What Is New in the 2017 Laws — Part 2 — The Auction

This is the second of a series of articles comparing the current ACBL Laws of Duplicate Bridge, 2016 Revised Authorized Edition with the WBF The Laws of Duplicate Bridge 2017.

This article covers the Laws from Law 16 up to and including Law 40, what used to be Chapter V — The Auction.

I have made a small change in presentation. Unless required to avoid confusion, I will not mention changes in cross-references made because of the renumbering of Laws or movement of information from one Law to another.


Law 17 — The Auction Period

Old Law 17D — Cards from Wrong Board

What was discussed in this section has been removed. It has been incorporated in Law 15 which is a more sensible location. What had been Law 17E has now become Law 17D (i.e. the sections have simply been renumbered).

New Law 17D — End of the Auction Period

This section is now divided into 3 subsections rather than 2 (a new subsection has been inserted between the old subsections 1 and 2). Law 17D(1) has been completely rewritten and includes the definition of the “Clarification Period” so that definition is now in a logical place (previously it had been part of Law 22). Law 17D(2) takes care of when the auction period ends for a deal that is passed out. Cross-references have changed due to renumbering (and being specific about what part of a Law is being referenced). The whole of Law 17D(1) and (2) follows for reference:

  1. The auction period ends when, subsequent to the end of the auction as in Law 22A, either defender faces an opening lead. (If the lead is out of turn then see Law 54.) The interval between the end of the auction and the end of the auction period is designated the Clarification Period.
  2. If no payer bids (see Law 22B) the auction period ends when all four hands have been returned to the board.

Law 18 — Bids

Law 18D — Insufficient Bid

That an insufficient bid is an infraction has been explicitly stated by the addition of the sentence:

It is an infraction to make an insufficient bid (see Law 27 for rectification).

Law 20 — Review and Explanation of Calls

Not yet having seen the ACBL's edition of the Laws, I do not know whether they added a footnote that was deleted (because the footnote appears to refer to regulations, such as bidding boxes, that would not be in the WBF's edition).

Law 20F – Explanation of Calls

Law 20F(4):

Has been split into two subsections, (a) and (b) and a significant change made to the wording. First the two versions [my emphasis]:

ACBL 2016 Edition:

  1. If a player subsequently realizes that his own explanation was erroneous or incomplete, he must call the Director immediately. The Director applies Law 21B or Law 40B4.

WBF 2017:

    1. If a player realizes during the auction that his own explanation was erroneous or incomplete, he must summon the Director before the end of the Clarification Period and correct the misexplanation. He may elect to call the Director sooner, but he is under no obligation to do so. For a correction during the play period, see Law 75B2.)
    2. The Director when summoned applies Law 21B or Law 40B3.

There is a huge difference in the two meanings. I have some idea of why the change was made, but it is just speculation. In terms of the old law, if it became clear that a player had realized he had given a mistaken explanation and didn't disclose this immediately, he would have committed an irregularity. Under the new Law, a player can purposefully not admit the incorrect (or incomplete) explanation (i.e. misinformation) until the auction is over (i.e. three passes in a row) — note, however, it must be disclosed prior to the opening lead being faced; that is, it must be disclosed sometime during the Clarification Period (if not done before that).

Law 20G — Incorrect Procedure

Law 20G(1) has been made stronger (“improper” becomes “may not”) and a new subsection added (subsection 2 has become subsection 3 to accomodate this). The new subsection says that one may not attempt to elicit misinformation — that is, a player may not attempt to induce an opponent to commit an infraction so as to be able to benefit from it. Here are the two versions (complete except for the last subsection which has not changed):

ACBL 2016 Edition:

  1. It is improper to ask a question solely for partner's benefit.

WBF 2017:

  1. A player may not ask a question if his sole purpose is to benefit partner.
  2. A player may not ask a question if his sole purpose is to elicit an incorrect response from an opponent.

Law 22 — End of Auction

As described under Law 17D, the definition of the end of the auction period has been moved from Law 22 to Law 17D. Thus Law 22 has been greatly simplified (the two ways the auction ends have been reordered, but that does not change the meaning.

Law 23 — Comparable Call

This is a new and significant Law. The substance of the old Law 23 — Awareness of Potential Damage has been moved to Law 72 — General Principles. First the two versions of Law 23, in full:

ACBL 2016 Edition:

Whenever, in the opinion of the Director, an offender could have been aware at the time of his irregularity that this could well damage the non-offending side, the Director shall require the auction and play to continue (if not completed). When the play has been completed, the Director awards an adjusted score if he considers the offending side has gained an advantage through the irregularity*.

* As, for example, by partner's enforced pass.

WBF 2017:

Law 23A — Definition

A call that replaces a withdrawn call is a comparable call, if it:

  1. has the same or similar meaning as that attributable to the withdrawn call, or
  2. defines a subset of the possible meanings attributable to the withdrawn call, or
  3. has the same purpose (e.g. an asking bid or a relay) as that attributable to the withdrawn call.

Law 23B — No Rectification

When a call is cancelled (as per Law 29B) and the offender chooses at his proper turn to replace the irregularity with a comparable call, then both the auction and play continue without further rectification. Law 16C2 does not apply, but see C following.

Law 23C — Non-Offending Side Damaged

If following the substitution of a comparable call [see Laws 27B1(b), 30B1(b)(i), 31A2(a) and 32A2(a)] the Director judges at the end of the play that without the assistance gained through the infraction the outcome of the board could well have been different, and in consequence the non-offending side is damaged, he shall award an adjusted score [see Law 12C1(b)].

Note: Laws 29 through 36 remain as convoluted as ever, but have been modified to take Law 23 into account. The ACBL's Ruling the Game column contains their take on the impact this Law change has on the Director's job, which is basically that more deals get to be played normally, but the Director has to exercise more bridge judgement.

Personal Opinion: Once upon a time, the Laws involving an insufficient bid were straightforward and easy to interpret, though not always equitable (basically correct the level of the bid in the same denomination, unless the insufficient bid or the correction would be artificial, with no rectification; otherwise, rectification). Over time, in an attempt to be equitable (fair), the Laws involved have become more complicated. Now a Director has to understand the meanings of an offender's calls (not just bids!). He will be more reliant on players' explanations of their bidding system and on the completeness of their convention cards.

Law 24 — Card Exposed or Led During the Auction

This Law has been reorganized but the basic text and meaning remain the same. However there has been a subtle clarification in that the title of the Law has been changed from Card Exposed or Led Prior to Play Period to Card Exposed or Led During the Auction. This is not equivalent wording — it implies Law 24 is not applicable during the Clarification Period (i.e. after the auction ends, but before the Play Period commences).

Law 25 — Legal and Illegal Changes of Call

Finally Law 25 has been changed to get rid of the contentious “without pause for thought” requirement (it is a physiological impossibility, no wonder Directors could never get it right!). The most significant change is that Law 25A(1) has been replaced by three parts (the existing final three parts being renumbered). The relevant part of the two versions is reproduced below:

Law 25A — Unintended Call

ACBL 2016 Edition:

  1. Until his partner makes a call, a player may substitute his intended call for an unintended call but only if he does so, or attempts to do so, without pause for thought. The second (intended) call stands and is subject to the appropriate law.

WBF 2017:

  1. If a player discovers that he has not made the call he intended to make, he may, until his partner makes a call, substitute the call he intended for the unintended call. The second (intended) call stands and is subject to the appropriate Law, but the lead restrictions in Law 26 do not apply.
  2. If the player's original intent was to make the call selected or voiced, that call stands. A change of call may be allowed because of a mechanical error or a slip of the tongue, but not because of a loss of concentration regarding the intent of the action.
  3. A player is allowed to replace an unintended call if the conditions described in A2 above are met, no matter how he may have become aware of his error.

Law 25B — Call Intended

It has been made explicit that the lead restrictions of Law 26 may apply (this was not in the old versions).

Law 26 — Call Withdrawn, Lead Restrictions

This is another truly significant change to the Laws. First, the two versions:

ACBL 2016 Edition:

When an offending player's call is withdrawn, and he chooses a different* final call for that turn, then if he becomes a defender:

A. Call Related to Specific Suit

If the withdrawn call related solely to a pecified suit or suits (and no other suit), and

  1. if each such suit was specified in the legal auction by the same player, there is no lead restriction, but see Law 16D.
  2. if each such suit was not specified in the legal auction by the same player, then at offender's partner's first turn to lead (which may be the opening lead) declarer may either
    1. require the offender's partner to lead such a suit. If there is more than one, declarer chooses the suit.
    2. prohibit offender's partner from leading (one) such suit. Such prohibition continues for as long as the offender's partner retains the lead.

B. Other Withdrawn Calls

For other withdrawn calls, declarer may prohibit offender's partner from leading any one suit at his first turn to lead, including the opening lead, such prohibition to continue for as long as offender's partner retains the lead.

* A call repeated with a much different meaning shall be deemed a different call.

WBF 2017:

A. No Lead Restrictions

When an offending player's call is withdrawn and it is replaced by a comparable call (see Law 23A), then if he becomes a defender there are no lead restrictions for his side. Law 16C does not apply, but see Law 23C.

B. Lead Restrictions

When an offending player's call is withdrawn and it is not replaced by a comparable call, then if he becomes a defender declarer may, at the offender's partner's first turn to lead (which may be the opening lead) prohibit offender's partner from leading any (one) suit which has not been specified in the legal auction by the offender. Such prohibition continues for as long as the offender's partner retains the lead.

This Law has been greatly simplified. What is particularly interesting is that declarer no longer has the ability to require the lead of a suit; he can only forbid the lead of a suit.

However, what I consider particularly significant is perhaps best illustrated by an example. Suppose I am declarer in 3NT and my left-hand opponent has made an insufficient overcall of 2 for which he substituted a Pass and has made no other bids. He leads a heart and eventually I lose the lead to my right-hand opponent. My danger suit is perhaps the doubleton AQ, I can now forbid my right-hand opponent from leading a diamond, even if it is an obvious shift! Previously, I could only forbid (or demand) a heart lead, which is not the same thing — it is quite possible the offender's partner had a singleton heart, in which case when I ask for the heart lead, he cannot make one and is allowed to make the killing diamond shift.

Law 27 — Insufficient Bid

The biggest change is to Law 27B(1).

Law 27B — Insufficient Bid Not Accepted

For comparison purposes, here are the two versions of Law 27B(1) [my emphasis]:

ACBL 2016 Edition:

If an insufficient bid in rotation is not accepted (see A above), it must be corrected by the substitution of a legal call (but see B3 below). Then:

    1. if the insufficient bid is corrected by the lowest sufficient bid in the same denomination and in the Director's opinion both the insufficient bid and the substituted bid are incontrovertibly not artificial, the auction proceeds without further rectification. Law 16D does not apply, but see D below.
    2. if, except as in (a) above, the insufficient bid is corrected with a legal call that in the Director's opinion has the same meaning* as or a more precise meaning* than the insufficient bid (such meaning being fully contained within the possible meanings of the insufficient bid), the auction proceeds without further rectification, but see D below.

* The meaning of (information available from) a call is the knowledge of what it shows and what it excludes.

WBF 2017:

If an insufficient bid in rotation is not accepted (see A), it must be corrected by the substitution of a legal call (but see B3). Then:

    1. if the insufficient bid is corrected by the lowest sufficient bid which specifies the same denomination(s) as that specified by the withdrawn call, the auction proceeds without further rectification. Laws 26B and 16C do not apply but see D following.
    2. except as in (a), if the insufficient bid is corrected with a comparable call (see Law 23A) the auction proceeds without further rectification. Law 16C does not apply but see D following.

The new law is obviously shorter and appears simpler, but needs to be interpreted carefully. At first blush, the 2017 version has removed the restriction of Law 27B1(a) concerning artificial bids, but in reality the Laws have been attempting to allow substitutions that have the same meanings (in the 2017 Laws, “comparable”). This shows in Law 27B1(a) which cleverly allows insufficient bids which show one or more suits (or NT!) to be replaced by sufficient, legal bids that show the same suit(s) (or NT).

Note: the substituted bid no longer has to be the same denomination but only specify the same denomination(s) — for example, if over a 1NT opening, 2 shows the majors, but the opening was really 2NT, over which 3 would show the majors, then the insufficient 2 bid could be changed to 3 with no further rectification.

Law 27B1(b) takes away the confusing phrasing of “same” and “more precise” meaning by using the newly minted “comparable meaning” defined in Law 23A.

Law 30 — Pass Out of Rotation

Law 30 has been changed to be less draconian and increase the chances of having a more or less normal auction (and similarly for Laws 31 and 32). Importantly, the Law is no longer based on whether or not any player has bid prior to the infraction, but on whose turn it really is to call. As well, there is no longer the penalty of a player having to pass for the remainder of the auction. The distinction remains that a player's pass at his LHO's turn to call when he has previously called is treated as a change of call.

Laws 30, 31 and 32 warrant a careful reading. The relevant comparisons are shown under the appropriate Laws. Note that the Laws concerning Unauthorized Information and the Director's ability to adjust the score if he deems the non-offenders to have been damaged, remain.

Sections A and B are the changed sections and the two versions are reproduced below:

ACBL 2017 Edition:

Law 30A — Before Any Player Has Bid

When a player has passed out of rotation before any player has bid, the offender must pass when next it is his turn to call and Law 23 may apply.

Law 30B — After Any Player Has Bid

  1. When a pass out of rotation is made at offender's RHO's turn to call after any player has bid, offender must pass when next it is his turn to call.
  2. When, after any player has bid, the offender passes out of rotation at his partner's turn to call,
    1. the offender must pass whenever it is his turn to call, and Law 23 may apply, and
    2. offender's partner may make any sufficient bid or may pass, but he may not double or redouble at that turn, and Law 23 applies.
  3. After any player has bid, a pass out of rotation at offender's LHO's turn to call is treated as a change of call and Law 25 applies.

WBF 2017:

Law 30A — RHO's Turn to Call

When a pass out of rotation is made at offender's RHO's turn to call, the offender must pass when next it is his turn to call and Law 72C may apply.

Law 30B — Partner's or LHO's Turn to Call

  1. When the offender has passed at his partner's turn to call, or at his LHO's turn to call if the offender has not previously called, then:
    1. Offender's partner may make any legal call at his proper turn, but Law 16C2 applies.
    2. Offender may make any legal call at his correct turn and:
      1. When the call is a comparable call (see Law 23A), there is no further rectification. Law 26B does not apply, but see Law 23C.
      2. When the call is not a comparable call (see Law 23A), offender's partner must pass when next it is his turn to call. Laws 16C, 26B and 72C may apply.
  2. If the offender has previously called, a pass out of rotation at offender's turn to call is treated as a change of call. Law 25 applies.

Law 31 — Bid Out of Rotation

As mentioned under Law 30, the requirement to pass throughout the remainder of the auction (under certain circumstances) has been removed and the treating of comparable calls more fairly has been adopted. Other than removing a redundant cross-reference, the introduction to Law 31 remains unchanged; the rest, however, has significant changes.

ACBL 2017 Edition:

Law 31A — RHO's Turn

When the offender has called at his RHO's turn to call, then:

  1. if that opponent passes, offender must repeat the call out of rotation. When that call is legal there is no rectification.
  2. if that opponent makes a legal* bid, double or redouble, offender may make any legal call. When this call
    1. repeats the denomination of his bid out of rotation, offender's partner must pass when next it is his turn to call (see Law 23).
    2. does not repeat the denomination of his bid out of rotation,or if the call out of rotation was an artificial pass or a pass of partner's artificial call, the lead restrictions in Law 26 may apply, and offender's partner must pass whenever it is his turn to call (see Law 23).

Law 31B — Partner's or LHO's Turn

When the offender has bid at his partner's turn to call or at his LHO's turn to call, if the offender has not previously called**, offender's partner must pass whenever it is his turn to call (see Law 23 when the pass damages the nn-offending side). The lead restrictions of Law 26 may apply.

* An illegal call by RHO is rectified as ususal.
** Later calls at LHO's turn to call are treated as changes of call, and Law 25 applies.

WBF 2017:

Law 31A — RHO's Turn to Call

When the offender has called at his RHO's turn to call, then:

  1. if that opponent passes, offender must repeat the call out of rotation. When that call is legal there is no rectification.
  2. if that opponent makes a legal8 bid, double or redouble, offender may make any legal call:
    1. When the call is a comparable call (see Law 23A), there is no further rectification. Law 26B does not apply, but see Law 23C.
    2. When the call is not a comparable call (see Law 23A), offender's partner must pass when next it is his turn to call. Laws 16C, 26B and 72C may apply.

Law 31B — Partner's or LHO's Turn to Call

When the offender has bid at his partner's or LHO's turn to call if the offender has not previously called, then:

  1. Offender's partner may make any legl call at his proper turn, but Law 16C2 applies.
  2. Offender may make any legal call at his correct turn and the Director rules as in A2(a) or A2(b) above.

Law 31C — Later Bids at LHO's Turn to Call

Later bids at LHO's turn to call are treated as changes of call and Law 25 applies.

8 An illegal call by RHO is rectified as ususal.

Since you now know what to look for, here are the two versions of Law 32:

ACBL 2016 Edition:

Law 32 — Double or Redouble Out of Rotation

A double or redouble out of rotation may be accepted at the option of the opponent next in rotation (see Law 29A), except that an inadmissible double or redouble may never be accepted. If offender's LHO nevertheless calls, see Law 36. If the call out of rotation is not accepted, it is canceled, the lead restriction in Law 26B may apply and:

Law 32A — Made at Offender's Partner's Turn to Call

If a double or redouble out of rotation has been made when it was the offender's partner's turn to call, the offender's partner must pass whenever it is his turn to call. See Law 23 if the pass damges the non-offending side.

Law 32B — Made at RHO's Turn to Call

If a double or redouble out of rotation has been made when it was the offender's turn to call, then:

  1. if offender's RHO passes, offender must repeat his out-of-rotation double or redouble and there is no rectification unless the double or redouble is inadmissible, in which case Law 36 applies.
  2. if offender's RHO bids, doubles or redoubles, the offender may in turn make any legal call, but offender's partner must pass whenever it is his turn to call. See Law 23 if the pass damages the non-offending side.

WBF 2017:

Law 32 — Double or Redouble Out of Rotation

A double or redouble out of rotation may be accepted at the option of the opponent next in rotation (see Law 29A), except that an inadmissible double or redouble (see Law 36) may never be accepted. If the call out of rotation is not accepted, it is canceled and:

Law 32A — RHO's Turn to Call

If a double or redouble out of rotation has been made at offender's RHO's turn to call, then:

  1. if offender's RHO passes, offender must repeat his out-of-rotation double or redouble and there is no rectification unless the double or redouble is inadmissible, in which case Law 36 applies.
  2. if offender's RHO bids, doubles or redoubles, the offender may in turn make any legal call:
    1. When the call is a comparable call (see Law 23A), there is no further rectification. Law 26B does not apply, but see Law 23C.
    2. When the call is not a comparable call (see Law 23A), offender's partner must pass when next it is his turn to call. Laws 16C, 26B and 72C may apply.

Law 32B — Offender's Partner's Turn to Call

If a double or redouble out of rotation has been made when it was the offender's partner's turn to call, then:

  1. Offender's partner may make any legal call, but Law 16C2 applies.
  2. Offender may make any legal call at his proper turn and the Director rules as in A2(a) or A2(b) above.

Law 32C — Later Calls at LHO's Turn to Call

Later calls at LHO's turn to call are treated as changes of call and Law 25 applies.

Law 36 — Inadmissible Doubles and Redoubles

A new section has been added to Law 36, presumably more for clarification than being a new Law. What is particularly interesting is that Law 36, versus the previous few Laws dealing with passes, bids etc., out of turn, retains the severe rectification of requiring partner of the offender to pass throughout the remainder of the auction. The added section:

Law 36C — Irregularity Discovered after the Auction Period

When attention is drawn to an inadmissible double or redouble only after the opening lead has been faced, the final contract is scored as if the inadmissible call had not been made.

Law 40 — Partnership Understandings

There is some reordering of the parts of Law 40 that put parts of the Law in a more appropriate location. Those changes may also change the interpretation of the Law.

Law 40A4 — Players' Systemic Agreements

This subsection has been inserted at the end of Law 40A. It has been removed from a section that allowed the Regulating Authority to override it.

  1. The agreed meaning of a call or play shall not alter by reference to the member of the partnership by whom it is made (this requirement does not restrict style and judgement, only method).

Law 40B — Special Partnership Understandings

Law 40B1:

The definition of “partnership understanding” has been moved and inserted at the front where it belongs (so the phrase is not used before it has been defined!).

    1. An agreement between partners, whether explicit or implicit, is a partnership understanding.

Law 40B1(c) (formerly 40B1(b)) has been simplified considerably, including the removal of the only reference I know to “convention”, which was never defined. It now reads:

    1. Unless the Regulating Authority decides otherwise, any call that has an artificial meaning constitutes a special partnership understanding.

Law 40B2:

This Law has been reorganized in a more logical and consistent way. Note the additional instance when a player can consult an opponent's system card. It is to handle the case where the meaning of partner's call depends on the meaning of the opponent's call (for example, when playing different defenses depending on the nature of an opponent's opening 2-bid).

    1. The Regulating Authority:
      1. is empowered without restriction to allow, disallow, or allow conditionally, any special partnership understanding.
      2. may prescribe a System Card, with or without supplementary sheets, for the prior listing of a partnership's understandings, and regulate its use.
      3. may prescribe alerting procedures and/or other methods of disclosure of a partnership's methods.
      4. may disallow prior agreement by a partnership to vary its understandings during the auction or play following an irregularity committed by the opponents.
      5. may restrict the use of psychic artificial calls.
    2. — unchanged—
    3. Unless the Regulating Authority provides otherwise a player may consult his opponent's system card:
      1. prior to the commencement of the auction,
      2. during the Clarification Period,
      3. during the auction and during the play but only at his turn to call or play, and
      4. following an opponent's request for an explanation, pursuant to Law 20F, for the porpose of correctly explaining the significance of his partner's call or play.
    4. Unless the Regulating Authority provides otherwise a player is not entitled to any aids to his memory, calculation or technique during the auction period and play.

    Law 40B3:

    This section of the ACBL 2016 edition was moved, so the following subsections were renumbered.

    Law 40B3:

    The original wording was made section (a) and section (b) was added:

      1. Repeated violations of requirements to disclose partnership understandings may be penalized.

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