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Cayne/Schwartz Appeal that ultimately decided the Spingold Winners: What Went Wrong? Will It Happen Again?

In the Spingold round of 8 Schwartz defeated Cayne by one imp (at the table). In fact it was really two imps because after the 30 minute correction period had expired, it was discovered that a false claim had been made by a member of the Cayne team and the declarer had actually scored one less trick than he claimed. Just one imp.

Cayne appealed a board and the Committee turned a 1 imp victory for Schwartz into a 1 imp loss. What went wrong? In my opinion, a lot. Let's take a closer look at some of the issues.

1) Is a Forcing Pass alertable? In my almost 40 years of playing competitive bridge, I have never alerted a FP nor have I seen anyone else do so. A nationally rated TD in Chicago (who understandably asked not be quoted or named on BW) told me that in his/her opinion a forcing pass does not require an alert. This from a very high ranked TD. What was the Committee told?

2) When I worked with Canadian junior teams, we were lucky to have Eric Kokish as our coach. My recollection is that he provided us with more than 50 pages solely devoted to forcing pass (or not) situations. This is one if the most complex issues in bridge. Experts disagree, have misunderstandings, and screw-ups. 

3) The Committees decision to allow Lotan to take back his ill judged 5S call as a result of of a failure to alert a FP (or so the Committee claimed) is highly disturbing for several reasons. Is the Committee telling us that all FP must now be alerted or face the consequences? This will open a Pandora's box of problems and be a nightmare leading to more Director calls and more Committees. We don't need or want that. Shoudn't all bids at high levels be self-alerting and players need to ask questions and protect themselves?

4) The original issue was a break in tempo followed by partner biding 5H. The TD polled multiple players and it was almost unanimous to bid 5H as did Graves at the table. Thus the TD ruled that the 5H call was allowed to stand. Lotan now bid 5S and went for 500 opposite 450 to lose 2 imps. The FP issue appears to be a red herring.

5) But at the last minute, Lotan presented a new claim. He told the Committee that his partners pass of 5H was forcing so he had to bid (or double). Self serving statement? I am told Lotan alerted his partners pass of 5H as forcing. But I am told that Ron on the other side of the screen did NOT alert his pass as forcing. Hmm.. Now in Committee, Lotan claimed that had he known that Schawrtz made a forcing pass, then he would not have bid 5S. How the Committee could buy this argument astounds me.

6) Schwartz claimed his pass was forcing. Graves claimed it was not. If Graves is correct, how could he alert a FP that was not a FP? It appears as if the notes say it would not have been a FP or at the very least it is unclear/undiscussed. But I am told the Committee did not ask to see any notes! Look at the other side. I can not think of anyone who would play the Lotan/Ron auction as a FP situation. Ron did NOT alert. Lotan did alert and later claimed he was damaged! Again, the Committee did not ask to see the notes to verify Lotan's claim. Yet they accepted his argument! So one side is penalized for not alerting a FP while the other side is not? Not very fair.

In my opinion, the Committee did a poor job which affected the result of ACBL's premier event. Is it true they only deliberated for 20 minutes and never asked to see the notes from either team? Truly a miscarriage of justice. It is a travesty. 

7) Being an expert lawyer and winning in Committee what was lost at the table is a blight on our game. It is destructive. It is bad for bridge. Yet the current flawed system of after the event is over player based appeals Committees encourages such tactics. We have seen these situations far too many times. To me, it stinks.

8) A former (maybe even a current) NABC Appeals Committee member told me he once woke up in the morning and wondered "What was I thinking at 2, 3, 4 AM in the morning when I made that decision?"

9) Player based Appeals Committees do not need cosmetic changes -- they need to be abolished. Only the ACBL still lives and breathes by them. I have heard the arguments multiple times, "Only players have the skills and ability", "TDs are hopeless, not good enough, not well trained" and from my successor Paul Janicki who is now on the ACBL Board of Directors and Chair of NABC Appeals, "maybe in 5 or ten years, the TDs need more training". Nonsense. Specially trained TD panel committees would adjudicate appeals in a timely manner, be more consistent, have no taint of bias or conflict of interest. They will not be perfect but we should live with the results and move on. Instead we get middle-of-the-night Committees composed of whoever happens to be available and if/when they screw-up they are castigated on BW and elsewhere. Who needs or wants that? It is a flawed system. It is unfair to both the players and the Committee members. It is bad for the game.

10) I urge the ACBL Board of Directors to finish the process that was started while I was on the ACBL Board. Let TDs take over ALL appeals at NABC's. If not, I can guarantee that we will have this argument again -- if not in Denver, then surely in Reno, Washington or Orlando in 2016 after another "controversial" Committee decision arises.

 

 

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