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Changing Partnerships during a Session

by David Stevenson


It is rare that I disagree with my friend Reg Busch, but I am afraid that he has misread a Law this time. In the last issue he wrote about Law 4, which says:


The four players at each table constitute two partnerships or sides, North-South against East-West. In pair or team events the contestants enter as pairs or teams and retain the same partnerships throughout a session (except in the case of substitutions authorised by the Director). In individual events each player enters separately, and partnerships change during a session.

Now this Law stops players changing as they wish during a session. What it does NOT do is to limit the sponsoring organisation in any way. Let us look at two examples:

  1. Suppose a team of six plays a session. This team has a sponsor, who is playing, while two of their best players sit out. They realise their next round is against the best opponents: Law 4 forbids them from just deciding that one of the better players should replace the sponsor for that round only.

  2. Now suppose the sponsoring organisation wishes to allow one change during a session. Suppose that a team of six plays, and four of the players are playing: the organisers decide that after four rounds the sitting out pair may replace one of the other pairs. Is that legal? Yes, because the Law says ".... (except in the case of substitutions authorised by the Director) ...." so this is completely legal.

Take the original case that led to this discussion. It was a one-session qualifying round. It is normal for such sessions to be played by a team of four without substitution, but one or two players may be changed for the final. In the case of one team they found that two of their players could only play half the session each so they asked the Tournament Director whether one could play and be replaced part way through by the other. He said yes.

After the event was over, one of the other teams tried to get this team disqualified because they said it was illegal under Law 4. Now, I find abhorrent the attitude of mind of a team that tries to get another disqualified when the TD has agreed, and it is really worrying that it was a well-known international player who tried this. But what of the legalities?

The TD had allowed a substitution, as is his right under ".... (except in the case of substitutions authorised by the Director) ....". Of course, the Conditions of Contest might not have allowed it. Perhaps the TD should not have allowed it - he actually had no helpful CoC in this case. But he did allow it, it was legal to allow it, and that should be an end of the matter.

Reg commented that a better player replaced a poorer one. Perhaps - I do not know - but since it was decided in advance and was based on availability that was irrelevant. The aim of the laws is not to limit sponsoring organisations in the way they run events but to stop players from making their own arrangements.

I have received a very worried email from a club in New Zealand that have run an event for many years which involves substitutions. Many English organisations run Pivot Teams where people change partnerships at pre-ordained moments. The suggestion that all these events have suddenly become illegal is not right. The Director may make substitutions. Normally he will only do so where the CoC or the sponsoring organisation say so, but in exigent circumstances he will do so for any reason he deems suitable.

Reg has commented on the difficulties with regulations in major Swiss Teams with his reading. It is difficult to believe that the Laws were designed to make the Gold Coast Teams or the NOT illegal, and there is no reason to suppose any such intention of the lawmakers. Substitutions are legal with the consent of the TD, which will naturally be given whenever the CoC says so, and can be given at other times.

The original event happened in Wales, and the WBU Laws & Ethics Committee will discuss it in their next meeting. However, the English Laws & Ethics Committee has discussed it and agreed with this interpretation of this Law.


Editor's note:

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