Issue #4 6 October 2014
These pages are an attempt to inform bridge players of the laws governing our game. In particular, we will be looking at everyday situations where the TD is called. These pages will be updated each month, so please come again!
Always call the TD for any infringement, however minor - do not take the law into your own hands.
About Penalty Cards
The query - received from Diana Balkin (shortened) Response
While in Scotland where btw I found the directing to be of a very high standard, something occurred that I had never seen before and perhaps you can help me understand.
We are defenders. Declarer is on my right. During the course of play (middle of hand) declarer calls for a diamond from dummy and partner follows with the 4. Immediately, she says "oops I have a diamond" (this was before declarer had played), declarer then follows to the diamond and I win the trick.
Declarer immediately call for the director and director comes and says that partner's 4 is a major penalty card and declarer may call for or forbid the lead of a heart from me, while I have the lead.
Can you also help me understand the difference between a major and a minor penalty card please.
The ruling given to you in Scotland is quite correct. Law 50D2 gives declarer the power to demand or forbid a lead in the specified suit as the major penalty card that partner has. Once declarer states which option he is opting for, the 4. is returned to partner's hand and ceases to be a major penalty card.
When a card is wilfully or deliberately played and the card becomes a penalty card when you correct a possible revoke before it became established, the penalty card is major. It must be played at the first legal opportunity, and, should partner get the lead (our example) Law 50D2 gives declarer the two options discussed.
Minor penalty cards rarely happen – basically you are playing the ace of spades and the 2 (next to it) drops accidentally face up on the table. This becomes a minor penalty card and the card must be under the rank of an honour. If the K dropped accidentally with the ace, the K will be a major penalty card.
Minor penalty cards need not be played at the earliest opportunity. Laws 50B and 50C cover the options, but essentially you may not play another card in the same suit under the rank of an honour before the penalty card. Also, if partner obtains the lead at any stage, Law 50D2 will not apply.
Always call the TD. There is more to penalty cards than "you have to play the card at the first legal opportunity."
The TD will give you all your options, after consulting the relevant section(s) of Law 50.
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