Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Joe Hertz
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Amen, Don.

Most bridge players wind up getting to learn the laws by inadvertently violating them.

I recently gave a pre-game lecture at our unit's 199er section on the subject. The very first question was, “What are the two scariest words in bridge?” and more than one person said, “Director, Please”.

I got all sorts of questions after my 45 minutes was up so I did a follow-up the next week.

This curriculum is needed and badly. The point to give it to them is when they know enough to be able to benefit from playing in a game with a higher limit, but might be choosing to not do so because they feel like they don't know the rules well enough.

In the lesson, I discussed UI/AI/MI, and what to do when it happens, and why the directors do what they do.

The two big things I wanted to get through to them were:

1) Questions must be about your agreements, and what you know from those agreements. “How do you take that bid?” and “What does that bid mean?” should be parsed as “What are your relevant agreements about that bid?”

And

2) If you haven't talked about it, you must answer “Undiscussed”. Whatever you do, don't speculate.

As I suspected, none of them knew this when I started.

If people are interested, I'm happy to provide a link to my write-up, but I borrowed a lot of it from here:

http://www.northerncoloradobridge.com/archives/playerscorner/BridgeEthics.htm
Aug. 24
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 24
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+ 1 Zillion
Aug. 23
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I am, although I wasn't sure what to call it these days (We called our version “Fantunes Castrato” because, to be ACBL legal at the time, we had to rip out the 1444 shaped 1NT opener agreement. After the big news broke about the Fantoni and Nunes “novel leading agreements on defense”, we still kept the name. I claimed it was due to a case of wishful thinking).

In the example. we had pre-alerted the transfers to the 1 opening as required in ACBL-Land for mid-chart events at the time (which this was). When we found ourselves in a more restrictive General Chart event, we simply made the 2 opener cover 10-14 point hands, as 15+ 1 openers required no pre-alerting to their follow ups.
Aug. 23
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 23
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Or I'm being “too sensitive”. Or 2 of 3 might be true. Or all 3.

The problem is that subjectivity is subjective and the first hand didn't get a ZT, that second one sure wouldn't have.
Aug. 21
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I've actually found very little of that. Or at least I haven't noticed it when people do it, and have blithely asked other questions that the answers to will tell me what I need to know.

Closest I've found I think was (again, many years ago) someone who tried to make me think my question was ridiculous. The one level overcall box wasn't filled in so I didn't know when they'd begin to double first. When I tried to find out I got told “It's just basic bridge”.

Maybe the questions I ask are just too simple or now I know what answers aren't acceptable (like the guy who tried to pre-alert that their preempts were “SOOO undisciplined, even we don't know what they mean”).
Aug. 21
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Ed, I humbly suggest you've got the cause and effect backwards.

The ACBL doesn't even try to run sanctioned ACBL events at a GenCon. I'd jump at the chance to have the ACBL subsidize my GenCon membership in exchange for help running the games and teaching the subject. I'm sure I wouldn't be alone.

There are young gamers out there. Tons of them. Go to where they are or this game will wither on the vine without them having ever been exposed to it.
Aug. 20
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 20
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I did a lecture for my unit's 199ers 2 weeks ago trying to help them make sense of the laws. Basically a ton of them think the scariest two words in bridge are, “Director please!”.

Most of them didn't realize that “Undiscussed” was not only an okay response, but one that is required of them. The novices all think they have to have agreements about everything and that's why they try to guess when they shouldn't.

It's the stuff like this that make many afraid to play up.
Aug. 20
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Exactly Art. Players who believe they are good don't do this. They simply don't feel any such need. Players who feel a need to convince you that they are good are another matter.

I dare say that the experience is invariably worse on the last day Swiss event. People are tired and impatient. I'm now remembering first time playing B-Swiss at a sectional over 10 years ago. I had less than 100 points and no fewer than ten director calls that day. The first one was before anyone looked at their cards (“Huh? You can't play Multi 2 in B”).
Aug. 20
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Yeah, that's what I thought…until declarer played and yelled at me for trying to accept it.
Aug. 20
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Thank you. This is what I'm wanting an answer on.
Aug. 20
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Not petty. Just the opposite.

I want to beat people on the merits. I feel I did.

But some of the folks who tried to beat me seemed to rely on tactics that I think had little to do with how well one knew how to play bridge, and I don't know what happened with them at other folks' other tables. I don't know if those tactics were employed and if they were how well they worked. I just know they didn't work against me and I did really well. So forgive me if I'm concerned that I did well because I played good defense against tactics I don't think should be in the game.

When someone told me what the rules said and I disagreed, I simply said, “I disagree” and stuck to my guns. I wasn't afraid to call the director if there was a dispute. Not everyone can do that. I'm worried those are the folks who didn't do well.

When a LHO opened an “as short as one” 1 bid and my P bid 2, I got asked by my RHO (the one who thought I couldn't tell declarer which hand he was in), how we play that bid. With the “Ruling from Eastbourne” thread fresh in my brain, I pointedly said, “We normally play Michaels, but we've not discussed it over a club opener this short”. No MI here. No Sir. I then bid hearts.

RHO had 5 or 6 clubs of his own.

I suppose that yes, he did really have a bridge reason to ask that given his partner might only have one, but I'm really thankful I prefaced the answer the way I did.

And this was just. one. single. day. event.

It felt like finding a few needles in a haystack. How many needles were in the damn thing?
Aug. 20
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 20
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It's a particular type of nastiness. One that makes me think, “Imagine if they do that to I/N players”. How many of them would it take to kill the game, and who says that they aren't?

There's a reason the kids all play Magic: The Gathering.
Aug. 20
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Not that it isn't enjoyable. Just that it gets less enjoyable the higher the bracket in B.
Aug. 20
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This makes sense. Thank you.

I'm not sure what I'm indicting. I think the problem is there are players who think far more of their knowledge and ability than they ought.

And If they really had such knowledge and ability, they wouldn't still be playing in B Swiss. They'd have kicked themselves upstairs at some point already.

I want to see it fixed, but the directors are overworked, and I think it's a problem that threatens the game far more than people think it does – how can you expect to get new players when the old ones act like this around them?

The Flight A players, if anything, would be more likely to offer advice to the newbies in their end of their pool than anything else. The B players, if they notice it, seem to try to trade on their inexperience so as to gain VP's. They may not realize they are doing it but they do.

At the moment, my inclination is to not let these tactics fly at my table. Maybe it might stop people when they are at other tables.
Aug. 20
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Without context, I don't blame you for thinking that and it might even be a little bit true (all me, not him though). It could be I'm noticing it more. I suspect all of the above is true. As one moves up in B, you get people who fancy themselves far more knowledgeable than they actually are.

But I'll say that this crap never happens in A/X/Y though.

Heck, Just 6 weeks ago in another regional, B-2 Swiss.

Auction with P dealing.

1N - (P) - P - (2)

At which point RHO says, “Spades and a minor”.

I say, “Please just alert and not explain unless we ask”

RHO: “Do you want to call the director?”

Me: “Nah, I don't think that's necessary at this point”

RHO: “Then you should keep your comments to yourself then.

P beat me to the director call.

No ZT was assessed, and, the kicker, LHO eventually explained that in the pass out seat, the agreement is just spades.

Very Next board against these opps. I'm second to bid.

(P) - 1 - (P) - 1
(P) - 1N - ?

My LHO then asks P ”How many diamonds does your partner promise for his bid?“

Gets told ”3“ and then bids 2, which probably would have been interpreted as natural even without that question. I didn't call the director because now I'm pretty sure I am being too sensitive to these guys, but that type of UI transmission is either stupid or blatant.

And don't get me started about the guy who asked my partner about the 1 opener from your book who insisted my partner answer, ”Is it strong?“. Apparently ”14+ unbalanced with clubs or 15+ balanced. Forcing“ was not enough. After my partner said, ”Yes, you could call it strong I suppose", made a bid his partner correctly alerted as part of their defense to strong club openers. I didn't call the director as I saw his P roll her eyes at what he was doing.
Aug. 20
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 20
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So again, how long does the player have to accept the lead? Dummy says youre in your hand and the clock is running, probably against people who don't even know you might have a say in the matter.
Aug. 20
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I actually wondered if the director was of the “Dummy can never call for the director” mistaken belief system. Heaven knows how pervasive that school of thought is.

What Dummy can't do is draw attention to an irregularity. Calling the director USUALLY does that, so that's why he USUALLY can't.
Aug. 20
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Ty. Depending on how you count, it made me a Silver LM.
Aug. 20
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What about when the dummy says, “You're in your hand”? Do I have to say something immediately then too? It's worth mentioning that I have a severe hearing loss and may very well miss this.

I also think I want an answer on what constitutes waiting for “too long”. This was pretty quick although not immediate. I think I'm going to have to start saying, “Youre in your hand, but I want to think about if I want to accept this lead. Give me a moment please” all the time, which kind of pisses me off, because I think this should be the default assumption when a defender says something like “Youre not on the board”.

And I bet a nickel that the next say, dozen times it comes up, if I say this, there will be at least one set of opps who don't know I'm allowed to accept the lead from the wrong hand.

Another nickel says that sometime in the next 1000 times it comes up, some request for a moment to think about it will generate a claim of UI transmission.

This is why I always ask the opps if they want to accept the lead when I do that. Just take the medicine right away and avoid 99% of the stuff that can go sideways.
Aug. 20
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 20
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1. Preaching to the choir. This team could have totally hung in A/X/Y. No idea why the other pair didn't want to.

2. Agreed. I was prepared to call the director before the opening lead if I was about to become dummy to get a clarification.

3. You'd think that would work. I've had one local TA get quite offended at that request. When I see it happen now, I simply say (in my best Agent Smith impression), “I disagree with this… ruling and wish you to have… it screened”.

4. True, but not a reasonable thing to expect. It's not in the rules, even as a suggestion, and again, a novice player can be put at a serious disadvantage as he has no idea why this would be a smart thing to do – how's he supposed to know this is a good practice to employ?

5. See comment to Cornelia below about fear of turning into the bridge player that cried wolf.

6. I think it's a bigger topic than this.

Something I think should be covered is asking people to ask in the form of, “What is your agreement about…?” rather than “What does that bid mean?”

Case in point: Check out the “Ruling from Eastbourne” thread. It's EBU but still…it was caused by new player not realizing that “What does that bid mean?” is an unacceptable question, and was deemed to should have known to interpret it as “What is your agreement about this bid?”. They told them what they thought it meant, answering the question AS ASKED – complete with the “I think it's…” prefacing qualifier on it, even though the correct answer was “undiscussed”. The experienced recipient of the MI did not ask for a clarification of if “I think” meant “I think we have an agreement that…” or “I think that's what it means even though we haven't discussed it”

The ruling went against the declaring side because the opps had claimed they misdefended as a result of the MI.

My problem with this is that the result of asking questions phrased that way is either that A) you will get more information than you are entitled to – you got the player's opinion even though there was no agreement (“beneficial, non-damaging MI”, for lack of a better expression), B) An incorrect piece of speculation that constitutes damaging MI to the opps and gets them redress from the director. Or C, which is the worst case for the asker of the improper question– Their opps happened to know the question had to be about their agreements only and so knew enough to say “undiscussed”.

There's totally no downside to violating this particular rule, and so it's almost universally flouted. We expect the opponents to “know what you meant” when people do that and that's not reasonable.
Aug. 20
Joe Hertz edited this comment Aug. 20
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