Thursday, November 29, 2012

An appeal shouldn't be a free shot

One of the things I enjoy reading in the Daily Bulletins from NABCs is the Appeals Cases. The one shown above (from San Francisco and now being played) caught my eye. (Click to enlarge.)

After South opened 1 and West overcalled 1NT, North bid 2. In their system, that showed a one-suited hand. East passed and South duly bid 2. North corrected to 2 which was passed back to West who bid 3. This was passed out and made three.

There was one problem: Over 2, East hesitated 10 seconds (North claimed it was longer than that), and 10 seconds in an auction like this is an eternity.

The director polled some players, found that none of them would have bid 3, so he rolled the contract back to 2 making two. No harm no foul, right?

Now comes the part that's hard to believe -- East-West appealed the director's ruling.

The committee upheld the ruling, of course, so again, no harm no foul, right?

I'm sorry, but I just don't get that. I can make an unethical bid, and if I don't like the ruling I can appeal it at no cost?

That's just wrong. At the very least, they should have received an Appeal Without Merit Warning. Actually, I think East-West should have gotten a penalty, perhaps one-fourth of a board. They made a bid that wasn't allowed, wasted everybody's time (director and committee) and should have to pay a price.

What do you think?

(You can read the full write-up on page 12 if you click here.


  1. I completely agree and could not believe they didn't receive an AWMW.

    This was so blatant that I think the Director could easily have awarded a PP to East-West. The Appeals Committee have the same powers as the Director and should have done so.

  2. I think you're right and I don't understand why there was no penalty!

    Thanks for your comment, Dave! Much appreciated!

  3. According to the write-up in the bulletin, the cause for their being no penalty was due to there being a disagreement upon whether there was indeed a Break in Tempo over the 2S call.

    Since the reported facts are that the director was called immediately after the 3D call, it seems likely to me that there was a BIT (and thus that a penalty should have been assessed against EW). (Had the director not been called until the hand had been played, I think there is much less inference that a BIT occurred.) However, I wonder if best practice would be for NS to comment at the table after East's pass (that is, before South or West have bid), something akin to "Can we agree that there has been a break in tempo?"

    That's the habit I try to pursue. I am not sure that my habit is kosher, but it strikes me as a good way of establishing agreement without having to repeatedly call the director when it is quite probable that no one will seek to "take advantage" of the BIT.

  4. Reading the write-up in the bulletin, something struck me as fishy. It was the time estimates by East and South.

    South had called the director after the 3D call, saying that East had paused for "a minute". East denied this, and put forward an estimate of "10 seconds" and West claimed to not have noticed any delay.

    A 10-second delay is a long time, and is quite noticeable, but in layman's terms, "10 seconds" could be short-hand for "negligible".

    At the appeal, East stated that he had hesitated "less than 10 seconds", which seems to indicate that he was talking in layman's terms, i.e. not very precisely. South did not show up for the appeal. And 1 minute is a horrendously long time. South (whose name is the only one of the four players whose name I recognize) is an expert and would not be speaking imprecisely to the director.

    "1 minute" or "less than 10 seconds"? I think there is some special pleading going on here. Jeff: I think that if South knows that the spades is a 5+ card suit, he knows that they are probably getting a bad board even before the hand is played. He can safely call the director after the 3D bid and attempt to throw the rule book at East-West.

    Where this is all leading to, I am afraid, is that bridge may need to be played with clocks. Like chess.

    1. As I've often written, bridge players are notoriously bad at judging the length of a hesitation. We all know that time runs at different speeds depending on what you are doing: ten seconds can be insignificant sometimes, but occasionally it can seem like eternity.

      However what top-class bridge players are very good at is noticing hesitations at critical points of the auction. Weaker players tend to be less good at this. But they are some points in an auction where a break in tempo sticks out like a sore thumb and I think this is one of those.

  5. The next appeal in the bulletin, involving Fantunes, seems to be an even more egregious case of special pleading. North even doubles the final contract of 4H and then happily gets to take it all back. The committee ruling seems to be that since East-West do not have special agreements against the extremely rare intermediate 2-level bids and are not experts, East was not capable of taking a 2-way shot over 4D. And here, the East-West claimed a "2-second pause" probably not realizing that admission of any delay was admission of guilt.

    The tempo rule is very subjective and extremely subject to abuse. Seeing expert pairs throwing the rulebook at non-experts after they get a bad result does not induce much confidence.

    So, I have to disagree with you, Dave, and with the other commenters.

  6. I am glad our college "tournament room" was a folding table in the can. The ones you guys frequent seems far more cut throat. And I can even recall being chased out into the snow over one hand.

    Civilized? Gentlefolk? Right!

  7. I think you punched a few buttons with this post. Thanks for your visit and kind words on our new site! Much appreciated. Have a great weekend!

  8. Gary Blaiss used to be in charge of appeals (he was the National Recorder). I asked him once what's up with different players claiming different lengths of time for hesitations. He said something interesting: Both sides believe what they are saying.

  9. I subscribe to what Gary Blaiss told you. The environment for my I acquiescence is that I am a slow player who plays regularly or semi-regularly with a couple of slow players, one of whom I judge is considerably slower than me and one of whom is about on par with me. But if you asked them, they believe that they are fast players. I think they are oblivious to the many situations where they take useless time, either because they did not begin to think of the problem, which could have been anticipated, until it was their turn, or the "problem" should be, for their experience levels, not a problem at all. I don't think their beliefs are deceitful; they are just unaware. Accordingly, I think the same is happening in many BIT situations where there is disagreement on the extent of delay ... which is why I try to gain acknowledgment from the table that BIT has occurred immediately after the BIT and not wait to see if the BIT matters nor expend more time by calling the director immediately.

    I notice that in nearly all the appeals cases published in bulletins where there is disagreement as to whether BIT has occurred, the director and committee seem always to concur that BIT has occurred.

    1. I was NPC at a European Teams Championships and after one set I asked both my players how long the tray was on the other side of the screen during one of the more interesting hands.

      Both said that the tray moved at normal tempo, meaning around ten seconds. I had timed it and knew that the tray had spent over sixty seconds on both sides of the screen during the auction. When players are concentrating hard, their perception of time is very poor.

  10. Hi your question. I know of no one who's gonna do an Ocala daily photo. I'll be posting some Ocala pics on the new blog, but lots of others, too. So, the job is open if'n you want it! :-)

  11. Got to answer your question on L & L: It looks like a live oak to me. We have lots of them here along with a lot of water oaks (the latter not being as nice as the live oaks.)

    Hope you're off to a good week!

  12. Dear Dave: 2 things: 1) Re your comment on L & L: Woof! 2) We are selling our twin home in Stone Creek. If you know anybody in that neck of the woods looking for a really nice place to live...


  13. Nice to hear from you again. BTW, "they" are redoing the old downtown in Ocala - new shops, apartment, gathering areas. It will look very good when it's all done.