premature claim swiftly withdrawn

Declarer tables his hand saying "The rest are mine - oh hang on, clubs might break five-nil". The correction is instantaneous. He then plays a top club (unless the defence call the director first), all follow, and he repeats his claim, which by then is accurate.
(Clubs are 5-3 between declarer and dummy, missing the ten-nine).
Is this legit within the law as strictly applied, and if so how long a pause would be needed between "mine" and "oh hang on" to make it not so?


  • In this particular case, the fact that clubs split means that it doesn't matter whether we allow the withdrawal of the claim or not. If a claim is mathematically inaccurate but the declarer makes it anyway, we try to simulate what would have happened (with any doubtful points going the non-claimants way). The "clubs might break five-nil" is definitely at least part of the claim statement, so we have to assume that the declarer will follow a strategy that guards against a potential bad club split, and not finding one, the claim will have the desired result.

    More interesting is what happens if clubs do in fact split 5-0. I can't see anything in law 68A allowing a claim to be withdrawn by the claimer, even if it was unintentional; "demonstrably did not intend to claim" doesn't apply here. So we first have to give the non-claiming side a chance to contest; if they choose not to contest the claim (e.g. because they each have 1 to 4 clubs inclusive) the claim stands. If the clubs are in fact 5-0 a contest to the claim is very likely. The Director has to follow the claim statement when simulating the subsequent play – in this case, it's clear from the claim statement that declarer plans to play a top club next, so they do that, and discover the bad break. Then we check all the normal lines of play from that point onwards (with declarer assumed to now be aware of the bad club break) – if any of them lead to declarer losing a trick, we assume that that trick would have been lost, if declarer wins in all of them, then we give declarer the rest of the tricks. (If there's an obvious line that makes the contract once you know where the clubs are, we can typically assume that that line is a normal line, and any lines that do worse than it are abnormal; for example, if a marked finesse of the 8 would become possible in clubs and there are plenty of entries, it's unlikely that there's a normal line that loses a trick.)

  • I take the view that until a claimer has completed making the claim statement, it can be changed as long as the change has not been prompted by anything said or done by their partner.

  • @gordonrainsford said:
    I take the view that until a claimer has completed making the claim statement, it can be changed ...

    If the TD is called when the claim statement trails off, we can instruct the table that a claim is happening but the claimer is allowed to think and then make a different claim statement.

    Rather than call the TD, the defenders (recognising that a claim is happening) may suggest that play continue - this appears to be a position where defenders might find Law 68D a good way to resolve the situation.

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