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A better approach to contested claims?

Adjudicating claims requires evaluating players' abilities and judging "normal" lines of play. Many BW postings indicate this is grey area full of subjectivity. Why not use a technical evaluation based on claimer's prospects against any distribution of the unseen cards?

Take the common situation where declarer faces his hand and says "I have the rest" or states a vague "four diamonds, three spades" that does not lay out a proposed line. Say it's notrump or a suit contract where trumps have been drawn. Defenders notice a potential problem - entry, blockage or whatever - and the TD is called.

Rather than projecting normal lines, let the TD assign the result of a line for maximum tricks against any distribution of the defenders' cards (and best play by defenders) in the context of distributions consistent with players having shown out of a suit (or suits) to this point. (E.g., if West has shown out of clubs then East has the unseen clubs.) Let's call this line a "maximum line" and claims where the maximum falls short "careless".

This assigned result is fair to declarer who has implicitly claimed against any such distribution. In fact if he has an ironclad (not careless) claim it is safer not to state a line of play. Only if his claim depends on inferences other than those available from defenders' failure to follow suit should he state a line. Further, if no line is stated defenders can face their cards (the actual distribution is now irrelevant) to see if their combined holding suggests contesting it.

The assigned result is also fair to defenders because for careless claims it will always be less than claimed, unlike current procedure which attempts to project play against *actual* distribution. Thus the price of careless claims goes up (good) and adjudication becomes an objective calculation (also good).

Finding a maximum line is usually straightforward in claims cases. Take a few BW examples, most of them recent:

Example 1: The much discussed 7NT in the Zimmerman/Sasa match in Chennai 

4 3


9 6 5 4

A 8 6 5 3 2



A 7

A K Q T 7 3

K Q T 9

K led. Declarer claims. There is an evident maximum line for 13 tricks, so the claim stands.

Example 2: Alan Frank post on claiming and blockages

In both of Alan's examples declarer states a line compatible with a maximum line so the claims stand.

Example 3: Alan Frank post on claiming on a finesse 

Claim not valid. Declarer can no longer use the auction for evidence of distribution. The maximum line delivers 8 tricks only.

Example 4: Henry Bethe post on bad claims 

Here declarer deserves just two tricks any way you look at it. But if North held four or five spades in the end position declarer might get three tricks on current adjudication, but only two on maximum line.

Example 5: Rui Marques on claims and concessions

Page 7: declarer has implicitly stated a line of play based on a squeeze so actual distribution *is* relevant and he gets only two tricks as current law prescribes.

Page 9: This seems to be an example contrived to illustrate a reckless claim ruled good by projecting a line of play. It shows the difficulties of adjudication. In contrast, the maximum line approach is simpler and fairer: declarer goes down three (even if clubs and hearts split "at the table"). The lesson: be careful!

Example 6: Glenn Eisenstein on are acbl rules open to interpretation 

This was the 7-card ending


Kx  KTxxx

Declarer miscounted and claimed the rest, which she got because a projected line dropped the club Q. The maximum line gives her six tricks.

Example 7: an example by Kit Woolsey in Boye's 10 weeks

x A AKQJxxxx AKQ

AK KQJ J10xxxxxx

7NT on a spade lead. Declarer claims without making a statement. The contract is cold against any distribution, but declarer might not see it, so the maximum line benefits him.  These situations would be rare.


Other less common cases need a look: when a trump is outstanding that declarer overlooked, then he should probably lose a trick if possible with projected normal play. When it is a defender who claims, the maximum line idea might apply, with best play by declarer and partner against the claim.

Overall this approach seems to have merit for its simplicity and fairness.

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