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What does "ruff" mean? Controvertible Controversy

#21 User is offline   broze 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 08:08

Again I would argue that although he didn't say the name of a suit, he did designate one by the word "ruff".
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#22 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 09:45

View Postbroze, on 2018-January-03, 08:08, said:

Again I would argue that although he didn't say the name of a suit, he did designate one by the word "ruff".

The whole point of this case is that "ruff" only designates a particular suit if declarer is presumed to know what the trump suit is, but this is not necessarily the case with RR. The fact that he called for a rank not in the trump suit supports the claim that he forgot (similar to the other thread where he said to "discard" a card in the suit that happened to be trump).

46B doesn't say that you can use words like "ruff" or "trump" to indicate a suit. It uses the phrase "words of like meaning", but only in the clauses regarding incomplete designations of the rank or both suit and rank. There's nothing suggesting he can use "words of like meaning" to designate a suit. So if we follow this religiously (and SB prays to the altar of the Bridge Gods), the verb "ruff" has no meaning and should just be ignored.

Of course, we know that it's virtually universally understood as a synonym for the trump suit. I wonder if we can find a thread where SB used the word himself as declarer. But just because someone (even SB) got away with it before doesn't set precedent.

#23 User is offline   pran 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 11:03

View Postbarmar, on 2018-January-03, 09:45, said:

The whole point of this case is that "ruff" only designates a particular suit if declarer is presumed to know what the trump suit is, but this is not necessarily the case with RR. The fact that he called for a rank not in the trump suit supports the claim that he forgot (similar to the other thread where he said to "discard" a card in the suit that happened to be trump).

46B doesn't say that you can use words like "ruff" or "trump" to indicate a suit. It uses the phrase "words of like meaning", but only in the clauses regarding incomplete designations of the rank or both suit and rank. There's nothing suggesting he can use "words of like meaning" to designate a suit. So if we follow this religiously (and SB prays to the altar of the Bridge Gods), the verb "ruff" has no meaning and should just be ignored.

Of course, we know that it's virtually universally understood as a synonym for the trump suit. I wonder if we can find a thread where SB used the word himself as declarer. But just because someone (even SB) got away with it before doesn't set precedent.

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#24 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 11:49

The current rules about declarer designating dummy's cards are weird. It's strange that they supply default interpretations for when declarer wilfully breaks the law. That way madness lies (as these discussions illustrate).

However widely a stupid law is ignored by players, directors should still rule according to it -- until it is sanitised and simplified.

For example, a better rule might be either
  • Declarer specifies a card by nominating its suit and rank (no default interpretation) or
  • Declarer plays a card by specifying it unambiguously. e.g. "The curse of Scotland" might be OK in SBU-land.
In either case, RHO must not play until declarer correctly specifies dummy's card.
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#25 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 12:21

Pran quotes the introduction to the Laws, which said:

The purpose of the Laws remains unchanged. They are designed to define correct procedure and to provide an adequate remedy for when something goes wrong. They are designed not to punish irregularities but rather to rectify situations where non-offenders may otherwise be damaged. Players should be ready to accept graciously any rectification, penalty, or ruling.

The OP case is a simple example. Declarer broke the law. His illegal designation makes it unclear as to which major he intended to play from dummy. (In spite of Dummy's efforts to clarify that ambiguity). This is a situation where non-offenders might be damaged if the director ignores declarer's infraction. If declarer intended to play a heart, then the law implies that defenders merit remedy. The director should resolve this doubtful point in favour of the victims of infraction.
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#26 User is offline   broze 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 12:29

View Postbarmar, on 2018-January-03, 09:45, said:

The whole point of this case is that "ruff" only designates a particular suit if declarer is presumed to know what the trump suit is, but this is not necessarily the case with RR.


Seriously? Say you are dummy for a very incompetent declarer and they said "ruff small", do you just sit there until they explicitly state the trump suit? In this RR case it's just as possible that he has mis-seen the card in dummy.

To take a more philosophical approach, there is no way that the natural meaning of the word "ruff" as a "designation" can be predicated on whether or not declarer knows what trumps are. The interpretation of any designation should be an objective one. When declarer says "ruff" the meaning to everyone at the table is "play a card in the trump suit", no matter what declarer might be intending.
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#27 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 12:42

View Postbroze, on 2018-January-03, 12:29, said:

Seriously? Say you are dummy for a very incompetent declarer and they said "ruff small", do you just sit there until they explicitly state the trump suit? In this RR case it's just as possible that he has mis-seen the card in dummy.

When ChCh is partnering a very poor player, he positively encourages him or her never to state the trump suit, and to state "ruff low" or "ruff high" as they choose. That way, he can (according to some on here) make sure that dummy ruffs instead of accidentally discarding. We have all ruffed with the wrong trump suit before; I agree with barmar that "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever. It allows dummy to participate in the play, and if the designation is otherwise incomplete, and a card of that rank is in dummy, it has to be played.
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#28 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 12:54

View Postlamford, on 2018-January-03, 12:42, said:

When ChCh is partnering a very poor player, he positively encourages him or her never to state the trump suit, and to state "ruff low" or "ruff high" as they choose. That way, he can (according to some on here) make sure that dummy ruffs instead of accidentally discarding. We have all ruffed with the wrong trump suit before; I agree with barmar that "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever. It allows dummy to participate in the play, and if the designation is otherwise incomplete, and a card of that rank is in dummy, it has to be played.

A counter-example is "win cheaply" where the law encourages dummy to use his superior counting-ability to win breath-taking finesses.

IMO the law should be simplified to render all such designations illegal and to actively discourage them.
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#29 User is offline   broze 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 13:07

View Postlamford, on 2018-January-03, 12:42, said:

I agree with barmar that "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever.


If, when you play as dummy and declarer says "ruff small", you take no action because the phrase has no meaning but rather wait for declarer to finish his designation then I suppose I can respect this view. Somehow I doubt it though.

For me, if everyone at the table understands what suit is meant by "ruff" then it is clearly a designation of suit.
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#30 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2018-January-03, 17:19

View Postnige1, on 2018-January-03, 12:54, said:

A counter-example is "win cheaply" where the law encourages dummy to use his superior counting-ability to win breath-taking finesses.

IMO the law should be simplified to render all such designations illegal and to actively discourage them.

Indeed. If RR reaches a two-card ending with AQ opposite xx and leads towards the AQ and then says "oh, you had better win that", dummy would be correct to play the queen if he knows that the person over the queen cannot have the king of that suit led. 46B1(b) allows dummy to participate in the play, wrongly in my opinion, in that it states:

"If he directs dummy to ‘win’ the trick, he is deemed to have called the lowest card that it is known will win the trick."

This is fine if dummy is last to play, but wrong if he is second or third to play, and a proposed correction sent to the WBLFC was deemed to be too late for inclusion in the most recent revision.
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#31 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 00:52

View Postlamford, on 2018-January-03, 12:42, said:

We have all ruffed with the wrong trump suit before; I agree with barmar that "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever.

1) Not from dummy. You're overstating your case by orders of magnitude here.
2) If "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever, why did you use the word in the same sentence and expected us to understand it?
3) broze asked you what you do. Do you actually sit there pretending that you didn't hear anything? You answered with something that a cartoon character is doing.
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#32 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 08:00

View Postgwnn, on 2018-January-04, 00:52, said:

1) Not from dummy. You're overstating your case by orders of magnitude here.
2) If "ruff" has no meaning whatsoever, why did you use the word in the same sentence and expected us to understand it?
3) broze asked you what you do. Do you actually sit there pretending that you didn't hear anything? You answered with something that a cartoon character is doing.

I assumed broze's question was rhetorical. I do not pretend for one moment that I or anyone else would do anything other than play a small trump when told to ruff, nor do I pretend that anyone would not understand it. The lack of a meaning is only in the legal sense. If dummy is asked to ruff small, of course dummy plays a trump, because the requirement to state a rank and suit is breached every hand by almost everyone. When dummy is asked to ruff with a specified rank not in the trump suit, then declarer suffers from his failure to name a rank and a suit, however. Words like "ruff" are designations not even covered in the insufficient designations such as "small", "win", etc, so it is logical to rule that a rank was designated but not a suit. We now only need to consider whether RR's different intention was incontrovertible.
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#33 User is offline   sanst 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 08:31

View Postnige1, on 2018-January-03, 12:54, said:

A counter-example is "win cheaply" where the law encourages dummy to use his superior counting-ability to win breath-taking finesses.

IMO the law should be simplified to render all such designations illegal and to actively discourage them.

And that would stop these? You would call a director if somebody says "win cheaply"? I can assure you that you would be as popular as any SB in a club. Bridge is a card game, not a training for lawyers, and it should be fun to play, which would be impossible if you force everybody to stick meticulously to the rules.
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#34 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 09:30

View Postbroze, on 2018-January-03, 13:07, said:

For me, if everyone at the table understands what suit is meant by "ruff" then it is clearly a designation of suit.

But how do you know that everyone understands what suit is meant? This is a case where it's possible that declarer doesn't.

The basic problem is that even though 46B is fairly specific regarding the incomplete designations that are allowed (although "words of like meaning" allows for some interpretation), everyone treats them more like examples; we follow the spirit of the law, not the letter, and other traditional language is also used frequently and understood by everyone. The de facto rule is essentially the one nige1 suggested: if the designation is unambiguous and obvious to the other players, it's OK.

I'm sure we've all heard and accepted much worse, like when there's a singleton in the led suit in dummy, declarer says something like "yes" or just points or waves toward it.

#35 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 09:49

Technically, anything other than <rank><denomination> (in either order) is an irregularity. If dummy sits still ("it's not a proper designation, so I can't do anything") he draws attention to the irregularity, in violation of Law 43A1{b}. So he must, it seems, do his best to comply with the declarer's instruction. Having done so, if no one says anything, play continues. If anyone objects (again, dummy cannot) attention has been drawn to an irregularity and now all four players are responsible for calling the director.

What should the director do when called to the table? I would treat "ruff" as calling for the smallest trump. True, this is not explicitly in Law 46B, but I think "ruff" designates a suit, so Law 46B2 applies. If declarer says "ruff with the two, and there is no 2 of trumps in dummy, he has called for a card not in dummy and Law 46B4 applies — declarer can specify any card that is actually in the dummy.

Side note: this doesn't really have anything to do with this case, but it's a pet peeve and it came up twice yesterday, so... any player, including dummy, can attempt to prevent an irregularity. However, once the irregularity has occurred, there are no more "attempts". Dummy can't say anything; he would be drawing attention to the irregularity. In particular, if declarer calls for a card from dummy when he's in his hand, dummy should nonetheless move the card for which declarer called to the played position. Legally, he has no other choice. If the irregularity is declarer's, then if a defender says something he draws attention to the irregularity, and the director should be called. The particular case I have in mind is declarer leading from his hand or dummy and a defender saying "you're in the other hand". At this point, technically the director should be called, and even dummy can do so. The director will, in almost all cases, rule that the led card be put back in the hand from which it came, and that declarer can lead any card from the appropriate hand.

Joost is right that in neither of these cases is the director likely to be called, and that in both of them if the director is always called, she's going to be very busy, and the game will be delayed. These are not good things, but neither is allowing players to make their own rulings or to decide when they are and are not going to call the director. On balance, I wouldn't be a stickler for calling in these fairly simple situations (which means I'm doing just what I just suggested is not a good thing, of course) but there has to be a line somewhere, and I'm not at all sure where exactly that is.
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#36 User is offline   weejonnie 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 13:04

In particular, if declarer calls for a card from dummy when he's in his hand, dummy should nonetheless move the card for which declarer called to the played position. Legally, he has no other choice.

Not true - he can ensure that dummy follows suit.

The particular case I have in mind is declarer leading from his hand or dummy and a defender saying "you're in the other hand". At this point, technically the director should be called, and even dummy can do so. The director will, in almost all cases, rule that the led card be put back in the hand from which it came, and that declarer can lead any card from the appropriate hand.

No he won't he will ask declarer's RLHOthe player who is next to play a card in rotation if he wishes to accept the lead (defender may not realise he has the right - no one at my club does) - only if there is no such acceptance or play will he require the lead be made from the correct hand. - Law 53A
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#37 User is offline   broze 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 13:43

View Postlamford, on 2018-January-04, 08:00, said:

because the requirement to state a rank and suit is breached every hand by almost everyone. When dummy is asked to ruff with a specified rank not in dummy, then declarer suffers from his failure to name a rank and a suit, however.



View Postblackshoe, on 2018-January-04, 09:49, said:

Technically, anything other than <rank><denomination> (in either order) is an irregularity.


Why then does the law say "designate" a rank and suit and not "name" one? "Ruff" designates the trump suit. I don't agree with blackshoe that virtually every trick of every hand is an irregularity.


View Postbarmar, on 2018-January-04, 09:30, said:

The de facto rule is essentially the one nige1 suggested: if the designation is unambiguous and obvious to the other players, it's OK.


Again I would argue that the designation "ruff" is unambiguous and obvious.
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#38 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 15:53

TFLB L46A said:

When calling for a card to be played from dummy declarer should clearly state both the suit and the rank of the desired card.

View Postbroze, on 2018-January-04, 13:43, said:

Why then does the law say "designate" a rank and suit and not "name" one? "Ruff" designates the trump suit. I don't agree with blackshoe that virtually every trick of every hand is an irregularity.
Again I would argue that the designation "ruff" is unambiguous and obvious.
IMO
  • Declarers routinely break the law about playing a card from dummy and defenders rarely call the director but that doesn't change the law.
  • The law stipulates "clearly state the suit and rank". "Ruff with the two" is (at the least) ambiguous when, as here, declarer seems unclear which suit is trumps
  • When players break the law, the director should resolve doubtful points in favour of non-offenders.

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#39 User is offline   sanst 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 15:57

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-January-04, 09:49, said:

Technically, anything other than <rank><denomination> (in either order) is an irregularity. If dummy sits still ("it's not a proper designation, so I can't do anything") he draws attention to the irregularity, in violation of Law 43A1{b}. So he must, it seems, do his best to comply with the declarer's instruction. Having done so, if no one says anything, play continues. If anyone objects (again, dummy cannot) attention has been drawn to an irregularity and now all four players are responsible for calling the director.

In this case ChCh would have played the three, if he was to do his best to comply with the instruction. SB would have exploded the same way, so what is the difference? As a dummy I'm used to comply with my partner's instructions, unless it would be a revoke, also when she is in her own hand. I play the card she called for unless an opponent draws attention to the irregularity. But when I'm ordered to play a card that's not on the table, I say so. Whatever you do, you draw attention to the irregularity or you partake in the game. Scylla and Charybdis, but no Thetis to guide you here.
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#40 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2018-January-04, 16:15

View Postlamford, on 2018-January-04, 08:00, said:

I assumed broze's question was rhetorical. I do not pretend for one moment that I or anyone else would do anything other than play a small trump when told to ruff, nor do I pretend that anyone would not understand it. The lack of a meaning is only in the legal sense. If dummy is asked to ruff small, of course dummy plays a trump, because the requirement to state a rank and suit is breached every hand by almost everyone. When dummy is asked to ruff with a specified rank not in dummy, then declarer suffers from his failure to name a rank and a suit, however. Words like "ruff" are designations not even covered in the insufficient designations such as "small", "win", etc, so it is logical to rule that a rank was designated but not a suit. We now only need to consider whether RR's different intention was incontrovertible.

Thanks for your honesty. However, you still didn't answer my first point. I certainly have "ruffed" from dummy when in 3NT and perhaps also "ruffed" with the wrong suit when I'm playing from my hand, but I don't think I have ever been close to ruffing with the wrong suit* when dummy is set up properly. I am not a mind reader, but I think most club players have the same record. Perhaps some of it is due to "help" from dummy, perhaps not. But I'm definitely not convinced that "everyone has ruffed with the wrong suit."

*-and this is not just because my partner knew which is the trump suit. I also have never had the intention to use the wrong trump suit. Trick 1 snaps me out of it (when dummy puts the trump suit to their right).
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