Judy Kay-Wolff



On Tuesday, December 11th, I wrote to rulings@acbl.com to answer what two knowledgeable directors whom I consulted immediately after the incident advised me was the “proper” director call on the following situation.   I wanted to confirm their identically spontaneous views since I received no response from the ACBL on what apparently is a steadfast rule so I am opening it up to the public.

1 Precision Club opening followed by a Weak Jump Overcall of 2D and an insufficient bid of 1H (which apparently means 9-11 HCP and five spades).

The likeable director who handled the ruling did the best he could in a civil, non-confrontational manner and after consulting his rule book, admitted he was not sure but said to continue the auction (and left the table allowing a correction to 2H) and then asked to be called back.  He later adjusted the score in an effort to establish equity to the non-offenders (but I was firmly told that his ruling should have had nothing to do with establishing equity).

Is there anyone out there in Director Land who is positive what happens following the insufficient bid? 

After the call of 2H was allowed, the opener (who was armed with illegally communicated information) corrected to 6NT which made – while the majority of the field played and made 6S (all of which I am told is totally unrelated to the insufficient call at the outset). 

These are the exact facts.   Is anyone POSITIVE of what happens after the 1H card is removed from the bidding box?

Thank you!


Marty DeneroffDecember 17th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Hi Judy,
I can’t say I am absolutely “positive”, but I can relate what was ruled at my table in a regional by a director who I respect highly: Auction was 1D-p-1H-p-1N-2S-2C. 2C was on opponents convention card as new Minor Forcing. The director read us the laws which state that ‘Natural bids may be made sufficient with no penalty. Conventional bids may be made sufficient provided there is a sufficient bid available that has the same meaning as the insufficient bid. The insufficient bidder may bid whatever he wishes, but if he does not or cannot make his original bid sufficient, his partner is barred for the remainder of the auction.’ Based on this, the ruling was that since no equivalent bid was available to the insufficient bidder, he could bid whatever he wants and his partner is barred. (He bid 4H, down 1 in a 5-2 fit).
The situation you describe sounds pretty much the same as what happened to me. So, based on this, my take is that opener should have been barred.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 17th, 2012 at 7:31 pm


Your analysis sounds right on target to me concerning your specific incident.

I got a letter early this morning from Mike
Flader@acbl.com and asked for further clarification. This was his immediate reply and I appreciate his taking the time to explain further.

I quote:

Dear Judy,

According to law 27C, if the offender’s lho does not accept the insufficient call, the offender’s substituted call stands, and the penalties of the law would then be applied.

What 27B1b says is that if the insufficient call 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, the auction proceeds without further rectification. So, the director has to determine in this case if the partnership agreement would be the same for both calls. The offending pair was playing Precision. If 1H was a transfer to spades and 2H is also a transfer to spades, it would seem that there would be no basis for not allowing the auction to continue. If they didn’t have the same agreement, then, the 2H call would bar partner.

Even if the director rules that they had the same meaning and allows the auction to proceed without rectification, he still has the option to apply law 27D if he believes that the offending side gained an advantage from the information conveyed by the cancelled call.


Mike Flader


I would like to add that this partnership has played Precision as long as I can remember and the opener knew the difference between his 1H miscall and his corrected 2H bid (which had a completely different meaning). In fact, the Precision bidder offered to explain the difference between the 1H and 2H call but unfortunately the damage had already been done.

No one ever said directing is an easy job!

PaulDecember 20th, 2012 at 9:19 am

Prior to 2007 the laws on insufficient bids were pretty easy to understand but had draconian penalties even in the most innocent of cases – most of the time, bridge as we know it stopped.

I think it was a reasonable objective of the 2007 lawmakers to let people continue to play bridge whenever they can. However there are a number of issues with the new laws:

1. The laws are not particularly easy to understand, especially as the director has to make a subjective assessment of the partnership’s methods. Easier when a partnership has well-defined methods, but most don’t.

2. Insufficient bids are rare, so it takes a long time for directors to build up confidence and experience with this law.

3. Although many directors are excellent players, many are not. Understanding the subtleties of less familiar systems is not an easy task, so there will be a number of situations that require skill that every director cannot be expected to have.

4. 99% of insufficient bids are handled efficiently and well. We only write about the difficult 1% but this gives the impression of a bigger problem than actually exists.

I think most prefer the new version, since they play more bridge, but there will always be difficult cases.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2012 at 1:45 am

Hi Paul,

What you say about TD’s all-too-often inexperience (adding blatant inadequate training as well) — is very obvious. It is either due to the fact that no one gives a hoot (content with the status quo) or possibly, very few people are well enough versed on the meaning of the laws or how to apply them to the case presented. It can’t be that there is no one qualified to fulfill this job.

Earlier, I mentioned several years ago that Bobby made a magnanimous offer of his services totally pro bona (no travel expense, no remuneration) but was told by the person in charge that he wouldn’t consider inconveniencing his staff. Perhaps if they took Bobby up on his well-intended offer, there would not be so many questionable, bad or reversed rulings. The ACBL has so much money in their treasury that perhaps they should look into possible candidates and hire someone qualified to get the job done.

Bobby has been fighting for better director education but his pleading falls upon deaf ears. Just for the record Bobby served on the actual Drafting Committee of this particular area pertaining to an insufficient artificial call and would know the proper ruling in his sleep — but because it occurred at our table, he thought it best to butt out and leave it to the director.

Wrong decision!!!

The proper ruling (officially confirmed by the ACBL much later) was exactly as Bobby told me at the time.

What the new laws and all new laws always aim to do are the following:

1. To allow the players involved to still play bridge on that hand.

2. Attempt to keep the status quo of where they are when the offense is committed.

3. Absolutely not to allow any unauthorized information (UI) to unethically be acted upon.. Marty’s above reference is indeed excellent and on point. In these current days of more artificiality in the bidding (such as this case.when after a Precision Club was opened) the responder, not seeing the 2 diamond preemptive intervention by his RHO, replied 1 heart which systemically showed 5+ spades and 9+ high card points, and, of course, nothing about hearts. These facts therefore totally rule out the ability to make it sufficient by bidding bid 2 hearts which, following the two diamond overcall, would simply be positive and show 5+ hearts.

In order to adhere to #3 above, the 1 heart bid would, of course, be cancelled and because of the illegal UI transmitted by the insufficient 1 heart bid, the Director bars the Precision Club opener for the rest of the auction but allows the insufficient bidder to bid anything that he wants.

That would be the final bid for the Precision twosome
(unless the opponents would get back into the auction) although they probably wouldn’t.

The decision of the drafting committee was simple — although the penalty is severe. No other alternative would measure up to the goals which needed to be followed and, after all, the offending side was responsible for what happened. Thus, justice (however draconian), needed to be served!

Boy — what a learning experience this was for me!

JSDecember 21st, 2012 at 5:22 am

Yes, when you think about it, the law makes good sense. It seems after an insufficient systemic artificial bid is made (especially, since it puts unauthorized information on the table) bridge comes to a screeching halt. It makes sense that the offender must make a stab at the right contract armed with only the fact that partner has 16 or more points while he holds 9 and a good suit. Do they have a game or a slam? What strain should he select? . 3NT doesn’t look right playing from the wrong side since obviously a diamond led will be led and dummy’s diamond holding (if she has one) may be in jeopardy. Should he consider 4S or 6S — holding 5/1/3/4? What if partner’s suit may be hearts which is his singleton?

I think having to guess what is the winning action is the right call made by those who drafted the option. I don’t view the law is as “draconian” as it sounds. What actually did happen?

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 21st, 2012 at 5:46 am


What happened? Sadly nothing right! The director allowed him to keep his 2H bid on the table, permitting the Precision Opener to take advantage of the unauthorized information with 1H and 2H having totally different meanings — but his first bid got the message across. We were told to call him back if his original ruling of awarding the offenders Average Minus and us Average Plus did not appear fair. He returned but stuck to his original decision and they were not happy campers.

Holding QXXX AQXX AK AKX, partner jumped to 6NT while the field was in 6S. Declarer got a heart lead into her AQXX and although she took a losing club finesse, there were 12 tricks for the taking.

Situations like this make a farce of the game!