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Schrödinger's Dummy Rights
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I found myself this weekend, yet again, in a B bracketed Regional Swiss. We won our bracket by something like 24 Victory Points, so on one level -- yay us --  but I'm finding myself getting more and more fed up with the experience. I find that as the brackets in B get higher, the opponents make for a less pleasant experience that doesn't seem to exist when I'm in A/X/Y. If I had to speculate as to why, it's that the joke about how "Really good bridge players stop playing in B long before they have to", and the people choosing to remain in the high B brackets find themselves relying on things besides raw skill in order to do well. No, I'm not implying the C word. It's...well, read for yourself.

Example 1.

Declarer is on my left. She calls a card from the dummy when the lead is actually in her hand. I remark that she's in her hand. I think for a few seconds (maybe 3-5) as I say I want to accept that lead, she's simultaneously leading from her hand. She then says, "YOU CANT" to me. We disagreed about the timing of what got done when, but I had not seen the card she pulled out of her hand by the time I said I wanted to accept the one from dummy. Director is summoned and rules that my saying "You're in your hand" to declarer, I had effectively rejected the lead, much as if I played to the trick instead, that would have constituted accepting it. So apparently the defenders should never ever say such a thing?

So what is a defender to do here? If dummy says, "You're in your hand", is it incumbent on me to say words to the effect of "STOP! I WANT TO THINK ABOUT THIS" or else lose my rights when declarer leads to the trick? Or can an unethical player in my position wait long enough after this happens for the declarer to TRY to lead from their hand, and then go say "Hey! I was thinking about if I wanted to accept that!" solely to see a free peek at a card in the closed hand as well as a double-shot to decide which "attempt at a lead" would be better for the defense? Because this is sure what it sounds like this ruling means. 

Heaven help the defender that doesn't even know they can accept or reject a lead from the wrong hand (heck even the declarer's out of turn lead from the dummy or declarer's hand can still be accepted by the opps.). People who don't know they have this option are going to be at a competitive disadvantage against folks who claim to know the rules despite having them wrong, but then don't get questioned about it. It's like the John Candy and Judge Reinhold dynamic in the movie "Stripes". It seems you not only need to know the rules here, but you gotta assert your right to any redress afforded by them pretty darn quick.

Example 2. Took place in an earlier round than Example 1.

Partner is declaring a hand. After the hand is over, my RHO (someone I don't know personally, but recognized the name and by rep I would think most people would expect to know such things) tells me that I erred by pre-emptively telling my partner which hand he is in as he played the hand, and that I should not do that unless he makes a "false move". My response was, "I did not know that..." and after a few seconds of thinking about it, I added, "In fact, I disagree" and explained by reasoning, which I don't think he found convincing, and since the only other hand partner declared that round had a dummy that was dead dead dead and would not ever be on the lead, I didn't think it important enough to call a director for a ruling before we began any subsequent hands.

The reason I disagree? You can find another post on BW where I mentioned in a comment that a National TD once made a quite "on point" ruling on the subject at my table.

Let's call that prior ruling "Example 3". Dummy on my right. Declarer called for a card from it and dummy said "you're in your hand". I said that I wanted to accept the lead. TD said the lead is accepted. Dummy was upset because he felt this effectively denied his ability to prevent declarer from making such an error (and it is written in the Laws as the dummy's "Absolute Right" to try and prevent such an error). TD said essentially he had to stop the error before it occurred and that once the card was called, it was called. So the ruling of National TD at that table years ago and what my RHO felt at the table yesterday would seem to be incompatible, simply because by the time you wait for the "false move" it is potentially too late. You can't expect the dummy to be a mindreader. Mindreading would take all of the challenge out of bridge anyway...and I'm pretty sure be illegal as doing so would be making use of data not available to all of the players, but I digress.

To sum up -- Basically as I learn the laws better, I'm learning how better to defend myself against people who try to "correct" others on said laws. Since starting to direct games myself, I'm also finding myself more willing to stick to my guns when people try this noise at me. And I'm also finding these conversations occur with greater frequency as the Bracket in Flight-B Swiss gets higher. I'm not sure if the personality is less common in Flight-A or if people there just all know the Laws better (and assume that you do too). I suspect a bit of both.

This is always a rant of mine to some degree, but it really shouldn't be that hard to do something about it. How difficult would it be for the ACBL to make it so people can learn how the laws work in ways that do not include accidental violations of them (by either witnessing or committing them)? For starters, experiences like this only scare off the I/N players that can otherwise hang from trying out the deep end of the pool, But even if that's somehow not enough of a motivation -- isn't this much disagreement about the rules of our game, among people who have 4 base-10 digits worth of masterpoints. kind of an indictment af how well we're teaching the game?

The NFL has something called a "points of emphasis" when it comes to officiating. Referees visit training camps and tell the teams, "We have had a recent history of this sort of infraction and so we're going to be clamping down on it now. Here are video examples of what we will consider to be okay and what we will be penalizing". The ACBL needs this sort of thing too. And we have a monthly magazine with which to do it. If we can teach people how to fill out the convention card (twice -- the series got re-ran due to its popularity), we can use those column inches for this too

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