in a natural system and have introduced the theory that 1can mean a number of things: that the hand has a club suit, one or two 4 card majors, a balanced 12-14 without a 4 card major, 5-4 minors if followed by 2 etc. The further suggestion being that a replacement bid that described any one of these hand types, and about the same points, would be a subset.

A.      Not so. The meaning of a natural 1is some number of clubs and some number of points excluding hands that would be opened 1NT. “3+ clubs and 11-19 hcp” could be the explanation if asked. It is common bridge knowledge that some hands will be opened 1NT so it is not necessary to include that in the explanation. That later calls would clarify the actual holding is not considered at the time of deciding whether a replacement call is comparable.

Q.      In the same vein, “1NT shows all suits so wouldn’t 1,1, 1 and 1all be subsets?”

A.      No. A natural 1NT opening will have a precise point range for example 15-17. A natural one level suit opening bid traditionally has a much broader range. Also, while saying “balanced or semi balanced”, a natural 1NT opening does not identify the length of each suit. It could be 4333, 5332. Some pairs include a 6 card minor with two doubletons.

Q.       I was polling players about an auction that involved a player bidding after partner had clearly thought for a long time before passing. After the response to, “What do you call?” and “What other calls did you consider?” I asked one player what he would do if partner had taken a long time to decide upon his pass and was surprised when he said that he must pass now because partner had hesitated. He had been very keen to bid after the earlier questions. I explained that that was not a

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 8

requirement of the laws but he was adamant that he would always pass if partner hesitated. What do I do?

A.     The player has misunderstood his obligations when being in receipt of unauthorized information from partner and his answer should be discounted. Similarly the director should not use answers from players who clearly don’t understand the system or can’t see themselves of ever having to call in such a situation because they would not have made the earlier call(s).

Q.      In the auction below, my partner North was told that2 showed a weak hand with clubs and spades before doubling to show diamonds and hearts. I thought we were going to get a huge score in 2X but had to settle for game in spades. The director said that West bidding2 after being woken up by partner’s explanation was OK. Is that right?

Text Box: Brd 2 
Dlr: E 
EW Vul
♠ 532
♥ 109853
♦ 84
 ♣863	♠ Q4
♥ Q762
♦ A1092
♠ AKJ106
♥ J
♦ KQJ65
    ♣ Q9	♠ 987
♥ AK4
♦ 73
♣ AK752

West        North           East          South

1NT              X

2               X               Pass            Pass

2             Pass           Pass           4

Pass           Pass           Pass

A.     Perhaps that wasn’t quite what the director said. Essentially a player who may have been woken up by UI is required to continue playing the system he thought he was playing when he took his cards from the board until such time he has AI to tell him that the wheels have fallen off. West was trying to get the hand played in2. He knows that, so he is allowed to make the bid himself. He is not obligated to pass the double when his intention was to escape to hearts. I suspect that if a poll was conducted it would be difficult to find a West who passed 2X.

Q.      I was directing. East asked me to confirm who had won trick 7. The cards to trick 7 had been quitted by all players and West had led the J to trick 8. In confirming that West won trick 7 I noticed that declarer South had revoked on trick 7. I advised the table of this and the non-established revoke was corrected. I was told later that I should not have done that. Is that right?

A.     EW may choose not to draw attention to declarer’s revoke until after it is established so the director does not interfere. Once the time for applying Law 64A has lapsed is soon enough for the director to draw attention under his Law 81C powers. Only Law 64C would then be applied.

Q.     I was in a situation where I had unauthorized information from partner and I thought the ethical thing to do was to pass, which I did. In all the polling and to-ing and fro-ing that followed, not a soul mentioned the ethics of the matter.

A.      Possibly because “ethics” is a tad over-used. Bridge is a game. Players false card and psyche with barely a second thought. They use legal methods to deceive. Players are sometimes lauded for their ethics when all they did was obey the rules of the game. That’s all you need to do. You may make a call if it was not suggested by the UI, if you did not gain comfort from the UI (that is,

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 9

the call became a safer option with the UI) or if not making the call would be illogical. “Everyone” with your hand playing your system with your ability would have made the call.

It is wrong to think, “I must pass because I have UI”. All partner would need to do to get you to stop (over)bidding would be to create UI.


Our panel give their views on how to make a ruling for the three situations presented in the last bulletin. The regular panellists for this issue are Rich Colker, Richard Hills, Laurie Kelso, Matthew McManus and Richard Ward.

Readers should not be concerned about different views among panellists. This section equates to just the first round of the consultation process and aims to highlight points to be considered.

Hand 1 Club Duplicate Session                                      Bd. 10 / E / All




AQ1032                                KJ986

AKJ94                                    10762

¨7                                            A1042

102                                       -



West         North           East        South

Pass          Pass

1♠            2♣           4♠           Pass

4NT1            Pass           52            Pass

53            Pass           6♠           Pass

Pass                Pass

1 RKC Blackwood

2 2 key cards without Q

3 Agreed Very Long Thought

Result: EW +1430

NS called the director to say they thought East bidding slam could have been influenced by West’s very long pause before his bid of 5♠. West said that he hadn’t wanted to use Blackwood and now couldn’t be sure just where his losers were. He said 4should be based on a shortage somewhere but East had sometimes made such a bid with a small doubleton.

Ed: Three of our panel adjust...

Rich Colker: While West’s long hesitation surely meant he was considering bidding on (had he been missing two keycards he clearly would have signed off in tempo) East’s void in-and-of itself also suggests bidding on, and in an unauthorized-information-free auction he would have been entitled to do so. (He might even have cue-bid clubs in hopes of reaching a grand.) But the hesitation clearly made bidding on more likely to be a winning action. That does not mean we have no sympathy for East’s final action, even in the presence of the UI. But players, especially at the club level, need to be more sensitive to problems created by their variations in tempo, body language, and such and held accountable for the UI created by such variations by having close decisions ruled against them. As an aside, why did East not respond 5NT to the Blackwood inquiry (traditionally showing two aces and a “useful” side void) and get the whole story of his chest in one bid? Self-answer: probably for the same reason West bid Blackwood in the first place with no club control and not knowing what he would do after various responses.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 10

Matthew McManus: Once East has decided not to show his void and has also decided not to treat his five card support as worthy of pretending that he has the queen of trumps, he has no reason to bid more when his partner makes unauthorised information available to him. Passing 5 is a logical alternative. West could have avoided this problem by considering what action he was going to take following the various responses to Blackwood before he bid 4NT. When he doesn't, he puts his partnership in an unwinnable position.

Laurie Kelso: This looks like a regular ‘Hesitation Blackwood’ sequence. There is no denying that the East hand has some appealing features (i.e., the 5th Spade and the Club void), but the issue remains whether these features are sufficient reason for East to usurp West’s captaincy of the auction by bidding on after partner’s sign-off? Whilst I can imagine a number of players wanting to bid six, I still consider ‘Pass’ to be an LA, which in turn leads to an adjusted score of 5W +680.

Ed: ... and two allow the table score to stand.

Richard Ward: Law 16B applies but this is, for me, a close decision. East’s club void is something that West is not aware of and so it is not too much of a stretch for East to proclaim the good news by bidding the slam with or without the hesitation. So I would not adjust. All of this could have been avoided if East had bid 4 (splinter) rather than 4, and then West can get there after RKC Blackwood.

Richard Hills: Evidence from West's explanation and East's at-the-table 4S bid demonstrates that the splinter bid convention is not part of the East-West arsenal.

Hence this is not a typical "Hesitation Blackwood" ruling. East has a useful undisclosed void in North's suit, so as Director I would rule that a raise to 6 is East's only logical alternative.

Ed: Our panel does not have the luxury of poll results. A poll would be essential to guide the floor director. I favour adjusting. The partner of the Blackwood bidder is expected to trust the asker’s judgement not to bid the slam - unless he has a hand on which it would be impossible not to make slam. East has UI that West has a problem. Voids are great problem solvers.

Hand 2 Major Pairs Event                                     Bd. 2 / E / NS




64                                          Q

KQ86                                     AJ

¨Q3                                         AK1076

AJ754                                   KQ863




West        North           East          South

1            Pass

 2♣            X1                     32             X

3NT            Pass           4NT3           Pass

 5            Pass           6♣           Pass

Pass           Pass

1 Shows spades and hearts

2 No alert required by regulation. Splinter.

3 Blackwood 03/14

Result: EW +920

East intended 3to be a splinter but West explained it as natural to South on request. (Splinter is correct.) East said that he was always going to use Blackwood and still wanted to play in clubs

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017          Page 11

even though he knew his partner had taken 3as natural. North queried why East had gone on after 3NT as that was surely a signoff. He added that had he not been told that 3was natural then he may have bid 4and even 6♠. East said he not take 3NT as a sign off particularly.

Ed: Almost unanimously allowing table score to stand...

Matthew McManus: Once West responds 2, it is hard for East to envision a hand which cannot make at least a small slam. I do not believe that passing 3NT is a logical alternative. Therefore I do not believe that there has been any infraction on the basis of unauthorised information. The other issue is South's contention that he may have bid 4or even 6. If we allow that 4is a possibility, East's next bid will still be 4NT, so EW will still get to slam. Bidding 6at adverse vulnerability is too far-fetched. No adjustment.

Richard Ward: East has a 4 loser hand and a massive club fit with partner so the commentary about passing the 3NT bid makes little sense regardless of West’s mis-explanation to South and East’s statement about always planning to use RKC blackwood seems obvious. However, the question is, have NS been damaged here? The spotlight now falls on the meaning of South’s double. I would expect that most players would treat it as showing spades so North could reasonably have treated West’s explanation with some scepticism and the failure of NS to find the good sacrifice in 6is partly their own fault. If polling suggests that NS will invariably find 6then adjust the result to the score in 6X (either -800 afterA,K, J overtaken, 8 ruffed with Q, A or the more probable -500). Otherwise I am allowing the table score to stand.

Laurie Kelso: South knew from his own holdings that 3wasn’t natural, so the contention that he might have bid 4with the correct explanation doesn’t really stand up. West’s incorrect explanation is however unauthorised information to East and this UI certainly suggests that 3NT might not be the optimal contract. Conversely, I don’t view the UI to be of any assistance to East in respect to his decision to investigate slam. 4NT looks fairly automatic since, even in the unlikely event that West doesn’t hold an Ace, East can still stop in 5. Score stands.

Rich Colker: Given that West’s explanation of 3as natural was clearly an infraction, what effect could it have had on the subsequent auction? First, consider EW. In light of the UI from West’s explanation of 3as natural East must assume 3NT showed major-suit stoppers (perhaps J10xx or Kxx plus a heart honour or two). Given that, if West held as little as Kxx Q10x Qxx AJxx slam would be a favourite and even lesser hands in terms of high cards (subminimums for a 2response), such as J10xx KxxxAJ10xx, would give his side good-to-excellent play for slam. So I think East’s bid over 3NT was clear enough to be allowed. (Actually, by bidding 4NT East risked West passing if he took it as natural.) Regarding NS, I think South was never going to raise spades (having already doubled to show something there) unless North acted further. So, would North have acted further? If East’s 3bid was natural what could South have for his double given North’s AK? Perhaps Qx or so, leaving East with J109x(x). But if South’s double was simply lead directing and did not promise length, how could North unilaterally bid spades again? Also, consider the vulnerability (NS vul vs EW not vul). Even if 3had been explained as a splinter and South’s double was known to show spade length (e.g., QJ10xx 107 J985 92), a spade save against 5could easily cost 500 or more and against 6could easily cost 1100. So North’s claim that he might have bid 4or even 6without the MI seems wholly self-serving. And while I’m all for taking a hard line against players who do not know their system adequately or who do not bid and play in reasonable tempo (witness Hand

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 12

1), I see no reason to disallow East from taking a clear-cut (and perhaps even risky) advance of 4NT over 3NT or to give credence to North’s claims at the given vulnerability. Table result stands.

Ed: ... and one sees 3NT as an absolute sign off ...

Richard Hills: As Director I rule that, considering only the available Authorized Information, 3NT is particularly a signoff, and Law 73C particularly mandates a Pass by East. +50 NS / -50 EW. Additionally, since this was a major pairs event, East should have known better, so I will apply an educational Procedural Penalty upon East-West.

Hand 3 Swiss Pairs Congress                                     Bd. 9 / N / EW




  ♠ AJ108                                 92

  ♥ Q72                                     A1063

    7652                                   94

52                                        AJ1087




West        North           East          South

                                1♠          Pass           1NT1

Pass            22             Pass           2NT

Pass            3NT           Pass           Pass

1 Alerted as a one round force

2 Shows 4 clubs

Result: NS +400

North, East and South are all very experienced players, West is relatively inexperienced.

After some thought, West led the 5, the 6 from dummy, the 7 from East, won by declarer with the Q. Before the trick was quit, South asked West, “What is your carding?” Somewhat bemused by the question, West was slow to reply. Before he could do so, South pointed to the 7 and asked West, “What is that?” More or less simultaneously, East asked, “What sort of question is that?” and West said, “That’s the seven of clubs.” Play then continued. A couple of tricks later, West got on lead with the A and switched to the Q. The contract made.

At the end of the hand, East called the director. East explained the facts as he saw them - they were not disputed - and asserted that South’s line of questioning was blatant coffee-housing designed to mislead West as to the layout of the club suit. West said that, without South’s questions, he probably would have continued clubs when in with the spade ace.

Ed: This hand came from a reader. One takes a hard line on behaviour...

Richard Hills: A very experienced East should not have used the phrase "blatant coffee-housing", which is an infraction of Law 74B5: "As a matter of courtesy players should refrain from summoning and addressing the Director in a manner discourteous to him or other contestants."

Hence as Director I will apply an educational Procedural Penalty upon East-West.

On the other hand, the very experienced South clearly indulged in blatant coffee-housing, a deceptive question infraction of Law 73D2. Thus I would adjust the score to 3NT two off, -100

Furthermore I would use Law 91A to suspend South for the remainder of the session. And I would use Law 4 to organise a more appropriate partner for North for the remainder of the session.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 13

Ed: ... most see the exchange as having no effect on the result....

Richard Ward: South is entitled to know all there is to know about the opponents’ carding agreements, opening leads, how they encourage/discourage, give count and discard. As it happens on this hand, there are any number of possible layouts consistent with the cards played to trick one and neither South nor West will be able to work it out immediately. For example, from South’s viewpoint, the clubs could be distributed:

West AJ105 East 872 or

West  AJ52   East 1087 or several other possibilities.

From West’s viewpoint, they could be distributed:

East 10873 South AQJ or

East J1087  South AQ3 and so on.


South is not entitled to know more than that and so the question about the 7, “What is that?” is out of line. Whether or not this query caused West to get the subsequent defence wrong is debatable. I cannot see a link between the question and West’s subsequent defence. He was on a guess and got it wrong. Give East AJ108 and 1087 and then the switch to the Q would be an inspired defence.

I would not adjust but would caution both South for his unnecessary question and also East for his stated insinuation about South’s motives. One suspects that there is history here in which case it might be wise for any disgruntled player to speak with the event’s Recorder.

Matthew McManus: A little more investigation into what actually occurred may be needed. As described, my reading of South's actions is that when he saw that West was confused by the question, he pointed to the seven of clubs trying to be helpful as a way of clarifying what he was asking about. It doesn't appear there was any malicious intent. The question South asked was reasonable. I don't believe that there is any infraction. West's decision not to continue clubs was the cause of the EW damage. No adjustment.

Laurie Kelso: To adjust the score the Director needs to rule that South’s actions are an infraction of either Law 72C or Law 73E2. These interchanges between Declarer and the Defenders are quite typical of what happens when a poorly phrased (later) question solicits an equally unhelpful response. I suppose there might be some reason to adjust if South’s club holding had been more substantial, but on the actual layout, “What is your carding?” appears to be an entirely reasonable enquiry; hence I don’t agree with East’s assertion that South actions are an attempt to mislead. West appears instead to have decided all by himself that Declarer held the rest of the club intermediates, even though South’s questions imply the exact opposite. Score stands.

Rich Colker: Since East was simply following suit at trick one (trying not to allow South to win the trick too cheaply) and not signalling per se I can understand the confusion South’s question created. My guess is that he was merely asking about EW’s carding (in essence, whether EW playing standard or reverse carding) in preparation for the subsequent play, which he could clearly have done less ambiguously. For example, he could have looked at an EW convention card, asked about EW’s carding after trick one had been completely quitted, or (perhaps best) asked (or looked at a convention card) when he became declarer, at the end of the auction, before the opening lead. But I also find East’s “What sort of question is that?” comment offensive and West’s “That’s the seven

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 14

of clubs.” answer gratuitous. (After all, even if South’s question, taken in the context of the play to trick one, was ambiguous, wasn’t it clear he was asking about something other than the identity of East’s trick-one card?) The fact that neither EW player made an effort to find out what South meant compounded the problem. Thus, I find both sides somewhat at fault here (though perhaps South a bit more than EW). That being said, I fail to see any connection between the question (even if we assume South was asking about the 7) and West’s later switch to the Q. Didn’t East’s card at trick one speak for itself - even if not clearly? The play to the next “couple of tricks” was not given but I’d guess South played a diamond to the ace followed by a spade to the king and ace. Did East’s cards to those tricks have no meaning relative to his attitude toward West’s opening lead? Were there no inferences to be drawn from the suit(s) declarer played? And even if East’s cards had no relevance to his attitude toward clubs, I still fail to see a connection between South’s question and West’s trick-four problem. Is the argument that South’s question (even assuming EW believed it was about the 7 and only the 7) somehow implied that he liked the suit led and wanted it continued rather than that it betrayed his concern for the weakness of his holding in the suit? Unless someone could more clearly define the connection between South’s (admittedly poorly worded and timed) question and any inferences regarding his club holding I would simply counsel both sides to be more careful in these types of situations in the future and allow the table result to stand.

Law 50E Information from a Penalty Card - Robin Barker

Reproduced here by kind permission of the English Bridge Union

Old Law 50E (2007)

1.             Knowledge of the requirements for playing a penalty card is authorized information for all players.

2.             Other information derived from sight of a penalty card is unauthorized for the partner of the player who has the penalty card (but authorized for declarer).

3.             If the Director judges that the exposed card conveyed such information as to damage the non-offending side he shall award an adjusted score.

New Law 50E (2017)

1.             Information derived from a penalty card and the requirements for playing that penalty card are authorized for all players for as long as the penalty card remains on the table.

2.             Information derived from a penalty card that has been returned to hand [as per Law 50D2(a)] is unauthorized for the partner of the player who had the penalty card (see Law 16C), but authorized for declarer.

3.             Once a penalty card has been played, information derived from the circumstances under which it was created is unauthorized for the partner of the player who had the card. (For a penalty card which has not yet been played, see E1 above.)

4.             If following the application of E1 the Director judges at the end of play that without the assistance gained through the exposed card the outcome of the board could well have been different, and in consequence the non-offending side is damaged (see Law 12B1), he shall award an adjusted score. In his adjustment he should seek to recover as nearly as possible the probable outcome of the board without the effect of the penalty card(s).

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 15

EBU White Book (2016)

8.50.2 Law 50E: Knowledge of major penalty card [WBFLC]

A distinction must be made between the requirement that the player must play this card and

information that the player has the card. Initially the underlead from KQJx to partner’s Ax is allowed,

but subsequently the Director may decide that 50E3 applies.

The player must convince the Director that he has not gained from the information that the player

possesses the card.

[WBFLC minutes 2008-10-10#3]


Dealer West, EW vulnerable:               W        N        E        S

1NT    pass    pass   4
pass   pass    pass

1NT is 15-17. West leads a club, East plays A, East notices this is a revoke, substitutes 2, and South ruffs; the A is a major penalty card. South now leads a small spade and West, holding K doubleton, would have a guess (if it were not for the knowledge of A). It appears that it is legal (Ed: See note at end.) for West to play small but the TD may adjust the score on the basis that West might get this wrong without the information from the penalty card.


In E1 (and E2), “information derived from a penalty card” is all information, including the fact that offender holds the card, that offender must play the card (E1 only), and how it became a penalty card (for example: that the card was led, that it is a suit offender wanted to lead, it is the systemic honour/pip lead from offenders holding in the suit).

E3 covers information except that offender held the card, and played the card to the later trick, and had to play it (E1 only).

In E4, “without the effect of the penalty card(s)” means as if the card(s) had not been exposed”

This new law may require a change to the spiel for OLOOT – at least for the advanced TD. Before declarer chooses, they should know that if they make a lead restriction, the card is picked up and there is UI; if there is no lead restriction, the card is not picked up there is no UI (but there may still be an adjustment at the end of play).

Re White Book: I suggest that the WBFLC minute is now irrelevant and should be removed; in the text of the example, “It appears that it is legal” should be (simply) “It is legal”.

Do Your Players Know?

The director does not suggest comparable calls. He will explain, if necessary, what constitutes a comparable call and the player will choose his call. It is usual practice for the player to be able to ask the director, away from the table, how the director will rule if a certain call is made. “If I bid 3will partner have to pass?” The director will ask what 3means in the system being played and will advise accordingly.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 16



We present some situations for reader and panel discussion in the next issue. Please note that, even though most of these situations are taken from real life, no guarantees are given that every relevant fact has been included. Since any minor factual variation could influence the deliberations, these problems should be regarded as purely theoretical exercises. It is therefore only to be expected that in some cases the majority decision will differ from the ruling made at the time.

Readers are invited to send in responses and contributions of interesting directing problems for inclusion in this column are very welcome.

Hand 1 National Pairs Event                                      Bd. 16 / W / EW

                                  A J 6 4 2                                                                   West      North   East      South

                                           K 8 7                                                   1♥          Pass   2      Pass

                               ♦ 8 5                                                    2NT                Pass          31     Pass

                        ♣ 10 9 8                                                 3NT    Pass   6♦      Pass

Q 10 3                                               K 8                                                Pass          Pass

Q J 9 5 3                            4

K                                        A Q J 10 9 7 2                1 Not alerted

♣A J 6 4                                ♣ K Q 5

                         ♠ 9 7 5                                                                         Result: E/W +1370

                                   A 10 6 2

                         ♦ 6 4 3

♣ 7 3 2                                                  


South led the 3. He called the director at the end of the play to say that he decided not to lead a spade because East had shown a spade suit. West said that she did not alert because she treats it as a suit even though partner may have only 3 spades. East said, “No, I may only have a doubleton but the important thing is that partner treats it as though I have a 4 card spade suit.”

Hand 2 National Pairs Event                                      Bd. 25 / N / EW

Text Box:     ♠ K532 
               ♥ J1084
¨	AK 
♣ K53
♠ 1076	♠ QJ
♥ Q3	♥ AK95
¨	854	♦ QJ32
♣ A7642	♣ Q109
♠ A984
♥ 762
¨	10976 
♣ J8
West            North           East            South

1NT                 X1                    2

X                  Pass             Pass                XX

Pass               2              X                  2

Pass               Pass                X                  Pass

1 Penalty Oriented. At least the same points as North showed.

Result: NS +470

Pass                   Pass



West led EW Q. He called the director at the end of the hand suggesting that South’s redouble may have been based on the unexpected non-alert of 2♣. NS had agreed to play “System Off” after interference. North believed this included after a double while South believed his 2was Stayman after the double.

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017          Page 17

Hand 3 Modified from Overseas Archives Bd. 25 / N / EW



AQ83                                            J104

AK9765                                        J82

¨74                                                  5

A                                                    KJ8643




West           North             East          South

  Pass             Pass              4A1

Pass                4♠            Pass             Pass

X                   Pass             Pass              5

X                   Pass             Pass             Pass


1 Alerted as required by regulation.

  7+ spades, no more than 5 losers.

Result: EW +500

The director was called when South bid 5. NS had an agreement to play Namyats, which was marked on both cards. NS were playing together for the first time. They had clearly agreed to play Namyats but South had forgotten when she opened 4. South told the director that she passed 4because she thought that was what she was supposed to do. However, she did not think that passing 4doubled was a logical choice, despite the UI.

Situations from the QBA Discussion Group

Original Post 1

Text Box: Dlr: E	♠	 76532
Vul: EW	♥	 542
 	♦	10932
 	♣	 3

Text Box: ♠ K
♥ 96
¨	KJ4
♣ AJ108754
♠ AQ
♥ AKJ1083
¨	75 ♣ KQ2
West          North           East            South

Pass              2A1

X                  2A2               23                Pass

Text Box: ♠ J10984
♥ Q7
♦ AQ86 ♣ 96
3♣           3♠            Pass               Pass

1 Alerted. Big hand.

2 Alerted. 0-3 points

3    When asked at the end of the hand about

bidding 2with only Q7 East said, “Oh I made a mistake. I meant to bid 2♠.”


NS made 6 tricks in 3for a bad score. 4was bid twice making once. 3often made 10. NS asked for an adjusted score because they felt damaged. 2was not psychic but a mis-bid. Why not double 2? Why bid 3with such a weak hand (North presumed South had spades as East had bid hearts) instead of leaving the bidding to the strong hand? I only want to know - would you adjust the score? On the day I could not find a reason to do so.

Response: This type of issue was, in earlier years, described as ‘the rub of the green’. That is, usually when you make a mistake at bridge such as mis-sorting your hand, pulling the wrong card or mis-

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017           Page 18

bidding as here, you end up with a terrible score. The game is littered with many such serendipitous moments which hopefully balance out over time. This time, EW got lucky and NS have no recourse. No infraction so no adjustment.

Text Box: ♠ 64	♠ A82
♥ KJ974	♥ A62
♦ A	¨	9752
♣ AK743	♣ Q109

Text Box: ♠ 10975
♥ 10
¨	KQ108643 
♣ J
Original Post 2

Text Box: Dlr: W	♠ KQJ3
Vul: EW	♥ Q853
¨	J 
West        North          East          South

1            Pass          2A1           4

Pass           Pass          4            Pass

Pass           Pass

1 Alerted. Described to South as 0-5 hcp and 5+ spades. The correct explanation is 10-11 hcp and 3 hearts

Declarer takes 11 tricks and NS feel damaged. Do you adjust?




Response 1: East has a choice of bids when 4is passed back to him: (a)4- reasonable, as he can see his own hand, which includes the likelihood of partner’s diamond shortage, regardless of partner’s mis-explanation. (b) X - also reasonable, looking to take whatever profit is available in 4X,

(c) Pass - would be an odd choice, perhaps influenced by the explanation and the danger that partner will correct to 4if he bids anything else. If East had passed I’d be more inclined to adjust. I would let the table result stand.

Response 2: I concur with the reasoning above - if pertaining to experienced bridge players. However, it might not occur to a Novice East to re-evaluate their hand in light of South's 4bid (4 small diamonds is an excellent holding, an invitational hand is now likely to be 100% game-going).

The danger of bidding 4and partner converting to 4might also not occur to a Novice East. So pass may be a Logical Alternative - for Novices - I don't know.


How Do You Rule?

1.    1 1shows 5 diamonds                                             West           North       East                                                                             South

2 Alerted. Artificial but not relevant                                                1A1

3 2shows 4 clubs                                                     Pass            1NTA2                                                                                    Pass            2A3

4 West does not accept the insufficient 2NT.          Pass            2A2                                                                                    3♣            2NT4

A meaning attributable to 2NT is that it would show a spade shortage had East passed. South

bids 3and had advised you (away from the table) that 3shows a 4 card heart suit.

Do you apply any restrictions to North?

2.    West opens 1, North overcalls 2, East bids 1. As soon as attention is drawn to the 1bid, East crosses it out and bids 2. You are now called to the table. What is your ruling?

Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017          Page 19

3.         Text Box: ª	KQ
©	KJ9
¨	KJ972 
♣ Q53
Text Box: ♠ AJ109632 
♥ A32
¨	106
♣ 8
♠ 75
♥ Q875
¨	84
§	KJ1062
Text Box: ª	84
♥ 1064
¨	AQ53 ♣  A974
West opened 3in third seat and this was passed out. North led a small diamond won by dummy’s queen. Declarer ran the 4 to North’s queen. When declarer was able to get back to dummy he ran the 8 to North’s king.

West called you at this time to say that he finessed twice because he had been misled by South needing to think about what card to play on the first trump lead. South did not agree that there had been break in tempo.

Play continued and West made 9 tricks.

All players were very experienced.

How do you rule?

4.         Text Box: ª	K876
©	1083
¨	Q53
§	K104
♠ 95	♠ A
©	K75		♥ AJ42
	 ♦ 62	♦ AJ1074
♣ AQ9876	♣ J53
♠ QJ10432 
♥ Q96
¨	K98 
♣ 2
EW had a slam interest auction up to the point that West bid 5. North “doubled” by converting his previous pass to look like a double with a single stroke of the pen. East bid 6which North doubled in a new square.

The hand was played out making 11 tricks. West asked East why he bid 6when 5had been doubled. You are now called.

East said he was aware of a single stoke of North’s pen which could only have been a pass. He said that he would never have bid 6had North doubled properly.

How do you rule?

5.      South is declarer in a contract of 3NT. You are called when East plays the 10. Play continues. West cashes the5 and theK then leads the 9 to East’s 10. East cashes his A and 9 so that declarer makes 6 tricks in total.

What is your ruling?

The Play


K       ♠7        ♠6        ♠3

♠Q       ♠J        ♠4        ♠A

A       2        3        7

K       4        6        9

10      Q       A        7

Q       ♣10      ♠5        4*

J        ♣4        ♣5        ♣6*

8        9        ♣3        10*                       



Text Box: ♠ J7
♥ QJ863
♦ AJ53 
♣ 82
Text Box: ª	KQ92
♥ 10542
¨	KQ64
♣ 6
♠ A53
♥ AK
¨	10982 ♣ K753
Text Box: ♠ 10864
♥ 97
¨	7
♣ AQJ1094




















Directors’ Bulletin Issue 53 December 2017



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