Wrong Declarer

South called me to the table where it was clear that West had faced an opening lead and North had spread dummy correctly on the table (N / S experienced; E / W inexperienced; Duplicate Pairs).

All players agreed that:

i) North should have been declarer, not South;
ii) North and South had conducted a long complicated auction, E / W passing throughout without any q's;
iii) at the end of the auction N said to W "...you to lead."
iv) none of the players noticed the mistake in that statement so W selected a lead face down, asked E "any q's" - none - so W faced the lead followed by N spreading his hand on the table as dummy;
v) S now woke up to the fact N was presumed declarer and called for TD.

I explained and applied law 47E1 allowing W to retract the lead; asked N to pick up their hand; restored the lead to E; N to be declarer, S dummy.

South and North were unhappy, arguing that this was not equitable. They asserted that all the players had gone along with the incorrect actions and that E / W would now be in a position to know exactly the position regarding finesses, potential ruffs and forcing plays. Surely the board should be cancelled and average scores given?

I thought not and asked them to play the board. Was I right please?


  • Certainly. First, I know the general intent of the laws is moving towards equity but that is a matter for the lawmakers not TDs: they apply the law as written.

    L47E1 allows the lead to be picked up without penalty.

    There is no penalty on declarer for exposing some or all of his hand (L48A) and there has been no lead out of turn in effect. So he picks his cards up.

  • The application of 47E1 means that 54A doesn't get implemented, which would seem to have been a more logical solution to the problem. Does the fact that North told West to lead prior to the lead being made and faced mean that 47E1 has to be applied?

  • Law 47E

    E. Change of Play Based on Misinformation
    1. A lead out of turn (or play of a card) is retracted without further rectification if the player
    was mistakenly informed by an opponent that it was his turn to lead or play (see Law 16C).
    A lead or play may not be accepted by his LHO in these circumstances and Law 63A1 does
    not apply.

    I think the 'without further rectification' means 54A doesn't apply since after law 47E1 is applied the opening lead is retracted and there is therefore no 'faced opening lead out of turn' - also the second part of the law (may not accept) definitely supercedes law 54B

    Also Law 53 specifically refers to law 47E1

    A. Lead Out of Turn Treated as Correct Lead

    Prior to the thirteenth trick17, any lead faced out of turn may be treated as a correct lead (but see
    Law 47E1)...

  • A second question please.

    Does L47E1 make West "an offender" for the purposes of applying L16C (to which L47E1 refers) and getting the UI / AI balance correct?

    Clearly, if not, it could have a significant impact on the result at the table but the palaver is of both sides making.

    I will 'fess up as to what I ruled if required.

  • edited March 2018

    Actually I am unsure if the opening lead can be retracted!

    Law 47E1 is as quoted - but look at law 47E2

    1. (a) A player may retract the card he has played because of a mistaken explanation of an
      opponent’s call or play and before a corrected explanation, without further rectification,
      but only if no card was subsequently played (see Law 16C). An opening lead may not be
      retracted after dummy has faced any card.

    So you have to rely on 47E2

    (b) When it is too late to correct a play under (a) the Director may award an adjusted score.

    I therefore think that the 'correct' decision is to allow play to continue and if EW have been damaged by the MLOOT to adjust the score to the probable results if East had been on lead.

    (I'll leave that up, but have changed my mind, - North has exposed his hand and he is the presumed declarer, not dummy, so we get back as to whether West is an 'offender'')

    I think he is an offender - he has breached law 41A. even though he was misled the infraction has occurred. Law 47 deals with the rectification after the infraction, it doesn't cancel it.

    An interesting situation. So (eventually) my ruling is

    1) Card is retracted (47E1)
    2) Declarer may pick up his hand without penalty (Law 48B2 - it is obvious he is not making a claim and there is now no opening lead out of turn)
    3) The card led is UI for East (West being an offender to make the lead) and declarer (being an offender, by providing misleading information)
    4) Declarer's hand is UI for defenders - it's exposure arose as a direct result of the LOOT.

  • Does 47E2 apply at all? It seems to refer to mistaken expanation. Content to be wrong and learn from it.

  • @weejonnie said:

    Also Law 53 specifically refers to law 47E1

    but interestingly law 54A does not.

  • Is it the case that an opening lead out of turn made by a defender of his own volition may be accepted by declarer spreading his hand and becoming dummy, but an opening lead out of turn made by a defender following misinformation by the declaring side that it was his turn to lead must be retracted? Presumably it is to cater to the possibility that a canny declarer who wants the opening lead to go to his partner deliberately misinforms the defender.

    One could consider differential rulings:
    In a club social game allow North to become dummy under Law 54A and let the game proceed. Ignore Law 47 E1.
    In a more serious game apply Law 47E1 and rule as Gerry did. Explain to the unhappy N/S that:
    At the end of the auction the calls should remain in place until the opening lead has been faced (Blue Book 3Z C 1).
    The opening lead should be made face down (Law 41A).
    These provide an opportunity for an opening lead by the wrong defender to be retracted without penalty. If experienced players were careless enough to miss them then they have only themselves to blame.

    In Gerry's case above, South had the additional opportunity to just keep quiet and get on with play!

  • You can consider differential rulings - but if I were EW even in a 'club social game' I would be very annoyed if it turns out that the misinformation has protected declarers King from my AQ and as a result declarer makes an extra trick. So whilst I may allow North to be dummy, I would be prepared to adjust the score if EW were damaged.

  • @weejonnie said:
    You can consider differential rulings - but if I were EW even in a 'club social game' I would be very annoyed if it turns out that the misinformation has protected declarers King from my AQ and as a result declarer makes an extra trick. So whilst I may allow North to be dummy, I would be prepared to adjust the score if EW were damaged.

    Having thought about this further, I am veering towards the opinion that I would not even give differential rulings, I would stipulate that North should be dummy. Maybe I am playing devil's advocate, but here goes:

    Wherever a Law is supposed to apply in conjunction with another Law, it says so explicitly. If it makes no such reference and anybody tries to infer an implicit reference there would have to be a strong argument in favour. Law 53A says 'but see Law 43E1'. Law 54A does not. So with North spreading his hand, why should he not be deemed to have acted according to Law 54A? Why should we be bringing in Law 43?

    Re adjusting the score if E/W were damaged, adjustments are to be made to pairs damaged by opponents' actions. Here it was West's lead out of turn that was the infraction. Can we say that North telling West it was his lead completely absolved West of his responsibility to know whether it was his lead or not? And could not an alert East have told his partner 'no, it's not your lead'? Being mis-informed about something that you should have known and acting on the mis-information in good faith may allow you to escape without penalty, but should not allow you to claim damages!

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