Memories of Toowong 2000
by David Stevenson
I have been asked to direct at the Gold Coast Congress in mid-February and the ABF Summer Festival in mid-January, so I am spending a few weeks in between looking at Australia. I am a well-known international Tournament Director, so I can gain experience over here, while the Australian Directors and Organisers can talk to me about differences in directing, and learn my views on world-wide directing interpretations.
Anyway, I was staying with George Cuppaidge for a few days, so it was agreed I would help Reg Busch at the Western Suburbs Congress. I thought the premises excellent, and the whole organisation by the Toowong Bridge Club brilliant. As for the directing, it was the normal mix of leads out of turn, insufficient bids - and a few hesitations. Of course, the first thing a Director has to decide is whether the player hesitated!
- "Did you hesitate, sir?"
- "NO !!!"
- "Well, did you think about the hand before passing?"
- "Of course I thought about the hand: look at it, wouldn't you think? But I did NOT hesitate!"
One day the players will realise that thinking about the hand IS hesitating! Still, this sort of answer makes the Director's job easier.
On the Saturday, George and Tony Jackman just qualified for the final, and I was given the benefit over dinner of every one of Tony's mistakes - according to George. Despite everyone's best efforts, George and Tony managed to win on the Sunday, so George was in a mellow mood and only showed me two or three of Tony's hands. He even found a hand where it is possible he made a mistake himself!
The most notable thing about Australia? I find it very strange that it gets warmer when you go OUT of a house or car! We heat them not air- ondition them! Of course, there are many differences in bridge: written bidding is unheard of: we use bidding boxes, and both work equally well. There are many differences in regulations: I am have been asked by the Australian authorities to write reports on them when I get home. I also feel there is more aggression amongst the players here: I hope it will not lead to the unfortunate ambience of the game in North America where the fun has gone out of bridge.
Thanks to George for putting me up, and everyone else in Brisbane for their welcome. I have made many friends in Australia, several of them in Toowong. I hope to return sometime, and if anyone wants to talk to me about anything, try writing to me.
Over the last few years I have been talking to people around the world via the Internet about the Laws of Bridge. We started with a small group of readers on the newsgroup rec.games.bridge and eventually built up the bridge-laws mailing list. With about 250 readers, there are Directors of clubs and Directors of World Championships: there are people with a deep knowledge of Appeals Committees and people who do not direct at all but have an interest in the Laws. We have the Chief Directors of four countries (South Africa, Denmark, Wales and Russia) plus the WBF Chief Director. We have the Chairman and Secretary of the WBF Laws Commission, and several Australian Directors, including Laurie Kelso and Sean Mullamphy.
But do not be over-awed: we also have many people with no grand titles who want to talk about the Laws, their interpretation, their use, and how they should be changed. If you are interested in talking about such subjects, or finding out more about the Laws, then please consider joining: there is no charge. The list is open to everyone on the internet. To join, send an email with a blank Subject line to
In the body of the email put
Be careful to include nothing else. I really hope you enjoy it. Note that this is a lively list with many emails: threading software is an advantage! If you have any difficulty you can write to me and I shall help.
When directing at the Western Suburbs Congress at Toowong, I was intrigued to see this Quiz in the QBA Bulletin, albeit a year early, since the third millennium starts on 1/1/2001. I thought I would give my answers and comments since it seems very important.
- Q. A player who realises that the Director has misapplied the Laws or the conditions of contest is obliged to draw attention to the fact.
- A. Certainly. Bridge is required to be played to the Laws [which includes the CoC in effect because they are covered by a Law]. If a player knows that he has gained because of such a mistake he is obliged to draw attention to it. Not to do so is unsporting and unethical. Players that should never wish to gain in this way.
Many people will not follow this because they think winning is everything. It is not. To win and get any real satisfaction you should win fairly. It is just as bad to win because of a misapplication of the Laws as it is to adopt a more direct form of unethical behaviour.
I do not suggest that you take this to ridiculous extremes, however. If you merely think the Director has misjudged a hand in your favour, or you think the CoC are unfair and you have gained, or you have made a firm effort to explain, then there is nothing more that needs to be done. But if you know that you should not have won an event, then you have not won it fairly - tell them.
- Q. An appeal or scoring correction based on information discovered after the protest period has expired should be considered, and, if appropriate acted upon.
- A. No. This has led to much argument in the past. But if you do not set a time limit them no-one will ever be certain they have won. Would you really wish to take action because of something found lying in a file two years later? Ok, if not two years, how about six months? Three days? Four hours? Six minutes?
There needs to be a time limit beyond which everything is final. This is why the concept of the Correction Period was introduced, covering a time limit that is not to be breached. Where authorities go wrong is in not making it long enough. It is set at thirty minutes after scores are published by default, and too many authorities leave the default unchanged without much thought. If an organisation runs a final, or a play-through event, then the Correction Period should be extended for major scoring errors to twenty-four or forty-eight hours later.
There will always be difficulties: errors found in Qualifying rounds too late may annoy, but re-playing a final is not an option! Sponsoring organisations should always be aware of the advantages of giving extra prizes and Master Points to players who have suffered.
It is not satisfactory for someone who has won a final to keep it if it is found not too long later to be based on major mis-scoring. A good organisation will do a full check within twenty-four hours, and the Correction Period should not be shorter. But once it is over, it is final.
- Q. A player has received unauthorised information from his partner which strongly suggests that Action A will be preferable to Action B. a) If the player believes the choice of Action A to be close, he should choose Action B.
- A. This is easy enough: the Laws require the player to choose Action B, and any player who chooses Action A needs to review his ethical stance.
- Q. A player has received unauthorised information from his partner which strongly suggests that Action A will be preferable to Action B. b) If the player believes the choice of Action A to be clear-cut, he should still choose Action B.
- A. The laws permit Action A. There seems no real reason to choose Action B, though a player might feel it protects his own ethical stance to do so. Nevertheless, there is sufficient ambiguity in the Laws concerning unauthorised information that it is wrong to criticise anyone who chooses Action A [or any other action where different people are going to have different views].
Players who make sure they do the right thing ethically in reasonably clear cases have done enough: it is acceptable where the path is not clear to leave unauthorised information decisions to the Directors.
- Q. A player who believes that he was not damaged by an opponent's faulty performance [such as a wrong explanation or an inadequate announcement of methods], but that he might be awarded an adjusted score by a Director should apply for compensation.
- A. Anyone who thinks the answer is Yes should not be playing bridge. The Laws provide redress in such situations for damage. A player who knows this and tries for redress when there is no damage is deliberately unethical. Players who do not know this are merely unethical and should be educated.
The aim of bridge is to outscore your opponents by expertise in calls and plays. Anyone who tries to outscore their opponents in other ways, such as by expertise in the Laws, is not a real bridge player, and we want no such animals in our game. There is a particular name given to this animal: a "Bridge Lawyer". He is one who attempts to win boards three times if necessary: through the cards, via the Director and in front of the Appeals Committee.
This is not the same, of course, as arguing a case when your cause is just. If your opponents' illegal actions have made it impossible or difficult to win via the calls and plays, it is right to seek redress. But not otherwise.
Richard Ward then quotes a well-known unethical practice of making an attempt to win by Laws expertise - deliberately trying to catch opponents out when they have a misunderstanding. He then goes on to quote an example of the sort of thing that is perfectly ethical: an opponent does something wrong which does not involve judgement. The declarer follows the requirements of the Laws and a book ruling is applied. Only the most carping person would see anything wrong in this. If your opponents revoke would you call the Director? Of course you would - why not? It is sad that people have confused the normal play of the game with the taint of Bridge Lawyering.
If your opponents make a mechanical mistake then call the Director and leave it to him. However, if there is a situation where a judgement ruling is required, you should not pursue any claim for damage unless you believe damage may have occurred.
- These articles first appeared in bulletins in Australia in 2000. The first was in the Toowong Club Newsletter, the second and third in the QBA Newsletter.
- If you want to comment on these articles, why not write direct to
- I shall be pleased to hear from you!