This column presents questions and answers on matters of Laws and procedures. It helps players protect their rights and assists in settling disputes abour rulings, huddles, Alerts, and the like. Appropriate actions by directors and members of appeals committees are also covered.

A Dumbfounding Dummy


North-South reach six spades. West has the ace-king of diamonds, leads the ace; dummy comes down. All players see dummy as,

K 10 x x    K x x x    x    A K Q x.

West switches to a heart, and South makes six spades. Later, East-West's teammates cannot understand the result, since there are two diamond losers and the opening leader has ace-king. East-West disagree, saying that there was only one diamond in dummy. Not so, say their teammates. The other team is consulted and it turns out that there were two diamonds in North's hand, but he had, obviously (and, it is assumed, innocently) had the other diamond with the king-third in hearts.

The tournament director asks when South noticed that there were two diamonds in dummy. South said at the fifth trick (by which time six spades had been made). The director suggested that North-South concede six spades one down, since it was dummy's fault for having mixed a diamond with a heart.

South does not agree, claims six spades made. The director lets the score stand since he says he cannot find any rule against it, but says he will bring the case to a higher committee for a ruling. Although he could not adjust the score to six spades one down, he found South's action in not conceding one down unethical and improper, a violation of the Proprieties of the Duplicate Laws, especially of this sentence in The Scope of the Law: "The Laws are not designed to prevent dishonorable practices, but rather to redress damage inadvertently done." Do you think the director's actions correct?

Vienna, Austria

Dummy committed a minor technical violation of Law 41 ("After the opening lead, dummy spreads his hand in front of him on the table, face up and grouped in suits, . . "). No penalty is provided by law, but (Law 12) : "The Director may assign an adjusted score . . . when these Laws provide no indemnity to a non-offending contestant for the particular type of violation of law or propriety committed by an opponent." Thus, the director should have adjusted the score (probably to down one) if he believed that the defenders were damaged by dummy's unpenalized infraction (obviously they were), and also that the defenders were "non-offending"--i. e., their failure to notice the misassortment of the dummy was not gross carelessness (had dummy only 12 cards, or had the diamond been in plain sight among the spades, we would find the defenders at fault for not noticing; but we would find no fault as you describe the facts).

The director was wrong to suggest that declarer concede down one, wrong to call the failure to concede "unethical and improper." Declarer made his contract; for him to concede a false result would be a gross illegality. For a director to suggest an illegality is shocking, and it was ludicrous to criticize declarer for scoring the board correctly. It is not declarer's job to protect his opponents from damage. The Proprieties establish this specifically: "The responsibility for penalizing irregularities and redressing damage rests solely upon the Director and these Laws, not upon the players themselves."