Hatfield Heath bridge club

Bridge Rules, Ethics and Etiquette

Objectives      Play      Revoke     Bidding     Unauthorised Info    Half tables      Timing issues      Best behaviour


Our objective at the club is to provide competitive bridge in a friendly environment. These are not mutually exclusive but it takes some hard work on behalf of the committee, coupled with a spirit of co-operation from the members, to achieve this.

The Directors, who have to interpret and enforce the rules, are also members who are playing in the same event as yourselves. If you call them because of a possible infringement or for clarification you are taking them away from their game. They don’t mind this but it would be very helpful if you were able to keep this to a minimum. (We think the record number of times the Director has been called in one evening is 12!)

Calling the Director should be looked upon as asking for help or clarification and not as if it is inferring that the opponents are cheating. Call the Director when an irregularity has occurred or is thought to have occurred. If you try to sort it out yourselves it makes it extremely hard, if not impossible, for the Director to give a correct ruling. Just to be awkward ..., as Directors, we would expect the more experienced players, when playing against less experienced opponents, to overlook minor infringements. This does not follow the Laws of Bridge but the Laws do allow the Director to exercise discretion in certain Rules with regard to less experienced players, and we hope this will keep the friendly atmosphere at the club.


Count your cards before looking at them. Then check them against the curtain card if they are being used. Otherwise check them against the hand record at the end of the hand.

When returning the curtain card to the board it must be put face down ON TOP of the cards.

The board should remain in the centre of the table throughout the hand.

It is now permissible for any player to point out that a card is wrongly pointed (turned the wrong way).This can only be done before the play of the next trick.

Dummy can only attempt to prevent Declarer from committing an irregularity but must not warn him if he has already played the card - but see next rule.

A Defender is now allowed to ask partner about his failure to follow suit as well as Dummy being able to ask declarer. A Defender may also ask Declarer.

Dummy must not attempt to influence what card Declarer plays from dummy, either by attempting to play a card before Declarer has nominated it or by hesitating, or looking surprised, when it is nominated.

Declarer and Dummy cannot have penalty cards BUT if Declarer leads out of turn from either hand then EITHER Defender may accept the lead or require it to be retracted and the other Defender is bound by it. If there is ANY form of discussion (or disagreement) between Defenders before a decision is made they forfeit any right to decide and the lead is allowed to stand. The best thing to do is don't say anything and call the Director

When asked by an opponent for the explanation of a bid or play normal or natural are inadequate as they mean different things to different people.

A player can re-examine his last card played until the lead is made to the following trick. A player who has not yet turned his card over may require all cards just played to the trick to be refaced.


A revoke is not established until OFFENDER OR OFFENDER’S partner has played to the next trick.

Both Declarer and Dummy can revoke. Declarer is liable for penalties in the same way as Defenders but if Declarer revokes and Dummy wins the trick then Declarer is not deemed to have won the trick for the purposes of penalties. Dummy can revoke but there is no penalty but if the non-offenders are damaged the Director can award an adjusted score.


Doubles have many meanings but all those called competitive, negative, responsive or sputnik are ruled to be take-out style bids and partner is expected to take-out though he can pass on a hand suitable for defence. A full explanation of the meaning must be given when asked (points range and likely distribution).

Insufficient Bid: This is a minefield and any attempt to put matters right can cause further problems. CALL THE DIRECTOR IMMEDIATELY.

Unauthorised Information

This is when partner, through word or action, has given you information that you shouldn’t have. This, normally, is unintentional but creates ethical problems for you. When this occurs the opponents should reserve their rights and, if necessary, call the director. This is not an accusation of cheating but a way to make sure that the non-offenders are not disadvantaged.

Examples of occasions when unauthorised information may occur are:-

    a.  when hesitating during the bidding and then passing
    b.  hesitating during play
    c.  asking questions during the bidding and then passing (even if the bid has been alerted!)
    d.  asking questions at the end of bidding about a specific bid
    e.  by using inappropriate body language e.g. making faces or gestures
    f.  making inappropriate comments or noises

We all do some of these at one time or another but you must be aware that it puts your partner in an awkward position. Although some of these occur naturally during playing (and are quite legitimate) your partner’s course of action after any of these is seriously restricted. There are rules to cover all of these and the director should be called at the time they occur so that further damage to your rights doesn’t happen.

A brief explanation is:

If you hesitate during the bidding and then pass your partner now knows that you have some values in your hand. We must emphasise that you are quite entitled to hesitate (you may have decisions to make on whether to bid or pass) but you have given your partner unauthorised information. Your partners actions are now restricted. If he makes a bid he must have full values for his bid. This means that he cant make a light opening bid or light overcall and he must have sufficient cards in a suit if he bids it. Otherwise he may be accused of bidding just because he knew that you had some values. This also refers to doubling.

The same explanation covers asking questions and then passing. The rules state clearly that if you have no intention of bidding you should not ask questions but save them for the end of the auction. That way you do not put your partner in an awkward situation. When asking at the end of the auction you should ask the meaning of all the bids, in sequence, and not ask about one specific bid - even if you are only interested in that bid. Asking about just that bid is telling your partner that it is of significance to you and can result in lead penalties against your partner.

A similar situation occurs if you hesitate during play. Everyone hesitates during play in order to think but long hesitations tell your partner, and opposition, that you have a significant card in the suit played. This will usually help declarer more than the defenders so when defending try not to hesitate during play. There is one exception to this: If declarer plays from dummy immediately when it is first displayed without any pause for thought the defender next to play may have time to study dummy, decide the meaning of his partners lead (a defender may take a different inference from his partners lead from their agreement when dummys cards are revealed) and his own cards to decide how to play the hand. This should be a rare occurrence as it is good practice for declarer to study dummy to decide a line of play before playing to the first trick.

Think ahead. Also be careful about deceiving declarer. If you hesitate when you have a singleton it is unethical and carries harsh penalties. If you hesitate during play when there is no reason for it you may be accused of deliberate deception. For example: declarer plays a card and you only have the 2, 3 and 4 in that suit. Then there can be no reason for more than a brief hesitation before you play. If you don’t play signals with your partner there is no reason to hesitate and if you do play signals then it should be easy to decide which card to play.

All these ways of giving unauthorised information can be avoided but they still will occur in some circumstances. As we said earlier, this doesn’t automatically mean that you have infringed the rules but it puts partner in an awkward situation about the way he bids or plays.

Something that is against the rules and ethics of the game and can carry harsh penalties is inappropriate body language or comments. There are many things that come into this category and a few are: pulling faces, looking angry, glaring at partner (even if they do deserve it sometimes), making actions with your body that shows you disapprove of what partner has done, slamming your cards down on the table or making angry or exasperated noises. We’ve all seen it, and probably done it at times, and the director should be called immediately. There are some people that do one or more of these things without even realising that they do it and their partners are usually very careful not to take any inference from it. It must be brought to the attention of the offender that they are doing it and the proper way is to call the director instead of moaning to everyone else afterwards.

Half tables

Your committee have attempted to solve these problems as fairly as possible.

It was decided in 2009 to change the way we do this. Except when the movement dictates otherwise N/S will always sit out when there is a half table.

To overcome any complaints about this we announced many times that, before the start, the pairs should toss a coin to decide which way they will sit. Members can agree amongst themselves that they remain sitting the way they wish. Any disagreement will result in a coin being tossed.

This now saves the director any problems in organising the movement and creates a fair and random system if the members stick to it. It is their responsibility.

The only exceptions to this rule are that the Director, Timekeeper and Treasurer should sit N/S unless they wish to do otherwise.

Timing issues

Over the past 20+ years your committee have discussed these many times.

Start time: The time for the start of the evening is 7.30 pm. Please arrive no later than 7.25 pm (preferably 7.20 pm) so that the director can set the movement for the evening. We realise that on some occasions you may be arriving closer to the start time but you need to let the committtee know in advance. The easiest way to do this is for your partner to arrive early and tell us that you will be coming. Late arrivals shall be accommodated where possible. Your committee members need to be there 20-30 minutes earlier to prepare and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those committee members and, especially those non-committee members, who turn up early to set up the tables etc.

We have agreed that in order to reduce the lateness of the finishing time there will be no tea break but that tea (and coffee) will be drunk whilst playing. In order to facilitate this, and to not delay the playing time when doing so, the drinks should be brought to the table by dummy during the play, NOT at the end of the hand or round as this will affect the time you have to play the next round see Timekeeping.

Timekeeping We have to finish by a certain time in order to comply with the booking terms of the hall and to ensure that we do not finish too late the Directors have operated to the following rules for many years. Although the rules have their faults they seem to be the best of the different methods that we have tried. Fortunately, we rarely have to impose any of the penalties nowadays as members seem to keep to the timing quite well with a little chivvying by the Directors.

There is a set amount of time allowed per round depending on how many boards per round there are. The Director (or timekeeper) will announce when you should be on your last board and the bell will ring 4 minutes from the end of the round. The Director will announce that there is 4 minutes to go. The director will count down the time and shall advise players when they are running out of time. When the second bell rings you should have finished playing. If you have four, or less, cards in your hand you will be allowed to finish the hand but must hurry. If you have more cards left then you will be compelled to take an average. This may sound rather arbitrary but it has been found to be the best way. All the directors are aware of the slow players and, even if they have compelled an average, they may make an adjusted score at the end of the evening. The worry, of course, is if someone is deliberately delaying because they know they are in a bad contract and are likely to end with a bad score.

Once again, the Directors are aware of this and note when they think this has occurred. A player thought to be doing this will be spoken to by the chairman. It has happened very rarely in the past but those players that make a habit of it do not remain as members.

Best Behaviour At Bridge

Please refer to the inside of our programme for more information about this. A small section of it is printed below:-

One of the most important points is that at the beginning of each round you should greet your opponents with a polite Good evening Please don’t just continue to discuss the previous hands.  Also please don’t have a go at partner if they make a mistake even if they deserve it! A lot of opponents find it spoils the enjoyment of the game.

We all do stupid things occasionally but it should be discussed away from the table. If you forget this etiquette in the heat of the moment please don’t take offence if your opponents ask you to stop arguing. The EBU says that in this situation you should call the director and say that the opponents are spoiling your enjoyment of the game. I don’t think that this is necessary if you politely ask them to stop. It also saves disturbing the director.

Please remember that, as with the last paragraph of Timekeeping above, the chairman or the committee may have the unfortunate duty of having to speak privately with any member that may be causing offence.