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Slow to Change Bridge is Behind other games

#1 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 04:48

The Gold Cup semi-final in Britain was very close, with Patterson beating Allfrey by 1 IMP. It was also very slow, with what I think must be a record of 22 IMPs in slow-play fines, 13 against Allfrey and 9 against Patterson, enough to change the result from that achieved in play. The fines imposed by the Chief TD were appealed to an independent referee, and I would have the utmost confidence that the guru, Tim Rees, would have done a good and fair job of ruling on these.

What concerns me more is that the method of allocating the fines is partly based on whether the same pair were late in a previous set, and partly on the judgement of the TD. Otherwise they tend to be shared. This is unsatisfactory as that pair might not have been responsible on either occasion. At school I and other late children were given detention if we were late twice in the same week. The fact that it was our bus that was late, and we were all on the same bus and this was outside our control, was ignored. It is statistically incorrect therefore to draw any conclusions regarding who was to blame from whether pairs from the late table were late before. Clearly a mythical pair who finished after four minutes when all eight auctions went Pass-Pass-Pass-Pass should not be deemed "fast". And the unscrupulous pair, facing a pair who have been slow in the previous set, could deliberately slow the play down and only the opponents get fined!

In golf, players are "put on the clock": "The first player to use more time than her allotted time on a shot gets a warning; Eun-Hee Ji, for example, took more than the 40 seconds permitted by the USGA to line up her putt and was warned. The next time, he or she would receive a one-stroke penalty and the third time a two-stroke penalty." This requires a time monitor and would not be practicable in bridge clubs, and require extra staff at major national and internation bridge events.

Two other mind sports deal with this problem by the use of clocks, traditionally called chess clocks. In chess, the player completes his move and presses his clock and each player is allocated a set time for either all of the game or a specified number of moves. Backgammon is similar, with a certain number of moves depending on the match length. The "Bronstein" and "Fischer" clocks both give additional time for each move, so that long games allow more time.

"This won't work in bridge", I hear you say. "One player might have a more difficult decision than the other three". But in chess and backgammon, one player might well have a very difficult decision, but no arbiter gives them more time for that reason. The golfer who has an awkward stance in a bunker is not given more time when he is "on the clock".

The chess clock would work perfectly well in bridge. Let us say that there are 8 boards to play in 70 minutes, standard in England for a major event. If, at any point, a table has less than 8 minutes remaining per uncompleted board, a clock is introduced by the TD or an appointed monitor and placed in the centre of the table with the remaining time for the round divided equally. Either side can request this clock or it can be imposed by the TD. The clock is then started and the dealer takes out his hand (much more quickly I expect than normal) and makes a call and presses the opponents' clock and each player does the same. At the end of the auction, the person who made the last pass presses the clock, and the leader asks any questions in his own time, and presses the clock. The opponents answer in their own time and then press the clock again; this applies to any question and answer. When the opening lead is faced, declarer's clock is started, then dummy is displayed (again more quickly than normal) and each card played is followed by a clock press. The clock is stopped at the end of play for the score to be entered and the new board obtained. If the TD is called, the clock is stopped, but the TD can impose a time penalty for a frivolous call which he considers is designed to gain thinking time. If any side loses on time, then that team loses 3 IMPs (or 10%), and the clock is reset with each side's remaining time increased by 5 minutes. Each subsequent loss on time also loses 3 IMPS.

This has been discussed before on here, I find, six years ago, and it did not get much support; perhaps it is time to revisit it with some of the issues in the earlier thread addressed.
http://www.bridgebas...-bridge-clocks/
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#2 User is offline   The_Badger 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 06:09

Lateness and slow play are not excuses as far as I am concerned. Maybe if offending individuals, partnerships or teams that continually flout the rules were banned for a year from the game then things will change.

Bridge clocks are not the answer: video evidence, which is not too difficult to set up, especially for high profile games such as the Gold Cup could be used for these indiscretions, and the evidence assessed by an independent committee after the match. Either that or an automatic 10 IMP penalty per board.

I once watched a nameless but not blameless experienced international go into a deep huddle for what approached light years over a drop or a finesse, when the odds favoured the finesse considerably. An intermediate player would have worked out that in seconds: why this international took so long is anyone's guess?
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#3 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 08:04

I love the idea of a ban. The clock idea has a lot of problems; for instance, the time you have to think will depend on your position at the table; eg if RHO is slower than LHO you will have more time to consider partner's call and how you intend to proceed. Obviously a Stop card cannot be used, and this will negate the reasons for which the card was introduced.

Also asking and answering questions cannot t be on a clock. At least one pair yesterday had auctions where every bid except the opening (and final) bid was artificial, and after a long auction they might not be as thorough as one would desire with their explanation of the auction, and there might be a lot of questions about alternate calls etc.
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#4 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 08:36

The present situation sounds utterly unsustainable. Is it the immediately previous set ? the last one you played ? or any previous set ? because it sounds utterly exploitable if the teams have different numbers of players and/or different partnerships available.

Something like a chess clock attached to a computer could easily be made to work, but would need an operator who could pause the clock for questions, and the clock could deal with a stop bid by only starting after 10 seconds. This would limit its use to top level competition.
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#5 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 09:23

 lamford, on 2017-October-09, 04:48, said:

What concerns me more is that the method of allocating the fines is partly based on whether the same pair were late in a previous set, and partly on the judgement of the TD. Otherwise they tend to be shared. This is unsatisfactory as that pair might not have been responsible on either occasion.

In club games, the director tends to know which pairs are habitually slow.

And when a pair is late finishing a round, the TD should warn them to speed up in the next round to get caught up. While it's possible that they made every possible effort to do so, but were thwarted by their opponents or an exceptionally difficult board, that's often too much of a coincidence. If the opponents admit that they were slow, of course I'll believe them. But absent such evidence, it's not unreasonable to assume that they played at their normal pace rather than trying to get caught up, so the second late round is probably their fault.

#6 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 09:29

 barmar, on 2017-October-09, 09:23, said:

In club games, the director tends to know which pairs are habitually slow.

And when a pair is late finishing a round, the TD should warn them to speed up in the next round to get caught up. While it's possible that they made every possible effort to do so, but were thwarted by their opponents or an exceptionally difficult board, that's often too much of a coincidence. If the opponents admit that they were slow, of course I'll believe them. But absent such evidence, it's not unreasonable to assume that they played at their normal pace rather than trying to get caught up, so the second late round is probably their fault.


The problem in clubs is if you're FOLLOWING a slow pair, starting every round half a board late is horrible.
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#7 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 09:51

 Cyberyeti, on 2017-October-09, 09:29, said:

The problem in clubs is if you're FOLLOWING a slow pair, starting every round half a board late is horrible.

True. But the director should be able to tell that this is going on -- they know that slowness can cascade.

You can't have fully automatic rules for this, you have to keep an eye on what's really going on and use common sense. But there can be some general guidelines based on experience.

#8 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 12:55

Currently, slower players have the advantage -- playing at their own pace and using up other players' thinking time. Barnet Shenken would sometimes think for about half-an-hour. Other players can get bored and forget what has happened so far.

In previous threads on this topic, I backed the idea of Bridge becoming a timed game. I still think that would be an improvement. Preferably with automatic mechanical (or, better, electronic) timing - using the chess-clock idea, This is simpler and fairer than one clock or director-supervision or later director-judgement. It seems wrong that a director's subjective judgement decides a Gold-Cup semifinal, when more relevant, reliable, and objective criteria might have been used.

It would also help settle disputes about breaks of tempo. For example, when players are unaware of their tanks and deny that they hesitated.

If the game were timed, I think players could easily manage more boards per session. A faster game would be more interesting and exciting for spectators.
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#9 User is offline   weejonnie 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 14:19

 nige1, on 2017-October-09, 12:55, said:

Currently, slower players have the advantage -- playing at their own pace and using up other players' thinking time. Barnet Shenken would sometimes think for about half-an-hour. Other players can get bored and forget what has happened so far.

In previous threads on this topic, I backed the idea of Bridge becoming a timed game. I still think that would be an improvement. Preferably with automatic mechanical (or, better, electronic) timing - using the chess-clock idea, This is simpler and fairer than one clock or director-supervision or later director-judgement. It seems wrong that a director's subjective judgement decides a Gold-Cup semifinal, when more relevant, reliable, and objective criteria might have been used.

It would also help settle disputes about breaks of tempo. For example, when players are unaware of their tanks and deny that they hesitated.

If the game were timed, I think players could easily manage more boards per session. A faster game would be more interesting and exciting for spectators.


Personally, I don't think that is practical - games like chess, backgammon and Go are 'full-information' games. Both sides can see the state of the board during the time your opponent plays and can work out the optimum move/ plan ahead (in Go you may never run out of time, once you run out of official time you enter a state where you always have 1 minute to make a move). That is not the case in Bridge.

(Not to say that steps have to be taken to speed up the game, however any such step needs to recognise that one side/ player may have a problem that their opponents do not.)
The hardest director decisions inevitably are caused by the first failure to call at the appropriate time.
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After 85 years of bridge, the laws will finally define when dummy ceases to be dummy - at the end of play.
After a claim, play is now suspended, not ended. So dummy remains dummy, after a law 69 or during a law 70 ruling.
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#10 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 15:29

What may work for high level bridge in this area will not work in clubs. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do something about it in both arenas, just that it will be harder in clubs.
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#11 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 15:39

As for Bridge being slow to change: I and others have suggested simplifications to many laws and regulations for about 20 years, in rec.games.bridge, BLML, and other fora.

For I while, my efforts attracted private emails on law-reform. A few agreed with me. More criticised my efforts and suggested improvements. Most had alternative interesting proposals. I told correspondents to stop emailing me. I asked, Instead, that they post their suggested reforms to an appropriate public forum. Unfortunately, few were prepared to stick their heads above the parapet, perhaps because law-makers (e.g. Kojak) disparaged proponents of such suggestions as BSers.

Even if the WBFLC belatedly changed its mind and decided to welcome radical suggestions, a possible problem is that it might be hard to choose between competing ideas. Although any one of them would likely be an improvement.

Directors seem to like woolly laws because they give rise to lots of intriguing rulings. Enough rulings to keep discussion fora busy. For a long time, the main aim of the laws has been to foster so-called equity (roughly - trying to restore the status-quo) by devolving power to local jurisdictions and directors. This results in less deterrent laws and more controversial rulings. Many rules seem unnecessary and some appear to reward their careless infraction.

Rule-makers refuse to take on board the difficulty we have in complying with a paper-mountain of incomprehensible sophisticated laws, regulations, and minutes. I don't know or understand them. Few other ordinary players seem to understand them. The evidence from law fora, is that directors cannot agree on their theoretical interpretation; hence, in practice, they disagree on rulings, in simple cases, with agreed facts.

Sloppy subjective laws risk another undesirable consequence, hinted at in on-line Bridge Winners discussions of rulings, where personal friendship or patriotism is involved. e.g.
  • Without informing the director, a world-class team-captain posted a draw and started to play the next match when both his team-partnerships had played the previous match, sitting in the same orientation. His friends gave him full public support.
  • When the opposing team confronted him, a world-class player admitted that he surreptitiously switched cards between his opponents' hands, after a bad result. Again, he failed to inform the director of his actions. And, again, his friends publicly backed him.
  • A world-champion claimed he can usually predict the result of an international appeal without examining any evidence, if told the nationalities of antagonists and the names of committee-members.
  • The Spanish team alleged that a US pair had an implicit agreement to use substandard 3rd-hand openings. Relevant facts are on public record. As usual, however, opinion split on national lines.

Evaluation of the significance of such incidents should concentrate on the consideration that in an acceptable legal system, not only is justice done, it is also seen to be done.

Bridge needs simpler more objective rules. But we won't benefit from them in my life-time. Understandably, as in most contexts, it is likely that laziness and apathy will triumph.
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#12 User is offline   ahydra 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 16:23

In response to the OP, I would suggest for simplicity 1) having the clock present from the start and 2) stopping it during questions. It seems a bit silly to press the clock for each question and answer, and might lead to people speaking really quickly (not good with language barriers) or eliding detail. Frivolous calls for the TD should be penalized in the usual way (i.e. a PP).

There was once an electronic system trialled where a camera on top of the table could identify bids made, the dummy, and cards played. Does anyone know what happened to that? A system of that type could easily measure time intervals between bids/plays and display the time remaining for both sides somewhere where all 4 players can see it.

Slow play is annoying, but I'd rather have players be allowed the time to make decisions and get them right than being forced to play unnecessarily quickly. In NZ the standard in pairs games seems to be 13 minutes for 2 boards, with no extra time allocated for players to move. It's just about OK in a club setting, but this timing was also used in an A-point (equivalent of EBU green points) tournament I played in. Being asked to play your best bridge at that speed is somewhat ridiculous.

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#13 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 17:21

 ahydra, on 2017-October-09, 16:23, said:

It's just about OK in a club setting

No, it isn't.
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#14 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 18:37

Some pairs are slow because they get into a long debate about the auction and play after every board. Your system would officially sanction their behaviour (or could be read as doing so).

Your system would encourage declarers to play out hands instead of claiming.

Your system would create a mess when some auctions need longer explanations. If you do pause the clock for explanations, it becomes even more of a pain to us, and it would encourage questions merely for the benefit of stopping the clock.

Is that enough for now?
Obviously we have a recall bias in favour of the assholes. -helene_t
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#15 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2017-October-09, 20:02

View Postcherdano, on 2017-October-09, 18:37, said:

Some pairs are slow because they get into a long debate about the auction and play after every board. Your system would officially sanction their behaviour (or could be read as doing so).

Your system would encourage declarers to play out hands instead of claiming.

Your system would create a mess when some auctions need longer explanations. If you do pause the clock for explanations, it becomes even more of a pain to us, and it would encourage questions merely for the benefit of stopping the clock.

Is that enough for now?

Inter alia, the electronic timer could:
  • Impose a compulsory delay before the opening bid (to allow time for the board to be put on the table, players to pick up and sort their hands, and the opener to decide on his call. Subsequent delay would be attributed to the player whose turn it was to act. This would reduce unnecessary delay and speed up the game.
  • Be designed to encourage claims; reinforcing claim-laws, which are also meant to encourage claims.
  • Be stopped during questions and explanations.
  • Impose a compulsory pause when dummy is exposed, for declarer and defenders to plan the play.
  • Help settle disputes about BITs.
  • Handle other contingencies such as late arrivals and bathroom breaks.

If players entered each bid and play into a tablet or bridge-mate, they could benefit from timing, with little additional hassle or cost.

Admittedly, problems remain, which rule-makers would need to address, especially to begin with. These pale into insignificance compared with the current problems associated with slow play.

There was wide-spread protest over the introduction of bidding-boxes and announcing. Again there are swings and roundabouts but now, most players seem to have accepted them as a boon.

Cherdano has little to worry about in the next few decades :(
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#16 User is offline   sanst 

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Posted 2017-October-10, 00:37

You could play major events as a computer game. Not only could everything be clocked, the players of a pair could be in different rooms or even countries, so there are less opportunities for cheating, there are no BOOTs, LOOTs, IBs, revokes and what have you, and it would be easier to watch. Besides, it's a lot cheaper than all those boards, Bridgemates, duplicators and bidding boxes that are necessary now. Would it make the game nicer? I don't think so, but there are already thousands that play internet bridge and enjoy it.
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#17 User is offline   lamford 

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Posted 2017-October-10, 04:58

View Postcherdano, on 2017-October-09, 18:37, said:

Some pairs are slow because they get into a long debate about the auction and play after every board. Your system would officially sanction their behaviour (or could be read as doing so).

Your system would encourage declarers to play out hands instead of claiming.

Your system would create a mess when some auctions need longer explanations. If you do pause the clock for explanations, it becomes even more of a pain to us, and it would encourage questions merely for the benefit of stopping the clock.

Is that enough for now?

Good points. In answer, I think the TD, or any player, should place the board on the table after the previous one is scored and start dealer's clock. If they want to discuss the previous board, pairs would be doing so on their own time.

Claiming would be done by making a statement and then starting the other side's clock. The opponents accept by stopping the clock or decline by also stopping the clock and calling the TD.

I agree it is better that the clocks should be stopped for questions and answers about the auction, with frivolous questions again getting a PP. Perhaps only 60 minutes per 8 boards should be allowed to give some time for these questions, for scoring and for TD calls, all of which are with the clock stopped.

I like the suggestion to play all major events electronically. That had mixed reaction when suggested a year ago on bridgewinners. It will, in the future, be good for streaming on Bridgebase for example and we will be asking ourselves when playing replicants in 2049. "How did we manage with screens, bidding boxes and the like?"
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#18 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2017-October-10, 05:58

You miss my point about claiming. Say I am playing the second-to-last hand. My opponents have just three minutes left. I have an easy claim, but instead I play it out to force the opponents to use up more of their remaining time.
Yes, my opponents could call the TD to complain, but is that any easier than the current handling of slow pairs?
Obviously we have a recall bias in favour of the assholes. -helene_t
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#19 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2017-October-10, 06:33

View Postsanst, on 2017-October-10, 00:37, said:

You could play major events as a computer game. Not only could everything be clocked, the players of a pair could be in different rooms or even countries, so there are less opportunities for cheating, there are no BOOTs, LOOTs, IBs, revokes and what have you, and it would be easier to watch. Besides, it's a lot cheaper than all those boards, Bridgemates, duplicators and bidding boxes that are necessary now. Would it make the game nicer? I don't think so, but there are already thousands that play internet bridge and enjoy it.


There are, so why do so many take the time and trouble to play in clubs and tournaments. I agree that playing electronically will not make the game nicer, and I would probably play at home with friends instead.
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#20 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2017-October-10, 09:38

The law places the emphasis on timing of the game on the round (see Law 8). This clock business, implemented as is being suggested here, changes that to emphasis on the individual calls and plays. This would require significant changes to the laws. For that reason, this is a bad idea.

Currently, if the round ends at a table *after* the director has called the move, four pairs are responsible for catching up: the two who were at the "late" table, and the two they are playing against in the new round. The two who were not at the late table and often at least one if not both pairs who were ignore this responsibility on the grounds that "it wasn't our fault". Neither the laws nor the director care whose fault it was. The responsibility is independent of fault. What needs to be done is to educate players as to their responsibility and then to make sure they meet it.
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