The Tournament Director and You
By Ron Johnston, ACBL Tournament Director
Tournament Bridge is played under the rules established by the Laws Commission and published by them. As with any set of laws, understanding how they apply to specific situations is more difficult than simply reading through the Law Book. Very few tournament players have sufficient knowledge of the Laws to protect themselves routinely, quite apart from the needs of their opponents, even if the Laws did not call upon the players to:
Call the director when an irregularity occurs.
Players should not be offended when a player initiates a call for the director. The director has the responsibility to see that all players at the table understand the law as it applies to the situation, to make a ruling that permits play to continue, and to stand ready to adjudicate the situation if necessary.
Players have a tendency to believe that if they are damaged after the opponents have failed to alert, hesitated, or had a bidding misunderstanding, they are entitled to relief. This is partially true; however the damage must be a demonstrable, easily understood consequence of the infraction. Additionally, in a situation where the hand does not square up with the alert or explanation, it is important for the director to determine whether there was a mistaken bid, or if the alert and/or explanation was in error. While the director is to presume that misinformation exists, the convention card or some other evidence may convince him that there was a mistaken bid.
If, in fact, it was the bid that departed from partnership agreement, regardless of damage---the law permits no adjustment;
Nor is the bidder required by law to inform the opponents before the opening lead that he has psyched, misbid, or for any reason departed from partnership agreement. Frequent occurrences however can create partnership agreements that must be disclosed to the opponents.
If the bid reflects partnership agreement, and the alert or explanation were in error---the law permits an adjustment.
This adjustment is not automatic; the damage must be a demonstrable consequence of the infraction. If partner has given misinformation and the offending side is declaring, the law requires that the director be summoned prior to the opening lead. If the offending side is defending, play of the hand must be completed before the director is called.
The general principle is that a player may be entitled to relief if he has been placed at a disadvantage because of an infraction. The connection between the damage and the infraction must be demonstrable and easy to understand.
Players are entitled to take the time they need to consider a bid or play, provided they maintain a pace of play that conforms to completing two boards in 15 minutes. Partner is not entitled to the information that partner may have had a problem when partner has bid too quickly or from an unmistakable hesitation. He is entitled to make any bid based on his own values and the auction; but may not choose from among logical alternatives, one suggested over another by the unauthorized information. Opponents may use such information, at their own risk.
Alerts, explanations, questions
Players may receive Unauthorized Information from unexpected alerts, questions, answers to questions, and the like. This UI carries the same restrictions as hesitations. The player in possession of UI must bid and play as though that information was not there. Should it seem to slip in, the director will have to make a decision.
Since Bridge is a competitive activity and all players are working hard to do as well as possible, potential or real problems do occur. The director is not only the person best placed to deal with them, he is also the person charged by Law with doing so. Call the director.
Another area the director can help with occurs when you start to become uncomfortable at the table because the opponents are doing something that lessens your enjoyment of the game. Suggesting mildly to the director that the bridge courtesies seem to have been forgotten should allow the director to redirect everyone's attention toward a pleasant experience, or to take firm action to correct the situation. Match point penalties are encouraged for behavior that is not acceptable.
Through all of this the director is a person who can help all of the players understand the appropriate law, make judgments that permit play to continue, and impose penalties at permitted or required by Law. When you fail to call the director at the time of the infraction, you may be giving up some of your rights for redress later.