CHANGES TO THE LAWS OF BRIDGE 2017
Most RBC Members will be aware by now that some changes to the Laws of Duplicate Bridge came into effect on 1 August, 2017. This event occurred following an exhaustive review which is carried out every 10 years by the Laws Committee of the World Bridge Federation (WBF).
The majority of the changes are purely technical and mostly affect the very highest levels of the game, ie tournaments at the State, National and International levels but there are some which must be applied from Club level upwards. The following is a summary of the main recent changes to the Laws as they affect players and tournament directors at Club level. There have also been some modifications to what is expected of the players with regard to correct procedure and their associated rights and obligations. Where appropriate, I have cited a few relevant examples by way of clarification.
Boards on the Table
Boards must now be kept in the centre of the table in the correct orientation. Turning a board or allowing a board to swivel can lead to the board being fouled. (Law 7)
Dummy now has the right to try to prevent any irregularity (such as a lead from the wrong hand) irrespective of whom the perpetrator might be. In other words, dummy is now allowed to warn opponents as well as partner, that they are about to commit an irregularity such as leading from the wrong hand. However, there is no obligation to do this and declarer may prefer that dummy remain silent. In addition, it should be noted that once an infraction has occurred, dummy is still prohibited from drawing attention to it until after the conclusion of play. (Law 9)
Wrong Explanation of Partner’s Call
A player who realizes that they have given a wrong or incomplete explanation of partner’s call is no longer required to immediately proffer a correction, but they must still call the Director and make the correction prior to the facing of the opening lead. It will, however, generally be in the player’s best interests to call the Director immediately. (Law 20)
The Laws still permit unintended calls to be changed provided that partner has not subsequently called, but the criterion for judging when a call is unintended has become more stringent. An error which arises because of the player’s loss of concentration as to the level of the auction, can no longer be allowed. This is the case even though the call may not be one which the player ever intended to make. (Law 25)
- Spades are agreed as the trump suit and West bids 4NT, Blackwood. East responds 5H (two Aces). West starts thinking about whether to bid the slam or sign off at the 5S level. Eventually, he decides that 5 Spades is enough but this decision comes out as Pass. Even though he never intended to pass, he can no longer change the call to the bid of 5S which he intended. The same restriction will apply in other similar situations, for example, a player passes an artificial Bergen-style raise.
- The same principle now also applies in regard to declarer’s call of a card from dummy. Effectively, only legitimate slips of the tongue can now be changed. Loss of concentration or changes of mind are not viable excuses to correct. For instance, saying “small, I mean Ace” will now mean that no change is allowed. The Director may allow a change if he is satisfied that it was just a slip of the tongue.
Potential allowable examples:
i) ‘King of Hearts, I mean King of Diamonds”
ii) “small Spade” while pointing at dummy’s Clubs
Calling the Director
It has always been a requirement in the Laws that the Director be called whenever there is an irregularity. This has been reinforced by the new Laws. It may become particularly relevant if, at the end of the auction, the declaring side reveals that there has been incorrect information given about their bidding. If the players fail to call the Director at the time and it turns out that the Director could have done something to rectify it had he been called, then both sides are liable to get their worst possible score on the board. (Law 75)
The new Law specifically states that ignorance of the Law is no excuse!
Calls out of Turn
Under the old Laws, the penalties arising due to a call out of rotation could be very harsh. Often, a player’s partner was barred from bidding for the whole auction. Under the new Laws, the partner can make his normal call. Depending upon the action now taken by the player who originally called out of turn, the auction will either continue without penalty or the player’s partner will have to pass for one round. The Director will make a determination on a case-by-case basis using the guidelines in the Laws regarding “comparable calls”
Since the notion of “a comparable call” is new, some examples may help to clarify what these changes mean in practice.
1) Pass Out of Turn
After a “Pass” out of turn at partner’s or LHO’s turn to call, and the call was not accepted, the offender is no longer forced to pass at their next turn to call. If they make “a comparable bid” (one that is not forcing and shows less than an opening hand), there is no further rectification. If they make a forcing response, their partner must pass at their next turn to call. Some examples:
If you passed at partner’s (or LHO’s) turn to call and partner opened 1H:
i) You could respond 1H or 1NT (showing 6-9 HCP) without further rectification (so we carry on as normal) as these show less than an opening hand and are comparable to an initial “pass” and do not force partner to bid to bid again.
ii) You could also respond 3H without further rectification if this is invitational.
iii) You could also respond 4H without further rectification if this is a weak bid such as “the weak freak” (7 Hearts and a singleton and fewer than 10 HCP).
iv) You could not respond 1S without making partner pass at their next turn because that is an unlimited bid.
v) You could not respond 2D for the same reason.
If you passed at partner’s (or LHO’s) turn to call and partner opened 1C:
i) You could respond 1NT or 2NT without further rectification if these responses show less than an opening hand.
ii) You could also respond 2C, 3C or 4C without further rectification if these responses show less than an opening hand.
iii) Similarly, you could also respond 2H or 2S without further rectification if these responses showed a “drop dead bid”, say a 6-card suit with 4-7 HCP.
iv) You could not respond, however, 1D, 1H or 1S without making partner pass at their next turn as these bids are unlimited. (Law 30)
2) Bid out of Turn
You opened 1H (12+ HCP and 5+ Hearts) out of turn at partner’s or LHO’s turn to call and the bid was not accepted. Partner then opened 1C.
Partner will almost certainly have to pass at their next turn to call if you respond because your response is unlikely to be comparable to a 1H opening bid, unless you have a bid in the system which shows a game-forcing hand with Hearts Examples:
i) If you responded 1H (6+ HCP and 4+ Hearts), partner would have to pass at their next turn to call because this bid is not “comparable”. You show the same suit but 6+ HCP, not 12+.
ii) If you responded 3NT, partner would have to pass at their next turn to call because 3NT is not “comparable” to an opening bid of 1H. (Law 31)
Illegal Change of Call
If a player’s call is withdrawn and not replaced with a comparable call, declarer now has greater lead-directing rights when the offender’s partner first gets the lead. Declarer can now prohibit the lead of any one suit not specified in the legal auction. Example:
i) Your partner opens 1H out of turn but chooses to Pass over the opponent’s 2S opening bid. When you have the lead for the first time, the declarer can now prohibit the lead of any particular suit as your partner has not shown any suit in the legal auction. (Law 25)
Some unintended calls can still be changed but the rules are stricter. A player may be allowed to change a call if there was “a mechanical error or a slip of the tongue but not because of a loss of concentration”. (Law 25)
Lead out of Turn
A lead out of turn to trick 13 may no longer be accepted and must now be retracted. (Law 53)
Previously, when there was a claim, play stopped. If there was any dispute, it was decided by the Director. Now, play may be continued at the request of the non-claiming side provided that all four players at the table agree. The result obtained at the table will stand. If the Director is called, the players lose the option of playing on.
Inspection of Last Card Played
Declarer or a defender may inspect (but not expose) his own last card played until his side has led or played to the next trick. This is a change to the previous time limit which was until a card had been led by either side to the next trick. (Law 66)
Hesitation with Intent to Deceive
A player may not take a long time to decide which of two equal spot cards to play in order to deceive an opponent when the effect of the hesitation is to give the opponent the reasonable impression that you were considering winning the trick. Nor is it acceptable to hesitate before making a penalty double where this might dissuade the opponents from running to a better contract (or encourage them to redouble). (Law 73)
Failure to Disclose Information Accurately
It is now clear that failure to disclose information accurately constitutes Misinformation. Players remain obligated to disclose partnership agreements fully and freely upon request, but they also need to realise that answering enquiries from an opponent with words such as “I take it to mean …” or “I think it means…“ is improper. If no agreement exists, players are expected to state that fact, not guess what a bid means. Guessing is not only a potential source of Misinformation but also Unauthorised Information which may lead to a score adjustment. (Law 75)
Tricks Won or Lost
The number of tricks won or lost should be agreed at the table. If a dispute subsequently arises after the end of the round, then the Director is now empowered to decrease one side’s score without necessarily increasing the other side’s score.
Previously, if you found out that a wrong score had been entered when you checked your results, and the correction period (usually 30 minutes after the end of the session) had expired, your score could no longer be corrected. Now, if you can persuade both the Tournament Organiser and the Director that the result is wrong, you might still be able to have it corrected (but not after the event has finished and the prizes have been awarded). (Law 79)
Very many thanks to Laurie Kelso, Matthew McManus, John McIlrath, John Newman, Ian Lisle and Ernie Newman for their interpretations of the recent changes to our wonderful game.
Club Director January 2018