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Claim disputed

I should be grateful for advice on the following contested claim:

Playing in 5H, declarer originally began with AK10932 but he has been cross-ruffing, for reasons best known to himself, with high trumps from the start. 9 tricks have been completed of which 8 were won by declarer. At this point, declarer, before he leads claims 4 more tricks with no explanation – this would have been for 5H+1. The claim is rejected and the director called. This is RealBridge but presumably the ruling would be identical in F2F.

Declarer has
C AKJ ......and QC is in dummy.

His LHO holds H8, a master trump. Declarer has obviously (and as he admitted) lost track of the trumps and has no idea that there is a master trump outstanding.

If he were to play out his top clubs, he will win 3 of the 4 tricks and hence make 5H.
But if he plays what he thinks is the only remaining trump first, he will lose the last 4 tricks for 5H-3.

Law 70 tells me
• In ruling on a contested claim or concession, the Director adjudicates the result of the board as equitably as possible to both sides, but any doubtful point as to a claim shall be resolved against the claimer.
• That director “shall not accept from claimer any successful line of play not embraced in the original clarification statement if there is an alternative normal line of play that would be less successful”…and…that normal “includes play that would be careless or inferior for the class of player involved”.

The White Book has a section which whilst not directly on point appears analogous “If a declarer appears unaware of an outstanding winner, and a trick could be lost by playing or discarding one suit rather than another then the TD should award that trick to the non-claimers”.

Given the above law and given that declarer was oblivious to the master trump being out, he would, in my opinion, be equally likely to play any of his four supposed winners in any order. The order of play is at the very least a doubtful point and the claim should be resolved against declarer, i.e. 5H-3.

Do you agree ?


  • You've more or less covered this one, you're quite right that it's 5H-3, which is a bit draconian towards the claimer but it is important to protect players from bad claims.

    It's just worth adding that we'd normally consider cashing winners in any order as 'careless or inferior' rather than irrational, which is the fairly high bar set for contested claims.

    In addition you have LAW 70C, which deals quite specifically with the presence of the outstanding trump and clarifies that we assume declarer has forgotten about it here.

  • I expect the claimer claimed to save time! 5H-3 seems right to me although no doubt some sarcastic unpleasantries will follow.

  • @Jeremy69 said:
    I expect the claimer claimed to save time! 5H-3 seems right to me although no doubt some sarcastic unpleasantries will follow.

    It's one of those potentially awkward situations - declarer rushes to try and speed things up, overlooks something and the laws come down on him like a tonne of bricks. Unfortunately the law is objective on these matters and very hard on careless claimers. we can't even give a weighted verdict - "It is probable that declarer would play clubs first - so we'll give him 50% of that and 50% if he plays hearts first (weighted against him since if he plays a card at random it is 75% likely to be a club)" I can understand it - (or other declarers would claim when there is a 2-way finesse outstanding guaranteeing 40%, rather than the 50-50 of making/ losing the trick: the 10% is his insurance premium - I mean we do see this online occasionally (declarers dragging their feet to get the double-dummy result).)

  • Correct ruling. Lazy claim. All declarer had to do was say 'playing clubs' or something similar; very easy to do on Realbridge.

  • I would feel terribly as the recipient of +300 here. It might be the letter of the Law but it does nothing to make the game appealing. In any top level game I would expect that claim to be accepted.

  • If you expect that to be ok "in any top level game" then you might want to cast your mind back to Monte Carlo and the final of the Bermuda Bowl in 2003. This was settled by a ruling based on declarer touching the wrong card on the very last hand after dummy had left the table to go outside and have a cigarette! I don't think the game becomes easier or more appealing if everyone chooses individually which rules to apply.

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