The Thinking Director
When the Laws Require Thinking
Incorrect Laws
Contradictory Laws (you are here)
Vague Laws
The Unexpected Situation
Laws About Directing
Supporting Directors

When Laws are Contradictory: Judging Intent

Her opponent made an insufficient bid. She accepted it. Law 27: "Any insufficent bid may be accepted (treated as legal) at the option of offender's LHO."

The insufficient bid was also an inadvertent bid. Law 25A allows for the correction of the inadvertency. Everyone agreed that the bid was inadvertent and that he had tried to immediately correct it. So I applied Law 25A instead of Law 27 and let him make the change. She was very unhappy with my ruling. She kept pointing to that word any in Law 27.

These two laws contradict. A director cannot mindlessly follow the laws when they contradict. Well, actually the director can -- the director can stop after finding just one of the laws. But a director who is aware of both cannot just mindlessly follow the laws.

What do Director's Do When Laws Conflict?

I was very confident that Law 25A had precedence. Why this confidence? Every director she and I asked all said that Law 25A had precedence. Coincidence? I suspect not. When two laws contradict, directors do not make random decisions. Instead, there are tools for resolving contradictions.

One tool is "Specificity": If one rule covers a general situation, and a second rule covers a more specific situation within the general situation, then the second rule has precedence. The logical justification is that if the general law had precedence, then there would be no point to having the specific law, because it would never apply.

For example, Law 29 allows opponents to accept a call out of rotation. But Law 17E2 rolls back the auction to the skipped bidder if the auction is passed out. Becuse Law 17E2 is more specific, it takes precedence.

The law of specificity does not apply to inadvertent versus insufficient bids, because neither is a subset of the other. However, most insufficient bids are not inadvertent, whereas there is a very good chance that an inadvertent bid will also be insufficient. If LHO was allowed to accept an insufficient inadvertent bid, then the Law 25A would say that. If LHO was not allowed to accept an inadvertent bid (that the opponent wanted to change), then Law 27 might be written just the way it is, in error because they forgot about inadvertent insufficient bids when it was being written.

This then is another way of resolving contradictions: You read the laws. If one of the contradictory laws makes you think: "This Law would not be written this way if Law X had precedence over Law Y," then you know Law Y has precedence.


There are contradictions in the Laws, and that means a director who knows the laws cannot rule mindlessly. Directors have ways of resolving these contradictions, including the law of specificity and reading the laws to discover intent.

Next: When the Laws are Vague

Going Deeper

This introduces the concept of "stretching" a law.

More that one person has suggested that the inadvertency law and the insufficiency law are not really contradictory, because the inadvertent bid is never really made. So it isn't really a bid (or call) and hence Law 27 doesn't apply (and hence it can't be accepted). If using bidding boxes, the inadvertent bid is just a "mispull".

However, the laws provide no support for this interpretation. So at best, this would be making up principles that are not in the laws. In this case, the laws clearly call it an "inadvertent call", implying that is is a call. They do not call it a "mispull". Also, title for Section 2 (in which Law 25 appears) is "Changes of Call" and Law 27 is entitled "Legal and Illegal Changes of Call".

So, if you really wanted to believe that the Laws were not contradictory, you could stretch them to say that in advertent call is not a call. But you would not be supported by the laws. I find it much easier to just admit that the laws sometimes contradict.

Next: When the Laws are Vague