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Claims with a Trump Out (2)

by David Stevenson

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A couple of months ago I asked what you would do in the following situation. Suppose declarer holds (with spades as trumps):

S QJ
H AQ
D --
C --

The spade AK and the heart K have already been played, and declarer who is in hand says "All mine". But one defender has no hearts, and he has a small spade left. How would you rule? How should you rule?

Some of you sent in opinions, and they differed very strongly. A couple of correspondents thought that giving the defence a trick was giving them an unnecessary windfall, or suggested the defence were trying it on. Some correspondents thought you always give the defence a trick because the rules say so. Amongst the authorities there was a similar divergence of views: some senior TDs give the defence a trick quite routinely, others think the defence are trying it on.

I certainly give the defence a trick routinely, but let me try to explain why this approach is right. The aim of bridge, like every other mindsport and sport, is to win in a fair fashion. You should not win by unfair means, nor should you wish to, and every mindsport and sport has officials trying to make it fair. If declarer had not claimed, then he would have played it out, and he might have lost a trick. After all, there are only two real reasons for not mentioning an outstanding trump: either he has forgotten it, or he could not be bothered. If he could not be bothered I do not see why he deserves any consideration whatever, and there is always a chance, especially with a single trump, that he has forgotten it. So, if you do not give the defence a trick, then you have given the player who did something wrong an unfair advantage and why should he get a windfall like that?

How about the defence? Well, they have done nothing wrong, but if there had been no claim they might have got a trick. Would they? We shall never know, but they might. Natural justice surely suggests that when we do not know what would have happened we should give a doubtful trick to the non-offenders, and, in fact, that is written into the claim Laws. Perhaps fairer would be to give the defence the score for half a trick, but that is not permitted under the current Laws.

We must get out of the way of thinking, as is growing commoner in North America, that we should not give windfalls to non-offenders, because, first, they have done nothing wrong, and second, why should we reward the side who has done something wrong?

As to the person who would leave the game if ruled against as declarer, if I was declarer, forgot to mention a trump when claiming, I would want to be ruled against, because I would not want to win unfairly, and I advise everyone to adopt this approach. If your ethics are perfect, and you never try for any unfair advantage however small, then when you win it is sweeter and you have a greater satisfaction.

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Please remember to write to me with your problems. I am afraid I will not guarantee to answer each query personally, but I shall look at everything sent, and will write about some subjects submitted this way.

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Editor's note:

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