This document is provided
courtesy of the
American Contract Bridge League
2990 Airways Blvd.
Memphis TN 38116–3847
A Club Director’s Guide for Ruling at the Table
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER IV — GENERAL LAWS GOVERNING IRREGULARITIES
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
CHAPTER IV — GENERAL LAWS
Procedure Following an Irregularity
Any player may call attention to an irregularity
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
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
The right to penalize is
forfeited by the taking of action by
in specific situations covered by other Laws (For example: offenders
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
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
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.
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
a play, a play that gave information to an offending
Law 64 — when an established revoke
causes damage and the
prescribed penalty insufficiently compensates the
Many Laws specify correct procedure but do not offer specific
penalties for violation.
Examples: a player may not inspect a
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
is virtually mandatory.
When the Director awards an actual result (an
score) in place of a result actually
obtained after an irregularity,
1. the non-offending side receives the
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
deducted from the pair’s total score after all the results had
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.
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
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,
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
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.,
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
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
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,
by a member of the non-offending side after an opponent’s infraction
or by the offending side to rectify an infraction.
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
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
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
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
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.
Director Tech File,
Index to Duplicate Laws