Tournament Focus: Autumn 2012

Laws & Ethics Corner

by Frances Hinden

Claiming should be a great way to speed up the play and give you more time to spend on the next hand. It might be illegal not to claim when you can, and it’s certainly rude to let your opponents waste time and energy trying to find a way to make an impossible trick. Unfortunately claims do sometimes lead to director calls and can cause upset. So to avoid any hard feelings, here are some dos and don’ts (and a couple of maybes):


  • Claim even if it’s not your go. You don’t need to wait before claiming – if you have the rest of the tricks, say so, even if a defender is on lead.
  • Explain your line. You don’t have to specify every trick, but say enough for the opponents to understand what you will do e.g. “Drawing the last trump and ruffing my spade loser in dummy”
  • Claim even if you don’t have the rest. “Knocking out the ace of hearts” , or “Losing a trump and a club at the end” are fine.
  • Check that suits break before claiming. K2 opposite AQJ63 is only five tricks if they break 4-2 or better. If you haven’t claimed, you can look for tricks elsewhere; if you claim five tricks from this suit but they don’t break, the TD will rule that you lose a trick.
  • Let declarer finish explaining his claim before objecting to it; don’t interrupt.
  • Ask to see declarer’s hand if he hasn’t shown it to you, or ask your partner if you are unsure about agreeing to the claim


  • Claim by putting your cards back in the wallet and saying nothing. Some think this is ‘expert play’; it’s not, it’s both illegal and rude
  • Insist that each card to be played on every trick must be listed. You can’t force declarer to trump his winners or crash his honours
  • Claim until you are certain where your tricks are coming from: a finesse that has worked once might not work the second time!
  • Complain if you forgot a card was still out or got something else wrong in the claim and the TD rules against you.
  • Be intimidated. If your expert opponent says “making the rest in the obvious way” and you don’t understand, say so. He might be an expert, but he can still get a claim wrong.


  • Claim as a defender. It can speed up play, but be absolutely certain partner doesn’t have any decisions to make – if you show your hand to claim, the TD will usually rule that your partner will get any decision wrong
  • Make a conditional claim “I’ll make an overtrick if the finesse is right”. Only do this in simple positions, otherwise your opponents might be confused and the hand will take more time, not less.

And Finally: Here’s the difference between a good claim and a bad claim:

SK 9 3 2
HA Q 4
DA Q 6 3
CK 3
SA Q 5 4
CA Q 10 6 4 2

Declarer is in 7NT on a club lead.
Good claim: “I’ll win with the king, unblock the red suits in hand, cash the black AQs and cross to dummy in spades” This is enough detail to explain what the 13 tricks are, it doesn’t depend on any suit breaking, and is clear how you will manage to cash them all.
Bad claim: “I’ve got loads of tricks – 4 spades, 3 hearts, 4 diamonds and 6 clubs is 17”. You haven’t checked that spades or clubs are breaking (even though you don’t need them to) and you haven’t explained how to cope with the blocked red suits