Andre Asbury

Full Disclosure When You Know Partner Has Forgotten

This past weekend, I came across two bridge laws that may need some change. This first one I guess is more of an ethical question than a bridge law question. I mean, the law that ace asking bids should be announced at the end of the auction, especially if 4NT was not the asking bid, makes sense, but the way it is used sometimes seems unethical. Our opponents had the uncontested auction: 1S-2C-2H-4C-4H-6C-P. Before I lead, the declarer announces that 4C asks for specific aces and 4H shows the ace of hearts but not the ace of diamonds. The play and defense to the hand was irrelevant. He had 12 tricks no matter what, but dummy had QJxxx of hearts and declarer had the ace!

Was it unethical for him to volunteer that information, knowing his partner had not bid correctly or not follwed the agreement, or perhaps the declarer thought they had that agreement but they did not. It’s hard to tell whether this is the actual partnership agreement because it’s not something that’s normally on the cc somewhere and most people don’t carry around detailed system notes. You’re only supposed to announce or alert or announce failures to alert when you are sure you and your partner have an agreement about what it means, otherwise you say nothing. Anyway, assuming that is their actual agreement, should he say anything at all or should he state their agreement with a little caveat that his partner may have forgotten, or a caveat that maybe he forgot? The directors and other top players had very mixed views on this. I know he is well within the ACBL laws to announce the ace-asking bid and fully disclose their agreements, but in this situation I think nothing should have been said at any point as any explanation given in this situation is likely more misleading than saying nothing or it’s giving away too much information about declarer’s hand.

My other little gripe is about the revoke laws. We were defending 5DX and had taken two tricks already and partner still had the boss trump but he ruffed in too early – he still had 1 club in hand when he trumped a club with said top trump. I think any honest player would concede down 1 regardless of what the law is. He doesn’t deserve to make 5 with 3 top losers after we took our two non-trump winners right away. It is my understanding that revoke laws are in place to restore equity, giving the non-offenders the benefit of the doubt and not so much to penalize the revoker? Regardless, I think the rule should be changed to disallow someone to lose the top trump. You should not be able to make 7 off the A of trumps just because of a revoke. In this hand, making 4 would be the most that could ever be made, even with revoke trick penaltied. It is kind of similar to the rule that you can’t revoke at trick 12. Yes, a player pulled the wrong card or had a card hidden or was thinking ahead, but when there is no line of normal play that could allow declarer to take all the tricks, a revoke should not allow that to happen.


Bobby WolffJuly 7th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Hi Andre,

Perhaps I should not, but I do feel compelled to respond to your interesting and provocative blog.

There are cogent reasons why the opposite of your two assumptions should be realized.

In the case of the knowing opponent volunteering that partner’s bid showed the Ace of Hearts, but denied the Ace of Diamonds and, at the same time, holding the Ace of Hearts himself, was IMO not only not necessary, but unethical. While our rules might suggest that the actual bidding, according to the opponents (or maybe even written somewhere in the notes) should be disclosed, at least to me, common sense (and morality) should dictate otherwise. I certainly think that a more Active Ethics approach from the declarer disclosing that as far as he was concerned his partner had shown the ace of hearts but not the ace of diamonds, but in fact I hold the ace of hearts, so something has gone awry. Second choice would be to say nothing unless asked and then to say that there seems to be a forget, so please disregard. The declarer’s actual choice gets very low marks from me, and should from any thinking wannabe ethical player, although unfortunately, he probably, because of our written rules, could get away with it.

In the second example concerning the revoke, perhaps when we all get to heaven your choice as to how certain revokes (where only a revoke can lose the high trump, or something similar) should not be enforced.

However the other side of that argument is that, since it is a mechanical law, having nothing to do with morality, but rather with redress and the order of the game providing a specific remedy for a major disrupting error transcending any bridge which has been played, there then becomes a logical reason for enforcement.

I am not saying that common sense is being applied, only that your solution could be troublesome when it is logical to forget the revoke, but still not as clear cut as the high trump being outstanding. There is an old joke about the opening leader who led the ace of trumps versus 7 of that suit, in order to keep his side from first revoking. Perhaps not such a joke after all.

The good news is that your blog can cause discussion which, in turn, can evoke many random views with different emphasis. Therein is the answer, but until enough see fit to join in, it is doubtful that either of the above subjects will ever be settled by a majority or even by a world wide opinion of say 6 to 4 (meaning, although they should be, very few are really interested).

I, for one, appreciate your philosophical subjects and think they are very worthwhile.

PaulJuly 9th, 2010 at 8:44 am

Hi Andre,

There is a celebrated appeals case from Miami 1996 that discusses the issue of correcting misinformation when you know your partner has misbid – see case 21 from

Sometimes history is used to catch people out, but it is clear that Bobby’s view are unchanged in this respect. Whichever view you hold, I do think the write up does a good job of expressing them all.

With regards to revokes, I firmly believe that it is wrong to question someone’s ethics if they are following the laws of the game. Just because someone enforces the revoke law does not make them ethically dishonest. You may think that they are morally reprehensible though, but I probably would not agree 🙂

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