Passion of The Game of Bridge

Penalty Card: Do You Know Your Right ? (And Obligation?)

Penalty Card: Do You Know Your Right ? (And Obligation?)

You are concentrating on defending this have-to-be beaten contract. And it’s time for you to return this killer Heart, so partner can return Diamond in which you ruff for a set trick – the only one. Fourth best  of course. So, you pull that 3 of Heart, but unfortunately the 2 of Heart also drop and exposed to everybody. “Sorry, let’s call director” – “Ummh, no need ” declarer said – “It’s penalty card”. So, your partner win with Ace of Heart, and return small Diamond. “Thanks, partner” you said silently to yourself. And to your surprise, when you ruff, declarer rumbles “Sorry, you cannot ruff, you have penalty card” – Is declarer, right? – Huh! This is the time your knowledge about your right is being tested !!

 You don’t have to know all the law….

Yes, that’s actually the first good news. You actually do not need to know the exact law. Why? Because the director is there to tell it to you. So, the first mistake here is: if there is something not normal (“irregularity” or “infraction” – speaking law language) you must call the director.

And as we know, there will be some “bully boys” or lady out there in the club that say “No, no need to call the director – I know the law – let’s not delay the game” or something similar. And next time you hear that kind of speak, tell him in vengeance: “If you know the law, then you know that director have to be called for every infraction – law 9B.1(a)” (memorize this exactly) and if you really don’t like the guy you may add “Maybe, you don’t know that much about the law…” (No, no actually, don’t do the second part…)

And when the director is called, you can trust him to give the correct procedure as warranted by the law of contract bridge.

But you need to know the law, anyway…..

But as situation described above, more often, you kind of know what will be happening and did not call the director. If you do choose this path, then you have to make sure that you know all the law regarding the circumstances and the subsequent event – like what happen here. So, I guess it’s easier just to call the director – but if you want really know about this particular incident, read on….

Major Penalty Card vs Minor Penalty Card

Let’s start with this. There are 2 kinds of penalty card: major and minor.(law 50.B)

  • Minor penalty card: the card is not honour card (Honours are Ace, King, Queen, Jack and including 10) -AND- you unintentionally exposed it (i.e: drop, double play /stuck together, etc – but out of turn is intentional, meaning you really want to play that card although you mistakenly do it out of turn)
  • Major penalty card: everything else, including if you got more than 1 minor penalty card, that minor penalty card become major penalty card.

Example: you drop an Ace accidentally==> Major penalty card (because it’s an honour). You simultaneously play 2 cards because it’s stuck together: minor penalty card as long as they are not honours.

So, in this situation above, it is clearly you only got minor penalty card. And this is how they are different in treatment:

Major penalty card procedure

For major penalty card, you need to play the card at the next legal opportunity. Including discard, leading, or follow suit. i.e: the major penalty card is in Heart, if declarer play Spade and you still have Spade you need to still follow suit with Spade (the legal play), but if declarer play a suit that you need to discard, then you have to discard that penalty card. (Imagine if the penalty card is Ace, you will cry inside!!). The same thing if you then win and have to lead the next trick, you have to play the penalty card – no choice!

Minor penalty card procedure

And for minor penalty card, the only requirement is that if you decide (not have to) to lead that suit, and you do not want to lead an Honour, then you have to lead that suit with the penalty card, i.e:

  • No requirement that you have to lead that suit (you can lead any other suit) for the next trick (if you win)
  • If you want to lead that suit, you still can lead other card as long as it’s an Honour card (10 is included as ‘honour’)
  • You can discard any card (including the minor penalty card) as you wish

It’s good to know the law for your maximum enjoyment !

Therefore in this case, the declarer was wrong (see above). Not only you are allowed to ruff the Diamond return, you do not have to play Heart on the next trick. But when you want to play Heart, you can play Honor such as King of Heart (don’t even have the obligation to play the penalty card) – the only restriction is if you want to play small Heart, you need to use that penalty card.

Now, as you know that now,  what should happen, to make it official, just call the director!  And he or she will give you that ruling. (But if the director telling you other thing, there maybe other specific circumstances that apply to the situation – but if not, tell the director politely, “Sorry, I disagree with your ruling, could you kindly check law 50.C, please?” )

Well, that’s it – you are prepared for the next battle ! I hope this helps !

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