Points for players.

April 2015. With the lead in either hand or dummy, declarer attempts to lead from the other hand. In Law, the lead stands as it is too late for dummy to draw attention to the mistake. The lead is deemed to be accepted as soon as the defender next in rotation plays a card to the illegal lead. Either defender may draw attention to the mistake, and can either accept or refuse the lead. Should one defender accept the illegal lead and the other refuse it, the wishes of the defender about to follow to the illegal lead take precedence.

March 2013. For the benefit of those people who like to make either light takeout doubles of natural 1-suit opening bids, or light overcalls of natural 1-suit opening bids ....

As soon as you make 1-of-the-above, the TD has to assume that the call is part of a partnership agreement. As your partnership agreement is at odds with what players may reasonably expect, the double or overcall MUST BE ALERTED. Should you fail to alert either a light overcall or double of an opponent's opening bid AND the opposition subsequently suffer "damage" as a result of the failure to alert then the TD is entitled to (MUST) treat the failure to alert as misinformation : regardless of the result obtained at the table, it will be adjusted. If your partner and yourself think that light doubles/overcalls are a good idea then henceforth can you please alert EVERY double/overcall your partner makes. BUT ...

Just because you now alert everything as "possibly light", you are still not off the hook. By means of an example, the hand on your left opens the bidding 1H and the auction continues 1H-x(A)-4H, your turn to bid. One of the basic requirements of bridge is that both you and your partner MUST explore the possibility of game contracts whenever you hold suitable hands. On the example auction above, when you find yourself looking at 4 spades and 10+ points, pass is no longer an option : for the double, partner could have 12+ points. You MUST NOT pass on the grounds that "someone does not have their bid and I am assuming that the someone in question is my partner", if you do then another adjusted score is coming your way (should the opposition complain).

The more you try to attempt to tilt the level playing field in your direction, the more the the TD will level the field against you.

Gratuitous Thinking
You are entitled to think before both making a bid and playing a card but the thought must be relevant to the situation. This is a contrived example to illustrate the art of gratuitous thinking, pausing to think at the table when there is no bridge reason for doing so.
Four players are at the table, South is the dealer and everyone removes their cards from the board at as close to the same time as possible. The cards are counted, sorted into suits and then compared to the curtain card. By this time, everyone should be aware of what possible actions are available to them in the auction.

7 points, no opening bid and a dubious overcall.

8 points, no opening bid and a poor overcall.

a strong, balanced 18 points, inwardly hoping for an opening bid from South.

7 points, a responding hand with no other bidding interest.

With his hand checked, sorted and counted South thinks for a while and passes. West passes smoothly. North, who has known his action since checking his cards, still has to think in addition to the time taken by South to pass, and eventually opens the bidding 1. In the absence of an opening bid from West, East can only pass. South does not know what to do without further thought, eventually 1 appears and West passes again. South's response must have taken North by surprise, as North has to stop to think for some time before trying (stop)2NT. East passes again after a legal delay.
So far, here are four examples of gratuitous thinking. South has need to think neither before his opening pass nor his 1 reply. North should have worked out both his 1 opening bid and either 2NT or some-number-of- at his second turn as soon as he saw his cards. The first semi-legitimate requirement for thought is at South's third turn as North might have 5 for 2NT. The auction plods its lethargic way to 4 played by South. An uncontested no-1-1-2NT-3-3-4 with or without more gratuitous thinking beyond 2NT.
West leads A to trick 1 as South surveys North's hand. After a lengthy pause for thought during which time nobody is quite sure whether South has fallen asleep, or is working out how to play the hand, or working out which card to play from dummy, dummy's 6 is played, followed by East's 2 and another pause from South. To play the 5 or 3, that is the question. Eventually a card appears. Regardless of which card South contributes, this delay is the result of gratuitous thinking. When you can follow suit to a trick that you can not win, the vast majority of the time you have nothing to think about (blocking the suit is the main exception). West continues with K at trick 2, and South has to think again before deciding which of dummy's remaining two s to play. The 10 is chosen as East follows with 9. Despite holding a singleton at this stage, South is unable to play it without more thought. This thinking is not gratuitous, but an offence under Law 73D, an illegal deception. By thinking, South is conveying the impression that there are at least two in his hand. When you hold a singleton of the suit to be played, you have nothing to think about and even less reason to think.
Before leading to trick 3, West knows someone is void of diamonds, probably South as East has played his cards in an ascending order and so switches to 9. South rises with A with alacrity, trick 3 is completed without noticeable thought. Dummy's Q is led to trick 4 on which South discards. The discard will probably annoy East/West as they now know that South deliberately misled them at trick 2 by hesitating before parting with a singleton . One way for East/West to show their annoyance is to play the rest of the hand at South's speed. Now three of the four people at the table are having their own private competition to find the Gratuitous Thinking Champion of Whatever-The-Table-Number-Is, interrupted by the occasion flurry of bridge. By the end of the round, the first board has been completed but there is no time to declare the winner.
Assuming the E/W are still sufficiently good-mannered to be playing at their regular tempo, at trick 5 South decides to draw trumps. Three rounds extract the defenders' cards, West discarding a on the third round as declarer exercises yet more thought (compounded with care) to win the third round in hand. Now J is led, West plays 2 with perfect timing as befits someone holding a singleton and South pauses to think in mid-trick. This thinking is once again gratuitous, the only bridge reason for a mid-trick pause is that the 2 is the only card that declarer did not want to see : had West played any other then South would have no need to think. Regardless of West's contribution, surely South knew which of dummy's cards he was going to play before the J was led??
The hand progresses to its conclusion, a painfully slow 10 tricks for South.
Petering to show attitude/count etc when following suit is deemed to be automatic. If you have to pause in mid-trick to work out whether to play this suit high-low or low-high then you are thinking gratuitously. Discarding, any situation in which you are unable to follow suit, is a reasonable time to think, but not for overly long ....
Penalties for illegal deception offences are applied by either the award of an adjusted score if the illegal deception has persuaded the non-offenders to continue a failing line when there was a successful one available, or as a gratuitous thinking offence, or both. Gratuitous thinking is an offence under both Laws 90B and 74C, and is punished by a so-many matchpoints deduction.
From time to time a distributional monster will appear, these hands require a bit more thought. Neither the North nor South hands above constitute distributional monsters so please justify the excess thinking in the auction and play ..... answers via email please. Thinking from card-to-card should be unnecessary, and thinking from trick-to-trick an exception rather than a requirement.
So far as bidding boxes are concerned, a bid is considered made as soon as it is removed from the box. It does not matter if nobody has seen the card. It does not matter that the card never goes anywhere near the table. As soon as that card is replaced in the box, so far as Law is concerned, you are deemed to have changed your mind. When you want to change your mind, only the person whose turn it is next to call may allow you to. Keep your hands well away from the bidding box until you have decided what to bid. Only then pull out the card corresponding to your bid. Should you pull out the wrong card, or more cards are stuck to the card you want, say so as soon as you become aware of what has happened. You may change a wrong card from either section of the box for another card from the SAME section.

Whilst clearing out a cupboard at Ryton RUFC, I came across this. This is the content of a printed document, undated and turning brown with age. It is reproduced as-is, some of it is still relevant and other parts are now illegal..

The North Eastern Bridge Association is concerned by the number of instances of incorrect procedure in bidding and play which have been reported, and considers that a clear statement of the accepted ethical principles of Contract Bridge will be helpful to clubs and players.

1.There are no bridge rules about cheating: the game is for those players who would scorn to gain an advantage over their oppponents by bidding or playing unfairly.

2. Bidding systems. Any published system may fairly be used, and deviations from the system are also permissible, provided that the system and deviations are clearly explained to opponents before the bidding starts. The obligation to explain the system and any variations rests wholly on the users of the system, it is not sufficient to say, "If you do not understand any of our bids, ask about them"; and it does not free the user of an unusual system or variations from their obligation to explain, if their opponents are too impatient or over-confident to listen. (Nowadays, only explain your system should the opponents ask.)

A system or variations on a system which might quite fairly be used in a cup or league match, where a lengthy explanation can reasonably be given and received, may very properly be banned by a club in Pairs Tournaments on the grounds that the explanation may waste too much time.

A player is quite justified in derparting from his declared bidding system at any time, provided that his partner is as likely to be deceived as the opponents. But it is generally agreed that the strong demand bid of a system (e.g. the Acol Two-Club) should not be used as a "psychic bid". (You can psyche this these days.)

3. Hesitation and emphasis in bidding. The ideal is absolute uniformity in the pause before bidding and in the voice when bidding, but this can never be completely attained. The "Slow Pass" is especially to be avoided, and if one player does make a "slow pass" his partner must on no account take advantage of this evidence that the "slow passer" has something in his hand. It is cheating to bid or double after a slow pass unless the cards in one's own hand justify the bid. A good player will often say to his partner after a hand is finished "I would have bid but your hesitation made it impossible for me to do so." (Of course, nothing here is to be taken as criticising the "forcing pass", when in competitive bidding, generally at a high level, one partner leaves it to the other to raise, double or even pass).

It is cheating to make a bid in a tone of finality (with or without putting one's cards together) to make it quite clear that one's partner must pass.

It is cheating to show approval or disapproval of partner's bid by gesture or facial expression.

4. Play in defence. Any variation form the normal in leads or "signalling" must be fully explained to the opponents before play begins. It is cheating to use some private method of showing high cards or length of suits unless the opponents are told about it; if this "private code" is difficult to explain or understand its use should be forbidden in club tournaments. (All "private" methods and codes are illegal in all events.)

5. Hesitation in the play of cards. The ideal is to play one's cards at a uniform pace without haste or hesitation, but this ideal is never attained. It is permissable to pause in order to count cards or think out the best play, but it is cheating to pause in order to mislead the declarer, or to give information to one's partner.

The commonest forms of cheating by hesitating are to hesitate or fumble cards (1) when you do not hold an honour which the declarer may try to finesse if he imagines it to be in your hand; (2) when you hold a singleton in the suit to which you are playing; (3) when you do not hold a singleton in a suit and hesitate in order to give this information to your partner.

Even the fairest player can be caught unprepared and hesitate in one of these situations, but it will happen very, very rarely, and he will apologise to his opponents as soon as he can. The only treatment for players who frequently cheat by these hesitations is to warn them, quietly, of the dishonesty of the practice, and to refuse to play with or against them unless they reform; they should certainly not be given a place in a League team.

It is cheating to show approval or disapproval of partner's play by gesture or facial expression.

6. Declarer's play. If the declarer hesitates in a situation likely to mislead the defenders - for instance when holding a singleton of the suit led - the correct procedure is to apologise at once and say "I had nothing to think about in this suit; I hold a singleton only"; or whatever meets the case.
7. Table manners. Bad manners at the bridge table at not unfair, but they can and do spoil the pleasure of the game. To be specially avoided are :
(1) Arguing with one's partner during or after the play of the hand;
(2) Continuing the argument when the bidding of the next hand has started;
(3) Chattering or being facetious during bidding or play;
(4) Being inattentive to the bidding or play, and constantly asking to have bids repeated or the last trick to be turned up;
(5) Gloating over some mistake or misfortune of one's opponents;
(6) Being unnecessarily noisy, whether with voice or rattling pencil,
(7) Withdrawing hands from boards after the score has been agreed.

8.Recommendations. The North Eastern Bridge Association recommend that the above notes on correct procedure should be distributed to all players in League teams; and that copies should be available in club rooms for member.

A copy of the rules of contract bridge should be supplied for reference in all clubs, and the attention of members should be directed to the section on "Proprieties".


Bridge is governed by a set of Laws. Most players are aware of the majority of them, but there are a number of Laws that are, well, ignored on a club night but are liable to be enforced in the cut and thrust of a more serious competition.
Firstly, declarer. You are not entitled to put your bidding cards carefully back in their box in such a way that the card for the contract you are playing in just happens to be lying on its side in the box, or has fallen all on its own onto the table. From time to time, everyone forgets the contract they are playing. By the time you suffer your first ruff, you have probably established enough losers to go down and the resulting bottom is, well, only a bottom. If you do forget your contract in mid-hand, you can always ask. You are only entitled to be told what the contract is, for example 2 spades or 3 hearts doubled : you are not entitled to know who contributed the double.
Secondly, dummy. Anyone who has played bridge in France will be aware that dummy is referred to as le mort. As dummy can do little more than warn declarer not to lead from the wrong hand, and check for declarer revokes, this seems reasonable. Dummy must not call attention to any irregularity in the play. A declarer contentedly playing in the wrong contract must be left to his own devices, the defence will eventually attract his attention. Should declarer point a trick the wrong way (winning a lost trick, or vice-versa), dummy must remain silent. Only when all thirteen tricks have been played (or claimed) can dummy draw attention to anything.
Thirdly, defenders. One of the basic principles of bridge is that players play their cards in a clockwise rotation. The privilege of not doing this extends solely to declarer. Only when declarer has played from both hands without waiting for the first defender to play a card may the defenders legally play out of turn to the same trick. Just because declarer did this at trick 3, the defence are not entitled to do likewise later in the same hand. Should dummy contain a sngleton in the suit declarer had just lead, you must wait your turn. You may not play out of turn with impunity just because the suit concerned is trumps. When declarer North leads a trump from hand to pull West's last one, West must wait his turn before parting with it. Following suit before East discards is a punishable offence, declarer can impose discard restrictions on East at the time, and may have other rights at the end of the hand.

Claims. Any statement relating to the number of outstanding tricks that declarer intends to win constitutes a claim, at which point all play ceases. Unless you are really sure, please do not make claims : you have to be really careful and could end up wasting a lot more time than the couple of minutes you intended to save. When the TD arrives, you will be asked to repeat your claim statement, any differences in the second rendition may jeapordise the claim. To resolve a contested claim, the cards will be played (by the TD) in a careless or inferior manner (for the class of player involved) but not an irrational one. Holding A2 opposite K3, it is irrational to play the K under the A, and set up a loser. Once you have made a claim, you are restricted to those finesses that are mentioned in the claim statement, and those that are known to be 'marked' at the time of the claim. A marked finesse is one in which one defender is known to be out of a suit, having discarded on an earlier round of it. Should declarer say something like "If you have no more trumps, the rest are mine", a claim has been made. The "If" phrase will be ignored by the TD, "the rest are mine" is the claim.

Defenders can make claims, but this is very rare. Things get really messy when a revoke is discovered whilst a claim is being resolved, a claim establishes any revokes that have hitherto gone unnoticed. The benefit of the doubt in any contested claim is given to the non-claimants.

Hesitations in bidding and play.

As dealer West, you pick up 10863 KJ92K5 982 and decide to pass. North suggests 1NT, and two passes follow. Bearing in mind the somewhat limited nature of the opposition bidding, would you venture 2? I doubt it. Bearing in mind the uncomfortable writhing from your partner following North's bid, do you venture 2? I hope not; you are entitled to make your second-round call on the basis of the cards in front of you and any call your partner has made. You are not entitled to allow how your partner's call was made to affect your judgement. When I tried to explain this to West, he got rather angry. The resulting 620 in the N/S minus column was rather conspicuous amongst a sea of 100's and 150's. Perhaps West thought I was upset about another bottom.

Along similar lines, should your partner make a slow penalty double, you may well have to explain why you decided to play 3C when you would have got a better result from 2Hx - 2 (at least). Once your partner has hesitated, you are not debarred from bidding but you must be able to justify your actions on a combination of the cards you have in front of you and the information you have gleaned from your partner's hand prior to the hesitation.

As a defender, when you hesitate during the play of the hand declarer is entitled to assume that you have grounds for your hesitation, and can change his plans accordingly. Hesitating (when able to follow suit) without good reason is a punishable offence. Hesitating before playing a singleton is unforgivable, hesitating over some form of length signal little better.

Sometimes, towards the end of the hand, declarer is of the opinion that dummy is of no further assistance and will say "Play anything" when calling for a card from dummy. Dummy is not entitled to decide which card should be played, declarer's comment has transferred this responsibility to the defence. As soon as one defender designates one of dummy's cards, the other is bound by that choice. If neither defender expresses an opinion, then declarer should decide which of dummy's worthless assets is to be disposed of.
As declarer, a card is played as soon as it is both faced and near to or on the table. As a defender, a card is played as soon as it is held in any position whereby partner could have seen its face : whether partner did see it is irrelevant. Once you have played a card, it may only be changed to correct a revoke (assuming the revoke is discovered quickly enough). Once you have contributed a legal card to a trick, it may not be retracted. When the lead to a trick is not made from dummy, the first legal card called for by declarer from dummy is the one played. When the lead is from dummy, a change may be allowed provided that the change is instant and you can convince the TD that you have not changed your mind.

Opening the nearly-bidding out of turn. North is the dealer and an over-enthusiastic South puts the STOP card on the table before either North or East has called. Provided that any of the players at the table prevent South from bidding 2 or 3 or whatever, the situation is remedied as follows. South's STOP card on its own does not constitute a bid, and is returned to the bidding box. North has the unauthorised information that South has some sort of 2+-level opening bid according to their methods and must bend over backwards not to make use of this information until such time that South has been able to show their particular hand legally. Should North have some form of opening bid, that bid must be made : North is not entitled to wait with any sort of opening hand to see what South does before entering the auction. At each stage in the auction, both East and West are entitled to know about South's attempted bid and may take decisions based on this knowledge. Should the TD decide that North has taken advantage of South's mistake, the result obtained at the end of the hand will be adjusted if N/S have gained by their actions.

Opening the bidding out of turn. North is the dealer and South opens the bidding 1. West refuses to accept the bid, whereupon the opening bid reverts to North, who is subject to the customary legal restrictions. East's hand is as follows : 852 J107652 AK KQ. There is absolutely no requirement on East to bid anything. East is entitled to take South's out-of-turn opening bid into consideration. Each time the auction reaches South, they can make any legal bid they feel like, however doubling any opposition bid is pointless (if the contract makes, the result stands, otherwise the TD will remove the double as North can not). Whatever the result obtained on the hand, South has no redress against East for failing to open the bidding, South created this situation and N/S will take the consequences. If the hand is passed out, the TD must see to it than N/S do not gain from their actions.

When all four cards have been contributed to any trick, it is customary to turn them face down on the table more-or-less at the same time. This act of "turning the cards over" has a legal implication. So long as your card is face up, you may ask any players who have turned their cards over to face them. Once you have turned your card over, you are deemed to have "lost all interest" in the current trick and may not ask to see any cards that have been turned over.
Slow Play.

This is not intended to frighten anybody. As players become more experienced then the decisions that have to be made during the course of a trick's journey around the table become 'simpler'. You gradually become accustomed to giving attitude and/or count signals, and recognise those situations in which partner will expect what type of signal from you. What starts as a muddle becomes orderly with practice, after a while it is almost second nature. With time, you will develop your own speed of play, or 'tempo'. The inexperienced player should never feel intimidated by the more experienced player. The Law book states that the Laws are not to be exploited by the experienced over the inexperienced, and that the TD is allowed to be lenient with inexperienced players where the Laws permit.

Any form of dithering or hesitation by any player before playing a card to a trick is 'authorised information' to the other pair, ie the opposing pair are entitled to assume that there are reasons for the dither.

As declarer, you lead 2 from K52 in hand towards AQJ in dummy. Once the first defender has followed suit, if you hesitate in any way before playing from dummy then you are deliberately misleading the opposition. You know you are not taking a finesse, the opposition do not and you must not deceive them. By all means play J but play the card 'in tempo'. The second defender is perfectly entitled to assume his partner has K when J holds the trick. When you played the 2 from hand, you already knew which card you were going to contribute from dummy. If you dither before playing to this trick from dummy, the opposition have rights at the end of the hand if they feel damaged as a result.

From here on, dithering is restricted to the defenders. Declarer is not immune, the same Law of Dither applies equally to declarer and defenders.

If you have a singleton of the suit led, it must be played without hesitation. Hesitating before playing a singleton is what the Laws term an 'illegal deception'. At the precise moment you are called to part with your singleton, you have nothing to think about. If you hesitate, then declarer is entitled to assume that you have at least two cards remaining in the suit.

Declarer opens the bidding 1 and lands in 3NT. You hold 63 and you find dummy with KJ752 when you make your opening lead. Declarer wins trick 1 in hand and leads A at trick 2 to which all follow. 4 appears at trick 3. If you dither before playing to either of these club tricks and declarer takes a losing finesse at trick 3, you can expect to lose at least one trick at the end of the hand. By all means give partner some sort of signal on the first round of , but be quick about it. Regardless of what signalling system you play with your partner, signalling is 'automatic' in the eyes of the Law, and not a valid reason for hesitation. Declarer can always take the finesse whatever you do, however declarer must not be 'lured' into finessing.

As West, you pick up an unimpressive selection J10754 432 Q7 J94. South opens 1NT, which North raises to 3NT. Without too much enthusiasm, you advance 5 as your opening lead (full layout below). East wins the first trick with K (0-1) and returns 8 at trick 2 to South's Q (1-1). At trick 3, South leads 5. You play small, and dummy's J loses to East'sQ (1-2). A small comes back, South winning with A (2-2) before leading 6 to dummy's K and East'sA (2-3). Amazingly, East cashes 10 and 9 to put the contract one down. South ought not to have played on at trick 3, and could have changed course at trick 5.

Declarer's line of play may not be the best but this is not a play lesson.

J10754   K8
432   AQ109
Q7   10954
J94   1085

The lead has given South 2 tricks to put alongside 2 tricks and 3 tricks. To get home, declarer has to find two more. A 3-3 club break will find one, as will finding Q in the right place. There is no reason to play at all.

Now play the hand again, adding a defensive dither at trick 3 when South leads the 5. A slow 2 emerges. South is entitled to believe that West has something of interest in as West has dithered. At the end of the hand, having gone 1 down by playing the hand along the same sad lines as above, South asks West about the dither at trick 3 and then summons the TD.

South will argue that, while the clubs are 3-3 and the Q is where she has to be, he was influenced into playing the way he did by the dither. When J falls to Q, South has to decide whether to continue playing on , or to switch to the minors. South has taken the wrong line and has been persuaded to continue on the wrong line by the dither.

Mid-trick dithering can be avoided by the application of a little thought at the correct time, trick one. A defender leads, dummy appears and all the players have the auction fresh in their minds. Declarer ought not to play immediately from dummy, even if dummy has a singleton in the suit lead. If declarer swoops on dummy 'without thinking', the second defender is entitled to think about the hand in general, not the card to contribute to the trick in progress. Once the card to be played has been decided, it should be placed on the table either face up so that play can continue, or face down to prevent any accusations of mid-trick dithering. Until you have a card on the table, you are deemed to be contemplating the card to play to the current trick. If you play your card face down, you turn it over when you are ready.

Also, by pausing before playing from dummy at trick 1, declarer allows the defenders time to work out what cards they will play should declarer do something the defenders do not expect, eg lead low from hand towards a 9-high 4-card non-trump suit in dummy at trick 2.

It is perfectly proper to have a moment's reflection whenever it is your turn to lead, however the subsequent cards contributed to the trick should appear without undue delay.