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Discouraging Frivolous Appeals

In the May IBPA Bulletin, Editor John Carruthers discusses a major issue with the "justice system" of our game. Here is his editorial, courtesy of the International Bridge Press Association.

One of the major issues with the appeals process is that there is no jeopardy toa side appealing, whether they are the ‘offending’ side or not. The WBF institutedan appeal deposit of US$50 some years ago and the EBL and other jurisdictionshave a similar scheme. The ACBL has sanctions in place for what are deemedfrivolous appeals. The idea is that if one lodges an appeal and that appeal is judgedto be without merit, the appealing side loses its deposit or may suffer sanctionssuch as restricted future play. While that deposit may be significant to studentsand pensioners, it is laughable to most bridge players, especially so to today’ssponsors with their millions of dollars, some of whom spend half a million ormore per annum on their bridge teams. Possible sanctions seem more threatening.

Far better would be for the offending side in an appeal to be required to make adeposit in terms of IMPs or matchpoints, the amount dependent of the nature ofthe appeal. As long as a match or pair event was still not in the final session, therecould then be some jeopardy to an appealing side. For an appeal during the finalsession, a suspension could be in order since an extra few IMPs or matchpoints atthat stage might not be relevant to the final outcome.

The two major areas of appeal these days result from (i) misinformation (orincomplete disclosure) about the bidding, leading to damage in the bidding, play ordefence, and (ii) unauthorised information (UI) transmitted as a result of ahesitation, most often in the bidding, but occasionally in the defence. In mostcases now, the TDs get it right by ruling against a pair for misinformation orhesitation UI and making them go to appeal to prove their case. Nevertheless,typically, the so-called ‘offending pair’ has nothing to lose by doing so. Sometimesit seems that it’s as if someone robbed a bank, got caught, and their ‘punishment’was that they just had to give the stolen money back.

How does this work now? Let’s take a simple example: a pair uses ‘HesitationBlackwood’ and carries on to a grand slam after one partner has reluctantlysigned off in six. The opponents call the police and, after consultation, the TD rulesthat the auction is rolled back to six (all done in a timely fashion). The offendersappeal when it turns out the grand slam makes – the worst that can happen tothem is that the TD’s ruling stands and their thievery is not punished. That pairwould certainly be more reluctant to go to appeal if it could lose the grand slamand another 6 IMPs in committee. At the end of a match, with the appeal resultnot relevant to the outcome of the match, perhaps a suspension of the offendingpair might be considered.

There are problems with all this, of course. Firstly, that instituting penalties wouldbe very complicated to establish and apply. Could they be standardised so thatcommittees would not need to reinvent the wheel on each occasion? The secondproblem is that more power would be placed in the hands of committees than isalready the case. Many people now feel that the TD’s word should be final, just asit is in other sports. They feel that going to committee is a crapshoot dependingon little more than the attitudes and prejudices of the committee members.

If you have an opinion on this topic, please comment below, or send email to John Carruthers. He would appreciate your feedback!

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