Poll #18, Contract Bridge – Dummy Rights, 12/24/2010

Contract Bridge Laws – Dummy Rights

What’s up with the declarer’s partner being affectionately called, “THE DUMMY” anyway? One popular belief dates back to the mid-1800s where Whist preceded Bridge. The notion of a “dummy” was derived by three English soldiers stationed in India, unable to find a fourth player. Their variation became known as Dummy Whist, the predecessor to our Bridge game. Fortunately, back home from the frontier today Bridge players have four players at the table. But the fascinating concept of exposing the cards of declarer’s partner stuck, so the player is referred to as “the dummy.”

In today’s polling question, we will probe your knowledge to detect one of the things the dummy is NOT permitted to do during play. Who would have thought that Bridge Laws 42 and 43 had so much to say about Dummy Absolute Rights, Qualified Rights and Limitations?

Good luck with the poll and we hope you enjoy the holidays!

Those with Membership Subscriptions can login to view detailed analysis on the laws and commentary about dummy rights, qualified rights, and limitations. We also offer background on the orgin of the name “Dummy” and a few associated law tips not known by many Bridge players.

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Whew, there really are a lot of details to our Bridge Laws, wouldn’t you agree? While most of us may not be legally oriented, it’s still wise to have a good understanding of the rules that govern our game. So let the laws be your friend and I hope everyone enjoys fair play in our wonderful game.

Happy Bridge trails,


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  1. BridgeHands says:
    Happy holidays, Bridge Friends,
    Like Santa, we’re looking at our lists. Oh sorry, no presents here but we do have the results of the first day of polling. Interestingly, while we do have a clear majority on this poll, all the remaining candidate selections had nearly the same distribution. First, let’s acknowledge the 38 percent who voted among the majority fingering this as NOT within the dummy’s rights:
    ….Dummy may call attention to Opponents revoke (renig) after the trick is quitted.
    Yes, while we want to be an attentive dummy, the Laws prohibit us from calling attention to FIRST call attention to an irregularity. So when an opponent revokes, we must wait until the completion of play before drawing attention to the error. And if you are like most players, you won’t wait a second to advise all the players to please refrain from touching the cards until the issue can be resolved. And to underscore another point, once another player (opponent or declarer) has called attentions to a revoke/renig or any other irregularity, the dummy now has full rights to talk, call the Duplicate Director, and provide information about Bridge Laws.
    Actually, once a revoke has been established (the offending side plays to the next trick), the play must be completed anyway. So it’s not as though the error can somehow be “fixed” the players at that point. And while we won’t try to cover all the intricacies of restoring equity after a revoke here and now, it usually involves moving 1 or 2 tricks to the non-offending side (depending on which side won the revoke trick). So while almost all of the Bridge Laws are not intended to punish the offenders, the establishment of a revoke is one area that does have a punitive aspect.
    Yet before we leave this topic, we should underscore that the dummy DOES have full rights to validate that the declarer (partner) is void in the suit lead when the ruff or sluff on the trick. The usual dialog is something like,, “No Spades partner?”
    Okay, second place at 20 percent goes to those who felt this is not in dummy’s rights:
    …If not on dummy’s initiative, dummy may look at face of Opps cards still in hand
    While it does seem odd the lawmakers would allow dummy to observe an opponent’s hand (face of cards), the thought is, “If they want to show, it’s okay for the dummy to look.” So in essence, dummy cannot readjust their seat or move their body and the like to peek at the opponents cards, but the dummy can certainly move their eyes to look at an opponents cards if they have not “chested” their hand. Here again, this is not the case with the declarer or the defender – it is improper for them to redirect their eyes just because the opponent has been a bit careless chesting their cards. Okay?
    To read more about the dummy rights, qualified rights and limitations, please login to our Membership Subscription for more commentary. Okay, let’s give a big round of applause for our dummies out there! Who knew all the duties, rights, and restrictions subject to their seemingly harmless position?
    Happy holidays to all,
  2. Ashraf Ismail says:

    If “Dummy” is the more adept player of the partnership I have sometimes been in the habit of directing moves to declarer about play – just from memory of the cards; during the play

    Is this one of dummy’s rights?

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Ashraf,
      The dummy is not allowed to direct declarer’s moves about play. However after a trick has been won, the dummy is permitted to remind the declarer which side won the last trick as:
      “You are in your hand”
      “You are in the dummy”
      The dummy may also advise the declarer immediately after a trick is quitted, as:
      “Our trick, partner”
      “Their trick, partner”
      And of course, the dummy may inquire declarer about a possible revoke, asking:
      “No Spades, partner?
      Otherwise, regardless of the dummy’s knowledge level, the dummy is prohibited from directing moves to declarer.
      Good luck, Michael

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