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Tainted Boards Left In Play At EBU Event

This weekend in England sees the Ranked Masters Pairs, a series of stratified pairs events scored by X-imps. There is a separate event for each master point classification from Premier Grand Master down to Regional Master.

The fields are generally small, and the format is an all-play-all round robin over four sessions. The number of boards you play against each opponent is an inverse function of the number of entrants in your classification and typically ranges from 6 to 10.

The EBU employs a system called Pianola to distribute results to participants. All competitors who have an email address registered with the EBU receive an email with a personalised scoresheet showing their result and score on each board, together with hand records. Session 1 of the Premier Life Masters ended yesterday just before 6pm, at much the same time as the other events. At 6.15 pm an email was received by every contestant detailing their scores for session 1, but due to an administrative error the accompanying hand records that were distributed were those for the forthcoming session 2 !!!!

As we were taking our seats at 7.30 for session 2, my partner Peter Hasenson noticed the error and informed the directors. By this time the hand records had been in the public domain for over an hour. Notwithstanding our protestations, the directors ruled to leave the boards in play and to continue with the event as normal. We received an adjusted score for the two boards that Hasenson had accidentally previewed, but otherwise all boards were scored as played right across the field.

The directors explained to us that due to constraints of time and manpower there was no possibility of creating a new set of boards for session 2. The duplicating machines were apparently not on site. My suggestion that the directors suspend play whilst they manually generate 3 sets of hand-dealt boards was dismissed as not viable. No announcement was made before or after the session about the matter.

For our part, it turned out to be an unlucky session. Early on in the session, one pair made a vulnerable grand slam against us on a finesse missing Kxxx in trumps after a Blackwood sequence that identified a missing keycard, and the same pair bid to a small slam 2 boards later after 4NT again had established that not all the controls were present, but that one also made missing AJxxx in the trump suit (helped by a favourable lead by me, although DD it is always making). This opponent had already established their aggressive slam-bidding credentials by being one of the minority to reach a good 29 point slam in the first match of the session, and accordingly I am of course not suggesting for one second that anything untoward took place. It just made the whole experience even more unpalatable. 

The inadvertent distribution of the hand records in advance of the session was the product of an unfortunate human error and I truly believe that no recrimination would be appropriate as regards that aspect of the matter. It was something that anybody working in a pressure situation might have done, and the director who pushed the wrong key on the computer was clearly distressed by his error. I'm sure that the EBU will take heed and tighten up their systems such that no repeat will be possible. My issue is with the way the directors decided to proceed once the issue had been brought to their attention. Surely it can't be right to continue the event with the same boards in circulation? Whilst one would hope and expect that anybody who had caught sight of any of the hands whilst checking the records during their dinner break would have come forward as my partner did, the mere possibility that any competitor might have had concealed their unfair advantage is sufficient to invalidate the integrity of the event. And why was an announcement not made so that everybody should be aware of the matter and have the opportunity to put forward any concerns they might have before the start of play?


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