One of the components of playing quickly is to claim once you are sure how many tricks you’re going to make. There are, however, laws, ethics, and courtesies connected with it.
To claim, you face your hand and state how many tricks you will take. Play ceases. State your line of play, that is, how the remaining cards will be played (“I’ll draw the last trump, cross to the Ace of Diamonds and throw my Heart loser on the good Club.”)
While anyone can make a claim at any time, I strongly recommend you only do it in these circumstances:
- You are declaring, not defending. Exception: you’re in NT, you have all high cards and are taking the current trick.
- You have the lead in your hand or the dummy.
- Your opponents have no trump left.
- You have the statement of play in mind.
- You are utterly sure. It isn’t going to save time if you’re wrong.
The laws say that once someone makes a claim, play stops. If someone says they don’t think the claim is right, you cannot play it out. Don’t bully someone into continuing play, and don’t be bullied. Call the director. It is illegal to keep playing.
Once a claim has been made, and a pause has allowed everyone to think about the claim, everyone can show their hand.
If you think a claim is not valid, call the Director. The rules about evaluating claims are complicated. Lots of good players do not know those rules or think they know them but are wrong. Do not allow another player to make the decision.
You cannot claim a trick you won’t win, but you also cannot claim too few tricks. Everyone should cooperate on getting it right, since in duplicate your score affects everyone in the game, not just your table.
When you make a claim, try to make one that is not too complicated for the other pair. You can play a few more cards before you claim in order to make it obvious.
If the opponents do not understand your claim, say it again more slowly and above all do not act annoyed. If they still don’t get it, call the Director, and say, “Let me call the Director so we can be sure I am not making a mistake.”
As a newcomer, this caution is more directed toward the experienced players who are playing against you, and you may well have occasion to feel insulted by their impatience. That’s on them. A really good player knows better. The ACBL policy of Zero Tolerance includes no tolerance for intimidation. Call the Director for repeat offenders. The first time, just say, “Sorry, I’m a newbie, I don’t get it.”
If you claim with a trump out and don’t mention it or how you intend to pull it, there is no automatic penalty and you must let the Director decide, but you’re in danger of losing a trick or more.