Curious Appeal [follow-up]
by Bobby Wolff, Dallas, Texas, USA and David Stevenson
After Beate Birr's appeal in Lille had been extensively discussed, Bobby Wolff agreed to discuss the matter further with David Stevenson, with the discussions being published. Here are the discussions.
For a start let us consider the non-offending side. I shall come back to the other side.
In the Appeal concerning the psyche of 1NT at Lille, there has been some interest in East's actions. East had eleven HCP, and heard an 11-13 1NT, a double showing 13+ and a redouble showing 8+. East thus knows that someone does not have their bid. Even after partner bid again voluntarily, East did not bid game.
- Did the AC [Appeals Committee] consider whether East was trying to field his partner's apparent psyche?
- If not, why not?
- Whatever North-South have done, the failure to bid game appears to be solely East-West's own fault. Do you not consider their actions subsequent to any infraction rather than consequent?
- Why did East-West not get their table score in view of the fact that they did not play bridge after the alleged infraction?
- One possible reason for allowing East-West a better score than they got would be if the AC considered them beginners. Surely this was not the case in a World Championship?
Quoting Humphrey Bogart's final line from the movie Casablanca, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship".
- No, East was obviously not trying to field her partner's psychic. She was in outer space, catapulted by her own incompentence and inexperience, together with the intimidation from her space age opponents.
- Considering such an impossibilty is exiting the "real" world and entering one ruled by "what if lawyers" who get their jollies showing off their intellectuality instead of deciding how to make our game fairer. I suspect the internet encourages a large proportion of aberrant thinkers who aspire to be king instead of part of a group on a mission. To paraphrase the British bridge writer S. J. Simon, we need to strive in
appeals for the best result possible, not the best possible result. We are dealing with players, at the expert level, who have diverse talents, morals, motivations and reasons for playing. Consequently, to create a level playing field we MUST eliminate the following insidious trio of i's:
Primarily because of this, bridge justice at the very high levels has to be handled in a different way than natural justice. We need to roll up our sleeves and fight the i's the only way we might have a chance in order to stop them or at least slow them down. We cannot wait for 100% evidence of violations, but must rather act with harsh punishment for apparent disrespect of the game itself. Yes, at times it will be subjective, but as long as solid people are in control, it will work. And at the very least, under threat of bad scores (plus some embarrassment) the players will be aware of the horrors of not conforming.
- intentional convention disruption
- inactive ethics.
- In either a medium or high-level game, the actions taken by East-West were subsequent to the possible infraction. To this particular EW the intimidation caused sub-bridge to be played. While NS are not responsible for EW's incompetence, the humanics of Active Ethics should dictate to NS to clarify rather than ignore. If pairs are going to psyche (their legal right). they should be judged to have a special ethical responsibility to bring their particular opponents up to everything they know about their partner's bidding. It's tedious sometimes, but in the long run wonderful for bridge. After all, if all the naysayers believed that it was incredible for EW not to know what is going on, the legality dictates that it is up to the director first and then the committee to make that determination. Here our verdict was to say that this particular pair did not know. However, I will agree that EW did not deserve the 50% we (I) gave them. They should have gotten 20%, but in practice it doesn't make a material difference, so rationalize it to give 30% punitive damages to them for pain, suffering and humiliation. Maybe the naysayers should spend their time figuring a way to keep players like EW out of these world championship events. At least they might be doing something constructive for the game rather than to encourage inactive ethics like they do and sadly, I think, not even know it or worse not even care.
- Giving them their table score would have been a correct judgment, but see above. I might have not thought about it at the time or maybe we wanted to repair their feelings. Either way, Mea Culpa!
- Surely it was the case in a World Championship and will continue to be, unless some genius finds a better way to stage our events.
Return cheers (and from Becky),
PS. Waiting for the next bunch of questions. Thank you for getting involved!!!
Having had a look at the actions of the non-offending side, let us turn to the offending side. While there might be a number of questions, for this communication I want to ask the two most important as it seems to me.
- What evidence did North-South have that their opponents were not as experienced as them? How were they meant to find out? Should they be finding out? What difference should it make?
The reason for these questions is that your decision seems in great part to be based on the fact that East-West were inexperienced but I have seen no evidence to suggest that North-South knew this.
- Given that the sequence 1NT x xx p 2 had never come up in this partnership before, how can you decide that they had an agreement about the sequence?
This is the question that puzzles me most. Accepting your approach to ruling in appeals, as I do, I still cannot see why you ruled this one the way you did, since I have yet to see any infraction of any sort by North-South.
Thank you for your enthusiasm and your continuity!! Allow me to answer these 2 questions first. By doing so, it will cut short the answers to the others because some of those answers will appear earlier.
These questions smack at what I have had to deal with in the last few years. False information has been spread. In this case relevant facts and other information has been distorted. I'm not sure why and how, but here goes.
- It is impractical, if not downright stupid, for any person or pair to be overly concerned with the expertise or experience of their opponents, consequently a person or pair should adopt a procedure of treating all opponents equally. A better description of what the rule should be is: Tell all you can to every opponent, but in certain cases against players you know as experts short cuts can be taken (a grunt, a point or maybe even just eye contact). In this case, NS should tell any and every opponent that 2 clubs is 90+% to be a run-out from a psychic opening NT.
- When I asked in the committee "Has this sequence come up before?" I was specifically told that South had not psyched before, but North had psyched an opening weak lNT several times (perhaps 5). When doubled, he always ran to 2 clubs, which according to them, "was an impossible bid in their system, hence a psychic." They never argued that they both didn't know or even doubted that 2 clubs was a psychic, rather they relied on that any pair playing in this event is sure to know without being told that 2 clubs is a psychic. We, the committee, decided that these particular opponents really did not know. We didn't consider what they would have done if they did know, but didn't think we necessarily needed to decide that question. This may help explain and begin to answer question 6 pertaining to my calling some people on internet "aberrant thinkers" causing me to be thought of as having a "confrontational" attitude. This may be the right place to present the following example as either my "calling card" or my "signature thinking": A pair playing Multi opens 2 diamonds, and it goes pass, 2 spades, 3 clubs around the table. If the Multi opener passes, that pass, of course, should (inferentially) and does show spades. To me an alert is not only proper it is mandatory. For anyone who doesn't agree (whether playing against beginners, intermediates, or experts) I think they should be put in bridge jail and never let out!!! If they do alert and then claim they have not discussed it, it becomes even worse. This sequence of events represents illicit maneuvering, usually by experienced players, which is so harmful to the game (In this case, bridgewise, it takes away the defense's cue bid). My role of either Appeals chairman, Chairman of the credentials committee or Recorder would cause me to tell them exactly what I thought, which would be evaluated by some as unnecessarily confrontational. I, of course disagree, and feel that this type of episode, if left unchecked, can eventually ruin the game. There is more I could say about what this does to the opponents, but I don't want to beat a "dead horse".
Rather than a new set of questions, these are all secondary, in that they emanate from your answers to the first set.
- After you wrote:
We are dealing with players, at the expert level, who have diverse talents, morals, motivations and reasons for playing. Consequently, to create a level playing field we MUST eliminate the following insidious : trio of i's:
Nick Hills of Sussex, England, wrote:
My own personal opinion (for what it is worth) is that the game must be played (including Appeals etc.) according to the laws of bridge as written, and that if Bobby Wolff feels that they are inadequate for dealing with 1, 2, and 3 above, he should be using his power and influence to re-write them appropriately.
- intentional convention disruption
- inactive ethics.
Jan Kamras wrote:
With all due respect to Bobby's opinions on what is best for bridge, does it not lead to anarchy if everyone on an AC is allowed to put their own spin on the Laws (not mentioning enforcing concepts such as "active ethics" which are not part or the rules governing the event in question) when deciding cases? Particularly since Bobby admits the ruling has no support in the present laws, is he not concerned that it sends the wrong message to AC's, TD's and players alike, particularly considering the position of authority he holds?
Others expressed a similar opinion. Perhaps you could comment on this?
- After you wrote:
If pairs are going to psyche (their legal right). they should be judged to have a special ethical responsibility to bring their particular opponents up to everything they know about their partner's bidding. It's tedious sometimes, but in the long run wonderful for bridge. After all, if all the naysayers believed that it was incredible for EW not to know what is going on, the legality dictates that it is up to the director first and then the committee to make that
determination. Here our verdict was to say that this particular pair did not know.
Alan Jaffray wrote:
In other words, you have a right to psyche as long as your opponents are not fooled?!
You have an obligation to tell the opponents everything you know about your partner's bidding; if that was not the case here, that's one thing, but simply succeeding in bamboozling them in the bidding is no more an offense than a successful falsecard in the play. If N/S were smart enough to figure it out while E/W weren't, working from the same knowledge, then they deserve their good score. Result stands.
Again, this is quite a popular view. Perhaps you would like to comment?
- Jon Siegel of USA wrote:
I am an intermediate player--somewhat better than a novice but far below expert. I am one of those players that people like Wolff claim to be protecting with their rulings. On behalf of weaker players everywhere, I would like to ask for less protection. One of the most exciting things about bridge is that you can show up at a tournament, pay your entry fee, and play against the best players in the world. There is no other sport where this is possible. I
usually play in the NLM game, but on those occasions when I play in the open game, I want to experience the full rigor of the competition. Psyches, false cards, complicated systems, play far better than mine--I want it all. Hit me with your best shot. Don't make nice.
Tournament play is not about being nice. Polite, yes; nice, no. I have never heard of any other sport in which the tournament officials penalize strong players for playing their best against weak ones.
Another common view.
Put differently: Stefanie Rohan of Moscow, Russia wrote:
If a weak pair choose to play in a World Championship event 'for fun', should they perhaps not expect to get special consideration because of their level? If they wish to play with the 'big boys' should they perhaps be subject to the same standards (not standards of skill, of course) as the rest of the field?
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a world-class player; but if the opportunity arose for me to enter a world championship event and play against all the stars of the world, it would be one of the greatest thrills of my life. It would be 'constructive' to deny me this? Surely it is better to let the weaker players compete, knowing that they will be as responsible for themselves as any other players in the event, than to keep them out on the assumption that they will require and demand special treatment!
Do you really believe that a pair who enter a World championship event should receive protection from opponents doing things that are legal?
You have suggested that EW were intimidated but it is very difficult to see what the intimidation was. My guess is that they would have been more intimidated if you had sat down to play against them because of your reputation. All that actually happened was that the opponents used a normal legal tactic that is not considered intimidating at tournament level and EW made a total mess of it, and then wanted the AC to give it back. Is this correct, and should we be giving this level of protection?
- Roger Pewick of Houston, Texas, USA wrote:
As to the opponent's state of mind. If the contestant did not know what was going on, how could they be intimidated? Is there some law or regulation that skillful players must use the same agreements of less >skillful opponents so as to not be intimidating?
As far as taking the effort to analyze one's opponents for the purpose of determining how 'competitive to play against' I can't come up with questions but I do have a comment or two. I have played against a lot of opponents that acted like 'air heads' that could give the best pairs in the world a run for their money. And I'm saying that both are playing at the top of their game. I don't feel that players ought to be compelled to accurately analyze the skill level of their opponents before deciding whether to try to do their best. I say be courteous, fair, always make your best bid, and your best play, and let the resulting score
determine the winner.
Do you really believe that players should make a determination of their opponents' skill level before deciding what action to take?
- Julian Lighton wrote:
What infraction did NS commit that got them an adjusted score? Was it use of a brown sticker convention, misinformation, or something else?
At least that is an easy one!
- You wrote:
I suspect the internet encourages a large proportion of aberrant thinkers who aspire to be king instead of part of a group on a mission.
Discussion on the Internet includes the Chief Tournament Directors of Russia, South Africa, Wales, Denmark, top lawmakers Ton Kooijman, Grattan Endicott, Karen Allison, other well-known people like Bobby Goldman, Claude Dadoun, Alan LeBendig, Rick Beye, Reg Busch, Linda Weinstein, Jon Brissman. There are also a vast number of other people, some of whom are very sensible and clear headed.
Not surprisingly, various people on the Internet have seen this as somewhat unnecessarily confrontational. I do, myself. The reason for this discussion is because, despite a world-wide feeling that you got this [and at least one other] appeal at Lille wrong, these people are prepared to give you the benefit of listening to you to see if you can convince them otherwise.
Do you wish to comment?
- The philosophy behind these comments must be respected and cannot be ignored. Yes, in a perfect world, inappropriate laws should be re- written, yes, it could lead to a bridge anarchy of sorts if every appeals committee member is allowed to put his own "spin" on the laws, yes, considering the position of authority I hold I could be sending the wrong message. The alternative, however, is worse. Unfortunately there are some people around who are either self-serving, politically oriented, not competent,
biased or more. While this is probably true in almost every organization, in bridge appeals it is fatal. It takes ten or more years to change a law and the good players like laws promulgated that favor their style. Many of the professional players give and receive favors from their colleagues. "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king." We must move forward to make us all use both eyes, especially in the high-level game. We will be watched and questioned by some of the lower-level people with the goal of implementing improvements there, but for the time being we are only concerned with our top games.
Bridge at the top has changed radically in the last years. Creators have taken advantage of the rules to bid a lot defensively, catering to the vulnerability with the goal of making it difficult for the opponents. This theoretically is positive, but what really happens is usually the opposite. Many years ago, if a player had forgotten a convention he was usually part of the side with most of the high cards. Consequently an honest forget usually achieved a poor result. In the present environment, it has changed so that today a pair playing a convention quite often has a very weak distributional hand making it so that a forget, accompanied by a misdescription may even, and often does, help the conventioneers by confusing the opponents. I think we owe it to each other to:
What are those beauties? How about:
- not use new methods without knowing them well enough to not forget and explain them properly and completely,
- properly disclose both the positive and negative inferences from the new weak wonder bids,
- not scrutinize our 60+ year old laws with the hope of taking advantage of them
- learn to play the game by taking advantage, not of the weak points, but of the time honored beauties of bridge
To accomplish this goal we must put pressure on everyone to conform and must either
write or interpret the laws to that effect. Unfortunately our laws are currently written by intellectuals assuming that all our players play to glorify bridge, not just to win. We need to change the focus in order to survive. That focus needs to emphasize keeping up with the expert game, together with the ability to make changes quickly.
- The use of bidding to describe as much about your hand as possible,
- Play and defense emphasizing technique, inferences, intelligence, legal signaling and a contract with the opponents that they must keep you fully informed about all of their understandings,
- Judgment based on problem solving, experience and partnership, and
- A fierce determination to strictly follow the ethical code of the laws, and realizing that bridge, being an open partnership game with "rules catering to gentlemen", is unlike any other competition.
I certainly do not want to abuse any power that I hold. We just need to see the problems as they exist. Many of our top-level players do, but they are self-interested in winning by creating any advantage they can and it's doubtful that they will change willingly. It is only in a forum such as this that the message can even be intelligently discussed....
All other sports have professional umpires and referees, well schooled in the rules and devoted to doing nothing else. In bridge most tournament directors would rather be top players and furthermore administrators choose to be administrators because they usually have limited playing abilities. When top players serve on appeals committees often there is bias against direct competitors, fueled by glory, nationalism and money. In some cases, add to that their constant struggles for their best partner and team (who may be the present appellee or appellant) and it becomes difficult for them to be straight.
On the positive side the success of the Active Ethics program, the constant improvement of full disclosure (not just giving away ice in the winter time) world-wide, the significant reduction of cheating (illegal signaling) by players, partners and teams and mostly the unwavering support of the silent majority in almost every endeavor should make the "good guys" optimistic about the future. I believe that anyone who has been active in bridge as long as I have sees and feels the progress.
When I say a ruling (that I, of course, believe in) has no support in the laws, I mean that there is nothing specifically in the laws to support it, but that the laws allow an interpretation that includes it, making it viable. All appeals committees currently have the right to interpret with a worthwhile goal of having this privilege soon pass to TDs. For now TDs are probably best off ruling according to their strict interpretation of the laws.
Shouldn't the players get the following message from us: If you believe in the beauty of bridge and approach the game honestly you are in the best possible hands. If you are not, or rather just believe that any "legal" maneuvering you can get away with should be sanctioned, you will be better off without us.
- Obviously there is a misunderstanding between Mr. Jaffray and me. Yes you can fool the opponents with a psyche (or other legal deception) but you are responsible for telling the opponents about all of your bidding understandings specific and implied. In the case in question the partner of the 2 club bidder did not volunteer that partner's bid usually connotes a psychic 1NT opening. Psyches are not intended to be "no risk". If the bidding develops in a fortunate way e.g. lNT pass 2 or 3 NT all pass and the opponents can make game more power to the psychers or if the bidding is distorted to the advantage of the psychers, good, but the opponents must be informed of every nuance of private understandings involved. Bridge is not like American football or European soccer where a
player is not obligated to tell the opponents what strategy or play is being called.
- I applaud Mr. Siegal's enthusiasm and attitude. One hundred years ago when I was young, his seemed to be the prevailing attitude, but today sadly, many of the USA players like to play in games where the good players aren't.
I am not intending to protect the weaker players any more than I want to protect everyone else. I am suggesting, however, that everyone's opponents disclose fully and in a language that will be understood by all. In the psychic 1NT case the stronger players were not being penalized because they were stronger, but rather because their lack of full disclosure was being questioned. The message is: "Play your best, but do so ethically."
I'm not against weaker players playing in a World Championship (where else better to improve) and when they do they should get the same consideration as everyone else. The problem comes with the disclosure. It is indeed easier to explain or indicate to a sophisticated player what your bids mean, but if you are playing against an inexperienced player you have a special ethical responsibility to make sure he understands before you move on. Basically this is my whole message, but it is often misread.
- Mr. Pewick's question has been hashed and rehashed. The answer is no they shouldn't, but they must make sure their opponent's understand.
- NS were guilty of failure to properly disclose their implied agreement.
- Again this has been discussed. Several of the people you mentioned are among my favorites. They command respect with me because of their life ethics, intelligence, knowledge and just being good friends. From my point of view, until I realized the enormous misunderstanding that occurred, how could I have respect for people that criticized the psychic 1NT decision. However, if someone would say "Since it doesn't say somewhere that even though your past experience has shown to you that partner's 2 club takeout exposed partner's psychic I don't believe you have a legal obligation to tell the opponent's." I would understand, but my disagreement with them would go to what I think bridge is all about. Maybe I'm not right on this (for what it is worth, I've violated my own beliefs by not fully disclosing in my past), but if I'm not, please replace me, or at least convince me and I'll gladly retire, because without this, bridge competition has lost its appeal for me.
Until then, please bring on the other appeal that people think I got wrong in Lille. Thank you for listening.
- The precise wording has been lost.
- However, the following questions were asked:
- Wolf Stahl of Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany suggested that the ruling was wrong because Beate had not psyched before:
His full comments on the subject may be seen in A
letter from Wolf Stahl 
- Stefanie Rohan of Moscow, Russia asked:
Might the whole thing not have been caused by a misunderstanding at the
- David desJardins of Berkeley, USA asked:
Finally, I think I'm not the only one who still doesn't understand what the
"insidious I" of "intentional convention disruption" is supposed to be. It sure sounds like it includes opening 4S with a long spade suit in order to prevent the opponents from using their fancy relay system to find the ideal contract. If that's what "convention disruption" is, it's hard to understand Bobby Wolff, or anyone else, saying that it is or should be a bad thing.
My guess is that Bobby means something like, "intentionally using complex methods in order to increase the chance that the opponents are unprepared to defend against them." Taking a stand against that would still be very controversial, but less so than taking a stand against preempting! But rather than try to put words into his mouth, I wish I could hear from him what he means by that.
Thanks for your infinite patience. Mine is running short . Too much to do,
too little time to do it.
- Wolf Stahl did remember right that his partner said she hadn't psyched before, but almost everything else he (they) said, in the latest email is either untrue or skewed. Have they woven a story to make themselves martyrs and now they must defend themselves any way they can? My whole case is based on lack of full disclosure (and especially to inexperienced opponents). Maybe I wanted to appear an idiot and be subject to ridicule, censure and eventual dismissal. If so, I lied. The ironic fact in this matter is that I have always been a proponent of psychics as long as they are not risk free (either by system or by partner having privileged information). Adam Meredith was one of my early idols and John Collings has my current respect. In my opinion, neither of those fellows would ever consider priming partner. Please bring on the other appeals members whomever they were. ( I hope they remember, but perhaps the pressure may render them mute).
- Perhaps Ms. Rohan is correct, but my questions are usually direct and not subject to confusion. At the committee hearing, if I remember correctly, the two in question seemed very straightforward and honest.
Wolf Stahl made a comment at their hearing that I am sure he said, "What else could 2 clubs mean but a psychic?" when I asked what he meant by his answer to his opponents of "2 clubs is not part of our system". If NS tells EW "I'm pretty sure 2 clubs is a psychic" then whatever happens (at least if I'm on the committee) NS has done their duty. Of course, if a pair is constantly misleading their opponents they should either quit, play a totally simple system, or be subject to scrutiny or else.
- Intentional convention disruption is a coined phrase by me which means a player or pair conveniently forgets a weak bid convention e.g (an opening 2 spade bid that shows 0-8 and the reds or the blacks) but really has 2 other suits, or no suits at all and partner always finds a reason not to bid or otherwise get the partnership in trouble. Unfortunately this practice has occurred too often among some of the US high-level partnerships. Hard to prove, but easy to feel. It's part of what I call the poison gas laboratory that our bridge Saddam Husseins practice.
Finally, high-level bridge is a difficult game. Administering it properly is also tedious and trying. It gets especially so when an interested party can think I mean opening 4 spades to prevent the opponents from using their relay system is wrong in any way. Maybe that would be the thought from a 6th grader trying to understand English, but
how can we (I) deal with such trivia and survive. I can assure you I can't. My writings will never be confused with Shakespeare but I don't have time or the inclination to deal with Mr. DesJardins sarcasm.
Double Holiday Cheers
Bobby (and Becky)
- Wolf Stahl of Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany:
A response may be seen in A letter from Wolf
- David desJardins of Berkeley, USA asked:
I would appreciate it if you would point out that I what I wrote (in context) wasn't an attack on his position, just trying to explain what I didn't understand.
Indeed, I can be sarcastic and critical, but this wasn't one of those times.