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ACBL Duplicate Decisions
Chapter 9, Law 80-91
Tournament Sponsorship & Director

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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




Sponsoring Organization

Definition of the Sponsoring Organization

The club management, the proprietor, the Board of Directors of the club, or an individual delegated the responsibility of setting policy for the club and running the duplicate games.

Authority of the Sponsoring Organization

The sponsoring organization may establish regulations for the conduct of duplicate games in its own club. These regulations may not contravene the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge or ACBL regulations for sanctioned club games.

NOTE: For events such as Sectional Tournaments at Clubs or ACBL-wide events, ACBL tournament regulations with respect to the following must be enforced:

1. A club may allow or bar specific conventions (Law 40 D.), but it may not bar psychic bids (Law 75 B.).

2. A club need elect not to require the use of the "Alert" procedure or the "Skip Bid" warning.

3. A club must require the use of the "face down" opening lead. ACBL Board of Directors has ruled that "face down" opening leads are mandatory in all ACBL-sanctioned events.

4. A well-managed club will post supplementary play regulations and ask any occasional players or guests to read them before they start to play.

5. These regulations will have the force of Law. A Director may not be overruled by a committee on his or her enforcement or interpretation.

6. If an appeals committee is to be permitted, the club management should make suitable arrangements for the committee to hear the appeal.



Duties and Powers

Director’s Role

1. He is the official representative of the sponsoring organization and the ACBL.

2. He is responsible for the technical management of the game and is bound by these Laws and by supplementary regulations announced by the sponsoring organization.

Director’s Duties and Powers Normally Include:

1. appointing assistants, as required, to perform certain duties.

2. accepting and listing entries.

3. establishing suitable conditions of play and announcing them to the contestants.

4. maintaining the discipline necessary to insure the orderly progress of the game.

NOTE: The Director should never tolerate improper behavior in his game. He should not allow his authority to run the game to be challenged, or he will lose control of his game. Since he has absolute authority during the game, such challenges may be dealt with politely but very firmly. Laws 90 and 91 outline the Director’s powers to penalize or suspend a player during the course of the game.

5. administering and interpreting these Laws; advising the players of their rights and responsibilities thereunder.

6. rectifying any error or irregularity of which he becomes aware in any manner, within the correction period established in accordance with Law 79.

7. assessing penalties when applicable.

8. waiving penalties for cause, at his discretion, upon the request of the non-offending side when there are special mitigating circumstances.

Example: A player opens the bidding out of turn, thinking he is dealer because the opponent accidentally shifted the empty duplicate board on the table, or a defender drops a card on the table because of a serious physical disability.

9. adjusting disputes, and referring disputed matters to the appropriate committee when required.

10. collecting scores and tabulating results.

11. reporting results to the sponsoring organization for official record.

12. retaining ultimate responsibility for the correct performance of any duties performed by his assistants.


Rectification of Errors of Procedure

Director’s Role: The Laws give the Director the duty of rectifying errors of procedure and maintaining the progress of the game by awarding adjusted scores as permitted by the Laws and by awarding late plays.

Director’s Error/Incorrect Ruling or Incorrect Penalty: If the Director gives an incorrect ruling or assesses an incorrect penalty, if possible he should rectify the error in such a way that the board can be scored normally. If this is not possible, he should award an artificial adjusted score, with both sides being considered as non-offenders.

Late Plays:

1. Only one late play should be assigned to any one pair per session.

2. If a pair is unable, through fault of their own, to complete another board after the Director has assigned them a late play, the Director will award the offending pair an average minus and their opponents an average plus.

3. The Director should not allow a late play if any of the players at the table have already seen their cards on the deal. He should either allow the hand to be bid and played to its conclusion, or cancel the board for both sides if playing it will unduly inconvenience the other contestants or unduly delay the progress of the game.

4. If the Director can determine that only one side was responsible for slow play, he awards the offenders an average minus and their opponents an average plus for the unplayed board. Both sides receive average if the Director is not able to determine blame.

5. If a pair has been assigned a late play and is unable to complete the last round and the late play in reasonable time, the Director may award an artificial adjusted score. This is an average plus for pairs that were in no way at fault for the late play and an average minus for pairs that were responsible.

6. It is proper to bar late plays if the sponsor so desires or if time does not permit. The Director assigns artificial adjusted scores (Law 12) on any board that cannot be played in the time limit established for the round.


Notification of the Right to Appeal

Director’s Role

When the Director makes a judgment ruling on a point of fact (damage after a hesitation; unauthorized information passed during the auction) or exercises his discretionary power (as when he assigns an adjusted score under Law 12), it is open to question and/or appeal. He should advise the players involved of their right to appeal. (See Appeals, Law 92.)

If the Director reads his ruling directly from the Laws book, any request for a committee is useless because the committee can give no redress. The Director should read Law 93 B.3. out of the Laws book to inform the players that an appeal would be a waste of everyone’s time. Be sure you, the Director, have read and are aware of Laws 92 and 93 in the Laws, too!

Appeals at the Club Level

The National Laws Commission has stated that a club may establish an appeals committee but is not obligated to do so. ACBL suggests that a club either have a standing appeals committee or appoint one when necessary. In this way, the Director is not the court of last resort.

The Role of an Appeals Committee

1. The appeals committee allows players an opportunity to obtain a hearing in cases where they do not agree with the Director’s ruling.

2. The appeals committee may not overrule the Director on a point of Law or regulation or on the application of a disciplinary penalty.

3. The appeals committee may remove a procedural penalty.

Committees, therefore, deal in matters of bridge judgment and should consist of the most experienced players available.

Committee Members

A committee is generally recruited out of the game in which the problem occurs. It should consist of either three or five members so that a majority decision may be reached more easily. The committee should not include any member of the club directorial or management staff. No member of the committee should be personally involved with any of the individuals concerned.

Remember that a club is not required to honor requests for committees.

Suggested Procedure for a Club-Level Committee

1. Survey the game and see if you have enough people for a satisfactory committee. Playing experience, bridge judgment, and the ability to analyze all aspects of a question are what is needed. The committee members chosen should have the respect of all concerned.

2. Decide whether or not to hold a committee. If not, talk to the people involved and explain your decision. If yes, ask the prospective committee members if they would be willing to help out with a problem and serve on a committee after the game. Some will say yes, some no. If they can’t make it, it is no fault of yours. You did the best you could. If a committee can be formed, notify both pairs (teams) involved so that they can remain afterwards and argue their side. All parties involved, including the committee members, should be reminded of the meeting during the last round.

3. As soon as the committee members are finished with play, call the committee to the meeting area. This may mean that you will have to let the scores sit until you are finished with the committee. So be it! You should appoint one of the members chairman. If the chairman is inexperienced, give him a copy of this article to read so that he will know the procedures involved.

4. Meet with the committee with both sides present. The meeting should proceed in the following manner:

a. As a preliminary, the Director should introduce everyone present and specify which pair is appealing.

b. The chairman should now take over the hearing. He should first assure all concerned that everyone will get a chance to speak — that it would be appreciated if no one interrupted the narratives (including committee members!!). The chairman should ascertain that there are no objections to any of the committee members by asking each side individually. If any of the parties object to any committee member, the reason for the objection should be heard and the committee should decide whether or not to excuse the member objected to.

c. The Director should speak first in the following manner:

On ____________________I was called to the table by __________________ to consider a situation

 involving ____________________________________________  The following facts were related to me




The following (Laws, regulations, procedures, common practices) pertain in this situation:





I ruled ____________________________________________________________________________





d. The chairman and then the committee members should ask any questions they may have of the Director.

e. The chairman should inquire of the appealing parties if they have anything to add to the Director’s statements. He should also ascertain why they think the ruling should be changed.

f. The other side should now be heard. If they have nothing to add, the chairman may ask for any other statements from kibitzers, additional testimony from the Director, from the appealing parties, etc.

g. When there is no more testimony to be heard and the chairman and his committee members have completed their questioning, the chairman should excuse all parties from the deliberations (including the Director, unless he has been requested to remain). The Director should be available to assist and advise the committee (on points of Law and/or regulation only — not judgment) during its deliberations but should not participate unless requested.

The committee should now deliberate and reach a decision concerning the situation. The decision should be commensurate with the instructions from Chapter IX of the ACBL Handbook (Powers and Duties of an Appeals Committee follows this section).

h. When a decision has been reached, all parties, including the Director, should again appear before the committee to hear the result. If the Director cannot be present, he should make sure the chairman has agreed to transmit the result to the Director so that any score change can be made.

5. After the decision has been rendered, allow no more discussion about the situation!! The time for discussion and dispute was in the prior period, Not Now!!! The committee members should not be subjected to any form of harangue or abuse by dissatisfied players. If this begins, the committee chairman or the Director should Immediately stop the conversations and warn the players that this is a serious breach of conduct which is simply not allowed. Express to them that it could lead to disciplinary penalties (matchpoints taken from their score in the current game) or barring from future games.

6. Make any scoring adjustments deemed necessary by the committee, etc.


(This is an excerpt from the ACBL Handbook of Rules andRegulations — Chapter IX)

Powers and Duties  

The convened appeals committee is considered to have been delegated all judiciary powers and duties of the Tournament Committee, save for any that may have been specifically withheld by ACBL regulations. It must adjudicate every case that is brought before it but may dismiss an appeal as being frivolous and assess a penalty against the player(s) filing such a charge or appeal. The Chief Director must inform the committee that its rights and powers include, but are not limited to, the following:

a. Uphold the Director’s ruling.

b. Cancel the Director’s ruling and make any adjustment the committee believes will constitute an equitable solution.

The adjustment may be:

1. Assignment of an Adjusted Total Point Score —

The committee may attempt to estimate what final contract would have been played had the infraction in question not occurred and to calculate the probable result that would have been achieved. It may then order the board scored as though that result was actually attained at the table.

2. Award of an Adjusted Score —

The committee may adjust the matchpoint score received by either side or both sides.

3. Cancel Results —

The committee may cancel the result on the board in question and award an average, average plus or average minus score to either or both sides.

NOTE: Please note that, while the scores need not balance, except for rare instances, such as the Director having made an error in Law, the total matchpoints should not exceed top on a board.

4. Award Overall Percentages Scores —

The committee may award one or both sides their overall percentage score in the session on the board in question (in effect not permitting the board to affect the disputants’ scores one way or another).

5. Assess Matchpoint Penalties —

The committee may assess a matchpoint penalty against the offenders without granting any compensation to the nonoffending side.

Barring of Players by Club Management

A players may not be barred for these reasons:

1. Religious or political affiliation, race, creed, sexual orientation, physical handicap or national origin.

2. Solely because of his proficiency at bridge.

A player may be barred for these reasons (except as detailed above):

1. An open club may bar a player for improper conduct, including cases of unethical practices.

2. A partnership may be excluded as a pair (but each may be permitted to play with other partners) if they are obnoxious or incompatible.

Notifying a Player Who Has Been Barred

The player is privately notified by the club management and is told the specific reason for his exclusion. In no other field of club operation is the use of tact and judgment so necessary as when notifying a player he is no longer welcome to play in an open game.

It is not necessary that the player be brought before a committee or be granted a public hearing of any kind.

When a player is barred from participation in an open club, the club manager must immediately report the action to ACBL Headquarters. The report must include the name and player number of the barred player and the reason for barring.


Rulings on Agreed Facts

This Law describes the mental process that should take place when the Director is called to a table and all players agree as to what occurred.

NOTE: If the Law gives the Director a choice between awarding a specified penalty or an adjusted score, he should attempt to restore equity by awarding a specific bridge result, resolving any doubtful point in favor of the non-offending side. The Director restores equity by analyzing the deal, checking the other results on the board and determining what the normal result would have been on the board if the infraction had not occurred. He then awards that result to both pairs. If the Director is unable to determine what would have occurred on the board had the infraction not occurred, he awards an artificial adjusted score — average plus to the non-offenders and average minus to the offenders.

When no penalty is prescribed by the Laws for the infraction: The Director will award an adjusted score if there is a reasonable possibility the non-offenders were damaged, notifying the offenders of their right to appeal in cases where an irregularity has occurred for which no penalty is prescribed by Law.


Rulings on Disputed Facts

Director’s Role

1. If the Director is satisfied that he has ascertained the facts, he should rule according to Law 84.

2. If the Director is unable to determine the facts to his satisfaction, he must make a ruling that will permit play to continue and notify the players of their right to appeal.

NOTE: The Director is expected to use his judgment in certain cases where there is a dispute about what a player said.

Example: When three people at a table agree they heard an utterance different from what the player claims to have said, it seems prudent for the Director to decide that the threesome heard what they thought they heard. This includes the situation where dummy pulls the same card both defenders thought they heard declarer call.

If declarer claims he called for a different card, the Director is faced with a three to one situation — the dummy by his action has agreed with the defenders.

In two to one situations where one player claims not to have been paying attention, the rule is not so clear. If the two players who agree are partners, the Director should tend to accept the version of the person who actually made the questioned statement. If a member from each partnership agrees that the person making the statement erred in what he thought he said, however, the Director should tend to accept the version of the two persons.

NOTE: There are times when the facts themselves can help the Director to arrive at an equitable solution.

Example: North opens 1NT (16 to 18) and South bids (?) NT.

After the hand is over and declarer wins nine tricks, South’s claim that he bid 3NT is disputed. If he holds, say, 12 points, this is strong evidence to support his claim. Conversely, a holding of 8 HCP and a balanced hand would put South’s statement in doubt, and the Director would rule that the final bid was only 2NT.


In Team Play

Average Score at IMPs: At IMPs when a Director chooses to award an artificial adjusted score of average plus or average minus, that score is plus 3 IMPs or minus 3 IMPs respectively.

Non-balancing Adjustments: In Knockouts, when a Director assigns non-balancing adjusted scores, each side’s IMP score on the board is calculated separately. The average of the two IMP scores is then assigned to both sides. In Swiss, when a Director assigns non-balancing adjusted scores, each side’s result is based upon the comparison of its side’s assigned or artificial score.

Example: A team may lose by 10 IMPs while its opponent wins by only 5 IMPs.

Substitute Board: The Director may not allow one board to be redealt per Law 6 when the final result of a match without that board could be known to the contestants. The Director may award an adjusted score for an irregularity on a board discovered after comparison of scores. For one fouled board with neither team responsible, the Director will score the match with one fewer result.

See Director Tech File


Fouled Board

Definition: A board is described as fouled when a card (or cards) or a complete hand (or hands) is placed in the wrong pocket of the duplicate board during the course of the game.

Director’s Role in a Pair Game:

There are three basic steps the Director must follow in scoring a fouled board:

1. He must determine at exactly what point in the game the reversal (foul) occurred. He does this by consulting the players, examining the scores, or both.

2. The Director divides the scores into two groups: one group before the foul and one group after.

3. The Director matchpoints each group by itself. A group of seven would be matchpointed on a 6 top; a group of three on a 2 top, etc. The Director then adds a half a matchpoint to each score for each time the board was played by the other group.

NOTE: In tournament play there is a different formula for fouled boards. If you use ACBLscore, you will be using the tournament (the more correct) formula.

Director’s Role in Team Play:

1. Board-A-Match

The North–South teams’ matchpoint score will be matchpointed within its own group as well as the East–West score, and the percentage matchpoint result of each pair is calculated. Let us add these two percentage numbers together and call it "X". If "X" is less than 80%, the team loses the board. If "X" is greater than 120%, the team wins the board. In all other cases, the board is declared a tie.

2. Swiss

The match is scored on the basis of the non-fouled boards played by both of the teams involved. If only one side is at fault, award the non-offending team 3 IMPs for each fouled board.

3. Knockout

a. In the last segment of the match —

The match is scored on the basis of the non-fouled boards played by both teams.

b. In other than the last segment of the match —

That segment is scored on the basis of the non-fouled boards played by both teams and the next segment is increased by the number of fouled boards.


Award of Indemnity Points

(See discussion of Law 12.)

Director’s Role:

When the Director deems that an artificial adjusted score must be assigned, he awards Average Plus — if a player in a pair or individual event is required to take an adjusted score through no fault or choice of his own, the score will be average plus. An average plus equals a minimum of 60% of the matchpoints available to the non-offender(s) on that board or the percentage of matchpoints earned on boards actually played during the session, if that percentage was greater than 60%. In competition scored by IMPs, an average plus equals 3 IMPs.

NOTE: The minimum number of matchpoints that can be awarded as an average plus on a 12 top is 7.2. If the score of a pair is more than 60% on the balance of the boards (excluding the adjusted board), they should be awarded a matchpoint score on the adjusted board equivalent to that percentage.

Example: A pair earns 190 points on 25 boards (12 is top; 300 is a perfect score). Their matchpoint score on the adjusted board should be 7.6 (190 divided by 25 equals 7.6).

Remember that rounding off to the nearest half-point can create a tie; that is, 60% of 12 is 7.2, not 7.0, and remember that a margin of .01 (1/100 of a point) is sufficient for a difference in rank.

Average Minus — if a pair is at fault. An average minus is no more than 40% of the matchpoints available to the offender(s) on that board.

NOTE: The indemnity points need not balance.

Example: If the travelers were placed in the wrong boards, both pairs would receive average plus and the Director should consider giving a procedural penalty (Law 90) of 1/4 board to the pair who placed the slips in the wrong boards. If the North player inadvertently pulls the traveler from the second board to enter the score from the first board, he would be at fault and his side would receive an average minus on the second board if the Director deems they were unable to play the board. The non-offenders (the East–West pair) would receive an average plus.


Penalties in Individual Events

Director’s Role

1. In cases where the Director is empowered to award an adjusted score, he shall do so equally against both members of the offending side, even though only one of them may be responsible for the violation.

2. In the awarding of an adjusted score for a procedural penalty, the Director will not assess the penalty on offender’s partner if, in the Director’s opinion, he is in no way responsible for the violation.


Procedural Penalties

Director’s Role

The Director, in addition to enforcing the penalty provisions of the Laws, may also assess penalties for any offense that unduly delays or obstructs the game, inconveniences other contestants, violates correct procedure, or requires an adjusted score to be awarded at another table. The Director should use considerable restraint in the application or assessment of procedural penalties when only his own inconvenience is involved. When the fairness of the contest and the enjoyment of the other contestants is involved, this Law should be applied.

Offenses subject to penalty include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Tardiness.

2. Undue slow play.

3. Discussion of the bidding, play or result of a board, which may be overheard at another table.

4. Unauthorized comparison of scores with another contestant during a session.

5. Touching or handling cards belonging to another player (See Law 7).

6. Placing one or more cards in an incorrect pocket of the board.

7. Any error in procedure (failure to count cards, playing the wrong board).

8. Any flagrant breach of the proprieties (Laws 72–76).

Penalties Under This Law

A penalty assessed by the Director under this Law may be overruled by a committee. The Director has true disciplinary powers under Law 81 (his general authority to run the game) and under Law 91 (his authority to maintain order and discipline to suspend a player). The penalties he assesses under those powers may not be overturned.


Penalize or Suspend

Director’s Role

This law empowers the Director to assess disciplinary penalties in points, or to suspend a contestant for the current session or any part thereof. The Director’s decision under this clause is final.

NOTE: Removing a player for the balance of the game is an extreme measure. In addition to the effect on the contestant, severe problems of a technical nature may result from this action. The director should not, however, shirk his responsibility when it is clear that a contestant should be expelled, as in cases of intoxication.

To maintain control, the appearance of disciplinary measures will often effect a better end result than expulsion. The Director could remove rather than expel a player from the game for attacking his authority. Example: when the Director temporarily removes the offender, visible to surrounding contestants, with a subsequent return to competition, the appearance and total effect is better for the other players and the offender.

When a Director does use his disciplinary powers, he should normally report the matter to the club appeals committee, club management and/or the Unit President for consideration of further action.

Index to Duplicate Laws


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