The Thinking Director
When the Laws Require Thinking
The Unexpected Situation
The Unexpected Situation
Headless Chicken Rulings
Stretching Laws
What to Do (you are here)
More Examples
Laws About Directing
Supporting Directors

How to Rule the Unexpected Situation

Law 84B: If a case is clearly covered by a Law that specifies a penalty for the irregularity, he assesses that penalty and sees that it is paid."

Law 84B is, ultimately, ambiguous. Does it mean that if the situation is not covered by the laws, then the laws should not be applied mindlessly? Or does it mean that even if the situation itself is not discussed in the laws, if a law can be found with does apply (without any stretching), then it should be applied?

I do not know, partially because I have not seen an unusual situation that could be settled by following a law without any stretching.

In either case, there is a question. If the director does not mindlessly follow rules in the unexpected situation, what does the declarer do?


As a rough rule of thumb, the director should make a fair and equitable ruling, protecing the nonoffending side. When there is no nonoffending side, the director has considerable freedom in doing this.

Following the Principles

Upon deeper thought, the director really should be following the principles in the laws, even if they are unstated. This includes making an equitable ruling, though we get a better statement of it -- one of the principles of the laws is to make a ruling that protects the nonoffending side but otherwise does not punish the offending side.

Another principle in the laws is, when possible, to let play continue in a normal way. That is another good principle to follow when making a ruling.

Another principle in the laws is that a player is never punished for not realizing that LHO has committed an infraction. Instead, when a player blindly follows LHO's action, the action is accepted and that is the end of it (except when the action is retracted). Here, the player cannot be dummy, so the opening lead out of turn cannot be accepted in the normal way. But following this principle, the player putting down his hand as dummy should not be penalized (and may still be eligible for "nonoffending side" status).

Next: Do the Laws allow Thinking?