Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge

Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge is the official rule book of contract bridge promulgated by the World Bridge Federation. The first Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge were published in 1928. They were successively revised in 1933, 1935, 1943, 1949, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1997 and 2007. [ [ 2007 Laws of Duplicate Bridge, World Bridge Federation web site] ] The Laws are effective worldwide for all duplicate bridge tournaments sponsored by WBF, zonal, national and subordinate organizations (which includes most bridge clubs).


Through the 1930s, the Laws were promulgated by the Portland Club of London and the Whist Club of New York. From the 1940s onwards, their roles were supplemented by British Bridge League and European Bridge League on European side, and American Contract Bridge League Laws Commission from the American side. From the 1975 onwards, Laws were also promulgated by the World Bridge Federation Laws Commission.

The latest 2007 revision has been distributed to regional authorities for their setting of effective implementation dates in their regions between 1 January and 30 September 2008.


There are 93 articles (Laws), organized in 11 chapters:
#Preparation and Progression
#General Laws Governing Irregularities
#The Auction
##Correct Procedure
##Irregularities in Procedure
#The Play
##Penalty Card
##Irregular Leads and Plays
##Claims and Concessions
#The Score
#Tournament Sponsorship
#Tournament Director

In addition, there is an Appendix "Special Conditions Pertaining to the Use of Bidding Boxes and Screens" [ Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge: Appendix related to bidding box and screen procedures] ] , which cover the procedure and amendments in effect when bidding boxes and screens are in use.

Due to growing popularity of online bridge, a version more suited for Electronic Bridge was issued by WBF in 2001. [ [ The WBF Code of Laws for Electronic Bridge 2001] ]


Apart from definitions of basic rules and procedures, a large part of the Laws deals with handling of irregularities that may occur at the table. As such, the Laws are primarily used as a reference book for tournament directors rather than by ordinary players (although they are expected to get acquainted with basic procedures and principles). After an irregularity occurs, the tournament director should be summoned immediately by any player (except during play by the dummy) and the director may impose one or more of the following rectifications in order to restore equity to a side that has been damaged by the irregularity:
*Transfer of trick(s) to the opponents,
*Force the offender or his partner to pass for one round or to the end of the auction,
*Assign "penalty card" status to a card inappropriately displayed, i.e. a card that must be played at first legal opportunity,
*Impose lead restrictions if the offending side becomes the defense.
*Award an "artificial score", i.e. assign so-called "average-plus" (typically 60% of matchpoints or +3 IMPs on the board) to the non-offending side, "average" (50%/0 IMPs) for the partially responsible side, or "average-minus" (40% MPs/-3 IMPs) to the responsible side
*Award an "assigned score", i.e. assign the final contract and result of the deal to the one most likely to occur had the infraction not been committed, but which favors the non-offending side.

The director's decision may further be appealed to the appeals committee whose ruling is considered final.

Handling of the most frequent irregularities is summarized below, without entering into fine details:


Revoke (failure to follow suit when a player is able to) is handled by laws 61-64. A revoke may be "corrected" (correct card substituted) without trick penalty before any player of the offending side plays to the next trick; otherwise, it becomes "established". If a revoke is corrected, the exposed card becomes a "penalty card" and the opponents may change their played cards as they see fit (however, the revoking side may not take advantage of those seen cards—see Alcatraz coup). When a revoke is established, in general, one of subsequent tricks won by the offending side is transferred to the opponents. If the revoke card has won the trick, that trick is transferred too. (If the offending side did not win any subsequent tricks, no penalty is assessed). Additional tricks can be transferred if the revoke has caused more damage to the opponents than was redressed by those penalties.

Call out of turn

When a player makes a call when it was not his turn to bid, the laws 30-32 specify various penalties depending on whose turn it was, and whether the call out of turn was a pass, bid, or a double/redouble. Briefly, after a pass out of turn, the penalty is that the offender must pass once or to the end of auction. After a bid, double or redouble out of turn, his "partner" must pass to the end of auction. In this case the partner, and not the offender, is prevented from bidding, since it is the partner whose bid might be affected by unauthorised information.

In addition, the offending side may be subject to restrictions in the opening lead. As a special case, no penalty is assessed when it was right-hand opponent's (RHO) turn to bid and he elects to pass. Finally, an adjusted score can be awarded if the redress was not adequate to the inflicted damage.

Insufficient or inadmissible call

After a player makes an "insufficient" bid (law 27) (of lesser rank than the last bid at the table), his LHO first receives the option to accept it, in which case no penalty is assessed. If rejected, the offender may replace the bid with a higher legal and natural bid in the same denomination without penalty (but the information remains unauthorized to his partner). If he elects not to, or if the substituted bid would have been conventional, the offender's partner must pass to the end of auction.

An inadmissible double or redouble is canceled and must be substituted by a legal call, and the offender's partner must pass to the end of auction. The penalty does not apply if LHO has called after the inadmissible call.

Exposed card

When a card is "exposed" by one of defenders (law 50), by means of holding it in such a position that it can be plausibly seen by the offender's partner, in general, it becomes a "penalty card". If exposed inadvertently, depending on its rank, it may be a "minor" (2-9) or a "major" (10-A) penalty card; however, any card may become a major penalty card if played out of turn. In any case, the penalty card must be played at first legal opportunity, which allows the declarer to organize his play to take advantage of the situation. However, the offender may play an honor of the same suit instead of the minor penalty card. There is no penalty whatsoever for the exposition of declarer's cards, provided it was played inadvertently (a card apparently played advertently may not be retracted except for the purpose of revoke correction).

If a card is exposed during the auction (law 24), it may become a penalty card, and offender's partner may be forced to pass to the end of auction.

Play out of turn

In general, only the defenders are subject to penalties for opening lead or other play out of rotation (law 53-59). The card led out of turn becomes a major penalty card; in addition, the declarer may require from the offender's partner to play highest or lowest card in the suit led.

An "opening lead" out of turn (law 54) is perhaps the most frequent infraction. If the wrong defender makes the opening lead, the to-be-declarer has the following options:
* Accept the lead, spread his hand and become the dummy, and his partner declarer
* Accept the lead, but select whether to play second-hand from his or dummy's hand
* Refuse the lead. The illegally led card becomes a major penalty card

Unauthorized information

Unauthorized information (UI) (law 16) is any information that a player obtains by means of:
*Partner's remarks, questions, mannerisms, hesitation and similar,
*Information from calls and plays which were legally withdrawn and/or substituted as a consequence of that side's infraction (the non-offending side may use this information),
*Overhearing remarks at other tables or seeing a wrong card.

Reception of unauthorized information is not an infraction "per se". However, the player who ("might have") received it has severe limitation that (s)he may not act on the basis of it (even if the action is reasonable), but must select a "logical alternative" instead. The definition of "logical alternative" is fairly strict, and includes all but practically inadmissible alternative actions. However, in the (fairly unlikely) event that the logical alternative becomes a successful one rather than the action suggested by the UI, no further redress is given to the non-offending side.

The exception is when the player receives a UI inadvertently, as by overhearing remarks at other tables. In that case, the director may adjust positions, appoint substitutes, or award an adjusted score.

Mistaken bid or explanation

It may happen that when a player is asked to explain a partnership understanding, the explanation they give is either incorrect, or that their partner gains unauthorized information (that they have bid incorrectly). The [ footnotes to Law 75] identify two scenarios, using the following example for discussion:

"North has opened 1NT and South, who holds a weak hand with long diamonds, has bid 2Diams, intending to sign off; North explains, however, in answer to West's inquiry, that South's bid is strong and artificial, asking for major suits."

;1. Mistaken explanation:South has bid in accordance with their partnership understanding; unfortunately North either misconstrued the bid, or has given an incorrect or misleading explanation.

"Opponents position" - The opponents have been deprived of their right to an accurate description of their partnership understanding, and may be awarded an adjusted score in compensation.

"Action by North and South" - South must inform the Director afterwards, so that an adjusted score may be considered. He advises the Director after the bidding (if declarer or dummy) or after play (if defending). If North realises his own error after bidding, he notifies the Director. Unlike South, this is done immediately.

;2. Mistaken bid:North has accurately described and understood the bid according to the partnership agreement; unfortunately South has bid incorrectly or forgot the agreed meaning when he bid.

"Opponents position" - The requirement to explain partnership understandings has been fully complied with. So there is no breach of law.

"Action by North and South" - Since there is no breach of law, and so there is no obligation (whether at the time or afterwards) to disclose that a misunderstanding has occurred. But any apparent benefit gained by North and South from this unauthorized information, may be penalized as above.

In the latter case, South has received unauthorized information. Every bid North makes from now on, is secretly known by South to be based on a concept of South's hand which is incorrect, and South could in theory adjust his bidding to use this unauthorized information to compensate for problematic bids his partner would subsequently make.

;Example:In the above bidding, suppose that North bids 2NT. According to their partnership agreement, South has asked for major suits, and North responds to this appropriately, by a bid that denies a four-card major. This is what each player at the table believes has happened, except South.

Had there been no explanation, South would have taken 2NT to mean a strong game try with maximum values opposite a weak response. South has therefore gained knowledge from North's explanation, because as a result of the explanation he now understands that North is not showing a strong game try opposite a weak response, but is showing a lack of 4 card major. Without the explanation, he would have misunderstood and perhaps bid differently. He now understands his partner's bid, which he otherwise would have misunderstood. South must not allow that knowledge to influence his bidding; he must bid as though his partner had not explained the bid. If it appears to the opponents after play that South has used the information provided by his partners explanation they will be entitled to an adjusted score in compensation.

Note that if South realises the error from North's "bidding" rather than North's "explanation" (i.e., the bidding itself makes it obvious that a mistake has occurred), then that is not a use of unauthorized information.

ee also

*Bridge ethics


External links

* [ Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge, WBF official site]
* [ 2007 Laws of Duplicate Bridge, WBF official site]
* [ "What ACBL Players Should Know About the 1997 Laws Changes"] , Gary Blaiss, ACBL Chief Tournament Director
* [ David Stevenson's Lawspage]

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