Suggested Changes in the Laws

DBF's suggestions for changes in the International Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge
DBF's Lovkommission i samarbejde med DBF's turneringskomite - Udtalelse nr. 8 - endelig udgave - maj 2002



A revision of The International Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge is scheduled for publishing in 2005.  As part of the process that will lead to the new edition of The Laws, the members of the WBF, ie. the NCBOs around the world, have been encouraged to put forward their suggestions for changes in the Laws.

This document is the official list of suggestions from Danmarks Bridgeforbund, the Danish Bridge Federation.


The headings and sub-headings in the Laws are currently not part of the Laws themselves.

It will probably be easier to create a simple and easily understood wording of many laws if the text of each section of a law does not have to carefully repeat what the sub-heading just above it says.

We therefore suggest that the final parenthesis in the Scope be deleted or changed so that the headings and sub-headings become part of the Laws, and that the corresponding simplification of language be made wherever appropriate.

Law 6D2 (and Law 4)

In teams matches in clubs, it is usual to let half of the matches play the lower-numbered boards (e.g., 1-16) as the first round, while the other half of the field plays the higher-numbered boards (e.g., 17-32). For the second round, they then swap the boards.

This is in conflict with Law 6 (or Law 4, depending on the definition of "session"). Law 4 tells us that the players retain the same partnerships throughout a session, which means that a session in a match must be one round. But Law 6 tells us that we must not use deals that have been played in a different session.

Suggestion: Change Law 6 to allow using deals that have been played before if it is part of the planned movement that they should now be played again.

Law 6E4

Since the latest revision of the laws, computer-based dealing has become ever more popular.  Traditionally, the authority to use computers for shuffling and dealing is implied in Law 6E4.  We suggest that this authority be made explicit, for instance by moving the existing Law 6E4 to become Law 6E5.  Instead, a new Law 6E4 could be phrased along these lines.

4. By Computer

The Director or the sponsoring organization may have a suitable computer program perform the shuffle and deal.

This phrasing would provide a reference in the laws for regulations that require such programs to be developed according to specific requirements or to be approved or certified.

Law 12C2

It is a wide-spread and WBF-recommended practice to adjust for only the offending side (or to adjust only partly for the non-offending side) if the non-offending side was damaged only because the infraction was followed by an irrational, wild, or gambling action from the non-offenders. This practice should be made explicitly legal - preferably by an amendment to Law 12C2 , otherwise by making Law 12C3 available to all directors or by an amendment to Law 11.

Law 12C3

Prompted by the recommendation set forth in the WBF Laws Committee's Code of Practice, the DBF has (for the past two years) empowered tournament directors to use Law 12C3 in certain tournaments at the national level.  The directors in the DBF have not felt the need to use this law in that period.  Both local appeals committees and the national authority have made use of Law 12C3 with satisfactory results since 1997.  We support that tournament directors in general be authorized to execute the powers currently reserved for appeals committees in Law 12C3.

Law 13

The footnote to Law 13 uses the word "deficient". Since the meaning is specifically "having less than 13 cards", such a simple wording would be better. Experience shows that at least some non-native English speakers read "deficient" as also covering a hand with 14 cards, reading the word as meaning "lacking in the quality of having exactly 13 cards".

It might also be a good idea to have a Law that is explicitly concerned with the 13-13-13-14 case.


If a player by accident sees a card belonging to another player at his table after the auction has begun, the start of Law 16B seems to indicate that Law 16B applies.  This is not the case (Law 74C applies, and the information is authorized, provided of course that it is obtained inadvertently).  We suggest that a cross-reference be included:

... before the auction begins (see Law 74C5 if the auction has begun):  the Director should be called forthwith, ...

Law 16B

In order to cater for the very common situation where the director judges that the extraneous information could interfere with normal play, but that it is quite likely that the board can be played normally, something like the following could be added as a fourth option in Law 16B:

4. Allow Tentative Play of Board

allow play to continue, instructing each player with extraneous information to call him if a situation develops in which that information could have an influence on the player's decision. If the Director is called again, he may at that time award an artificial adjusted score.

In general we find it desirable that as many boards as possible be decided by actual play.  We are confident that this approach could be useful at all levels of competition.

Law 17D

Law 17D seems to have been written primarily for the situation where the irregularity is discovered immediately or shortly after the player has made his first call with the wrong hand. An explicit limit for how late the irregularity can be discovered without the board being canceled would be a good idea; our suggestion is that the board should always be canceled if the offender's partner has called after the offender.

In addition, the current Law 17D should not be placed in Law 17. It has nothing to do with the duration of the auction, and it has much more to do with picking up the wrong cards than with the auction. Even experienced directors can have difficulties finding Law 17D. We suggest that it be moved to chapter IV, near Law 15. In order to not change the numbering, it could actually be added as Law 15D. The heading of Law 15 should then be changed, for instance to "Wrong Board or Wrong Cards".

Law 20F1

Some players and directors read this law as saying that it is legal to ask only for a full explanation of the whole auction, reading the parenthesis as allowing only additional follow-up questions to be about single calls.

Regardless of what the intention originally was, we suggest that it be made explicitly clear that questions may be asked not only about the whole auction but also about individual calls (made or not made).

Law 21B1 (with a connection to Law 75D2)

The first few words of Law 21B1 are until the end of the auction period (see Law 17E).  Quite often, these words lead to a scenario like this:
  1. During the auction a player makes a call that his partner explains in a way that he does not agree with.
  2. After what for now is the final pass of the auction, this player's side is designated to declare the contract, so this player corrects his partner's explanation in compliance with Law 75D2.
  3. The opponent who made the final pass now wants to change that final pass to a double or a bid, which the director allows under Law 21B1, noting that the auction period has not ended.
  4. The director orders that any face-down opening lead be taken back and that the bidding continue.  The corrected explanation is now, of course, unauthorized information for the offending side.
A scenario like this is undoubtedly conducted exactly as intended by the lawmakers.  The sequence of events comes as unexpected for unseasoned directors, but that is probably best seen as a challenge in the way directors are trained.

The problem with this sequence of events arises when the director is not called in connection with step 2.  Most players expect that it is too late to change a call at this stage.  Therefore they will simply play out the hand, and if, after the hand, they feel damaged they will call the director.  Every so often it turns out that the alleged damage on the hand would have been avoided altogether if the player making the final pass had been given the opportunity to take back his pass.  The director now faces a dilemma.

It is clear that we could prevent unfortunate appeals like these by educating the players better.  We are reluctant to do this.  We prefer to spend our propaganda resources on issues like making sure that the players actually do draw attention to problems with explanations at the appropriate time; we would prefer not to move the focus from that important issue.

This discussion boils down to this observation:  The logistics prescribed in cases like these are fairly complicated and difficult to understand.  Because of that, the players often do not follow the intentions of the laws.  This leads to somewhat arbitrary results when the failure to understand the intricacies of the laws decide the outcome of a hand.  It might be an improvement, therefore, to make the laws less complicated.  A possible way of doing this could be to let Law 21B1 start like this:

1.  Change of Call

Until the final pass of the auction, a player may ...

If a change like this is not considered appropriate, we suggest that the interpretation of this law be made clear by adding a clarification in brackets (or in a footnote) along these lines:

1.  Change of Call

Until the end of the auction period (also after the final pass of the auction, see Law 17E), a player may ...

Law 23

Law 23 does not really say anything that L72B1 does not also say. We suggest that Law 23 be removed and that all references to it be changed to refer to Law 72B1 instead. Changing those references may have the additional benefit of making more directors aware of the existence of Law 72B1.

Law 24

It should not be declarer's problem to decide whether or not a card is a penalty card. We suggest that "declarer may treat every such card as a penalty card" be replaced by "every such card becomes a penalty card".

The director's right to waive penalties according to Law 81C8 still applies, but we don't believe that Law 24 merits an explicit reference.

Law 25A

Some players need a "pause for thought" in order to realize that what they just made was a call that may be changed under Law 25A. At the time they have realized that, they have "paused for thought" and can no longer change the call.

We suggest removing the "no pause for thought" requirement. Of course, any pause for thought will be taken into account when the director judges whether or not the call really was inadvertent.

Law 25B

We consider Law 25B to be an unsuccessful attempt to prevent weird results after a player has made a mistake in a call.  As it stands, Law 25B is difficult to use for the director, hard to understand for the players, and especially cruel to the opponents of the player who changes his call.  Further, it is unfortunate in its current phrasing in that it uses words like offender and penalty in a context where the ostensible offender is not committing an infraction but rather exercising his right to change a call under certain conditions.  

Overall we suggest a fundamental change in attitude in Law 25B, where the general attitude is that bridge is a game of mistakes, and even stupid ones should primarily be punished by the opponents. There are many possible ways of expressing this; the suggestion below illustrates the principle.

B. Delayed or Purposeful Correction

1.  Indication that the Player Regrets the Call

If a player indicates that he regrets the call he has made, without attempting to substitute another call, and section A does not apply, this indication is treated as unauthorized information for his partner (Law 73C, Law 16A)

2.  The Player Attempts to Substitute a Call

If a call is substituted when section A does not apply: 

a. Substitute Call Condoned 

The substituted call may be accepted (treated as legal) at the option of the offender's LHO; then, the second call stands and the auction proceeds without penalty. If offender's LHO has called before attention is drawn to the infraction, and the Director determines that LHO intended his call to apply over the substituted call, that call is accepted and stands without penalty. (See Law 35 if the substituted call is inadmissible.)  

b. Not Condoned

If the substituted call is not accepted, it is canceled, and the first call stands. Law 16C and Law 26 apply to the canceled call. In addition, if the first call was insufficient, out of rotation, or inadmissible, the offender is subject to the applicable law. If offender's LHO has called before attention is drawn to the infraction, and the Director determines that LHO intended his call to apply over the first call, LHO's call stands.

Law 30

In the case of a pass out of rotation, the player forced to pass is offender himself. This is probably intended to be a less severe penalty than in the case of a bid out of rotation, where it is his partner that is forced to pass.

However, with the Law 16C2 that was introduced in 1997, forcing offender to pass instead of his partner can actually be a very severe penalty.

If, for instance, offender's partner has an ordinary 14-hcp hand, the authorized knowledge that offender must pass, and the unauthorized knowledge that offender does not have an opening hand, then he will be forced to bid game, since that would obviously be a logical alternative without knowledge about offender's hand.

We suggest that this be solved by making Law 30 an explicit exception from Law 16C2: i.e., make the withdrawn pass authorized information for offender's partner. Alternatively, Law 30 could be changed so it is offender's partner that is barred from bidding even when the call out of rotation is a pass - but that would probably make the penalty undesirably severe.

Law 31A

The wording in parentheses is not clear: "it" seems to refer to partner's call, but it is intended to refer to the pass that is not mentioned as a noun at all (this is clear from Law 30C). This has actually caused problems in Danish translations of earlier versions of the laws. A possibly better wording could be "(or has conventionally passed partner's call, in ..." or simply "(or has passed conventionally, in ...".

Law 40A

It has been considered controversial that some Zonal organizations, NCBOs, and sponsoring organizations have regulations that prohibit psychic bids of certain or all conventional bids.  It would be helpful if it were possible to settle this controversy in the Laws.  The current interpretation could be expressed in an extra sentence at the end of Law 40A:
Sponsoring organizations may, however, restrict or prohibit psychic use of conventional bids (see Law 40D).

We would like to stress that the DBF would prefer the opposite policy, in which such regulations are considered illegal.  This could be expressed in Law 40D or like this in Law 40A:

The right to regulate the use of conventions (see Law 40D) does not authorize the sponsoring organization to implement special restrictions about the psychic use of otherwise authorized conventional bids.

The main point of this suggestion is, however, to ensure that the laws clearly state whether such regulations are allowed.

Law 40B and Law 75A

We suggest that the term "special partnership understanding" be changed to just "partnership understanding" in Law 75A, and probably also in Law 40B.

The word "special" can currently be used as an excuse to not disclose certain partnership understandings. We see no reason why it should not be clear that all partnership understandings must be disclosed.

Law 40E2 (and Law 73B1)

The restriction that a player may look at the opponents' convention card only at his own turn is so impractical that it is hard to enforce.  We suggest this phrasing

2. Referring to Opponents' Convention Card
During the auction and play, any player except dummy may refer to his opponents' convention card, but not to his own.

It might then be appropriate to extend Law 73B1 to end like this:

... or not given to them, or through references made or not made to the opponents' convention card.

If this suggestion is not followed, we would at least like some other way of making it legal for a player to refer to the opponents' convention card immediately when LHO's call is alerted.  We find it untenable that it is currently an infraction for a player to even peek discreetly at his opponents' convention card in this situation.

Law 42B (or Law 65C)

Since there are varying interpretations of dummy's right to draw declarer's attention to a wrongly placed trick, we suggest that this be explicitly allowed - or explicitly prohibited.  If it is to be allowed, this might be done in a new Law 42B4
4.  Draw Attention to Wrongly Placed Cards
When declarer places a trick in the wrong position (Law 65C) dummy may draw declarer's attention to this fact until the end of the following trick.

If not, this is a possible phrasing of a new Law 42B4

4.  Draw Attention to Wrongly Placed Cards

Dummy may draw attention to the way declarer places tricks (Law 65C), but only after the play of the hand is concluded.

It is also conceivable to give the defenders the same right (or to make it clear that they don't have this right).  Therefore it may me more appropriate to handle this issue in a new Law 65C1:

1.  Drawing Attention to Wrongly Placed Cards

When a player places a trick in the wrong position, any player (including dummy) may draw attention to this fact until the end of the following trick.

Or, in the restrictive version.

1.  Drawing Attention to Wrongly Placed Cards

No player may draw attention to the way tricks have been placed until the play of the hand is concluded.

Law 50

The penalty card rules are too complicated. Ordinary non-offending players regularly become so confused over hearing these complicated rules that they not only fail to take advantage of the penalty card, but also play worse than they normally would.

Since Law 16C2 and Law 50D1 imply that the card is also unauthorized information for partner, something much simpler should be sufficient. For instance:

This would give a few more adjustments for unauthorized information, but it would

Alternatively, we would prefer the pre-1997 approach where a penalty card was considered authorized information.  The current definition of what is authorized and what is not authorized is nearly impossible to explain to the players.

Law 61B

We would hope that it were politically possible to remove the right to give the defenders the right to ask one another whether they have a card of the suit led.

Law 63B

The penalty under Law 63B involves both a penalty card and a subsequent automatic penalty according to Law 64.  This seems overly drastic in some cases, where the penalty ends up worse than a simple established revoke would have been.  A simple solution could be to let the question establish the revoke, so that no card would be substituted for the revoke card.  Note that if changes are made to law 63B, the same changes should be made to Law 43B2b.

Law 64A

Law 64A is too complicated and is worded in a way that can easily be misunderstood.

Since the majority of revokes gain at most one trick for the offenders, we suggest that the penalty is changed to be one trick always (provided the offenders have won the revoke trick or some later trick).  This will require a few more Law 64C adjustments, but will mean that this important penalty can be explained and understood easily. It will of course make it more necessary that directors are aware of Law 64C.

Alternatively, if the two-trick penalty is retained, it might be helpful to rephrase Law 64A so that it is structured according to the number of subsequent tricks won by the offenders, e.g. along these lines: 

A. Penalty Assessed

The penalty assessed when a revoke is established depends on the number of tricks won by the offending side after the revoke occurred, including the revoke trick itself. 

1. Offending Side Wins No Subsequent Tricks

If the offending side did not win the revoke trick nor any of the following tricks, there is no penalty.

2. Offending Side Wins One Subsequent Trick

If the offending side won exactly one trick after the revoke occurred (including the revoke trick), (penalty) after play ceases one trick is transferred to the non-offending side.

3. Offending Side Wins Two or More Subsequent Tricks

If the offending side won two or more tricks after the revoke occurred (including the revoke trick), (penalty) after play ceases one or two tricks are transferred to the non-offending side.

a. One-Trick Penalty

The penalty is one trick, provided that the offending hand did not win the revoke trick and that the offending hand did not win any subsequent trick with a card that could legally have been played to the revoke trick.

b. Two-Trick Penalty

The penalty is two tricks if the offending hand won the revoke trick or if the offending hand won a subsequent trick with a card that could legally have been played to the revoke trick.

Law 70

It sometimes happens that a claimer makes a somewhat incomplete statement which, literally followed, leads to the claimed number of tricks, even though it is likely that the claimer would have deviated from that plan and won fewer tricks if he had actually played out the hand and seen how play would then have developed.

Law 70A mentions "equitably" and "doubtful points shall be resolved against the claimer".  Law 70D mentions "alternative normal line of play".  All of these points in Law 70 contribute towards an interpretation to the effect that  a claimer should never be awarded more tricks than it is likely that he would have won if the hand had been played out.  Nevertheless, such an interpretation has been a point of contention now and then during the past several years.  We therefore ask the drafting committee to consider rephrasing parts of Law 70A or Law 70D so that this point is less open to varying interpretation.

We regret that we cannot offer a concrete suggestion for the phrasing of such a change at this time. 

Law 72B3

The parenthesis in L72B3, which refers to Law 75 as an exception to the rule that players are not obliged to call attention to their own irregularities, should also refer to the exception in Law 62A.

Law 75D2

The player who corrects his partner's explanation is currently obliged to call the director.  This obligation is rarely fulfilled by Danish players (see the discussion about Law 21B1).  We find it sensible to weaken this obligation to something like: The Director should be called if any player finds that the mistaken explanation may have had influence on the auction or play.

Law 81C6

The interpretation of this law can be troublesome at times.  It is generally accepted in a wide international forum of tournament directors that a director who happens to notice a bid out of turn at a table to which he has not otherwise been called should not react until the players call for him.  However, this contradicts the letter of Law 81C6.  It would be useful if it were possible to qualify "in any manner" somehow.  Perhaps by changing "in any manner" to "while executing his duties".

Publishing on the World Wide Web

Over the past several years, access to the Laws on the World Wide Web has become increasingly important.  It would be a significant contribution to the rapid diffusion of the new laws if they were published on the World Wide Web immediately.  We urge the WBF Laws Commission to take an early initiative in addressing any legal issues that threaten to prevent timely publishing on the World Wide Web.

Diffusion to NCBOs

The new Laws will be translated into scores of languages.  It is desirable that the translated versions can become effective at the same time as the original, English version of the Laws.  In order to provide as much calendar time as possible for the NCBOs translating the laws, it would be helpful if computerized versions of a suitable draft were made available at a web site, with the understanding that there may be further changes as a result of the ongoing approval process.  Similarly, the final, approved version is best distributed to the translators by providing a file on a web site.

It is very helpful to translators if all changes to the laws are explicitly highlighted.  A format where the 1997 version and the new version are presented next to each other is desirable.

It is also useful if the format used is readily accessible across the world.  We recommend XML, or HTML with a cascading style sheet, but the main point is to avoid a text format that cannot be expected to be globally available.