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We were playing the very first board of the first round of an ordinary session at the local bridge club. I was delayed in getting my cards out of the board as I was learning to set up the computer system and BridgeMates. My partner is very elderly. She was eager to start playing so after she sorted her cards she took MY cards out of the board and sorted them for me, leaving them face down on the table. When I came back to the table I was amazed at what she had done and so were the oppenents. However the opponents said not to worry this time and to start the bidding but that she shouldn't ever do it again. It turned out that the one of the opponents had 23 points in her hand and probably wanted to bid rather than call the director.

I now know that we should have called the Director - but what would his ruling have been in this case?

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Should have is not correct. There is never any obligation to call the director, if you are happy to continue play. EBU law 9A says "any player may (my emphasis) draw attention to an irregularity..." and later states explicitly "There is no obligation to draw attention to an irregularity committed by one's own side". If your opponents would prefer to play the board rather than exact a penalty, that is their right. –  TimLymington Dec 10 '13 at 17:06
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1 Answer

If I was directing I would rule under Law 12-A-2 (Normal Play of the Board Impossible): Average-plus to your opponents, average-minus to you and you partner.

I would further rule under Law 90-B-5 (Improperly Touching Another Player's Cards) a further 10% penalty to both pairs. It is your Partner's duty to obey the Rules of the game, which she flagrantly violated. Likewise, your opponents being at the table, they should have prevented the irregularity from occurring, or called the Director themselves.

This would net your opponents a flat average (average-plus at 60% - 10% = 50%).

This would net you and your partner a 30% (average minus at 40% - 10% = 30%).

Update:
I would not have allowed play of this board to occur (at this table); this is necessary to reinforce the first ruling above in everyone's minds.

If the opponent's were very new to the game I might forgo the second penalty against them; you and your partner always gets both barrels of the penalty however.

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