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Fair

Steve Weinstein just published "A Disturbing Trend." I thank Steve for writing this, as much of what he highlights bothers me, too.

A related disturbing trend is this; what many people seem to judge to be "fair" - and not - and what they wish to do about it.

In the most recent Bridge Bulletin, two letters to the editor included changes that players wanted in our game, in relation to fairness.  Both writers told sad tales of what happened to them, resulting in terrible matchpoint scores through no fault of their own. (One had the opponents stop below game with full values for game - when game didn't make. The other saw opponents bid a slam where "everything worked," resulting in no matchpoints.)

Hello; welcome to the world of bridge! One superb aspect of bridge is that, the more you learn and the better you play, the more you rate to win. Another superb aspect of bridge is that there is a luck factor. If not for this luck factor, with the exception of the greatest players in our game, the rest of us could pack up and go home. Yet, because of good fortune (and sometimes simply playing better than the experts!) - we lesser mortals can overcome the talents of our betters.  

It boggles my imagination that some of our players would think it would make sense that they would get a reasonable score when they get "fixed." Who would make the decision as to when scores should be changed - and when you must keep your poor score? I will never forget arriving at a grand slam missing only Qxx in trump. Yep; Qxx was behind the AKxx. Partner and I earned a zero. Most of the time, we would have earned a top; our luck was out that day. Yet, I wouldn't think of having our score changed.

This sense of what is "fair" - and not - seems to be permeating our game in a destructive way. Much about bridge - and life - is simply not fair.  Some people can hire very talented pros. Some people must work for a living, or have young families; attending more than just a few tournaments a year is not possible.  Some of us were flat out born with more talent than others.  Some of us have moderate to major health disabilities that hamper our ability to perform at the highest levels. Some of it we can change and modify - and some we cannot.

In Steve's article, it seems that many people assume that 5 or 6 man teams are professional teams. I don't know the stats, but I know many people these days who play with 4+ players, and none are professionals.  People have work, family or other commitments that make it tough to play 4 handed. Or - like some of us (ahem), they are getting older. If they wish to play 3 sessions a day, then they like to have an extra player or 2 so everyone can get a bit more much needed rest. Or, they are people who volunteer at a tournament, so they need an extra player for those duties.  Do we really wish to penalize all these players and deliver negative incentives for them to play by cutting their masterpoints when they do well?

And - how about the players who come in after a disastrous first set, play brilliantly, and pull out a win for their team.  They should take a cut? If not for this pair, there would be no spoils to be delivered!  How is that fair?

We could extend this notion of "fair" to other games. Let's say I'm in a pair game with a partner more expert than I. We analyze all the hands, and find out that I declared and defended only 33% of the time. Why shouldn't I then have a cut in my masterpoint award, if we do well?  What if my partner scores a much higher percentage when he declares in contrast to my declarer play? Shouldn't he again get more masterpoints than I do?

Until recently, when I played bridge, we acknowledged that there were partnerships and teams. We worked together. When we did well, we all reaped the rewards, irrespective of exactly what contributions - or deficits - each of us contributed.

I find this "nickel and diming" of who did exactly what on each hand and each match to be a disturbing trend. I also think that it is going to wreck our game if it continues unchecked. Perfect equity is simply impossible to find at the bridge table. Sometimes you play great - and luck is not with you. Sometimes it's the other way. Yet, bridge should be about partnerships and teammates. You rise and fall with one another. You reap the rewards - or end up empty handed together.

Let's not destroy camaraderie. Let's not penalize people when their choice may be play 5 or 6 handed - or not play - by cutting their awards.

We see many posts on the pages of Bridgewinners about how to attract people to our game. Let's focus on what can be positive and fun. 

Otherwise, we may find that one day, these discussions about "what is fair" will be moot - as no one will be showing up anymore. 

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