Do you remember declarer cashing four cards very slowly, thinking between each one, while you and your partner agonised over your discards, worrying about what declarer’s last card is? Do you remember how you felt when you discovered that it was a winner, and everyone had been wasting their time? Why did declarer not claim?
Claims speed the game up, especially when declarer has only winners left, and are a good idea in principle. However, sometimes claims go wrong, for one of two reasons.
The first reason is that sometimes the opponents do not understand the claim. It may be that the claim is not explained well enough, or it may be too complicated. Players should be careful to make their claims intelligible, and not too difficult for the current opponents to understand. It is not helpful for an expert to claim on a squeeze against a novice.
Claims are part of the game, however, and when a player puts his hand down which is all winners, and says: "All mine," it is not acceptable for opponents to say: "Play it out," without even looking. Even if you do not like claims (why ever not?), you should always try to see if you can follow declarer’s reasoning.
The second reason for a claim going wrong is because the claimer has made a mistake, or perhaps his opponents think he has made a mistake. A statement of how the player expects to make the number of tricks claimed should always accompany a claim. The opponents should never argue: they should either accept the claim, or call the Director. At rubber bridge call the Host if there is one in a club; otherwise the Laws provide for playing on. But play never continues at duplicate.
The most frequent reason for a wrong claim is that there is a trump still outstanding. It is very easy to say: "Drawing trumps," as part of the claim, and when a player does not do so, he has often forgotten an outstanding trump, even when he later claims that it was ‘obvious’ that he had remembered it! The opposition do not always get a trick as a result: there has to be a reasonable line for them to get one – but it is the Director who decides.
At duplicate there is no reason to worry about whether the claim should be accepted or not: if you do not agree with an opponent’s claim, call the Director and let him sort it out. In practice, people often argue: this is pointless and rude. Another unfortunate habit that seems to be growing is that some people challenge a claim the moment the cards are put on the table, without giving the claimer time to explain: that is both rude and illegal!
Here are a few wrong ideas about claims that are often cited: