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

When Laws are Wrong: Using Common Sense

Just before the auction is passed out, dummy exposes an honor. You as director state the rules. These include that to-be-declarer must pass at his next turn to call. The auction is then passed out.

Does declarer have to pass on his first call on the next board? That is exactly what you just ruled. That is exactly what the law states. If you waive this penalty, what is your authority for doing so?

Common sense of course is overwhelmingly for the notion that the restriction to pass ends when the auction ends. The point is, directors use common sense. They must use common sense, and they should use common sense. They do not mindlessly follow rules.

Perhaps it should be in the laws that penalties during one hand should not apply to the next. But as far as I know, there isn't any such rule in the Laws. It might even be silly to include such a rule, because everyone already knows it.


There are "mistakes" in the Laws. A director must use, should use, and does use common sense to ignore these mistakes.

Next: When Laws Contradict

Other Examples

There are so many of these I stopped collecting them. Here are a few more:

Law 24 is about the penalties that occur when, during the auction period, a player's card is exposed because of the player’s action own error. This should probably be interpreted to include when it is the partner's own error.

Law 20 allows a player to ask for explanations whenever it is his turn to call. It should read whenever it is his turn to act. Suppose there is an insufficient bid and LHO know has to decided whether or not to accept the insufficient bid. He should be be allowed to ask about the meaning of bids, even though technically it is not his turn to call until he accepts the insufficient bid.

Dummy makes the opening lead out of turn. Do you apply Law 54C: "After a faced opening lead out of turn, declarer may spread his hand; he becomes dummy, and dummy becomes declarer." Do you let the to-be-declarer spread his hand and become dummy?

Going Deeper

I was called to the table. One defender had bid and played half of the hand with an extra card (from the next hand). How should I have ruled?

This situation is conceptually identical to Law 14 (Missing Card), so I applied that law (with suitable adaptions). There was essentially no penalty, but that seemed fair - there had been no harm done to the nonoffending side.

Declarer did not like the ruling. So then we pulled out the rule book. The rule book is clear. It was not a missing card, so Law 14 should not be used. Instead Law 13 should be used. But if you read Law 13, it is all about what to do when two players have seen each other's cards. Law 13 makes no sense for handling the extra card.

Is that a mistake in the rules? Should I use common sense to apply Law 14 instead of Law 13? In a battle between "following the rules" and "common sense", common sense should win when it is obviously right. That's my first example. But where should the line be drawn? I do not know. It is irrelevant to this consideration (because I had only the law book at hand), but in fact the ACBL's Duplicate Decisions states that Law 14 should be used for the extra card, and the 2007 revision of the laws agrees. So, mistake or not, no one liked that part of the laws.

Law 13 comes to the same result as Law 14, except for one small point: "When the Director deems that the deal can be corrected and played normally with no change of call, the deal may be so played with the concurrence of all four players." Declarer then did not want to concur; she wanted to throw the hand out and receive an A+ against very good opponents. (She also might have been in a bad contract.)

It is, IMO, a mistake to let the players over-rule the director without reason when the director deems normal play to be possible. But the lawmaker's obviously intended this to be the law (though they corrected it for the 2007 rules). So I think this is a case where "following rules" should win out over "common sense", but I would find it difficult to make that ruling and I would be sympathetic to any director who ruled for common sense.

Next: When Laws Contradict

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