Penalty Doubles not alerted

Your comments please:

The bidding went 2H (announced by west as weak) - x- 3H -x (north) and after a lot of thinking South passed and all passed . The contract was 3Hearts doubled. During the Clarification Period , East (as declarer) asked South if the double by North was a penalty double and he said that he took it as such. East said that the double by North should have been alerted if it was for a penalty double and therefore East wanted to reserve his rights. The director was called and he ruled that there is nothing to reserve the rights. Director said South took it as a penalty double and even if it was alerted as Penalty, what could East have done - end up in 4 hearts and do down even more? South was not told by the director he should have alerted partner's penalty double nor he agreed to look at the hand at the end of the session nor would he allowed East to reserve his rights.

How should the Director have handled this call in terms of applying the law when he was called by East ?


  • "reserving rights" is an awkward concept, When it occur in law, a player is reserving his rights to call the director (later). Once the TD is called, there is nothing to "reserving rights" - the TD agrees the facts, makes any ruling that is necessary and returns at the end of the hand to assess any damage.

    In this case, the TD should explain that East had protected his rights by calling the TD, the question of whether East is allowed to reserve his rights is no longer going to affect anything. The TD (when first called) can allow East to change his final Pass, if Law 21B1 (a) applies. At the end of the hand, the TD should listen to East/West explaining how they were damaged; if East/West are only worried about the failure to alert (misinformation), then the TD should explain that East/West would not do anything different if the double was alerted, and there is no damage.

  • I think the ruling here is "non-offending side can change their final call, at the end of the hand, if you feel you were damaged by the lack of alert, call me back and I'll adjust the score if I agree", in the belief that it's unlikely that an adjusted score will be needed in this situation. (It's quite probable that once North has doubled 3H for penalties, East/West have nowhere to run, so they'd be forced into passing out the hand no matter what the double actually meant. In this case, it's hard to see any damage that would need adjusting. But the non-offending side get their final call back in any case, just in case they think they can do something useful with it.)

  • TagTag
    edited August 2018

    Since the director was called during the clarification period, he could reopen the auction from the final pass by West if he judges that there has been misinformation. After the hand, the director could examine whether East would have made a different call if he knew that North's double was for penalties and adjust accordingly if he sees fit.

  • I agree with everything that has been said, but would observe that whilst (contrary to what one sometimes hears) the rules for alerting doubles have not changed substantially for some time, doubles are still an area where a substantial number of players at many different levels do not seem to know the rules. As a result I, for one, do not tend to trust opponents that I don't know to alert doubles correctly. I therefore ask if my action depends on the answer, and believe that a lot of other experienced players do the same.

    I have to say that I would prefer a regime where no doubles were alertable except those with a highly unusual or very unexpected meaning (such as perhaps, penalty doubles of a natural one of a suit opening, lead directing doubles that call for an unexpected suit etc.).

    On the sequence described it seems unlikely that E would have done anything different with the correct information (more likely would be an adjustment if he had bid 4!h assuming that the second double was for takeout, but even they I would expect an experienced player contemplating bidding 4!h to protect himself by asking). There is a minority of players who seem to think that if opponents get something wrong, they are automatically entitled to a good score. I hope that E is not one of these, as he seems to have made rather a fuss about nothing very consequential. Damage must be the consequence of an infraction to be redressed.

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