"Illegal" bids

I have just been reading the "UI+Serious error" topic, and I am concerned about the regular use throughout the discussion of the word ILLEGAL.

Why it might be technically acceptable, the reason I rail against the word is because of the effect its use has on newcomers to the game or newcomers to Duplicate Bridge or newcomers to Tournament Bridge.

As soon as the accusation is made to someone that they have done something "illegal" then their interest in coming back to play more bridge decreases significantly, and the same goes for all those around them.

There are times when "illegal" is justifiable, but in UI situations it is very difficult for even the best players to make the right decisions and we need to find a way of saying that what they did needs rectification rather than (because of the inference people draw because of the regular use of the word "illegal") punishment.

It is up to us as a TD community to lead in the best use of language and in making newish bridge players comfortable. We can still apply the rules firmly but we need to minimise of use of certain words if we are to keep people playing the game.


  • I think that this forum is intended for the audience of directors, who by definition, should be experienced players and used to the laws. So, the language used is intended for these people, not the general players.

    This means that whilst amongst ourselves we might say illegal, with the players I would not use that language.

    For me the priorities for the director are (in importance order):

    1) Keep everyone happy (or happy enough) to return and play again on a club night/event
    2) Select the best movement for the players (table numbers, expected speeds etc)
    3) Apply the laws

    This means that inflammatory language is avoided at all costs. Essentially the reason that UI might impact the choice of bids/play is that this gives the opportunity for the unscrupulous to cheat (if there were no cheats, it would not matter). However, one would not say, ah that bid is cheating!

    It might be more along the lines of "when you have UI you have to be really careful to not use that - it means that you might have to choose bids/plays that you otherwise might not have done. It is complicated, but lets have a look..." followed up by, "that's fine" or "ok, that play is suggested somewhat by the UI and with this LA, it would need to be selected. Don't worry, we can correct for that at the end."

  • How about using the word 'irregular' when talking to players?

  • I think it makes most sense to restrict the word "illegal" to situations where the player is directly violating a rule with no judgement involved and where they were aware of which action they were taking (e.g. because a bid was made on the basis of a partnership agreement that's disallowed by the conditions of contest, or because it's based on information available to the partner but not to the opponents). These situations tend to lead to an automatic PP unless (sometimes even if!) the player had no idea that the rule they violated existed, and an Av- penalty in any case.

    Something like leading out of turn or playing multiple cards to a trick is a direct rules violation, but is more likely to be a mistake than intentional. I'd describe this as "illegal" only if the player did so knowingly (a situation that's both very rare, and worth at least a DP). Doing so by mistake just means that we try to rectify back to the position before the mistake, leaving the offenders worse off if we can't get back to the exact situation we want. (Thus, for example, if dummy leads out of turn by mistake we just rewind, as nobody has information they shouldn't have, but if a defender leads out of turn we give them a major penalty card in an attempt to control for the resulting UI.)

    Something like making use of unauthorised information and choosing a suggested logical alternative as a result is a laws violation, but there's enough judgement involved that describing it as "illegal" would be unwise. A word like "rectifiable" would be accurate, but somewhat awkward. I've seen "disallowed" on here a few times and it makes a lot of sense in the context (i.e. that the director concluded that the bid should not be allowed and thus that the score should be adjusted as if a different bid were made).

    A UI warning to a player should probably be along the lines of "you have information that you shouldn't have, so if you have multiple reasonable options, you must choose the one that's counter-suggested by the information". The UI rule is unfortunately somewhat complex, and that's about as far as I can simplify it while remaining accurate. (OK, technically speaking we haven't told the player that they're allowed to pick an unreasonable/illogical option that's counter-suggested by the information if they really want to, but by definition the player is unlikely to do this!) If the player does choose an option that's suggested by the information (and had a logical alternative available), we tell the player that their bid is disallowed, and (when scoring the hand at the end) substitute the bid that they should have made and try to work out what would have happened from there.

  • If dummy leads out of turn the next player has the option of accepting it. - I have never seen such a law broken so often with so little call to the Director.

    If the player does make a call that is demonstrably suggested by the UI and there is a LA - we don't do anything. If the opponents claim they are damaged at the end of the hand then we decide.

    You may find it easier to quote law 73C at a player than law 16B - at least it has the advantage of being only 4 lines instead of 18.

    (Law 16B has a Gunning Fog index of 16.1 - values over 12 require someone who is a "High school senior" i.e. about 18 years old.)

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