IBPA Editorial: April 2013
Bridge has two rules-making bodies, the WBF and the ACBL Laws Commission and, although we have a unified set of laws, their interpretation and application are quite different in various jurisdictions. For example, the appeals process is more accepted in the ACBL, while in the WBF, appeals are discouraged. In the WBF, ‘graduated’ scores as a result of appeals are allowed while, in the ACBL, it’s an either-or situation. For example, in the WBF a score of three notrump, plus 225, could be allowed if it were decided that declarer would make it half the time (plus 400) and go down half the time (minus 50); in the ACBL, the score would be plus 400 or minus 50, whichever was deemed more likely.
While we prefer the ACBL approach to the acceptability of appeals, the WBF approach to resolution of the appeal is preferable. It seems more reasonable to award a percentage score if the decision is very close, and most appeals are very close or they’d not have come that far. Thus we had a very close and controversial appeal decision in St. Louis during the Vanderbilt match between Auken and Monaco that determined the outcome of the match. The crux of the matter was misinformation on one side of the screen (from dummy Tor Helness to defender Roy Welland) which may have influenced Welland’s opening lead and subsequent defence. The TD’s ruling was that the score achieved at the table (plus 400 to Monaco) stood. The defenders appealed, based on the fact that Welland might have led a different suit given the correct information. Despite the committee deeming such an opening lead unlikely, they allowed further arguments,
apparently uncovered during the dinner break, about the accuracy of the subsequent defence as a result of the misinformation.
Whether or not one agrees with the ruling, the procedure was, at best, flawed and, at worst, wrong-minded. Can it be right to (a.) award an either-or score in a situation that is touch-and-go one way or the other (the committee decision was split 3-2 and reportedly took a very long time) and, (b.) allow an argument only uncovered after due deliberation and discussion with teammates hours after the appeal had been lodged?
The committee’s statement regarding the subsequent defence is interesting: “NorthSouth might have only realized at dinner the implications of the correct information on South’s defense, but the argument they made stands or falls on its own.”
This bifurcation of rules (if not laws) is not good for the game and we urge the appropriate bodies to establish common ground, otherwise we’ll have more situations where in one jurisdiction one side would win an appeal while the other side would win it elsewhere. Note that we are not lobbying for the end of the appeals committee as some are, since we believe that an aggrieved side should have the chance to appeal a table ruling that it feels to be incorrect. The analagous situation in law would be to do away with trials and allow the police to decide guilt or innocence. The appeal process is to
protect the players, just as the judicial system protects the innocent (in theory), flawed as it may be. However, this ruling, the most controversial in years, will certainly provide ammunition to those in favour of eliminating appeals committees.
For those interested in reviewing the details of the appeal, they can be found on the ACBL website at: .
Arguments against the decision made by Jean-Charles Allavena (president of Monaco’s bridge federation and the Monaco NPC) can be found at: http://neapolitanclub.altervista.org/eng/2013-vanderbilt-sabine-aukens-reply-toallavenas-interview.htm
Sabine Auken’s (Welland’s partner) replies to JC Allavena can be found at: http://neapolitanclub.altervista.org/eng/2013-vanderbilt-sabine-aukens-reply-toallavenas-interview.html
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