I am here to sort things out that go wrong. The Laws tell me what to do when things go wrong. Things can go wrong with the best of intentions. I may advise players how to avoid some things going wrong if they are avoidable. I also advise on procedure and most of this page is devoted to providing such advice. Please submit an Incident Report if something goes wrong at your table and I will either advise or do a bridge ruling, or both.
If something does go wrong at your table, please don’t take too long trying to put it right. Please either achieve a score or abandon the board and submit a report and I will sort out. Please do not be assertive on procedure if you are not right, and a lot of players think they are right when they are not. There is no need for any arguing at the table. Just proceed and send in a report. Please don’t hold up play while completing a report. You can click an icon near the bottom right of your screen (it looks like a piece of paper with a pen) to initiate an Incident Report. Everything else can wait till after the end of your session. I will usually deal with a report only after the event has been archived so that I can see all the bidding and play records and the final travellers as well as the chat record and SSDs.
There’s some advice for players on claiming and hesitations and other things that are specific to BCL, and then I’ve edited some useful player advice from EBU publications that is also very useful for players here in BCL.
But first there is the BCL Regulation on Skip (Jump) bids, which is here because it doesn’t fit in sensibly anywhere else!
Here is what you will find below:
I don’t bite
Substitutes in Tourneys
Strong opening Bids
When partner has hesitated
Alerting a short One Club opening
Disclosure of system and partnership agreements
Questions and explanations
Disclosure of carding methods
When things go wrong
Misinformation and penalties
Pauses at Trick 1
After your Right Hand Opponent has made a jump or skip bid, or an opening bid at the 2-level or higher, you are required to pause for about 10 seconds before calling yourself.
The reason for this is that it is often necessary to think after a jump bid, particularly if it is pre-emptive, and by having a regulated pause, you have the opportunity to think about your call for that time without giving the Unauthorised Information (UI) to your partner that a “hesitation” would give. The converse is, however, true that if you don’t pause, you are giving UI to your partner that you had nothing to think about.
Please note that we have no “Stop” card at present, though we may introduce something appropriate at a future time.
If you lose a player in a movement Tourney, and if you find that you cannot skip a board, so that a board must be replayed with a substitute, then the substitute would have to follow what has gone before. If that becomes a problem, then to avoid spending excessive time, just get a result for the board so you can move on and submit an Incident Report so I can assign or adjust to something sensible. If a substitute were to lose PPI by following what had already happened, a Report will let me cancel the PPI loss.
There is often discussion on the BCL CB about artificial strong openings but usually these discussions are focused on EBU F2F regulations for their Level 4 permitted systems.
The permitted systems and conventions for BCL are those that comply with either WBF Category 3 or EBU Level 4, as described at
which can be reached via Information > Bridge > Permitted systems.
The following provides compliance with WBF Category 3:
For a hand to be strong, it has to have 13+ HCP.
For a hand to avoid being weak, it has to have 10+ HCP
To avoid being a Brown Sticker Convention (and thus not permitted), we have to avoid having certain weak meanings as per Paragraph 2.4(a). This is never likely to be a problem.
So let's say you are playing any Acol or SAYC where 2♣ is a strong artificial opening bid. All the strong meanings are hands that have 13+ HCP, so a hand such as
♠ AKQ98653 ♥ 96 ♦ Q9 ♣ 10
is not a strong hand.
So what happens if you open 2♣ (Sayc or Acol) with this hand in BCL?
I will think that you have an agreement that you can open 2♣ with this hand, but (unlike EBU-land) it is not an illegal agreement, but it is not the agreement that you have stated, which is that you are showing a strong hand.
So if you decide that you want to be able to open 2♣ on this hand, you can do so if you say on your SSD /Extra that the 2♣ opener is "Strong to Intermediate".
If you open 2♣ with this hand without such a description on your SSD, I will say that your agreement is that you can open 2♣ with this hand and therefore your opponents have had mis-information about your agreements, and then I would see if that affected their actions.
Regulating Authorities such as the WBF and EBU consider that a "strong" hand is a hand that is strong in high card values rather than a hand that has merely distributional power. The reason for the respective regulations is to protect the opponents so that they know what they can expect from such opening bids. Most of us would expect opponents to open 4♠ with the above hand.
If you are playing Basic Acol so that a 2♠ opening is the traditional 8 playing tricks in spades, there is a similar problem with opening the above hand 2♠, if your SSD says that this opening is "Strong". Again, the solution, if you want to be able to open this hand 2♠, is to describe such openings as "Strong to Intermediate".
When is a delay a hesitation?
In the past, we have had to be cautious about interpreting delays as hesitations as the nature of the Internet often gave cause for unintended delays. Nowadays the Internet is usually far more stable and more and more players have good connections.
A hesitation is also called a break in tempo, and this is a more accurate description. It is when the steady flow of bids or card plays stalls because of thinking or distraction. Very occasionally a break in tempo can be an excessively fast bid or play.
As a matter of fairness, it is recommended that if you find you are delaying the table, is to type "Sorry for delay" or “brb” if it's due to a domestic distraction, and "thinking" if that is what you are doing. If you have a poor connection, type "bad ping" (or similar) to indicate that this is the reason for delays at your end.
That way, the other players can be informed if a delay at your end is not due to you thinking, and this means that a lack of explanation, by default, indicates that you had something to think about.
If you have only one card left to play in a suit that has been led, or if you have no bridge reason to think about what card to play, but you have found that have not followed suit in a steady tempo, then it is important to say “sorry, distracted” before playing so that opponents will not be misled by your delay.
Please note the Regulation (near the top of this page) to pause after a skip or jump bid by Right Hand Opponent. Only a pause significantly longer than 10 seconds will be considered a hesitation after such a bid.
What do you do when your partner has hesitated and passed or you are in some similar situation where you have Unauthorised Information (UI) from partner's action and you are wondering what choices you have?
Law 16B1a says that you must not choose from among logical alternatives one that is demonstrably suggested by the UI.
It is often not at all easy for a player to be able to work out whether a particular call is a logical alternative or not. Sometimes a TD will need to poll up to a dozen or more players to work out whether a particular call (often this call will be a Pass) is or isn't a logical alternative. In such situations, my advice to the player, if they have a call that they "were always going to make", is that they should make that call and be forthcoming in acknowledging to their opponents that their partner has hesitated.
How does a TD work out whether an action is a logical alternative (LA)?
An LA is defined in Law 16B1b, and the EBU advice (and it's good advice worldwide) to TDs as per their White Book in applying this law is this:
Is an action a logical alternative (an LA)?
When deciding whether an action constitutes an LA under the 2007 Laws, the TD should decide two things.
1. He should decide whether a significant proportion of the player's peers, playing the same system as the player, would seriously consider the action.
What is a “significant proportion”? The Laws do not specify a figure, but the TD should assume that it means at least one player in five.
If fewer than about one player in five of a player’s peers would consider the action then it is not an LA.
2. If a significant proportion would consider the action, then the TD should next decide whether some would actually choose it.
Again the Laws do not specify a figure for “some”, and the TD should assume that it means more than just an isolated exception.
If no one or almost no one would choose the action having considered it, the action is not an LA.
Serious consideration is more than a passing thought.
Asking players for opinions is helpful in deciding whether an action would be considered and chosen, but the questions should be carefully presented.
For example, in a “hesitation” case, players should be given the problem without reference to the hesitation. The TD should ask them what they would call after the given sequence, telling them the methods employed. If their answer is not the action under consideration, they should be asked what alternatives they considered.
Such polls will help to give the TD an idea of whether an action is an LA.
When I have conducted such polls I can often find a situation where I might ask 10 players and they all say that they are always bidding 5 every day of the week but in addition half of them then add "but I think passing is a logical alternative".
It is one thing saying that they would seriously consider passing and another saying they think passing is a logical alternative. In this example these players turn out to be wrong in that passing isn't a logical alternative.
At an extreme, I know one or two players who think they are ultra-ethical and say to me at the end of a session. I was always going to bid 5 but when partner hesitated, I passed. That is not being ultra-ethical. That is pushing the destruct button and punishing partner for thinking.
Having said all that, we should come back to the situation where partner has hesitated and you were not clear-cut about what you were going to call. Now your choices are both/all likely to be logical alternatives and you should do your best to make the choice that is least suggested by the UI that you have received.
In general a slow penalty double suggests that you take it out and a hesitation followed by a pass usually suggests bidding on.
When should declarer claim?
Firstly, and I mention this because it has been known to happen surprisingly often, it is not for dummy to tell declarer when to claim, in any circumstance, not even when there is no chance of declarer not making all the remaining tricks. Law 43A1(c) states: “Dummy may not participate in the play, nor may he communicate anything about the play to declarer."
Can declarer choose to play out and not claim? Law 74B4 states: "As a matter of courtesy, a player should refrain from prolonging play unnecessarily (as in playing on although he knows that all the tricks are surely his) for the purpose of disconcerting an opponent." So you cannot adopt a policy of never claiming and always playing hands out.
There is a “happy medium” to be found, though, on when it is best to claim. Claims are intended to save time as well as mental energy. Sometimes it is better to delay a claim to save complicated explanation, and claims as late as Trick 12 rarely save any time either.
"If declarer claims (without saying "drawing trumps") in a trump contract with a trump outstanding (having possibly/probably miscounted) can the declarer play trumps after the claim is declined. If not, is it permissible to send a chat "you cannot now play trumps" as the claim is declined or must it go to adjudication?"
"Many members make claims without making a declaration of play whilst trumps are still out. My understanding of the rules is that if that happens, opponents can insist on a line of play. Am I wrong? If I'm not, perhaps a notice to all members explaining this rule would be of benefit to all."
In face-to-face (F2F) bridge, it is easy. Play ceases and the TD judges whether, from any claim statement, the claimer knew or may have forgotten that there were any trumps still out, and then whether by careless or inferior (but not irrational) play, claimer would have lost any tricks he was claiming.
In BCL, it is different as there is no duty TD to resolve the matter on the spot, and even if there were a TD on duty and roaming the club, it would be impractical for such a TD to give a timely ruling anyway. So, to dispute a claim, you need to click to decline.
Play “continues” in order to achieve an (illustrative) result for the board. Usually, all the players are happy with the outcome and nothing further needs to be done, but if an opponent feels that the claimer "could have changed" (not "did change") his intended line of play as a result of being alerted by the declining of the claim, the course of action necessary is for an Incident Report to be submitted in order to ask for a ruling. It may then be that the result will be adjusted.
It is not appropriate to instruct a claimer, for example, that he may not draw trumps or that he may not take finesses. Indeed, early claims are often with trumps outstanding when it is clear that the claimers first move will be to draw them.
In 2017, a new Law 68D came into being, and this stated that if, after a claim had been made, and if all four players agreed so, then play could continue with standing and without the TD being called. This new Law was not intended to encourage play to continue, but rather, because this subsequent play was to stand and would inevitably work against the interests of one or other side, it should discourage players from not calling the TD. Bridge Club Live cannot incorporate this option and deems that whenever a claim is made, there is never agreement by all players to continue without any possible TD involvement, and so we say that any subsequent play is for illustrative purposes only. (The Law 68B2 exception still applies in that if one defender rejects a concession by the other defender, play continues.)
Why must we always alert a 1 Club opening if partner might have as few as two clubs?
Although we have SSDs that give the information of minimum length of a 1 Club opening, it is not part of the game (under World Bridge Federation regulations) that players must look at their opponents' convention card (or SSD) to find out whether a call is natural or conventional.
If an opening bid of 1 Club may contain as few as three cards in the club suit, it is considered natural for alerting purposes and need not be alerted. When an opening bid of 1 Club may contain fewer than three cards in the club suit, the call is considered to be not natural and must be alerted.
Some boffin somewhere worked out that if you play a version of Standard American where you open 1 Club when you have four spades, four hearts, three diamonds and two clubs, and you are outside of your range for opening 1NT, there is only a 4% probability that you will have as few as two clubs! However, some partnerships have different defences depending on how few clubs might be held, and so it is required to alert all openings of 1 Club when there can be fewer than three clubs.
Much of the remainder of this page includes advice edited from EBU publications. This advice contains general interpretation of Bridge Laws and simply good advice to players everywhere.
All agreements, including implicit understandings and practices of the partnership, must be fully disclosed to opponents. Law 40 says so.
Implicit understandings in bidding and play arise from partnership experience, which may include external experience by the partners not available to opponents (such as if both partners have partnership experience with the same third player, which is likely to affect their interpretation of undiscussed sequences). Opponents are entitled to know about implicit understandings.
It is expected that experienced players will protect themselves in obvious misinformation cases. If such players receive an explanation which is implausible, and they are able to protect themselves by seeking further clarification without putting their side’s interests at risk (eg by transmitting unauthorised information or waking the opposition up), failure to do so may prejudice the redress to which they would otherwise be entitled.
Please do not give explanations unless asked for.
An explanation of a call should be made by the partner of the player that made the call. There is one possible exception – a player who has become dummy may leave the screen temporarily and an opponent may enquire about a call by declarer. If dummy appears to be away, it is quite reasonable for the declarer to explain the partnership agreement about his call. Your opponents are entitled to know your partnership agreements but they are not entitled to know what you hold in your hand.
Following a question legitimately asked, the questioner may ask a supplementary question to clarify the answer or to find out if the call has any conditional meanings. The questioning must not amount to harassment.
Players generally do try to do their best to answer questions, but not all manage to convey the information that we actually seek.
One guide to what we might expect from opponents is from their profiles where we see their PPI symbol and number of boards played. It has been known for a player to have difficulty with sending chat and their partner tried to cover. I would also expect that a Spade rated player would be more experienced than a Club or Diamond rated player in explaining calls so as to give opponents the information they seek.
A player should explain only the partnership agreement. If you do not know the meaning of partner’s call, or there is no agreement, either explicit or implicit, you should say that you have no agreement, and you must not say how you intend to interpret it. This is particularly relevant to pick-up partnerships with few, if any, agreements.
Experienced players should recognise that many pairs of opponents may have few agreements, and in the Social Room sometimes no agreements at all! Experienced players should thus discourage opponents from guessing explanations of calls. I recommend that if you, as an experienced player think that opponents may be a pick-up partnership with few actual agreements, you should encourage them to say that they have no agreement if that is the case. The best start to a question is “Do you have any agreement about what (such a call means)?” This has the advantage of stopping the opponent from guessing and getting out of their depth as well as passing UI to their partner. It helps too in reducing needed TD rulings!
A player in a regular partnership can find it difficult to strike a balance between giving opponents information to which they are entitled, and avoiding saying how the player intends to interpret a call or play which has not been specifically discussed. If the player believes that the meaning of partner’s call is affected by relevant partnership experience the answer should be along the lines of “we have not specifically discussed it, but we have agreements in analogous situations which may be relevant”. For example, an undiscussed situation might be analogous to something which has been discussed, so that both partners might expect that they would reach the same conclusion at the table. Opponents can then ask a supplementary question about the analogous situations if they wish to do so.
‘Forcing’ means a call which a partnership has agreed cannot be passed. Forcing, without qualification, means forcing from strength. If a forcing bid might be made with a weak hand, a player must qualify any explanation to make this clear.
Whilst all agreements must be disclosed, they do not constitute an undertaking to the opposition. For instance, a player is quite entitled to pass a forcing bid, as long as the partnership has no agreement that this might happen.
The use of the word ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ to describe the partnership agreement of a call, and especially a play of the cards, should be avoided as it is often capable of misinterpretation.
While specific questions may elicit the actual facts that the questioner wishes to know, there is a danger that they may lead to incomplete answers. For example, if a 3C overcall is Ghestem, showing a hand with two specified suits, and if an opponent merely says “Weak or strong?” it is not unreasonable for a player to answer “Weak”, since this is true (and since more complete answers have been known to elicit comments such as “I did not ask that.”). Unless the questioner really only wants to know something specific he should merely ask “What does that call mean?” or eg “4NT please?”. If the questioner asks a more specific question then I am unlikely to consider it misinformation if he gets a correct but incomplete answer to his question. Furthermore, asking “What does that call mean?” rather than any more pointed question tends to avoid a suggestion of unauthorised information.
Alternatively the questioner can ask for an explanation of the entire auction rather than individual calls, and opponents should then give all (relevant) information, inferences etc.
Some bids are referred to as ‘tactical’, being often used in a way that opponents, especially inexperienced opponents, will find misleading. The use of such bids often leads to implicit agreements, which must be fully disclosed.
For example, most players play a 2NT response to a weak two as an enquiry, usually to investigate game or slam. Some players also bid 2NT on weak hands with a fit, expecting to gain from the confusion of opponents who expect a strong hand. This is a well-known tactic, but must be disclosed. If the meaning of the 2NT was asked, for example, the description ‘Ogust’ or ‘asking’ is insufficient. The answer must include the possibility of the response being made on a weak hand.
If a partnership’s agreement includes alternative meanings for leads, signals or discards, then opponents are entitled to know the partnership practice and implicit understandings as to the circumstances in which each alternative applies. For example, the opponents are entitled to know the agreed meaning of the card played by third hand when a defender cashes a winner and there is a singleton in dummy.
Regular play with a particular partner is likely to lead to knowledge, even if only implicit, of partner’s habits. In such a case, ‘no agreement’ or ‘random’ is unlikely to be an accurate description of the partnership agreement.
If a player’s hand is found to differ from the explanation his partner has given of a call, two possibilities arise: (Law 75)
(a) The partner has given a correct statement of the partnership agreement but the player has misbid (or even deviated or psyched or mis-clicked but not corrected in time). The opponents are usually not entitled to any redress, but I would consider adjusting the score if the partner has made particular allowance for such a misbid or deviation or psyche, or if there are issues of unauthorised information. Please complete the play of the board and subsequently submit an Incident Report so that I can assess.
(b) The partner has given an incorrect statement of the partnership agreement. The opponents are entitled to redress if they have been damaged as a result. Please complete the play of the board and subsequently submit an Incident Report.
If a player knows partner’s call is (or may be) alertable, but cannot remember its meaning, he should alert. Players may check their own SSDs and SSD Extras in BCL, so such occurrences should be rare, but it does help to have your SSD Extra filled with all partnership agreements. A player must not say how he intends to interpret partner’s call. Please do not simply type “See SSD” as the opponent has very likely looked at the SSD and not seen what he was looking for. If the player that has made the call becomes declarer or dummy, he must at that point clarify any partnership agreement, omitted by his partner, that he thinks there may be about the call that he made.
If a player makes a call and partner unexpectedly alerts, unexpectedly fails to alert, or gives an explanation which is inconsistent with the player’s original understanding of his call, then there are three possible situations:
(a) The player realises that partner’s alert or explanation is correct, and he has misbid.
(b) The player is confident that he has bid correctly and partner’s alert or explanation is wrong.
(c) The player is now unsure as to whether he or his partner is right.
Misbids arise in a number of different ways, such as if a player forgets his system, if a player has failed to notice an earlier call in the auction, or if a player clicks a bidding card he did not intend to click (a mis-click) and does not notice in time to correct it. If a player realises he has misbid, he must continue to alert, where necessary, and explain, if asked, his partner’s calls solely on the basis of his belief as to the correct meaning of partner’s calls according to the actual partnership agreements.
If a player is reasonably or completely sure that partner has mis-alerted or given a wrong explanation, he must rectify the situation at the appropriate time by explaining the situation. The appropriate time is as follows:
(a) If he becomes declarer or dummy, before the opening lead is selected; but
(b) If he becomes a defender, at the end of the hand, not earlier.
For (a), it is not always easy to type a full correction between the end of the auction and the opening lead, so I advise typing an initial “Before you lead ….”
Whether (a) or (b), opponents should still submit an Incident Report if they might have taken other action before the correction of the mis-explanation.
It is proper to use any unauthorised information which has been made available by partner to help a player to decide to alert and explain the partnership agreement as accurately as he can, but of course unauthorised information must not be used to help in the bidding and play.
If as a result of partner’s explanation a player realises he has forgotten the partnership agreement and has therefore misbid, he must continue to call as if in ignorance of the correct meaning of the call, until it is obvious from the auction that something is amiss. (Law 73C)
An example. Suppose an opponent opens 1♦ and a player overcalls with 1NT, which he believes to be natural. Partner alerts and explains correctly that this shows longer Clubs and a shorter major (called Raptor). Now partner bids 2♥ which is ‘pass or correct’ according to the partnership agreement as part of Raptor. The player should alert, and explain it as ‘pass or correct’ if asked, since this is the agreed system. However, the player would have taken it as a transfer if partner’s alert had not ‘woken him up’, so he must complete the transfer, not taking any advantage from the unauthorised information provided by partner’s alert and explanation.
If partner has given an incorrect or incomplete explanation, or one of your alertable calls has not been alerted (or a call which is not alertable has been alerted), you must not take any advantage. You must not choose any call suggested by the fact that you know there may be a problem with the auction, either because you realise that partner’s bidding may be wrong, or because you are now unsure whether it is you or your partner who has gone wrong.
There is a common misconception that a player may only ask questions if they are considering bidding. This is not completely accurate.
A player has the right to ask questions at his turn, but should be aware that exercising this right has consequences. If a player shows unusual interest in one or more calls of the auction, then this is unauthorised information to partner. Partner must carefully avoid taking advantage, which may constrain the actions partner is permitted to take during the remainder of the auction or when on lead during the play. (Law 16B, 73C).
Asking about a call of 3NT or below which has not been alerted may cause more problems than asking about an alerted call, as may asking repeated or leading questions. Asking about alerted calls in a (potentially) competitive auction is less likely to have adverse consequences, although it is not risk free.
If, therefore, at a player’s turn to call, he does not need to have a call explained, it may be in his interests to defer all questions until either he is about to make the opening lead or his partner’s lead is made.
Waiting till this point has a further advantage when early calls could have multiple other meanings that become discounted as the auction progresses so that complex auctions can be simplified by declarer and dummy stating what the other has shown by the end of the auction.
Questions asked during the auction about the meaning of an opponent's double shall usually not be considered to pass Unauthorised Information, nor to have the potential to mislead opponents about the questioner's shape or values. However, I may still use my discretion to give an adjusted score if the nature of the questioning clearly provides partner with unauthorised information.
A player may use only information he has received from legitimate sources, such as calls, plays, his or opponents’ SSD and Extra, and their answers to questions. A player may not use information gained from his partner’s explanation, uncertainty or tempo. (Law 73B1)
Perhaps an example would help. A player opens 1♣ which is not alerted, and the next player, before passing, asks the meaning of the 1♣, or even worse says “Is that natural?” If 3NT is reached, and the questioner’s partner leads a Club from two or three small cards the questioner must expect that the TD will not allow the result to stand, but will adjust it.
What reason has this player to ask? The questioner knows it is a natural bid because it was not alerted. Experience shows the questioner often happens to have several Clubs.
Players sometimes say “I always ask whether I intend to bid or not”. This is not recommended.
When a player does wish to ask a question, it is recommended to phrase this neutrally and ask simply for an explanation of the auction, or of a particular call. For example when asking about a 3♣ response to 2NT it is recommended to say “What does 3♣ mean?”, or even “Do you have any agreements about the 3♣ bid?”, rather than “Is that Stayman?” This helps to avoid confusion or misleading opponents. Only if further clarification is needed should specific questions be asked.
As well as giving unauthorised information to partner, questions about bidding may mislead opponents, in which case they may be entitled to redress. Similarly, declarer’s questions about leads, signals and discards could illegally mislead the defenders. (Law 73F)
In the event of a dispute, I will give the benefit of doubt to the opponents of a partnership whose SSDs and SSD Extras contain inaccuracies, lack relevant information, fail to disclose explicit or implicit agreements or disagree materially with any explanations given. Such shortcomings will prejudice any claim that it was the call rather than the explanation which was wrong. (Law 40C). This is a very good reason to provide as much information in your SSD Extras as possible. I do look at these for some rulings to provide evidence of partnership agreements.
You should also ensure that your SSD does not contain inconsistencies. If the first line states “SAYC”, an opponent may expect you to be playing a 2♣ opening as strong and other 2 of a suit openings as weak without looking further. If the first line states “Basic Acol”, your opponent may expect that you play all openings of 2 of a suit as strong without looking further.
A player’s claim to have been damaged because the opponents failed to alert a call will fail if it is judged that the player was aware of its likely meaning and if he had the opportunity to ask without putting his side’s interests at risk.
It is normal for declarer to pause before playing to trick one. No inference can be or should be taken from such a pause.
It is normal for third hand to think before playing to trick one. Such thought is normally while declarer is thinking about his play. However, sometimes declarer plays quickly from dummy. At such a time third hand may legitimately think whatever his holding in the suit, and no inference can be or should be taken from such a pause. For example, if third hand has a singleton and declarer plays quickly from dummy, it is entirely legitimate for third hand to consider the hand generally.
Barrie Partridge, alias Senior Kibitzer, CTD, BCL
This edition 30 June 2020