May 2012 IBPA Bulletin Editorial

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One of the major issues with the appeals process is…

John Carruthers
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International Bridge Press Association

One of the major issues with the appeals process is that there is no jeopardy to a side appealing, whether they are the ‘offending’ side or not. The WBF instituted an appeal deposit of US$50 some years ago and the EBL and other jurisdictions have a similar scheme. The ACBL has sanctions in place for what are deemed frivolous appeals. The idea is that if one lodges an appeal and that appeal is judged to be without merit, the appealing side loses its deposit or may suffer sanctions such as restricted future play. While that deposit may be significant to students and pensioners, it is laughable to most bridge players, especially so to today’s sponsors with their millions of dollars, some of whom spend half a million or more per annum on their bridge teams. Possible sanctions seem more threatening.

Far better would be for the offending side in an appeal to be required to make a deposit in terms of IMPs or matchpoints, the amount dependent of the nature of the appeal. As long as a match or pair event was still not in the final session, there could then be some jeopardy to an appealing side. For an appeal during the final session, a suspension could be in order since an extra few IMPs or matchpoints at that stage might not be relevant to the final outcome.

The two major areas of appeal these days result from (i) misinformation (or incomplete disclosure) about the bidding, leading to damage in the bidding, play or defence, and (ii) unauthorised information (UI) transmitted as a result of a hesitation, most often in the bidding, but occasionally in the defence. In most cases now, the TDs get it right by ruling against a pair for misinformation or hesitation UI and making them go to appeal to prove their case. Nevertheless, typically, the so-called ‘offending pair’ has nothing to lose by doing so. Sometimes it seems that it’s as if someone robbed a bank, got caught, and their ‘punishment’
was that they just had to give the stolen money back.

How does this work now? Let’s take a simple example: a pair uses ‘Hesitation Blackwood’ and carries on to a grand slam after one partner has reluctantly signed off in six. The opponents call the police and, after consultation, the TD rules that the auction is rolled back to six (all done in a timely fashion). The offenders appeal when it turns out the grand slam makes – the worst that can happen to them is that the TD’s ruling stands and their thievery is not punished. That pair would certainly be more reluctant to go to appeal if it could lose the grand slam and another 6 IMPs in committee. At the end of a match, with the appeal result
not relevant to the outcome of the match, perhaps a suspension of the offending pair might be considered.

There are problems with all this, of course. Firstly, that instituting penalties would be very complicated to establish and apply. Could they be standardised so that committees would not need to reinvent the wheel on each occasion? The second
problem is that more power would be placed in the hands of committees than is already the case. Many people now feel that the TD’s word should be final, just as it is in other sports. They feel that going to committee is a crapshoot depending on little more than the attitudes and prejudices of the committee members.

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