[BLML] Incompletely designated ruff

Volker Walther bridge at vwalther.de
Mon Oct 24 01:06:32 CEST 2016

Hello Hermann, we are in different cases here:

You: "As I understand the case, it is clear that declarer did not notice
the S5...."
I said "Unless there is some evidence that declarer did not realize the

If we positively know, that declarer did not realize the S5 ,he  lives
in a world, where S4 is an winning card. So we have no need do make any
distinction between "win" or"spade" or similar incomplete commands that
indicate a spade play. The intention of a player who did not realize  S5
is incontrovertible: he called for the lowest spade.

But I could not find any evidence in Davids mail that indicated whether
or not declarer had realized that that LHO ruffed with S5.

Problems arise if we do not have such evidence:

How do we have to act when declarer's intention is controvertible and we
have to complete his call by using Law 46?.
These completions are mostly done by reference to previously played
B1.(a,c) refer to the suit led.
B1.(b) refers to all cards already played in the current trick.
B2. does not refer to played cards
B3.(a) refers to the winning card in the preceding trick
and so on.

The tricky point is the existence of 46B1(b)
If we apply 46B1(b) we do not have to check whether declarer was aware
of the card played by LHO. If he orders "win", and we are called, we
take a look to the cards already played to this trick and decide to play
an appropriate card from dummy.
Even if declarer orders "win!" before LHO has played a card, we would
decide that LHO has to play a card and make our decision afterwards.
The awareness of LHO's played card is part of the decision by law.

In this special case  LHO's S5 is part of the decision, and SJ, being
the lowest winning card, has to be played.
We need extra evidence that declarer was not aware of the S5 and
intended to play the S4 to make him play that or nay other non winning

If we decide that "ruff!" is the instruction to win the trick, we have
to apply this rule.

We may use 46B2 instead, arguing that "ruff!" is the instruction to play
any card in the trump suit, meaning any spade. 46B2 does not take care
of the other cards in the trick. The lowest spade, S4 hast to be
played. Unless we can show that declarer intended to play the Jack.

In the absence of further evidence these rules make  different cards
being played.

So we have to decide on a linguistic matter:
Does "ruff!" has the meaning of "win it" or is it only a designation of

In Merriam Websters dictionary you find
"trump: to play a trump on (a card or trick) when another suit was led"
"ruff:  to take a trick with a trump."

This indicates that "taking" or "winning" is part of ruffing, but not of

On the other hand at wiktionary you find:
"ruff: To play a trump card to a trick, other than when trumps were
led". Here "to ruff" and "to play trump" are equivalent without the
aspect of winning.

I will give you two more reasons why I think that ruff should be treated
like "win" rather than like "spade":
When I asked you about the claim, you did not even think about the
possibility that declarer intended to underruff, calling it an idiotic
action. I agree with all my heart about that.

If in the current case declarer looks on LHO's played card and then says
"Ah,  5 of trumps! ruff it!" nobody would assume that he wants to play
the 4.

The main point of Davids question is:
Should "ruff" have the same privilege of assumed card-awareness that
"win" has applying 46B1(b),  or is it "spades"and 46B2?

I think that "ruff!" is rather an order to win that trick than to play
any trump. But some native speakers should say something about that.
What is the common intention of a native English speaking bridge player
if he orders "ruff!"

Volker Walther

Am 22.10.2016 um 09:39 schrieb Herman De Wael:
> Volker Walther wrote:
>> If "ruff" is equivalent to "win" the word "underruff" does not make any
>> sense. But there is sense in the word "underruff". So the assumption
>> that "ruff" and "win" are equivalent seems to be wrong.
>> But I agree "ruff" is not equivalent "trump" as well. It is somewhere in
>> between and much closer to "win" than to "spade".
>> Unless there is some evidence that declarer did not realize the S5,  I
>> would apply 46B1(b) rather than B2. But this decision has to be made at
>> the table.
>> Suppose the heart is led at trick 12 and declarer claims: "I will ruff
>> the hearts in dummy". Do you give a trump to the S5?
> No, of course not.
> But the situations are not the same.
> When claiming, idiot actions (such as underruffing or not noticing the 
> S5) are rendered impossible.
> Whereas when playing, such actions do occur.
> As I understand the case, it is clear that declarer did not notice the 
> S5. If the hands are turned around, it's like him not noticing that card 
> from his RHO, and simply playing a low trump on it. That card is played, 
> and so is the card from dummy once he names it. If he says "ruff with 
> the 4", that's hat he does. IMO, that's exactly what he intended to do, 
> and that's what I'm sticking him with.
> Herman.
>> Volker
>> Am 19.10.2016 um 14:58 schrieb David Grabiner:
>>> Spades are trumps.  Dummy has J4 of spades.  Declarer leads a heart from
>>> hand, which LHO ruffs with the S5.  Declarer says, "ruff". Does he play
>>> the SJ or the S4?
>>> The argument for overruffing is that "ruff" is equivalent to "win" (as
>>> if he had led the S2 from hand).  The argument for underruffing is that
>>> he didn't notice the play; if he had led towards an AQ in dummy and
>>> said, "queen", the queen would be played even if LHO had played the king.
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Volker Walther

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