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Writing Down The Contract ACBL

#1 User is offline   JoAnneM 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 01:19

I am a club director and after scanning through the new law book I found nothing on this subject and we are having quite a bit of dispute in our games. Is there an actual rule that requires that the opening lead be made before the opening leader writes down the contract on his/her score card? I think it is a matter of good procedure and manners, but not enforceable, although I certainly encourage it. A few of my players rudely insist on it with players who are not going to change and it becomes rather tiresome. I would like to make a final statement about it and not get egg on my face later. Thanks for any help.
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#2 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 01:59

The laws are designed to define correct procedure (Introduction, third paragraph). There is nothing in the laws at all about private scores. Keeping a private score is an extraneous procedure. The first sentence of Law 41A says "After a bid, double or redouble has been followed by three passes in rotation, the defender on presumed declarer’s left makes the opening lead face down." Nothing in there about pausing to write anything down, so doing so is not part of correct procedure. Law 40B2{d} says "Unless the Regulating Authority provides otherwise a player is not entitled to any aids to his memory, calculation or technique during the auction period and play." One might argue that writing down the contract is an aid to memory, but given that Law 41C says in part that any player save dummy is entitled to be informed what the contract is at his or her turn to play, I would say that argument is not valid.

Law 90A says "The Director, in addition to implementing the rectifications in these Laws, may also assess procedural penalties for any offense that unduly delays or obstructs the game, inconveniences other contestants, violates correct procedure, or requires the award of an adjusted score." Law 90B2 says that "unduly slow play by a contestant" is an offense subject to procedural penalty.

All things considered, at a club I would explain to the players that if writing down the score before leading creates or contributes to a problem in keeping the movement on time, procedural penalties will be given. And then give them when it happens. You might warn once, or even twice, but don't make the mistake of always warning, because sooner or later the players will just ignore you.

A player who "rudely insists" on anything at all is in violation of the Zero Tolerance policy. If that's not implemented at your club, you should consider implementing it. IAC, even without ZT, it's a violation of Laws 74A1 ("A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times") and 74A2 ("A player should carefully avoid any remark or extraneous action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game"). Note that the ZT policy requires, except in rare cases, that a penalty be given if a ZT offense occurs.
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#3 User is offline   pran 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 04:21

View PostJoAnneM, on 2018-April-06, 01:19, said:

I am a club director and after scanning through the new law book I found nothing on this subject and we are having quite a bit of dispute in our games. Is there an actual rule that requires that the opening lead be made before the opening leader writes down the contract on his/her score card? I think it is a matter of good procedure and manners, but not enforceable, although I certainly encourage it. A few of my players rudely insist on it with players who are not going to change and it becomes rather tiresome. I would like to make a final statement about it and not get egg on my face later. Thanks for any help.

While agreeing completely with blackshoe I will call attention to the fact that until end of the clarification period the contract reached during the auction is a "presumed contract". It becomes the actual contract only after the end of the auction period.

There may well be disclosures during the clarification period which will cause the auction to be rolled back and resumed, resulting in a different contract and even a different declarer!

That much said: What a player writes on his own score card is his own business. And he is not allowed to use his notes as an aid to his memory in any way until after play on the board is completed.
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#4 User is online   sfi 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 06:21

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-April-06, 01:59, said:

The laws are designed to define correct procedure (Introduction, third paragraph). There is nothing in the laws at all about private scores. Keeping a private score is an extraneous procedure. The first sentence of Law 41A says "After a bid, double or redouble has been followed by three passes in rotation, the defender on presumed declarer’s left makes the opening lead face down." Nothing in there about pausing to write anything down, so doing so is not part of correct procedure.


That doesn't make it incorrect procedure though - it's just not covered. Other things that aren't included are taking a drink of water, breathing and thinking about which card to lead. But it is entirely reasonable for a player to do any or all of those things before leading without falling afoul of this law.
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#5 User is offline   steve2005 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 07:43

Playing at an NABC.
A player took well over 5 minutes at MP in a 2-board set to play 1 card to either finesse or drop a Queen.
Next hand he was declarer and my partner on lead wrote down the contract before leading,
The declarer told my partner he should write the contract down after leading.
My partner has a temper, i was surprised he didn't lay into this guy.

Writing a score down saves almost no time if any, if someone is used to doing it another way it is their business.
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#6 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 09:15

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-April-06, 01:59, said:

All things considered, at a club I would explain to the players that if writing down the score before leading creates or contributes to a problem in keeping the movement on time, procedural penalties will be given. And then give them when it happens. You might warn once, or even twice, but don't make the mistake of always warning, because sooner or later the players will just ignore you.

While we often recommend that players do their writing later as a way to keep the game moving, I doubt it's really that significant. Writing down the contract takes what, 5 seconds? In a 3-board round that's 15 seconds, and that's only if that player happens to be on opening lead for every board. If a pair is several minutes late finishing, I'd have a really hard time putting the blame on writing down the contract when they should be leading.

We have habitually slow players in our club, and probably most of them have this bad habit. But they also take 5-10 seconds for many of their bids and plays, and that's why they run late. Giving them a PP for the time they use to write down the contract is not going to solve the late play problem. At best it might make them more cognizant of the problem. But they already know this because of the boards they miss.

#7 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 09:48

View Postbarmar, on 2018-April-06, 09:15, said:

We have habitually slow players in our club, and probably most of them have this bad habit. But they also take 5-10 seconds for many of their bids and plays, and that's why they run late.


We are lucky to have few slow players, and none of them are at the level where they take notes.
But we do have one who often disputes the contract (in particular whether it was doubled or not) when it comes to deciding the score. I continue to find it surprising that the Laws do not foresee that the contract is recorded - not in individual notes but in a formal way to the satisfaction of all at the table - at the end of the clarification period. I guess this will change in 2027 when it will already have become a de facto standard thanks to electronic scorekeeping.
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#8 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 10:36

I can't speak for anywhere else, but around here when North enters the contract into the bridgemate before or while dummy comes down, nobody verifies it.

It is true that writing in the personal score is a small part of "slow play", but I don't think that means it should be ignored. There are a lot of small good habits that players can learn that will speed up play. I suppose the emphasis should be on that generally, rather than writing in the score specifically. It seems to me though that the major problem the OP faces is the rude players who insist on hammering people for doing it. That is a more serious problem than the actual writing.
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#9 User is offline   axman 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 11:26

View PostJoAnneM, on 2018-April-06, 01:19, said:

I am a club director and after scanning through the new law book I found nothing on this subject and we are having quite a bit of dispute in our games. Is there an actual rule that requires that the opening lead be made before the opening leader writes down the contract on his/her score card? I think it is a matter of good procedure and manners, but not enforceable, although I certainly encourage it. A few of my players rudely insist on it with players who are not going to change and it becomes rather tiresome. I would like to make a final statement about it and not get egg on my face later. Thanks for any help.


As a sponsoring organization, a club is enpowered to publish regulations that are not in conflict with law. What is difficult is crafting regulations that are suitable (accomplish desirable things with the minimum of fuss). I discourage regulations that cause undesirable things. I for one would like a copy of such a regulation for a time that would be provident, should you craft one. I point out that the regulation must be posted and known, as failure to do so causes great consternation (of which I have immense personal experience).
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#10 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 11:48

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-April-06, 10:36, said:

around here when North enters the contract into the bridgemate before or while dummy comes down, nobody verifies it.

Is there a configuration option to require an opponent to confirm the contract, similar to what happens after entering the score?
I would imagine so.
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#11 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 12:49

I don't think so. I could be wrong.
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#12 User is offline   JoAnneM 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 13:40

Thanks for all the really good replies. I especially like the one dealing with the "rude interrupter", and I am going to deal with that person by presenting him with a printout of that excellent reply. Our club is small and keeping a happy balance while maintaining the values of a sanctioned bridge club is my goal. Given my background in bridge governance and directing it should be easy, but.......
Regards, Jo Anne
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#13 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2018-April-06, 20:59

I like the idea of a club compiling and disseminating a set of regulations. At the famous North London club, the major decisions are made at the AGM. Many of these decisions are in fact “regulations”, but I believe that the only documentation is in the minutes of the AGMs (and sometimes in the minutes of the committee meetings).
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#14 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-April-07, 11:14

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-April-06, 10:36, said:

It is true that writing in the personal score is a small part of "slow play", but I don't think that means it should be ignored. There are a lot of small good habits that players can learn that will speed up play. I suppose the emphasis should be on that generally, rather than writing in the score specifically.

I'm not suggesting ignoring it, but there's a big gulf between ignoring and penalizing.

A couple of years ago the fastest player in the club gave a talk on things players can do to speed the game along. Things like not writing down the contract before leading, not doing post mortems after the hand, etc.

But bad habits are hard to eradicate. When we started using electronic scoring, the club held a vote on whether to disable the traveller display, and it lost.

#15 User is offline   BudH 

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Posted 2018-April-07, 13:40

View Postblackshoe, on 2018-April-06, 10:36, said:

I can't speak for anywhere else, but around here when North enters the contract into the bridgemate before or while dummy comes down, nobody verifies it.

I strongly encourage the North players to enter the contract immediately into the Bridgemate and, while it is still in hand, enter the opening lead immediately after it is faced to avoid the "what was the opening lead?" after the play ends.

Additionally, I encourage North to position the Bridgemate so East or West can see it after the contract and opening lead have been entered - before Trick 1 is completed.
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#16 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2018-April-07, 14:36

View PostBudH, on 2018-April-07, 13:40, said:

I strongly encourage the North players to enter the contract immediately into the Bridgemate and, while it is still in hand, enter the opening lead immediately after it is faced to avoid the "what was the opening lead?" after the play ends.

Additionally, I encourage North to position the Bridgemate so East or West can see it after the contract and opening lead have been entered - before Trick 1 is completed.

That sounds very reasonable but also suggests that the software could be improved. If I was Director and the software allowed it I would oblige North to enter both the contract and the lead and oblige one of EW to confirm. Obviously without the software advising about an impossible lead (if hands are pre-registered) before EW confirm.

View Postbarmar, on 2018-April-07, 11:14, said:

But bad habits are hard to eradicate. When we started using electronic scoring, the club held a vote on whether to disable the traveller display, and it lost.

It would lose in a vote in my club too. But I would still disable it if I had such power. Bad habits are just habits, people resist change until it happens but then often accept it if it is clearly sensible.
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#17 User is offline   StevenG 

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Posted 2018-April-07, 15:33

View Postpescetom, on 2018-April-07, 14:36, said:

That sounds very reasonable but also suggests that the software could be improved. If I was Director and the software allowed it I would oblige North to enter both the contract and the lead and oblige one of EW to confirm.

How on earth would the software know whether the players were playing the hand before entering the contract and lead?

Personally, I normally sit EW and only sit North on arrow switches and in Howells. I find it incredibly difficult to remember to put the contract and lead in before play starts. But then I don't write anything on my scorecard until play is over, and never have. I'm far to keen to think about my lead/see dummy.
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#18 User is offline   Phil 

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Posted 2018-April-07, 15:55

I do not see the fascination with recording the opening lead. Yes I know, some clubs record it on the bridgemate for posterity, but putting it on your scorecard seems like you are allowing the players to have a memory aid.

I do think all players should record the contract on the private scorecard before play begins in case there are disputes.
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#19 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2018-April-08, 14:28

View PostStevenG, on 2018-April-07, 15:33, said:

How on earth would the software know whether the players were playing the hand before entering the contract and lead?

The software knows only that the hand is due to be played, plus which players hold which cards.
But if one player enters the contract and lead and the opposite pair confirm (and the lead exists) then I see little margin for error or dispute.
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#20 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-April-08, 18:16

View PostStevenG, on 2018-April-07, 15:33, said:

How on earth would the software know whether the players were playing the hand before entering the contract and lead?

The software feature he's suggesting is two confirmation points: when the contract/lead is entered, and when the final score is entered.

I think the assumption in the design of all the electronic scoring devices is that it's enough to confirm the contract as part of confirming the final result. The rare occasions when there's a disagreement over what the contract was is not enough to require an extra step on every board.

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