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It's About Time
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Always a treat for me to play in a high level bridge event, LM Pairs. Excited to make it to day #3, especially with a new partner.

Yet for much of the event, one aspect troubled me more and more – the “bridge is a timed event” part.

We are told, over and over, that we have a specified amount of time in which to play our boards. And, in theory, if we repeatedly run over that time allotment, we are supposed to be issued a penalty.

But – how often does anyone actually get one?

And – how often are almost any of us finishing a round on time these days?

At least at our table, most rounds we’d be lucky to have more than 12 minutes on the clock when our opponents arrived. Even if opponents were not the tardy type, often we would not finish in time.

People play complex methods and – it’s only fair that they are explained to the opponents.  During the auction, which bid is ideal is weighed; auctions go long.  Many of the hands are tough; no one wants to rush through and turn a 77% board into 34% with the wrong line.  Or wrong defense.

All of this takes time…

On some bridge issues, I can see solutions that make a fair amount of sense and are reasonably workable.  On this issue, I find it much tougher to find solutions.

The League could not allow more complex methods, cutting down on time for explanations.  Yet understandably, this would not be a choice many would choose.  We could add more time for each round.  But, I’m not sure that giving people an extra minute each round, let’s say, would really cure the problem.  And obviously it would add almost 30 minutes to each session. 

We could have automatic penalties for being more than “x” minutes late, as they do in Fast Pairs.  Yet again, this likely would be quite difficult to adjudicate and I can well imagine more than a few instances of players being quite upset and feeling that they were penalized unfairly.

But … doesn’t it seem that something should be done?

The only semi-reasonable improvements I can see are these.

  • Time clocks.  Each player hits their clock after making a bid or play.  Directors can then monitor to see which players/pairs are taking much more than their fair share during a session.
  • The dreaded playing on an electronic device.  The above solution would be achieved without players having to worry about handling a clock – yet – we’d not be able to hold our cardboard chunks.
  • Continue on as we are, yet have directors monitor the slow tables more and be more vigilant about handing out penalties.  (IMHO the only way to reform the habitually slow is to do this.)


Don’t like any of my solutions?  Frankly, they are all imperfect, so I’m with you.

Yet I invite people to submit their own suggestions.  It does seem a little nuts to have rules in place that are either ignored, or applied semi-randomly to competitors. 

I’m sure we can’t reach perfection – but – “better” would be better!

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