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2017 Laws — Law 7

Updated 2017-08-25 to include final ACBL response (scroll to the bottom to view it). It is a reasonable interpretation which essentially states that playing with screens means various Laws have to be interpreted differently.

The LawsI am currently going through the WBF Laws of Duplicate Bridge 2017 and comparing them to the 2008 version (well, the ACBL’s 2016 edition of the 2008 Laws, which is my reference). Frankly, it’s time consuming and a bit tedious, but from when I first learnt to play bridge, I have always been familiar with the Laws — I do not understand how someone who professes to “play bridge” can claim that if they are unfamiliar with the Laws, they are the rules of our game.

Sorry for the rant. What I really want to talk about is Law 7A — Placement of Board. When I read it, it seemed to me to be inapplicable to playing with screens. I wrote to the ACBL (rulings@acbl.org) and requested clarification (I will append our correspondence — I am hoping they respond to my request for further clarification). Now this particular Law and how to interpret it may seem a little nit-picky, but I’d appreciate comments from any of you who are up to responding.

To start the discussion, here are the two versions of Law 7A:

2008: When a board is to be played, it is placed in the centre of the table until play is completed.

2017: When a board is to be played it is placed in the centre of the table where it shall remain, correctly oriented, until play is complete.

I have highlighted the new, inserted text.

The first question is, what is meant by “When a board is to be played”? I had assumed “play” referred to meaning (4) in the definitions section — “4) The aggregate of the calls and plays on a board.” I ask this question because the first ACBL response only covers the play period (versus the auction) and implies Law 7A only applies once the auction is over and play begins (in the case of screens, when the opening lead has been made and the flap/slide opened).

I have no issues with the sensible suggestion, which I have always followed, of accommodating a declarer who has trouble seeing the dummy by moving the board toward declarer and putting dummy’s cards closer to declarer — that is so clearly in the spirit of the game that it should go without question, regardless of Law 7A (since dummy doesn’t participate in the play, just redefine what part of the physical table constitutes the table for the purposes of the play period).

What I really want to know is how to reconcile or interpret Law 7A when playing with screens:

  1. “When a board is to be played” it is placed in a tray which is slid to the side of the screen where the dealer is seated. It is then slid back-and-forth until the auction ends. This appears to contradict Law 7A.
  2. Similarly, when the opening lead has been made, the board is generally lifted off the tray, the tray removed and the board replaced. The board not only doesn’t remain on the table, it invariable is not always correctly oriented until replaced on the table.

Question originally submitted to the ACBL:

The current (July 2017) “Ruling the Game” discusses the change to Law 7. Does this affect playing with screens, where the tray is removed after the auction is over and the board replaced on the table?


Yes, the Law would also apply to events using screens. Once the auction is concluded and the screen raised, the board should be placed in the center of the table in its correct orientation and not removed.

Please note that in situations where a player has some physical limitation that makes it difficult to see the dummy as declarer, dummy can be placed closer to declarer and the board moved away from the center of the table to accommodate the dummy as needed.

I hope this was helpful.

Follow-up question:

So, does this mean a strict interpretation of “play” and “played” and does not apply to the auction period? Because it cannot be both ways. If so, the board can be removed from the table during the auction period, which doesn’t make sense. If not, then sliding the tray back and forth during the auction (so it is only visible on one side of the screen at a time) is against the Law?

Final response:

I guess I misunderstood where you were heading with your question.

Using screens involves many special circumstances which may seem to run contrary to the phrasing of the Laws. This is one of them. Using screens, the board still will be kept in the tray and moved back and forth under the screen until the completion of the auction.

The intent of the revision to the Law is to prohibit removing the board from the table (barring special circumstances) for two reasons: one, so the players can easily reference the vulnerability and dealer, and secondly to ensure that hands are not inadvertently put back in the wrong slots if the board is put back on the table in the wrong position. Using screens and keeping the board in the tray would make either of those occurrences very unlikely.

I hope this answers your question.

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