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ACBL Duplicate Decisions
Chapter 4, Law 9-16
General Laws Governing Irregularities

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ACBL Duplicate Bridge Laws -
Laws Index & Detailed Laws

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This document is provided courtesy of the
American Contract Bridge League

2990 Airways Blvd. S Memphis TN 38116–3847
S Fax 901–398–7754

A Club Director’s Guide for Ruling at the Table
Duplicate Decisions


Duplicate Decisions (DD) has been reformatted into a book that an ACBL club director can use in place of the official Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. All of the Laws have been written and presented in everyday English to help club directors understand their meanings. In addition to the table of contents, an index which refers to the appropriate Law by topic is available in the back of this book.

DD can be used to make most of the rulings that will come up during a typical club game. The ideal way to use this publication is to tab the most common rulings. Occasionally DD will refer the director to the official Laws book. In those cases, the director will have to do some research before making a ruling.

Every club director needs to become very familiar with the Laws in order to make good rulings. It is helpful to highlight the sections of each Law that are most frequently used in making a ruling pertaining to that Law.  DD is designed to be used in conjunction with The ACBL Club Directors Handbook, which was published in 2003 and developed to assist club directors in running outstanding club games. The handbook contains all of the information previously found in the Appendix to DD plus information that will help club directors make their club games the best games in town.

The new handbook is a source of tips, ACBL regulations, ACBL programs such as the IN (Intermediate-Newcomer) Program and New Player Services, movements, ACBLscore, Alerts, Zero Tolerance, etc.  Directors will benefit from reading the "Ruling the Game" column, which is published monthly in The Bridge Bulletin. It’s a good way to learn more about the Laws and how they should be applied.

ACBL’s web site is also a good source of information that directors will find helpful in running club games. 

Good luck! Let ACBL hear from you whenever you need help.

ACBL Director of Education



9. Procedure Following an Irregularity

10. Assessment of a Penalty

11. Forfeiture of the Right to Penalize

12. Director’s Discretionary Powers

13. Incorrect Number of Cards

14. Missing Card

15. Play of a Wrong Board

16. Unauthorized Information




Procedure Following an Irregularity

Any player may call attention to an irregularity during the auction, whether or not it is his turn to call.

Declarer or either defender may call attention to an irregularity that occurs during the play period. Dummy may not call attention to an irregularity until after the play of the board is concluded. Dummy may try to prevent declarer from committing an irregularity.

The Director must be summoned at once when attention is drawn to an irregularity. No player should take any action until the Director has completed his explanation regarding the irregularity.

Any player, including dummy, may summon the Director after attention has been drawn to an irregularity. Just as with any other player at the table, dummy may and should summon the Director AFTER attention has been drawn to an irregularity.

Any premature correction of an irregularity by the offender may subject him to a further penalty. For lead penalties, see Law 26.


Assessment of a Penalty

When the Laws provide an option, the Director must explain fully all the options available. The player who has the right to select an option may not consult with partner in making a choice.

The Director alone has the right to assess penalties when applicable. The Director may allow or cancel any payment or waiver of penalties made by the players without his instructions.

If the players have made their own ruling, the Director will not alter the agreed result if:

1. the correct ruling was made, and
2. all participants were apprised of their rights, and
3. a correct penalty (or lack thereof) was assessed.

If ANY of the three are lacking, however, the Director may alter the result.


Forfeiture of the Right to Penalize

The right to penalize an irregularity may be forfeited

1. if either non-offender takes action following the irregularity before calling the Director. The Director so rules when the non-offenders may have gained through subsequent action taken by an opponent in ignorance of the penalty.
2. if attention is first drawn to it by an invited kibitzer of the non-offending side. The right to penalize
is forfeited by the taking of action by non-offenders in specific situations covered by other Laws (For example: offenders For example: see Law 27, Insufficient Bid).

The right to correct an irregularity may be forfeited if attention if attention is first drawn to it by an invited kibitzer of the offending side.

Players are responsible for kibitzers present at the table by their invitation (either an explicit invitation, as when a team is given spectator tickets to distribute, or an implicit invitation inferred from a personal relationship — a wife, a husband, a friend, a relative or a frequent bridge partner all may be deemed to have been invited).

When a neutral spectator (one for whom neither side is responsible) is the first to call attention to an irregularity, the Director is to proceed as though one of the participants had called attention to the irregularity.

Being a player of repute, and thus attracting a spectator, does not constitute responsibility for that spectator.

After the right to penalize has been forfeited under this Law, the Director may assess a procedural penalty under his exercise of powers in Law 90. For example: declarer is on lead, and the dummy is good, but declarer has no entry to dummy. Declarer leads a card from dummy (the wrong hand) and the next player carelessly follows. The side that carelessly condoned the lead from the wrong hand must keep its score. The side that committed the irregularity should have its score reduced because the declarer could have known at the time of the infraction that it was advantageous for his side to lead from the wrong hand.

NOTE: See the discussion on kibitzers under Law 76. A player has the right to object to the presence of a specific spectator and to have one such spectator barred without assigning cause.

Any kibitzer may be barred for cause by the Director.


Director’s Discretionary Powers

When the appropriate Law provides a penalty (or states that there is to be no penalty), the Director may not adjust the score to produce equity. The Director must give a book ruling. The Director may adjust the score if an incorrect penalty has been paid.

Some of the Laws allow the Director to assign an adjusted score under specified circumstances.

Law 23 — when one player bars his partner from the auction;
Law 27 — when an insufficient bid that is corrected without penalty conveyed such information as to damage the non-offending side;
Law 47 — when a non-offending player legally withdraws a play, a play that gave information to an offending opponent;
Law 64 — when an established revoke causes damage and the prescribed penalty insufficiently compensates the non-offending side.

Many Laws specify correct procedure but do not offer specific penalties for violation. Examples: a player may not inspect a quitted trick; a player may not handle an opponent’s cards; a review of the auction must be given by an opponent of the player requesting it.

A violator is liable to penalty (Law 90, Procedural Penalties), but the innocent side is assigned no redress. If there is damage (e.g., declarer may have made his contract because of his illegal inspection of a previous trick), the Director has the authority to assign an adjusted score under Law 12.

The director’s procedure in awarding an adjusted score

If the Director has a choice between awarding an artificial adjusted score and an assigned adjusted score, awarding a real score is virtually mandatory.

When the Director awards an actual result (an assigned adjusted score) in place of a result actually obtained after an irregularity,
1. the non-offending side receives the
most favorable result that was likely on the deal without the irregularity.
2. the offending side receives the
most unfavorable result that was at all probable. The scores need not balance. The Director may either alter the bridge score before matchpointing or assign a matchpoint score.

When an irregularity makes it impossible to obtain a valid result, the director awards an artificial adjusted score based on which players were responsible for the irregularity.
1. A player who is directly at fault causes his side to receive no more than 40% of the available matchpoints (average minus);
2. A player only partially at fault gets 50% (average) for his side;
3. A player in no way at fault gets at least 60% (average plus) for his side. The percentage will be the player’s game percentage if that percentage is higher than 60%. The scores awarded to the two sides need not balance. (See Law 86 for team play and Law 88 for pair and individual play.)

See Director Tech File, More


Incorrect Number of Cards

NOTE: Law 13 applies when 52 cards are distributed unevenly among the four hands. When the board contains fewer than 52 cards, Law 14 applies.

If the incorrect number of cards is discovered before a player with an incorrect number of cards has made a call, and no player will then have seen a card belonging to another player’s hand, the Director shall correct the discrepancy and require the board to be played normally. The Director should consult with players who have previously played the board or consult with hand records, if available, in order to restore the board to its proper state.

If the Director discovers that the board was incorrectly dealt, he shall order the board redealt and cancel any previous results on the board.

When one or more of the players with an incorrect number of cards makes a call on the board, and the Director determines that the deal can be corrected and played normally with no change of call, the deal should be played if all four players concur. Otherwise, the deal is canceled and the Director shall award an artificial adjusted score (see Law 12 C.1.).

When the Director determines that one or more pockets of a board contain an incorrect number of cards, the cards must be restored to the proper hands before the auction may begin.

When a player has seen one or more cards belonging to another player’s hand, the Director must:
1. decide whether the information is consequential and whether it would interfere with normal bidding and play. If the Director decides the board can be played without prejudice, he may allow the board to be played (as long as all four players agree).
2. decide if the information will interfere with the normal bidding and play, and award an artificial adjusted score (see Law 12). He may also elect to penalize an offender under Law 90. The Director follows this procedure if any player objects to playing the board.


Missing Card

When one hand is deficient while the other three hands are correct, and this is discovered:

Before the play period begins — The missing card is restored to the deficient hand, or the Director reconstructs the deal to the original form using a new deck, and the bidding continues.

After the play period has begun — If the missing card is among the quitted tricks, the Director requires the offender to restore to his hand the extra card played to the quitted trick. If only one card was faced, the faced card is left among the quitted tricks (see Law 67).

If the missing card is found (but not among the quitted tricks), (but not among the quitted tricks), it is restored to the player’s hand. A card restored to a player’s hand is deemed to have belonged to it continuously. It may become a penalty card (Law 50) and failure to have played it may constitute a revoke (subject to penalty under Law 64).

If a card that should have been played earlier in order to follow that should have been played earlier in order to follow suit is restored to dummy, failure to have played that card constitutes a revoke although no penalty (no penalty trick or tricks) is awarded (Law 64 B.3.). Law 64 C., however, requires the Director to assign an adjusted score when the non-offenders get a poorer result than they would have achieved had the revoke not occurred.

If one of dummy’s cards is obscured, as by being stuck behind another, and the discrepancy goes unnoticed for some time, and its absence is found to have damaged the defenders, an adjusted score (Law 12) may be in order for failing to display dummy properly (Law 41 D.).

When a player, usually the dummy, says, "Everyone is responsible for the dummy," the response should be that some are more responsible than others. This statement has no basis in current law. The player who is the dummy is responsible.


Play of a Wrong Board

If the players have not previously played the board,
1. when it is a board not designated for them to play, the Director normally allows the score to stand if none of the four has previously played the board.
a. If this creates a situation where a pair plays more boards than the rest of the field, the board and the score for the pair will require factoring.
b. At the club level, the Director may choose a more sociable solution. He may decide not to allow the last board of the set to be played and to award an artificial adjusted score to the opponents.
2. the Director may require both pairs to play the correct board against one another later if they were scheduled to meet.
3. if one pair went to the wrong section, the Director may allow the board to be played by North–South "A" and East–West "B" to compensate for North–South "B" and East–West "A" meeting improperly. The matchpoints would simply be assigned to the actual contestants after the results were scored. (
#5 below does not apply.)
4. if the error is discovered during the auction, an attempt should be made to save the board. The Director seats the proper pair, and a new auction begins. Players must repeat any calls they made previously. If any call differs* in any way from the corresponding call in the first auction, the Director MUST cancel the board and award an artificial adjusted score (usually average+ to both pairs).
*For example, the first pair opens a standard 1C and the "correct" pair opens a strong, forcing 1C. Though the bid is the same, the meaning is different, and the Director must cancel the board.
5. The Director should warn the North–South or stationary pair who did not check or verify the opponents’ pair number. If the Director has previously warned the pair or feels the pair has been particularly negligent, he could award a procedural penalty of
1/4 of a board. This matchpoint penalty would be deducted from the pair’s total score after all the results had been figured.

If any player has previously played the board
1. If any player plays a board he has previously played with the correct opponents or otherwise, his second score on the board is canceled for both his side and his opponents.
2. The Director shall award an artificial adjusted score to the contestants deprived of the opportunity to earn a valid score.

If a player holds a hand from the wrong board, see Law 17 D.


Unauthorized Information

NOTE: Players are authorized to base their actions on information from legal calls and plays and from the mannerisms of their opponents. To base a call or play on extraneous information may be an infraction of the Laws.

Extraneous information from partner: After a player makes extraneous information available to his partner by an action such as a remark, a question, a reply to a question, an unmistakable hesitation, unusual speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement, mannerism or any other action that suggests a call, lead or plan of play, the partner may not choose from among logical alternative actions one that could have demonstrably been suggested over another by the extraneous information. If the director is called before the recipient of the unauthorized information takes action, he should instruct the recipient to ignore the information and tell the opponents to call him back after the play if they feel the opponents have gained an advantage.

1. At ACBL sanctioned events, competitors are not allowed to announce that they reserve the right to summon the Director later. They should call the Director when they believe that extraneous information could well result in damage to their side. (San Francisco NABC, Fall, 1996.)

2. When a player feels an opponent has taken action that could have been suggested by such information, he immediately calls the Director to the table. After ascertaining the agreed facts, the Director requires that the auction and play continue, reserving the right to adjust the score if he considers that the result could have been affected by the unauthorized information.

The use of the word "DEMONSTRABLY" is intended to remove from consideration logical alternatives that are not obviously suggested over another by the unauthorized information. The Director should not change a result unless the action chosen can be shown (demonstrated) to have been suggested. The actions that will now be removed by Law have to be suggested in an obvious, easily understood way — it must be readily apparent rather than a product of some subtle bridge argument.

Steps in dealing with unauthorized, extraneous information such as tempo variation (e.g., huddles).

1. Was the unauthorized information available? Was there a huddle? If yes, proceed.

2. Were the opponents damaged? If yes, proceed.

3. Were there logical alternatives to the call chosen by the partner of the huddler? Remember that a logical alternative is a call that would be seriously considered by at least a substantial minority of equivalent players, acting on the basis of all the information legitimately (and probably obviously for that player) available. If yes, proceed.

4. Could the extraneous information demonstrably suggest the call chosen over (a likely less successful) logical alternative(s). Is it obvious? Is it readily apparent? Is it easily understood? If yes, proceed.

5. Assign an adjusted score.

Extraneous information from other sources: When a player accidentally receives unauthorized information about a board he is playing or has yet to play, as by looking at the wrong hand, by overhearing calls, results or remarks, by seeing results, by seeing cards at another table, or by seeing a card belonging to another player at his own table before the auction begins, the Director should be notified right away. If the Director feels the information could interfere with normal play, he may:

1. adjust the positions of the players so the player with information will play the hand concerning which he has information.

2. appoint a temporary substitute for the player who received the unauthorized information if all four players concur.

3. award an adjusted score.

A call or play may be withdrawn and another substituted, either by a member of the non-offending side after an opponent’s infraction or by the offending side to rectify an infraction.

1. The non-offending side is authorized to take advantage of to take advantage of all information that comes from a withdrawn call or play, whether the action is its own or its opponents.

2. The offenders are not authorized to take advantage of to take advantage of information they might gain from withdrawn actions of their own or of the non-offenders. An offender may not choose from logical alternative actions one that could demonstrably have been suggested by such information.

NOTE: Offenders’ withdrawn actions — except for an insufficient bid corrected without penalty per Law 27 B.1. — are not authorized for use by the offenders even after a penalty has been paid.

NOTE: See the following discussion of Law 17 for examples of unauthorized information relating to the auction.

Unauthorized information from a traveling scoreslip

In all situations dealing with the unauthorized information obtained by seeing a traveler from another board, the Director must determine whether or not the information gained by one or more of the players is sufficient to affect the bidding or play of the deal.  In almost all cases this offense will require an adjusted score.

The Director should allow the auction and play to begin, however, reserving the right to assign an artificial adjusted score if he feels the unauthorized information has influenced the results. (See Law 16 B.3.) It is possible the North player may have seen the results but be holding a hand where he would neither enter the auction nor be involved in the play (e.g., East and West may have a cold game with South making a standard opening lead). The Director should always try to get a valid result on a board — he should assign an adjusted score only as a last resort. Therefore, the Director may allow some boards to be played where he acts as a monitor, and he may adjust other boards.

The Director also has the option, with the concurrence of all four players, to seat a temporary substitute for the player who has received the unauthorized information. The substitute should not be more experienced than the player he is replacing.

See Director Tech File, More

Index to Duplicate Laws



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