Dan Romm

When does ruling the game become ruining the game?

Answer – when the power of the rulers becomes self-serving and abusive. Lord Acton’s famous quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” certainly applies to the handful of power brokers who sit on the bridge rules committee and presume to speak on behalf of the entire bridge community and also to the editors of the few bridge circulars who take it upon themselves to decide what is fit to print. This is censorship at its worst and essentially disallows access to some the latest ideas and innovations so that bridge players can decide for themselves whether or not they want to play them. The committee carves out a few conventions out of thousands to disallow. They permit bids that can have 64 different meanings (i.e. – multi-two diamonds), artificial one spade bids, one club bids with a void, etc, yet currently refuse to allow artificial one diamond and one heart bids which would provide bona fide improvements to the 2/1 system currently in vogue, even in the highest level tournaments. Note – I have written an article that elaborates on this, but since the rules committee disallows it no editor will publish it!

What a pity. Imagine a bridge rules committee in a bygone era deciding to disallow negative doubles, weak no trump, weak 2-bids, etc. Would not the game suffer as a result? Imagine the World Chess Federation disallowing the Queen’s Gambit opening? Would this not prevent the game from achieving its highest level?

The only rationale I have ever heard for disallowing any bid is that it would discourage beginners by making the game too complex. Fair enough, but then why have thousands of complicated conventions been approved? Either select 100 or so conventions and bar the rest or allow all. This in-between approach is suspect, and self-serving. I say this because in a regional KO event my team encountered a team captained by a member of the rules committee. He proudly displayed a convention card replete with artificial conventions (a friend had forewarned me that this team never has what they bid). Among them was one-club could be short. As a small measure of self-defense we decided to play CRASH over a one-club opening whereupon the captain promptly called the director who informed us that the rules committee disallowed this! The director commiserated with us but told us that the rules were clear and it was out of his hands. Help! Incidentally, I submitted this article to the Bulletin and, as expected, it was not only rejected but the editor took umbrage at my suggestions of censorship!  Good thing that Masterpointpress’s blogging sire exists as an open forum for discussion or else some good ideas might never come to the attention of the bridge public.


LindaSeptember 20th, 2008 at 4:47 am

It does seem arbitrary which conventions are allowed and which are not.

I was reading on rec.games.bridge about a bid which was allowed in certain events in Europe and I am not sure that I like the idea at all. 2C is used to show 0-5 HCP and at least 4+ in D, H or S. That means you can’t just have a club one suiter but you can have any other shape. People use it not at favourable as a destructive weapon. Not only that but they allow it in events with 2 boards a round and no time to prepare or discuss it and you don’t have to provide a defence. If this is all true I think it shows you can go too far.

One time a friend of mine is reputed to have played in the Spingold against a forcing club that an overcall over 1C showed the number of two’s you had in your hand. So 1 diamond showed ono two’s, one heart one of them etc. This was allowed somehow but since the strong clubbers had seating rights they chose to change tables.

It seems to me that there should be rules that limit conventions and they need to be different in different events. I have no problem with the idea that in expert events with long team matches such as the Spingold any convention should be allowed, although when a pair is played a HUM the opponents should have seating rights. But on the other extreme in a stratified 2 board a round matchpoint event the conventions should limited and defenses provided.

There is a problem about how you decide what is in and what is out, I realize that.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 20th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Your blog on ruling/ruining the game captured my attention big time! For a moment there – I thought I was reading something posted by my husband. I cannot speak for him on the subject issues you believe worthy of inclusion as bidding tools – but I do think you are generally cut from the same bolt of cloth – striving for equity and full disclosure.

His battle cry has always been that all players are entitled to the luxury of competing on a level playing field. However, politics, personal agendas, conflicts of interests and like Bobby always says – too many foxes in the henhouse – are huge stumbling blocks.

Deliberate attempts to confuse the opponents by all sorts of skullduggery (unusual treatments without offering adequate defenses and time to absorb one’s options plus failure to alert the artificiality or alternatives to certain unfamiliar bids) are unforgiveable ploys and should not be allowed. An even worse obstacle is an inexperienced director whose main objective

is to avoid situations and maintain peace. You can discuss some of the rules until you are blue in the face, but sometimes the rules (and the laws) must be bent to achieve equity – protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty – and until that is addressed head on, we cannot reach the promised land.

Keep blogging. I like your style!

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