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Establishment of Revoke [Law 62 v Law 63]

by David Stevenson & Steve Willner, Boston, USA


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David Stevenson

We have had some discussion on this subject, and I have never expressed my view. I have decided it is time I committed myself. This is a long article, so either put the cat out ["Snarl" from Quango!] and settle down for a long read, or skip to the next article!!

The basic situation is that a defender revokes. The next trick is led by declarer or dummy and the revoker realises he has revoked. "Stop, I have revoked!" he says [or some such], but his partner plays to the trick anyway. Is the revoke established?

Now several people have posted along the lines of "It is quite obvious if you read Law ...." but they are not agreed!

The simple argument on one side seems to be that L62A says

A player must correct his revoke if he becomes aware of the irregularity before it becomes established.

The simple contra-argument is that L63A1 says

A revoke becomes established: when the offender or his partner leads or plays to the following trick (any such play, legal or illegal, establishes the revoke).

So, what happens: does partner's play [illegal, but so?] establish the revoke? Or is the fact that the player "must" correct the revoke the important one?

What of the arguments proposed? The problem is that both are reasonable. So I am not very impressed by arguments that say it is obvious because the Law says so: what is required is to find an argument that explains why the opposite argument fails.

We then got a post from Kojak. In it he says that no-one has the right to make a call that establishes a revoke once attention has been drawn. He did not say that this means he supports the view that the revoke was not established when partner called illegally. It has been assumed by others that this is what Kojak meant. I do not know: no doubt he can make his meaning clear if he wishes.

We then got a post from Grattan. He states that the revoke must be corrected and quotes support from Kojak and Kaplan. He has apparently read Kojak's post differently. Perhaps this is what Kojak meant, but it is not what he said. And how about quoting Kaplan? Well, we are unable to check this. I am unhappy at the whole methodology of second-hand quoting of a former Chairman of the WBFLC: neither is he the current man in that post nor can we check the quoting. I have complete and utter belief in Grattan's honesty but that does not mean that I take everything he says as to Kaplan's views as gospel. He may have misunderstood them: he may be quoting them out of context: Kaplan himself may have missed something.

For Grattan's post to help the argument along it needs to show why one view is correct and the other view wrong: this it fails to do. I have asked Grattan to argue his case rather than merely quote Kaplan and misquote Kojak but so far he has not done so: I do not think Grattan's posts so far help the argument at all.

Finally we have had Steve and Eric, who have done what others have failed to do: they have looked at both sides. Unfortunately they have both realised that there is something to be said for each side and have reached no firm conclusion. However, I believe that by considering both sides they have produced the two most valuable posts so far.


Around this time, John through another point into the argument. He quoted a case where a player made an inadvertent call, and tried to change it under L25A: he tried to change it after his LHO had called, but before his partner had called, ie it was in time under L25A. However, after his attempt to change it and before the TD was summoned, his partner called. This is a very similar situation where partner has taken action after attention was drawn to something, and partner's action appears to be to the detriment of the partnership. L25A says:

Until his partner makes a call, a player may substitute his intended call for an inadvertent call but only if he does so, or attempts to do so, without pause for thought. If legal, his last call stands without penalty; if illegal, it is subject to the applicable Law.

Again, one can see the two views: he has attempted to change his call in time so it can be changed: partner has made sure it is out of time, so it is too late to change it.

I think this case is simpler: there is no Law that seems to stop him changing it so the Law allows it to be changed despite his partner: his LHO may change his call [L21B1]: if he does so then the partner may also change his but not otherwise [L21B2]. But it is interesting nevertheless.


Back to the main argument. Does partner's illegal call establish the revoke? Let us consider the word "must". According to the Scope:

The strongest word, "must" ("before making a call, he must inspect the face of his cards"), indicates that violation is regarded as serious.

So, let us re-consider L62A:

A player must correct his revoke if he becomes aware of the irregularity before it becomes established.

That means that a player has no option whatever in correcting his revoke. He may not use judgement: he may not conceal his revoke: he is given no option. BUT we are not talking about the player's decision making: we are talking about the Laws, and the Director's decision making. If the Law says that the revoke is established, and the TD tells the player that he can no longer correct the revoke, then he has done his best to follow the word "must", and it is not culpable that he has not acted as required.

How about L63A1?

A revoke becomes established: when the offender or his partner leads or plays to the following trick (any such play, legal or illegal, establishes the revoke).

The offender's partner played in defiance of L9B2 and thus illegally. However, this Law allows for the play being illegal, and still the revoke becomes established. Thus, as a matter of fact, the revoke has become established, and despite the word "must" in L62A, it is no longer possible to correct it.


In the given situation, the revoke was established by partner's illegal play, and can no longer be corrected. I do not accept the arguments of Grattan and others, which I believe to be contrary to the Law as written.



Steve Willner

Side 1 says that L62A takes precedence. When East announces the revoke, play stops, and any card exposed by West is not a play. Supporting arguments:

1A, time-ordering: we deal with irregularities in the order they occurred, so we deal first with East's announcement and then with West's exposed card.

1B, simplicity: the TD never has to decide whether West's card is played or not. (Suppose West claims the card was accidentally dropped and not played at all. A partial rebuttal, of course, is that sometimes the TD will have to decide anyway to say whether the penalty card is major or minor.)

Side 2 says that L63A1 and L63C take precedence. If West's play really is a play and not a dropped card, the revoke can no longer be corrected in spite of East's attempt. Supporting arguments:

2A, semantics: L62A gives an obligation to the player, but L63A1 is an incontrovertible statement of fact. Similarly, L9B2 puts obligations on the players (they should take no action), but it doesn't say that any action they do take is cancelled (in contrast to, for example L68D). In fact, L9C and L11A contemplate that there might be subsequent actions taken in violation of L9B2.

2B, equity: the side that has committed two infractions (the revoke and West's illegal play) should not benefit, and an established revoke is likely to be worse for them than allowing the correction.

Unfortunately, I find arguments on both sides convincing, especially arguments 1B and 2A.



David Stevenson: final comment

I find 1A to be virtually irrelevant: the infractions are linked, not separate. It is separate infractions that we deal with in order. I find 2B to be totally irrelevant: we follow the Laws as written, not equity in defiance of the Laws. As for 1B, I cannot see what this has to do with anything: TD's routinely decide whether a card is played!

I find 2A convincing, and it supports my view.


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