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Contract Rubber Bridge Laws
Proprieties 1-5

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This document is provided courtesy of the
American Contract Bridge League

2990 Airways Blvd. S Memphis TN 381163847
S Fax 9013987754



These Laws cannot cover every situation that might arise, nor can they produce equity in every situation covered. Occasionally the players themselves must redress damage. The guiding principle: The side that commits an irregularity bears an obligation not to gain directly from the infraction itself; however, the offending side is entitled to profit after an infraction, as an indirect result, through subsequent good fortune.*
To infringe a law intentionally is a serious breach of ethics, even if there is a prescribed penalty that one is willing to pay. The offense may be the more serious when no penalty is prescribed.
There is no obligation to draw attention to an inadvertent infraction of law committed by one's own side. However, a player should not attempt to conceal such an infraction, as by committing a second revoke, concealing a card involved in a revoke or mixing the cards prematurely.
It is proper to warn partner against infringing a law of the game: for example against revoking, or against calling, leading or playing out of turn.

*Two examples may clarify the distinction between direct gain through an infraction and indirect gain through good luck.
South, declarer at 3NT, will have nine tricks available if the diamond suit - six cards headed by the ace, king, queen in dummy opposite declarer's singleton - divides favorably; and the six missing diamonds are in fact split evenly, 3-3, between East and West. However, West, who holds three diamonds headed by the jack, shows out on the third round of diamonds, revoking. Thus, declarer wins only three diamond tricks instead of six, for a total of six tricks instead of nine. The established revoke is later discovered, so one penalty trick is transferred after play ends. But declarer is still down two.
Here, East-West gained two tricks as a direct consequence of their infraction. The players should adjudicate this result, scoring the deal as 3 NT making three. Note that declarer is not given a penalty trick in addition; the object is to restore equity, to restore the result likely to have occurred had the infraction not been committed.
South, declarer at 4S, is entitled to require or forbid a diamond opening lead from West because of an auction-period infraction committed by East. Declarer instructs West to lead a diamond - but West, having no diamonds, leads another suit. East, now aware that partner is void in diamonds, is able to find what would be, under normal circumstances, a most unnatural line of defense to give West two ruffs. Thereby, East-West defeat a contract that would almost certainly have been made but for the infraction.
Here, East-West profited only indirectly through their auction-period infraction; their gain was the direct consequence of declarer's decision to require a diamond lead, and of West's lucky void. So, the players should allow the result to stand. Declarer was damaged not by the infraction itself but by bad luck afterwards - and luck is part of the game of bridge.



Communication between partners during the auction and play should be effected only by means of the calls and plays themselves, not through the manner in which they are made, nor through extraneous remarks and gestures, nor through questions asked of the opponents and explanations given to them. Calls should be made in a uniform tone without special emphasis or inflection, and without undue hesitation or haste. Plays should be made without emphasis, gesture or mannerism and so far as possible at a uniform rate.
Inadvertently to vary the tempo or manner in which a call or play is made does not in itself constitute a violation of propriety, but inferences from such variation may properly be drawn only by an opponent, and at his own risk. It is improper to attempt to mislead an opponent by means of a remark or a gesture, through the haste or hesitancy of a call or play (such as hesitation with singleton) or by the manner in which the call or play is made.
Any player may properly attempt to deceive an opponent through a call or play (so long as the deception is not protected by concealed partnership understanding). It is entirely proper to make all calls and plays in unvarying tempo and manner in order to avoid giving information to the opponents.
When a player has available to him improper information from his partner's remark, question, explanation, gesture, mannerism, special emphasis, inflection, haste or hesitation, he should carefully avoid taking any advantage that might accrue to his side.



A player should maintain at all times a courteous attitude toward his partner and opponents. He should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game. Every player should follow uniform and correct procedure in calling and playing, since any departure from correct standards may disrupt the orderly progress of the game.
As a matter of courtesy, a player should refrain from
(a) paying insufficient attention to the game (as when a player obviously takes no interest in his hand, or frequently requests a review of the auction).
(b) making gratuitous comments during the play as to the auction or the adequacy of the contract.
(c) detaching a card from his hand before it is his turn to play.
(d) arranging completed tricks in a disorderly manner, thereby making it difficult to determine the sequence of plays.
(e) making a claim or concession of tricks if there is any doubt as to the outcome of the deal.
(f) prolonging play unnecessarily for the purpose of disconcerting the other players.
Furthermore, the following are considered breaches of propriety:
(a) using different designations for the same call.
(b) indicating approval or disapproval of a call or play.
(c) indicating the expectation or intention of winning or losing a trick that has not been completed.
(d) commenting or behaving during the auction or play so as to call attention to a significant occurrence, or to the state of the score or to the number of tricks still required for success.
(e) showing an obvious lack of further interest in the deal (as by folding one's cards).
(f) looking intently at any other player during the auction or play, or at another player's hand as for the purpose of seeing his cards or of observing the place from which he draws a card (but it is not improper to act on information acquired by inadvertently seeing an opponent's card).
(g) varying the normal tempo of bidding or play for the purpose of disconcerting another player.
(h) mixing the cards before the result of a deal has been agreed upon.


It is improper to convey information by means of a call or play based on special partnership agreement, whether explicit or implicit, unless such information is fully and freely available to the opponents.
It is not improper for a player to violate an announced partnership agreement, so long as his partner is unaware of the violation (but habitual violations within a partnership may create implicit agreements, which must be disclosed). No player has the obligation to disclose to the opponents that he has violated an announced agreement. If the opponents are subsequently damaged, as through drawing a false inference from such violation, they are not entitled to redress.
When explaining the significance of partner's call or play in reply to an opponent's inquiry, a player should disclose all special information conveyed to him through partnership agreement or partnership experience; but he need not disclose inferences drawn from his general bridge knowledge and experience. It is improper for a player whose partner has given a mistaken explanation to correct the error immediately or to indicate in any manner that a mistake has been made. He must not take advantage of the unauthorized information so obtained.


A spectator, including a member of the table not playing, must not display any reaction to bidding or play while a hand is in progress (as by shifting his attention from one player's hand to another's). He must not in any way disturb a player. During the hand, he must refrain from mannerisms or remarks of any kind (including conversation with a player). He may not call attention to any irregularity or mistake, nor speak on any question of fact or law except by request of the players.


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