Friday, October 1, 2010


I finally got around to taking the bridge director's test earlier this week.  Not that I'm planning on performing any directorial duties any time soon -- I just started an all-consuming new job this week.  My bridge playing, and writing, is going to be seriously curtailed for a while.

I'm not sure if I passed the test.  I wasn't as well-prepared as I would have liked (I was better prepared a few months ago).  There were a few questions where it seemed that more than one answer might have been right.  But taking the test reminded me of some bad decisions that have been made against me over the years.

Many years ago, before bidding boxes, before I/N games (or even stratification), before zero tolerance, I was at the Nationals in Detroit (1980).  My partner and I were neophytes but we had something of a clue.  I was declarer in 7S (possibly 7H) and I had plenty trumps in my hand, as well as a void in diamonds.  LHO led a diamond and dummy went down.  It was immediately apparent that I had 13 tricks and I hastened things along with a claim.  Director!  RHO also had a void and when the director arrived he ruled that because I did not include in my statement any specific plan if RHO ruffed the opening lead (as in "I will overruff"), the contract was ruled down 1.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that that ruling kept me away from bridge for the next 18 years or so.  In fact, the ubiquitous smoking and the people literally yelling at each other were far more problematic.  Having a new job and a new baby pretty much concluded the decision.  But the ruling didn't help.  I now know that, when declarer makes a claim and insufficient detail is given in the statement and there are trumps out, the opponents of the claimant are presumed to have won a trump trick if a trick could be lost to that trump by any normal play (law 70C3).  A clarification in the rules states that "normal" includes play that would be careless or inferior for the class of player involved.  Under-ruffing (or discarding) on this trick would not be careless, in my opinion.  It would be bizarre.  But the director thought otherwise.  I have no idea if there were appeals in those days but the director certainly didn't mention it [it's not clear to me if there is any redress for this sort of thing anyway - the facts were not in question].

The next ruling occurred at my next NABC (Long Beach in 2003).  I was playing in a I/N event limited to 300 mps.  Neither of us had more than 100.  We were winning the event until the last board.  At trick 12, I was on lead and contrived to accidentally drop one of my cards on the table face up.  Not very smart.  The ruling was that I was deemed to have played the card.  Down 1.  2nd place.  That operative word here is accidentally in which case law 48A applies (declarer is not required to play any card dropped accidentally).  Otherwise law 45C2a applies which states that the card is played if it is held face up touching or nearly touching the table.  There was no disagreement that it had been dropped.  Regardless, I think that a little slack could have been allowed in a I/N event.

The most recent bad ruling was a couple of years ago.  It might have been at the Boston NABC or a local regional -- I just don't remember, but the director involved is a National Director (in the sense of directing at most of the NABCs around the country).  While we were sorting our cards, my partner, the dealer, dropped the DK on the table.  This situation is covered under Law 24B.  There were two passes to me.  The remedy for this situation is that I must pass at my first opportunity.  However, the ruling was that I had to pass throughout.  Quite a difference, especially as in this case I would have opened 2NT (20-21 hcp).  LHO decided to make a very marginal opening bid (1C) and all passed.  The fates had already determined partner's lead of course: the DK, which ran around to declarer's AQ.  I think we ended up -110 for a bottom while most pairs our way made +400 or so.

That last ruling was just a plain error and quite understandable.  In fact, we had to smile about it.  The others were much more judgment-related and I found them to be quite upsetting at the time.

I will say this however.  The general standard of behavior, ruling, and general comfort of all involved has increased markedly in the last thirty years!  Bridge really can be fun these days!

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