by Bill Michael, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Irregularities occur fairly often at bridge. It is the director’s job to apply the laws and attempt to remedy situations that arise due to these irregularities. For the most part, this duty is covered under Law 82 “Rectification of Errors of Procedure.” This law states what the director’s duties and responsibilities are when an irregularity occurs. Law 9, “Procedure Following an Irregularity.” says when to call the director, and that’s what this month’s article addresses. Disclaimer: The laws cited in this article are abridged and/or paraphrased in order to remove excess verbiage while retaining their intent.

Law 9.A. Drawing Attention to an Irregularity“ Unless prohibited by law, any player may draw attention to an irregularity during the auction period, whether or not it is his turn to call. Unless prohibited by law, declarer or either defender may draw attention to an irregularity that occurs during the play period. When an irregularity has occurred, dummy may not draw attention to it during the play period, but may do so after the play of the hand is concluded. Any player, however, including dummy, may attempt to prevent another player’s committing an irregularity. There is no obligation to draw attention to an infraction of law committed by one’s own side (but see Law 20F5 for correction of partner’s apparently mistaken explanation).”


Law 9.B. After Attention is Drawn to an Irregularity“

1. (a) The Director should be summoned at once when attention is drawn to an irregularity.

(b) Any player, including dummy, may summon the Director after attention has been drawn to an irregularity.

(c) Summoning the Director does not cause a player to forfeit any rights to which he might otherwise be entitled.

(d) The fact that a player draws attention to an irregularity committed by his side does not affect the rights of the opponents.

2. No player shall take any action until the Director has explained all matters in regard to rectification.”

Law 9.C. Premature Correction of an Irregularity“Any premature correction of an irregularity by the offender may subject him to a further rectification (see the lead restriction in Law 26).”

Law 11 (paraphrased) tells us that if the non-offending side takes an action before the director is summoned and applies the laws, that side may (and often does) forfeit the right to rectification. Procedural penalties may still be applied (to either side).

To sum up so far: If an irregularity occurs and is brought to the table’s attention, the director should be called. The action should stop until the director arrives, is informed of the situation, and provides the options that each side has coming to it. It’s all pretty straightforward up to here. When there’s been a misexplanation, however, Law 20 applies and supercedes Law 9.

Law 20. Review and Explanation of Calls

“F.4. If a player subsequently realizes that his own explanation was erroneous or incomplete, he must call the Director immediately….” It doesn’t matter whether it’s that player’s turn to bid or play, he should stop the action immediately. The players should NOT try to “work it out” by themselves, the director should be summoned. Failing to call the director could forfeit the non-offending side’s rights.

“F.5. (a) A player whose partner has given a mistaken explanation may not correct the error during the auction, nor may he indicate in any manner that a mistake has been made. ‘Mistaken explanation’ here includes failure to alert or announce as regulations require or an alert (or an announcement) that regulations do not require.” If a player does make an indication that his partner has made an incorrect explanation, at the very least his partner will be constrained by the provisions of Law 16, dealing with Unauthorized Information. In short, the player having made the mistaken explanation will probably not be allowed to “figure out” that he’s given a mistaken explanation. The board may very well be adjusted, if the director feels that the offending side has gained through its illegal actions, and may impose procedural penalties as well.

“F.5. (b) The player must call the Director and inform his opponents that, in his opinion, his partner’s explanation was erroneous, but only at his first legal opportunity, which is  (I) for a defender, at the end of the play (ii) for declarer or dummy, after the final pass of the auction.”

Two additional notes:

First, there is one other time that you may delay calling attention to an irregularity. If your side revokes, you are not required to bring attention to the revoke until after the hand has been completed. After the hand is over (scored up, cards back in the board, and a call made by the side that did not revoke on the next board, or “a progression of players” if the revoke occurred on the last board of the round), you are required to state that your side revoked, so that the director may review the board for equity. If a revoke earns your side one or more tricks that would not have been taken without the revoke, per Law 79.A.2 you are not allowed to keep them. Law 79.A.2 provides that “A player must not knowingly accept either the score for a trick that his side did not win or the concession of a trick that his opponents could not lose.” This makes it both a legal and ethical responsibility to inform the opponents that the revoke has occurred. The provision about the call on the next board, or the progression of players, takes us past the “penalty” part of the revoke ruling (automatic trick transfers), and into the equity aspect (what would have happened if the revoke had not occurred at all?). It’s up to the non-revoking side to realize that the revoke has occurred in a timely manner if they wish to receive the benefits of the automatic trick transfer.

Second, do not confuse a mistaken bid with a mistaken explanation. The opponents are entitled to an explanation of your agreements, but your hand is not required to match what, by your agreement, you showed (however, frequent violations of your agreements, either intentional or accidental, lead to their own problems). You are under no obligation to disclose that you’ve made a mistaken bid before or during the play, but will probably be compelled to explain after, as it’s fair for opponents/directors to determine whether there was a mistaken bid, or the violation of law of a mistaken explanation.

Play hard, play fair, play nice.

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