Disputed Claim

Declarer with 3 cards in his hand claimed the remaining tricks in a suit contract, stating that there were no trumps left and he had 2 master diamonds and the last trump. In fact an opponent had the master trump and two top clubs to cash. Declarer then said he would play his diamonds and said that he would have 2 of the last 3 tricks, just making his contract. This was a match played at a player’s home with no director to refer to, but I was contacted later for an opinion, which I gave as follows:

I think the relevant Law is no.70 – Contested Claim or Concession. Section C is titled ‘Where there is an Outstanding Trump’. This states:

When a trump remains in one of the opponents hands, the Director shall award a trick or tricks to the opponents if;

A claimer made no statement about that trump; and
It is at all likely that claimer at the time of his claim was unaware that a trump remained in an opponent’s hand, and;
A trick could be lost to that trump by any normal* play.

Declarer made a mistake by not stating at the outset of the claim that he was to play diamonds; with him being mistaken about a trump being outstanding he might have played the trump first when the opponents would win all 3 remaining tricks. I think in these circumstances I would award all 3 tricks to the opponents.

I would be grateful for any observations.

Pete Smith – Chepstow

One thought on “Disputed Claim”

  1. Based on the facts as given, you are perfectly correct in your assessment of the situation. At the time of making the claim, declarer did not state the order in which he would play his cards – obviously having forgotten an opponent’s master trump. Having been made aware of the missing (master) trump, he is not now allowed to add anything to his original statement (Law 70B1, 70C1), and effectively the Director now plays the cards in any ‘normal’ way (normal should include careless or inferior for the class of player). If declarer thought they were all winners, there is no reason why he shouldn’t play his trump first, and hence lose the last three tricks. Correct decision – three tricks to the opponents. I would also draw your attention to Law70A – if in doubt the ruling goes against the claimer.

    In the general situation when a player claims, having forgotten any outstanding trumps, it’s usually very difficult for the claimer to extract any benefit. For example, if claimer had three remaining cards, say ‘KQ5’ of trumps and then claimed, having forgotten that the ‘6’ was missing, it would be normal to play ‘K’ trumps first, – nobody plays the trumps from the bottom up with this solid honour combination – claim allowed. However if claimer had say ‘852’of trumps it is not now clear-cut the order in which he should play the trumps. If he is careless enough to not realise there is an outstanding trump, it’s equally careless to play either the ‘5’ or ‘2’ first, thereby possibly losing one trick to the opponents. Obviously there are less extreme situations, where the Director has to use some judgement.

    Tony

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