header                Issue #9              17 March 2015

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.

Penalty Cards

Query by Sheila Francis, Jhb My reply

Hi Sid

Please can you help with this? Declarer is playing out the hand and wins a trick led by defender in the dummy. The defender, who thought they won the trick, or were asleep, now leads another card. What happens in this situation, is the card led just a penalty card?

Surely it gives that defender's partner some clue which suit to lead when they get on lead?

What is the rule?

You are quite right about partner getting a clue as to what to lead.

It is a major penalty card, and this carries a few consequences:

  • It has to be played at the first legal opportunity;
  • When that defenderís partner gets the lead whilst there is a penalty card, declarer has the option to demand or forbid a lead in that suit. If declarer chooses either option, the penalty card is restored back to hand. (Similar to opening lead out of turn.)

The relevant law is.....   Law 50:

D. Disposition of Major Penalty Card

When a defender has a major penalty card, both the offender and his partner may be subject to restriction, the offender whenever he is to play, the partner whenever he is to lead.

1. (a) A major penalty card must be played at the first legal opportunity, whether in leading, following suit, discarding or trumping. If a defender has two or more penalty cards that can legally be played, declarer designates which is to be played.
(b) The obligation to follow suit, or to comply with a lead or play restriction, takes precedence over the obligation to play a major penalty card, but the penalty card must still be left face up on the table and played at the next legal opportunity.

2. When a defender has the lead while his partner has a major penalty card, he may not lead until declarer has stated which of the options below is selected (if the defender leads prematurely, he is subject to rectification under Law 49). Declarer may choose:
(a) to require* the defender to lead the suit of the penalty card, or to prohibit* him from leading that suit for as long as he retains the lead (for two or more penalty cards, see Law 51); if declarer exercises either of these options, the card is no longer a penalty card and is picked up.
(b) not to require or prohibit a lead, in which case the defender may lead any card; the penalty card remains a penalty card**. If this option is selected Law 50D continues to apply for as long as the penalty card remains.

E. Information from a Penalty Card
1. Knowledge of the requirements for playing a penalty card is authorized information for all players.
2. Other information derived from sight of a penalty card is unauthorized for the partner of the player who has the penalty card (but authorized for declarer).


Please feel free to write in regarding the bridge laws, to   webmaster [at] gbu.co.za


Sid Ismail
National Director

17 March 2015

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