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Here I Go (Again)
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I started my career - if it can be called that - in sales. The first thing I learned is the reason I was not very good at it is that appealing to logic is a form of charging windmills. Humans like to think of ourselves as thinking creatures. But we are not motivated by logic. And very little of what happens in our world is driven by rational thought.

This can be proven by the close ratio. Change the sales pitch to appeal to something - virtually anything except logic - and ta da! The commission checks start flowing. Q.E.D.

I mount my soapbox to once again preach. Knowing full well that an appeal to good sense is pretty much futile. So how dumb is that?

Logic & Process

Something is considered a scientific law when it is repeatable. In mathematics, when it is proven. A mathematical proof demonstrates that a principle will always be true.

The problem with our bridge laws is not “fairness”. Or “good” and “bad”. The universe cares not about fairness. The universe operates on consistency. F = G * m1 * m2 / (d*d). If this creates a problem for someone when their parachute does not open, nature does not care. That is just the way it is. Natural law is consistent.

Our bridge laws and the method of applying them in UI/BIT situations are not repeatable in respect to the outcome. Therefore, all we have legislated is discontent.

Proof:

BR Pairs. TD call on BIT. Highly trained person armed with written instructions and rules gathers information. Conducts poll. TD makes a ruling: table result stands. 7NT-2

We repeat the process. Using the same input data and law book, but a different set of judges and a different poll group. Now we obtain the opposite outcome. 7NT makes.

Guess what? We could perform three, seven or seventy iterations with different groups of people and it is possible to not duplicate EITHER of the previous results. This is because every single TD or AC could adjust the outcome to different weighted scores.

“Well, we need to adjust the score and 2 people led a diamond, 3 did not, do I have it as 40% down and 60% making.”

“I polled 9 players. One led the K. That leads to a five trick set because he will continue the J.”

Repeating the same process and expecting a different outcome is the funny definition of insane. When we repeat the same process and get entirely different outcomes, how sane is the process?

We might as well speed up the randomness and at least make these situations more fun and convenient. Lets give each of the players a ping-pong ball or a disk that they can drop into a carnival ramp of pegs. At the bottom are yea and nay slots. If the score is tied 2-2 after the players go, the TD drops the 5th deciding ball.

Easy, fast and probably just as accurate. And if you don’t believe me, check the record. Go to any sticky TD ruling question on this site. How many of them are split polls? Often with illustrious names on either side of the issue.

Let Start at The Beginning:

Question: What is the biggest threat and distortion to our game?

Answer: Cheating. Bridge is a game of restricted information. When a player or partnership deliberately gains access to information not legally available, the game becomes meaningless.

Question: What would logically be the next biggest threat or distortion?

Answer: Extraneous information. The chilling effect upon the game is the same, even if the underlying motivation is different.

Proof:

Situation#1 Your ex-spouse hates your guts and deliberately runs you over with a SUV.

Situation#2 Some kid texting his GF blows a red light and runs you over with a SUV.

Legally, these situations are distinct. The first is murder. (Self-defense if you ask the defense attorney.) The second is manslaughter.

Morally, these situations are distinct. The kid is probably full of remorse and sorrow. Whereas your ex is full of joy.

Medically, there is no difference. You are still dead.

When we have these sorts of rulings, what appears in the commentary are the thoughts and beliefs of hundreds of attorneys and philosophers. At some point we need to back it up and ask ourselves if we want a world of lawyers and moralists debating over a corpse, or whether we might want try to create a world with fewer victims to scrape off the pavement.

Everyone Thinks They Are Nostradamus

We need to accept a very fundamental truth. No one knows what would have happened with 100% certainty if something else had happened. That is the reason why we have horse races. If we re-ran the 1973 Wood Memorial a second time the following week, I am taking Secretariat. And if we re-run the 2018 BRP, I take the field over any pair.

We play the events, the matches and the hands precisely because we do not really know what is going to happen. So stop trying to imagine that anyone does. The fun part is not knowing and playing to find out.

Here is a thought experiment to prove this point.

Bridge introduces a timer. When it goes off, play immediately stops. We then calculate the rest of the outcome based simply upon on “peer polls” and our bridge logic in being able to deduce the outcome. We are experts, n’est pas?

The buzzer sounds on a board as the bidding reaches 7NT-P. BTW, this is not this exact hand in the BRP. This is a thought experiment and no one can imagine the buzzer sounding on Grue. Some other hand. Some other group of experts.

Everything stops and we now divine the outcome. The player on lead has the A, the king with the opponents. So we assign a result of down one. That player appeals and says: “wait, I am on lead against a grand slam with the trump ace. It should be 7!NT-X down one, the buzzer sounded before the tray got to my side of the table.”

Two questions:

  • Is this 100%
  • Does it get better than this?

Answers:

  • Not 100%
  • It does not get much better than this.

Curtis Cheek was in this very same situation against 7 and passed.

I was watching on VuGraph and everyone was trying to assign some deep, rational reason why such a great player would not double. Maybe he is afraid they run to 7NT and partner wont know what to lead?

Nope. Curtis was taking a brief nap. When the auction was over, he looked at his hand, found the ace of diamonds and said: “Well, this might work”.

We all know how we are supposed to think. Guess what? No one does it properly on every hand all the time. That is why we run the races. To see who did the best today.

Bridge is about players making decisions and plays under the proper playing conditions without any extraneous information. Everything else is NOT-Bridge.

We can never predict with 100% certainty how someone will think in a given situation because people frequently think or do things that they should not. The three greatest words ever penned on bridge were “At The Table”.

When we are in committee rooms, we look at problems very differently. And when we post about bridge problems from our computers, it still is not the same as being at the table. In a vacuum, one of the brightest bridge stars on the planet is NEVER going to be dumb enough to correct 7 to 7NT on an auction where his partner could have bid Blackwood on a void. Right?

If this auction happened in another event and you polled Joe about a call over 7, he would STOP, LOOK, THINK and say: “Pass, dude. Partner could be void.” At the table, Joe bid before he thought it completely through. And for Joe it would have taken only two more nanoseconds.

The problem with extraneous information is it always says: “STOP, LOOK, THINK”. And that is a problem with polls as well. Extraneous information and polls produce “Not-Bridge”. This is unavoidable because the context has been changed.

Is Brian Glubok smart enough to find a diamond lead? Sure. Is he smart enough to lead the king of diamonds? Yes. But he did not actually think about the problem long enough to find that specific card, did he?

Is Harold smart enough to figure out that X now asks for a diamond lead because he would have doubled 4 earlier? Yes. But he simply did not get there in the time he took at the table.

Holy %$@! We are 0 for 3!

So, at the table, it is not surprising that some of the best players in the world do not always get it right. But what if you handed any of these guys the same situation as a problem? If you say “STOP, LOOK, THINK”, every one of them nails it. All the time.

It is the difference between major leaguers trying to hit a curve ball and lobbing it to them. Instead of homers some of the time, they go yard easily. A home run derby might be fun to watch, but guess what?

NOT-Baseball

No One Can Say

Some object to these sorts of rulings under the guise of: “the event should not be decided by a ruling”.

Not only can we not predict what someone would have done under a different set of conditions, we also cannot predict who would have won the event, but for the ruling.

If you think that statement is silly, and the answer is “Chris & Eldad”, you are wrong.

Parallel Universes

The most likely “other” winner might have been Chris & Eldad. But no one can say for certain. The problem is no one knows how the event would have been played out, but for this ruling. The issue is not the AC decision, but the incompatible original TD ruling that was corrected ex post facto.

In a parallel universe, the TD ruled in favor of Bobby & Joe at the table. Instead of 0 MP, they get 25 for a top. Now going into the last round, they were not playing catchup from 4th position. They led the field. Everyone who sat at their table viewed them not as “in-the-hunt”, but the leaders. Their opponents may well make other decisions. And so might Levin-Grue. Perhaps parallel universe Marty & Chip now play differently in the last set. Instead of having a decent lead, they might make a few different decisions trying to play catchup. Perhaps Marty & Chip’s opponents play differently against them because they are no longer the leaders.

Bridge is about risk vs reward decisions. Squaring off against the leaders means that every one matchpoint you score on this round is two off the lead. When someone is short on time and faces the pair they need to catch, the mathematics are different. It stands to reason that some decisions may be very different. But now we will never know.

I have traveled to 43,718 parallel universes (so far) to check the results. And if the reader wonders why I am still in this fercokt realm when I can easily leave it, there is a logical reason. In every damn one of these parallel universes, the only constant was the ACBL lazily shrugged off the appeal and hoped they would not have to hold a committee at the end.

There is no escape from stupidity.

Believing that “it might not matter” is wrong. Dead wrong. It always matters. Players are making decisions with an eye to where they are in the race. All the ACBL did with their laziness was tell the field to chase the wrong leaders.

The event was effected by the non-resolution before it was ever effected by the decision. And BTW, who has not had a TD decision against them that you felt you could get overturned. But TPTB sluffed it off to the end. You finished in perhaps 7th or 8th and decided it wasn’t worth handing around. Might not that bad decision have effected the scores and position of other pairs? Sure. Stop pretended that not knowing means it did not happen. Ignorance is not bliss. It is ignorance. 

Oh, and really stop pretending that holding an AC at two in the morning is a better idea than five in the afternoon.

The question is not who won the event that was run.  (Levin-Grue, look it up!)

The question is: is this how we should run the event?

Extraneous Info Laws

The primary purpose of a law is to prevent the prohibited behavior. The secondary function is to penalize the prohibited behavior.

Somehow, our new-age ninny world became more illogical than (American) football. You know, those big lunkheads we thought we were smarter than back in college, but were too scared of to talk back to. In some parallel universes, Levin/Grue were actually playing football against Glubok/Antonsen. Bobby dropped back to pass and chucked it down the field. Glubok intercepted. Antonsen ran into Levin after the ball was thrown and knocked him down.

In the real world, this is roughing the passer. The penalty takes priority over the play. The interception is canceled and we march off the yardage. It doesn’t matter that Glubok was “always intercepting the ball”. We kind of figured that was happening anyway. After all, Brian was covering Joe. It was not like he was trying to cover Wolkowitz or someone fast.

The BIT is an irregularity. Yet in bridge, we actually pick up the flag if we decide the ball was always being intercepted. How exactly does that discourage the irregularity? It doesn’t.

We already cut the players who create extraneous information slack. We have always had a “no harm, no foul” approach to these situations in bridge..

The only way we can satisfactorily demonstrate that no harm was caused is by demonstrating the outcome was independent of the E.I. The first test is the poll. If everyone polled or nearly everyone leads a diamond, we pick up the flag. NEXT. (“Bobby, pick yourself up off the turf.  Bobby?  You OK?")

If that condition has not been met, and the E.I. changes the probabilities of the L.A., then by definition we have achieved Not-Bridge. Yet we are currently in the process of trying to ignore the fact we just mutilated our game as we yack about “restoring equity”.

We are supposed to be protecting the integrity of the procedures.

Important: Protecting the integrity of the procedures does not mean we are accusing the offending side of being illegal or unethical.

When Harold ran into Bobby in that parallel universe, it was completely accidental. Harold stumbled on a divot and went flying. But it still happened. In fact, now that I think about it, the only parallel universe when Bobby really got pancaked, it was by Stevo. Maybe it was evil-Stevo, like that parallel universe Captain Kirk.

Players revoke. Players lead out of turn. Players bid out of turn. These are nearly always innocent. And most times players tank, it is unintentional.

But oops, there it is.

Stop pretending it did not happen.

I have mellowed a bit. In my younger days I would be getting the rope out. I loved L12B3. It was easy to apply and the offending side got the worst of it - always.

I am willing to concede that in many cases, shooting hesitators could be harsh. I am not willing to concede that this method is not effective in changing behavior. In fact, I am willing to bet that with sufficient corporal punishment, I could get even “Flash” to bid and play hands in under 3 minutes. And still very well. But my approach violates the 8th Amendment, so we need to perform this experiment in some other country. (Anyone know a good CIA blacksite?)

Here is the deal. I do not know the South player. I am willing to bet the BIT was completely unintentional. I do know Brian. He is a really fine player. He was probably always leading a diamond.

But oops, there it is. BIT creates NOT-Bridge.

In one parallel universe, Brian was on lead against 7NT-X holding AKQJ10.

The problem is I was sitting South and I led a diamond out of turn.

Oops, there it is.

Think Glubok was always leading a diamond? Do we need to poll this one? Is Bobby unethical when he bars a diamond lead? To all you philosophers out there, is this parallel universe Glubok getting screwed or just getting what he deserves for agreeing to play with me? (This is why philosophy is mostly bulls—)

This isn’t about “restoring equity” or “fairness”. It is about encouraging players to play the game without accidental irregularities. It is about protecting the side that is not introducing the E.I. Many BITs are unintentional. But. . .

. . . don’t we all know players who have far too many “unintentional tanks”? Can no one else compose a list of players who frequently take too long before passing it to partner? And do you know WHY we have these players?

Partially because of jerks like me. Because I almost never call the TD at the club. We have plenty of players who think that it is their god-given right to take whatever time they want without any repercussions. We have plenty of players who take umbrage at the suggestion that they hesitated. Plenty of players who insist “that is my normal tempo”.

Ugh.

At some point we need to recognize that E.I. is a bane to the game. That introducing E.I. is as much of an irregularity as leading out of turn dropping a card on the table. (“That is OK, I am always klutzy and dropping things.”) The difference is cards are seldom accidentally dropped on the table and people introduce E.I. all the time.

Shoot ‘Em(?)

It all depends. We probably have too few bridge players now to go and shoot all the hesitators. And I suppose I am getting mellow in my old age. Before we get to remedy, lets first consider damages. The current laws regarding this point are poorly set forth. Consider: “Damage existswhen, because of an infraction, an innocent side obtains a table result less favorable than would have been the expectation had the infraction not occurred.” (L12B1)

Damages(?)

The L12B1 creates problems in how we view E.I. To start with, we can never PROVE damages to the non-offending side. Why? I just proved we can never prove what would have happened otherwise.

The damage that E.I. causes is to the game of bridge. Everyone else on a board is playing bridge. How can those results be compared to a table playing NOT-Bridge? They cannot. The damage is to the event and by implication ALL the other contestants. Comparing 25 bridge results to one NOT-Bridge results is apples and oranges. What happens at one table effects everyone in the event. 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th places were separate after three days of play be LESS than one matchpoint.

Everyone has a stake in insuring that everyone else is playing on the same field.

If we see E.I. as a distortion to the game because it changes the effective decisions odds at one table, we see the problem of E.I. in the correct light.

The moment we start phrasing it in terms of “damages” to non-offenders, we run off the road. Because people start focusing on the OUTCOME rather than the process. Worse, the description of the outcome as “damages” starts making players think they did something horrible. Everyone gets uptight about E.I. calls.

A thought experiment:

One of my regulars is fairly advanced age. She likely wont remember many hands two boards after they were played. If she saw a hand record before the event, I seriously doubt that any good would come of it. But would you be happy playing in that event now? Are you going to take my word that she “was always going to overbid”?

The event has lost its integrity because seeing the hand record earlier produces NOT-Bridge. We have E.I. and now NO ONE KNOWS what would have happened otherwise. When we focus on damages to proper procedure, the E.I. issue is clear. When we focus on damages to a specific opponent, we lose sight of the real problem and our thinking goes wobbly at the start.

Shoot the Damn Liberty Mutual Chick

Some might not have seen this commercial. TV in the USA is flooded with auto-insurance commercials bragging about how much money we will save on premiums if they ever slash their ad budgets. The most annoying commercial starts: “Your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small you could fix it with a pen.”

This is my car. It didn’t have a scratch until you came along. I am so sorry you think it is so horrible that you have to pay for what you did. And sorry about how I just ruined your day complaining about your inability to park a car without trying to occupy the space that mine was already in. And no, I don’t want you rubbing over the scratch with your pen and tell me it is no big deal.

And I am all for shooting the BITers who act like it is their god-given right to proceed through life as if the rules and proprieties are for other people.

But in the Holiday spirit, I am going to put my gun down and demonstrate how simple, relaxed and civilized these situations should be.

BTW, not only is “damages” a poor choice of words, “offending side” is - ipso facto - an “offending” term. The interests of bridge would be better served if we educated players that these actions which convey E.I. are “an irregularity” and could to score adjustments. We do not lead out of turn on purpose. We do not convey E.I. on purpose, but if it happens. Oops, there it is.

This is Not Hard

1. E.I. is an irregularity.

Believe it or not, many players can go their whole careers without a BIT call against them. Anyone want to give me the over/under on Sontag’s career BIT infractions?

2. Irregularities That Change the Table Odds Produce NOT-Bridge

Yes, bridge is a thinking game. It is also a game of restricted information. No one is allowed to think about things in a way that MAY convey E.I. to partner. 

3. If The E.I. Produced NOT-Bridge, You are Assigned the NOT-Bridge Result

“Ye reap what ye sow”. I think these should be normally flagged as ave+/ave-. (See A&B)

4. NEXT

(However see C)

(A) Determining NOT-Bridge

This is really simple. If the poll indicates the table action was near unanimous, then mathematically we did not materially effect the odds, did we? Ergo: no foul. NEXT. However, if the poll indicates options, we now need to determine whether the E.I. effects the odds of the choices available. This involves being able to think. If you are not capable of that, find someone who can. It is pretty simple to determine whether E.I. MAY alter the odds. Close decisions are ruled against the side the committed the irregularity (SCI).

Reminder: The only determination is whether E.I. MAY alter the odds. What actually happened at the table is irrelevant UNLESS it was going to happen at virtually every table.

(B) Not-Bridge Result

Ave+/Ave-. NEXT. However, if the poll results indicate that the offending side may have received a better outcome, they receive the higher result. For ex: If the poll results had one person leading a diamond and four leading a non-diamond, then Levin/Grue get 80%.  SCI is still ave-.

As for the offending side, in a perfect world it would be easy to identify habitual offenders. All the results are electronically logged. If E.I. adjustments are flagged against offenders, it is easy to count i-nbr of irregularities over n-nbr of hands. After a threshold % point, that player would be warned that he would subsequently by subject to L12B3 adjustments (worst LA) with the next adjustment. (No change for other side.) Players status goes back to normal after a year of no score adjustments for E.I.

(C) Appeals

It seems to me that a properly handled E.I. case would likely never succeed in appeal. Since I had to modify “E.I. case” with a huge assumption:

1. Material facts should never be subject to AC review without new evidence.

A.C.s waste a lot of time rehashing what should have been established the first time. I understand that if the TD ruled no BIT, everything is moot and you have no appeal. But there is virtually no way that I would not believe the TD’s conclusion who was at the table at the time over a player. And IF the TD was that inept or biased, and you can proved that, this is not an AC case, this is a complaint against the TD. Hell with the board, get rid of the TD.

The polling results should never be retaken unless the appeal specifically challenges the methodology. If a side challenges the veracity of the poll and time or circumstances prevent a new one from being taken, the appeal side agrees to be bound by the AC view.

2. Appeal Adjustments

If only one side is appealing, the non-appealing side’s score can never be adjusted by committee. (I really hate having to waste my time to protect my position if I am happy with the TD ruling.) BTW, if there is additional material fact the other side who did not attend needs to provide, tough. If the appellants were not smart enough that needed to be established with the TD, the AC is free to take whatever view in these situations they deem most appropriate. It is not anyone else’s job to make the appealing side’s case for them.

If the TD decision was +/-, and SCI is appealing (Side Committing Irregularity) that side must receive L12B3 adjustment if they fail to win appeal. L12B3 cases get extras ½ bd off if they do not win.

If the TD decision was +/- and non-irregular side appeals, they get ave- any time the committee fails to award more than ave+.

3. Appeals Are Heard Before Next Session

Look, we have a National Appeals Committee. They are there because they are supposed to be volunteering for something other than a fancy title and bragging rights.

The TD writes up an appeal form. He submits it to someone on the NAC ASAP. If that person believes the appeal has merit, we start making necessary arrangements. If the NAC contact does not think the case should be heard, the form is presented to another. If neither believes an appeal has merit, it proceeds with the understanding that AWM penalties attach if the appeal is not upheld. The prospect of penalty is either attached or not attached and not subject to review by the AC.

These EI cases are not rocket science. They can be knocked off fairly quickly. Any required subsequent polling has plenty of time. If the appeal cannot be organized directly at the end, then schedule it just prior to the beginning of the next. Almost no one gets more than 30 minutes for their side of the oral arguments before The United States Supreme Court. If you cannot knock this off in 15-minutes when you have previously seen the write-up, you should not be doing this.

If NAC members want to duck an AC with some excuse (dinner with a supermodel) then they lose their job.  (I mean bragging rights, they obviously did not think it was a job). It really is that simple.

Finally. . .

Someone Owes Brian Glubok an Apology

A sincere one. In writing. In the Bulletin. The write-up is inflammatory, defamatory and irrelevant. I refer to the section that states:

“It was the unethical use of partner’s BIT that produced the diamond lead.”

Even if someone made that allegation in the heat of the moment, that has no place in an official review. It also has NO BEARING ON THE PROCEEDINGS.

Ethics has NOTHING to do with E.I. cases. If there is an ethical issue, that is the province of a C&E hearing, isn’t it?

How the &^#@%^! are we supposed to get average bridge players to understand that these situations have nothing to do with ethical aspersions when this sort of ^@! is in the writeup? How can people charged with administering the decisions be so foolish in writing this? (I am trying to be nice with my choice of adjectives, and censoring the appropriate ones.)

Look, just because a player might be aware of a situation and elect to save everyone time and effort and avoid an option DOES NOT MEAN that not doing so is unethical. To make such an accusation means that you can PROVE the player was aware and PROVE that the player would have taken such other actions. And if either was PROVABLE then our procedures and requirements would be quite a lot different.

Here is what I think. I think Brian was probably not paying that much attention. His statement about the BIT seems to bear it out. I think that Brian’s lead selection was exactly what he would have led in a vacuum. And NONE OF THIS MATTERS AT ALL, because. . .

. . .BRIAN HAS LEFT THE TABLE

No, he is not over at the bar chatting up some cutie. (That will be later.) Legally, he is no longer here. When the BIT happens, Brian gets replaced by the “peer group”. If the option selected at the table is not what nearly all of the peer group does, you might get stuck with the new partners that you traded Brian in for when you committed the irregularity.

You do not want the peer group. A person can be smart. Groups of people are generally dumb. It is the difference between Senator Bill Bradley and the entire US Congress.

If you want to let your partner make decisions DON’T TAKE THAT OUT OF HIS HANDS WITH A BIT.

Finally

What I think is Brian was hanging out. Probably talking to Joe. He might not have been paying close attention and that aware of a BIT. Brian was probably always leading a diamond. And I also think that none of that matters. I think the final ruling was  correct.  The process &^@!-up.

Bobby & Joe won. Congratulations guys!

Now, did they get lucky on this deal that their opponent committed an irregularity and they were able to score up a bad contract? Of course. But no one ever wins without a bit of luck. And as long as everything that happens, happens under the heading of “BRIDGE” then all is well a good.

In the parallel universe, Bobby & Joe got “lucky” that I led a diamond out of turn. (BTW, that was all parallel universe Brian’s fault. He was busy checking out some good looking blonde. Brian should have led faster.)

Joel & Kent were in 5th place. Are were supposed to adjust their score because Joel was lucky his opponents forgot to defend and let him score up a doubled contract? (I really want to ask Kent about the result, the story must be funny since Joel scored so many tricks)

Lots of weird stuff - both lucky and unlucky - happen to everyone in an event. In the end, no one can win without playing great. The only thing that matters is everything that happened, happened under the proper procedures. When something happens under the heading of NOT-Bridge procedures, we need to assign a NOT-Bridge procedures result.

It really is that simple, folks.

And finally, the good news is it appears that Joe’s 37-year old brain maybe cannot always keep up with his still 17-year old super-lightning pace.

So we might be able to beat him now. And if not, it is always fun to try.

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