law 23C

I have 2 questions here.

1) As Most of the other players play 4Sp and goes down 1 trick here NS makes 3nt .It seems that without the infraction playing 3nt is almost impossible. In this case should I apply law 23C and adjust to score directly 4sp -1 or polling is a better way ?

2 ) while playing , does declarer have the right to ask dummy how many tricks he has gained so far ? ( Declarer is an untidy player and cannot place the tricks he won properly)

looking forward to receiving from you.

Secaaddin Özdeniz


  • Question 1 first. This is an interesting question about what "assistance gained through the infraction" is. North's extraneous (not unauthorised, due to Law 23B) information is that a) South does not have a hand that would bid reply 1NT over 1!h but not pass initially (e.g. a minimum weak two in diamonds might fit that definition in some systems), and b) South might have suppressed a spade suit to avoid triggering Law 30B1(b)(ii). Point a) doesn't seem to be particularly relevant here, and North doesn't seem to have made use of the information from point b). So if the "assistance" is taken to refer to the extraneous information, then North avoided making use of it. (Unlike with unauthorised information, there's no requirement to "do the opposite" with extraneous information but the board will be adjusted if it ends up making a difference.)

    However, the infraction also had an effect on South's bidding; South made a second-choice bid in order to avoid barring partner, and unexpectedly ended up benifitting rather than losing out. (This is comparable to the rare situation in which a player psyches, their partner falls for it and raises much higher than any pair would normally reach, but the contract somehow makes anyway.) Do we classify this as "assistance"? I don't think we should; Law 12D2(c)/12D2(d) (the laws that normally let you adjust for extraneous information) are only a very tenuous fit for this situation, so I think Law 23C is meant to say "yes, if this information gets used, you can adjust for that even though it isn't UI". Meanwhile, forcing a player to make a second-choice call is not really assistance, but a handicap; it's just a fluke that sometimes this call might work out better than the intended one. This is quite different from the situation where a player exploits an irregularity to, e.g. sign off in 4NT when that bid would normally be artificial in the partnership (taking advantage of the fact that partner is barred); here, the bidding seems perfectly normal for a 1NT response to 1!h, the only weirdness is that 1NT would not be the normal call.

    For question 2, declarer has violated Law 65C (unless there's some disability-based reason why the declarer can't point the tricks correctly, in which case allowing dummy to count seems like a reasonable accommodation for it). As for whether dummy can answer the question, dummy is allowed to keep a count of the tricks (Law 42A2); Law 43A1c bans dummy from "communicating anything about the play to declarer" "except as Law 42 allows", and it isn't immediately clear to me whether allowing dummy to count the tricks also allows the dummy to tell the declarer what the count is. (Maybe dummy is allowed to count them out loud?)

    Law 41C is almost relevant – it says, among other things, that during the play, declarer is allowed to be reminded as to what the contract is and whether it's doubled and/or redoubled, but not other information about the contract. I was wondering whether that Law would contain a complete list of what the declarer was allowed to ask about, but sadly, it probably doesn't.

  • Here is a paper from the late Max Bavin, former Head TD of the WBF and the EBL, which I think covers this discussion.

  • Actually perhaps Max's paper is less clear about this situation than I remembered, but I do have a strong memory of him saying (perhaps in an earlier paper) that it was entirely legitimate for a player to distort their bid in order to avoid being barred, and also allowed for the player's partner to realise they might do this.

    That is not the same situation as someone distorting their bid in order to avoid their partner from being barred, which is prevented by the UI laws.

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