New Interpretations of the Laws
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New Interpretations of the Laws

by the WBFLC at Lille, 1998


This is a selection of extracts from the minutes of the World Bridge Federation Laws Committee which met in Lille, France in August and September 1998. Some of the decisions handed down were of profound significance in interpreting Laws that were not clear. In some cases the interpretations differed from previous opinions of Laws that were thought to be clear. The choice of extracts was made by Grattan Endicott, WBFLC Secretary.

1: Psychic Bids and Plays.
Guidance on Psychics issued by the WBF with its Conditions of Contest was studied. The Committee held that the statement in its first paragraph represented the law inaccurately. The Committee draws attention to the manner in which the laws deal with psychic calls and plays. These are entirely legal so long as they are not based on a partnership understanding. A so-say "psychic call" (or play) which is based on a partnership understanding is not properly called "psychic" - it is part of the methods of the partnership in question and subject to the regulations of the sponsoring organisation authorized by Laws 40D and 40E. The Committee affirms that a psychic call or play which is evidently identified by the course of the auction or play, as a matter of general bridge knowledge, is not the subject of an understanding peculiar to that partnership and is a legitimate ploy. Other than this an understanding may be created in the partnership by explicit discussion or by the implicit learning from repeated partnership experience out of which it may reasonably be thought the partner will recall and be influenced by earlier occurrences.

2: In Law 92D there should be a comma after "contest)".
The Law is interpreted to mean:
  • that in a pairs event both members of a pair must concur in appealing;
  • that in a team event an appeal requires the consent of the Captain (and not necessarily of the pair).

3: Procedures for awarding assigned adjusted scores.
There was a discussion of the procedure in awarding assigned adjusted scores following an irregularity. A change was made by the Committee in the interpretation of the law. Henceforward the law is to be applied so that advantage gained by an offender (see Law 72B1), provided it is related to the infraction and not obtained solely by the good play of the offenders, shall be construed as an advantage in the table score whether consequent or subsequent to the infraction. Damage to a non-offending side shall be a consequence of the infraction if redress is to be given in an adjusted score.

The Committee remarked that the right to redress for a non-offending side is not annulled by a normal error or misjudgement in the subsequent action but only by an action that is evidently irrational, wild or gambling (which would include the type of action commonly referred to as a 'double shot')

4: Consideration was given to the meaning of 'average minus' where used in Law 12C1.
Having debated the options, the Committee held that 'average minus' means the player's session percentage or 40% whichever is the lower.

5: Definition of 'Convention'.
Consideration was given to the definition of 'convention'. The Committee held the definition in the laws to be adequate. In writing the definition the intention was not to deem it conventional if a natural opening bid carried an inference as a matter of general bridge knowledge that the hand held no longer suit than the one named.

6: The Committee considered the situation in regard to purposeful corrections of call under Law 25B.
The Chairman drew attention to the effect of Law 25B. It was agreed that the intention of the Committee in drafting this Law was to permit the correction of a "stupid mistake" (e.g. passing a cue bid after thinking whether to bid game or slam). It is not the intention that the Law should be used to allow of rectification of the player's judgement. Note1 As the intention of the Committee this statement of intention constitutes an interpretation of the law.

It was also decided that should a player's partner call out of turn following the player's bid, cancellation of the out-of-turn call does not reopen the door to a Law 25B purposeful correction; Law 29 now applies.

Note1 This interpretation has since been altered
See Schedule 3 from the minutes of 11 Jan. 2000 - Note concerning Law 25B

7: Actions authorised in the laws.
The Secretary drew attention to those who argued that where an action was stated in the laws (or regulations) to be authorised, other actions if not expressly forbidden were also legitimate. The Committee ruled that this is not so; the Scope of the Laws states that the laws define correct procedure and anything not specified in the laws is, therefore, 'extraneous' and it may be deemed an infraction of law if information deriving from it is used in the auction or the play.

8: Footnote to Law 25B1.
Where an insufficient bid is prematurely substituted the premature correction is cancelled by the tournament director who then applies Law 27A to allow the LHO, if he so wishes, to accept the original insufficient bid. If he does not do so, the Tournament Director explains his options to the offender and allows him to select his action, applying Law 27B.

9: Laws 20F1 and 20F2.
In relation to the phrase "a full explanation of the opponents' auction" in Laws 20F1 and 20F2, it was agreed this refers to an explanation of the whole auction. However, it is recognized that in practical play players would frequently ask about the meaning of one particular call; this marginal infringement of the laws should not normally attract a penalty but players must be aware of the increased risk of the creation of unauthorised information that it entails and the relevance of Law 16 to such circumstances.

10: Asking questions.
Ton Kooijman, WBFLC Chairman, is particularly keen that these two items are linked, and the contrast be seen clearly:
  • The Committee's attention was drawn to an internet discussion as to whether it is legitimate for a player to address a question to the player who has made the call asked about. This abnormal procedure can only be followed with the consent of the Director, who must be called, and at an appropriate time in the absence of the player's partner. Furthermore the Director must be persuaded that the circumstances require it : it is to be avoided absolutely that a player should be allowed to verify from Player A (who made the bid) whether the explanation of his Partner B was correct.

    Players must correct their partner's explanations voluntarily at the due time specified in the Laws.

  • If a player knows that his partner's call is conventional but says he cannot recall what was actually agreed the Director may in his discretion send the player away from the table and allow the partner to tell opponents in his absence what the agreement is. The Director must be called and no action may be taken before he arrives. The partner continues in his action on the basis that the player has understood his call, and does not use the unauthorized information that his partner is uncertain of the meaning. The Director is strongly urged to remain at the table whilst the hand is completed. This procedure is only for the exact circumstances described; it does not apply when the player says that the position is undiscussed or there is no agreement.

11: Law 86C.
The meaning is that if one of the players who has to replay the board might know the score in the match without that board, the board shall not be redealt

12: Information arising from possession of a Penalty Card.
Information that the player must play the penalty card as the law requires is authorised and partner may choose the card to lead from the suit on the basis of that knowledge (e.g. may lead small from K Q J x when partner's penalty card is the Ace). Information based on sight of partner's penalty card is unauthorised so that, for example, the player may not choose to lead the suit if the suit is suggested by the penalty card and play of a different suit is a logical alternative.

13: Beneficial effect of a Penalty Card.
If possession of a penalty card has a beneficial effect for the offending side, the Director may have recourse to Law 72B1

14: Law 40E.
The Committee held that the (WBF) Systems Committee (and any sponsoring organisation likewise) has unrestricted power to identify any method as 'unusual' and to authorise reference to written defences at the table in countering such methods.

15: Misleading correction:
A declarer or dummy who corrects his partner's explanation at the end of the auction must explain his partnership agreement. If his hand does not conform to the corrected explanation he must be especially careful to ensure that he is right in his understanding of his partnership agreements. Whilst no obligation exists he is free to be helpful to opponents with complete gratuitous information as to fact concerning his action (but not where such action is purposeful - e.g. psychic).

16: The following example was quoted:
The player is not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents. He picks up a Yarborough and dealer (RHO) passes, the player passes and LHO opens 1NT(12-14). Our player then finds he has a hand from the wrong board and calls the TD, who cancels his call. He now finds that his true hand has a 22 count. Under Law 17D he passes and LHO repeats his call (footnote to Law 17D). The Committee ruled: "Both the marked change in the meaning of the call in the example and the fact that information from offender's withdrawn call was used meant that the action of the player is illegal."

17: The Committee noted an aspect of the WBF regulations applying when screens are in use.
This states that it is acceptable for a player to delay the return of the tray for the purpose of restoring the tempo of the transfer to 'normal'. It was held this means the normal tempo of play generally and not the tempo of play at that particular table nor the (slow) tempo of a prior movement of the tray on the hand in question. (Players who deliberately retard the return of the board beyond the acceptable norm may be in breach of Law 73D2 and 73F2 may apply).

Other odds and ends from the minutes. ["Sundries".]
  • Agreed to compile an agenda of 'unsure' matters for each years meetings. [Some committee members also think there might be a list of questions collated from BLML.]
  • Past decisions and recorded intentions of the Committee represent its current position until changed.
  • No change is to be made in the interpretation of Law that the reference in Law 43B2b to the penalty in Law 64 means the two trick penalty.
  • The Geneva decision formally noted that 'the condition in Law 80F applies to regulations made under Law 80F but not to regulations made under other powers to regulate granted in the Laws.' [In consequence the powers to regulate conventions are unrestricted.]
  • It is held illegal to ask a question in order that partner may be aware of the information in the reply.
  • An example case was considered of a player who normally plays a natural system but with a new partner agrees to play Precision. He forgets and opens 1C on a 12-count and five clubs. This is a misbid, not a psyche.


Editor's note:

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