Ethics in Bridge



These notes have been extracted from the Ryton Bridge Club website.
Although not 'recent', they are a reminder that we have responsibilities when we play bridge

5. Hesitation in the play of cards. The ideal is to play one's cards at a uniform pace without haste or hesitation, but this ideal is never attained. It is permissable to pause in order to count cards or think out the best play, but it is cheating to pause in order to mislead the declarer, or to give information to one's partner.


The commonest forms of cheating by hesitating are to hesitate or fumble cards (1) when you do not hold an honour which the declarer may try to finesse if he imagines it to be in your hand; (2) when you hold a singleton in the suit to which you are playing; (3) when you do not hold a singleton in a suit and hesitate in order to give this information to your partner.

Even the fairest player can be caught unprepared and hesitate in one of these situations, but it will happen very, very rarely, and he will apologise to his opponents as soon as he can. The only treatment for players who frequently cheat by these hesitations is to warn them, quietly, of the dishonesty of the practice, and to refuse to play with or against them unless they reform; they should certainly not be given a place in a League team.

It is cheating to show approval or disapproval of partner's play by gesture or facial expression.

6. Declarer's play. If the declarer hesitates in a situation likely to mislead the defenders - for instance when holding a singleton of the suit led - the correct procedure is to apologise at once and say "I had nothing to think about in this suit; I hold a singleton only"; or whatever meets the case.

7. Table manners. Bad manners at the bridge table at not unfair, but they can and do spoil the pleasure of the game. To be specially avoided are :

(1) Arguing with one's partner during or after the play of the hand;
(2) Continuing the argument when the bidding of the next hand has started;
(3) Chattering or being facetious during bidding or play;
(4) Being inattentive to the bidding or play, and constantly asking to have bids repeated or the last trick to be turned up;(5) Gloating over some mistake or misfortune of one's opponents;
(6) Being unnecessarily noisy, whether with voice or rattling pencil,
(7) Withdrawing hands from boards after the score has been agreed.

(8) Recommendations.
The North Eastern Bridge Association recommend that the above notes on correct procedure should be distributed to all players in League teams; and that copies should be available in club rooms for member.

A copy of the rules of contract bridge should be supplied for reference in all clubs, and the attention of members should be directed to the section on "Proprieties".

The North Eastern Bridge Association is concerned by the number of instances of incorrect procedure in bidding and play which have been reported, and considers that a clear statement of the accepted ethical principles of Contract Bridge will be helpful to clubs and players.

1.There are no bridge rules about cheating: the game is for those players who would scorn to gain an advantage over their oppponents by bidding or playing unfairly.

2. Bidding systems. Any published system may fairly be used, and deviations from the system are also permissible, provided that the system and deviations are clearly explained to opponents before the bidding starts. The obligation to explain the system and any variations rests wholly on the users of the system, it is not sufficient to say, "If you do not understand any of our bids, ask about them"; and it does not free the user of an unusual system or variations from their obligation to explain, if their opponents are too impatient or over-confident to listen. (Nowadays, only explain your system should the opponents ask.)

A system or variations on a system which might quite fairly be used in a cup or league match, where a lengthy explanation can reasonably be given and received, may very properly be banned by a club in Pairs Tournaments on the grounds that the explanation may waste too much time.

A player is quite justified in derparting from his declared bidding system at any time, provided that his partner is as likely to be deceived as the opponents. But it is generally agreed that the strong demand bid of a system (e.g. the Acol Two-Club) should not be used as a "psychic bid". (You can psyche this these days.)

3. Hesitation and emphasis in bidding. The ideal is absolute uniformity in the pause before bidding and in the voice when bidding, but this can never be completely attained. The "Slow Pass" is especially to be avoided, and if one player does make a "slow pass" his partner must on no account take advantage of this evidence that the "slow passer" has something in his hand. It is cheating to bid or double after a slow pass unless the cards in one's own hand justify the bid. A good player will often say to his partner after a hand is finished "I would have bid but your hesitation made it impossible for me to do so." (Of course, nothing here is to be taken as criticising the "forcing pass", when in competitive bidding, generally at a high level, one partner leaves it to the other to raise, double or even pass).

It is cheating to make a bid in a tone of finality (with or without putting one's cards together) to make it quite clear that one's partner must pass.

It is cheating to show approval or disapproval of partner's bid by gesture or facial expression.

4. Play in defence. Any variation form the normal in leads or "signalling" must be fully explained to the opponents before play begins. It is cheating to use some private method of showing high cards or length of suits unless the opponents are told about it; if this "private code" is difficult to explain or understand its use should be forbidden in club tournaments. (All "private" methods and codes are illegal in all events.)