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Sit out by EW in Mitchell movement

#1 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-August-24, 10:10

As a Director in f2f tournaments with Mitchell movement and an odd number of pairs, I have always placed the phantom pair in EW so that NS sit out. I am continuously under pressure from my club to alternate this so that half the times EW sit out instead. Could Directors with experience of this (or who have given it much thought) please comment on whether this is acceptable and if not what the problems are? I remember some previous (negative) comments on this, but I really would like to have a focussed discussion that exposes all the issues.

Our tourmaments are mainly 6-10 tables with Mitchell or Skip Mitchell (Relay and Byestand is not common here, although now we have a duplicating machine I guess it would be feasible to deal double boards and play that instead of Skip Mitchell). The players are like any players I guess: the better pairs all want NS and two players (not partners) need to be stationary for disability reasons, all hate sit outs and in particular the players with disability who feel unfairly burdened.

[I realise this is not a Laws and Rulings matter, if there is any better place where f2f Directors will still see it then please move]
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#2 User is offline   axman 

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Posted 2022-August-24, 12:19

View Postpescetom, on 2022-August-24, 10:10, said:

As a Director in f2f tournaments with Mitchell movement and an odd number of pairs, I have always placed the phantom pair in EW so that NS sit out. I am continuously under pressure from my club to alternate this so that half the times EW sit out instead. Could Directors with experience of this (or who have given it much thought) please comment on whether this is acceptable and if not what the problems are? I remember some previous (negative) comments on this, but I really would like to have a focussed discussion that exposes all the issues.

Our tourmaments are mainly 6-10 tables with Mitchell or Skip Mitchell (Relay and Byestand is not common here, although now we have a duplicating machine I guess it would be feasible to deal double boards and play that instead of Skip Mitchell). The players are like any players I guess: the better pairs all want NS and two players (not partners) need to be stationary for disability reasons, all hate sit outs and in particular the players with disability who feel unfairly burdened.

[I realise this is not a Laws and Rulings matter, if there is any better place where f2f Directors will still see it then please move]

How come there is no rent-a-solomon?

First a little accounting. In terms of psychology it appears there are two prizes: stationary tables and play every round. Apparently the same players (excluding health accommodations) mostly lay claim to the stationary tables. This would give a prize always to those players. When there is a sitout if say it alternates between N and E then those stationeries will get an additional prize half the time there is a sitout and EW during those times get no prize at all.

My sense of balance suggests that all other things being equal that NS designated sitout is most equitable. But what about when all other things are not equal? As when an election votes for a different solution? What I would do is to review the reasoning for my conclusion and suggest everyone talk about it for a week and then take the vote with full knowledge of what is important.

As for 'in particular the players with disability who feel unfairly burdened.' I have an alternate view. The attitude expressed suggests those with disabilities are entitled to burden (even heavily burden) others so as to achieve their own maximum pleasure. But to me if a player needs a card holder or special light fixture to function it seems out of whack should they feel entitled to torment others with their difficulty controlling the pasteboards or figuring out the spots when such facilities are not provided. Getting along sometimes involves some give and take.
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#3 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-August-24, 16:59

I think I have answered this before, but yes, I always have a N-S sitout unless it is to my advantage not to (the prime example being a share and relay 12, where making N-S 1 the phantom kills the 2-board relay with only one set of boards). As axman said, the people who always want to stay stationary also always want to miss the sitout. These players (note the term "want" here) are called entitled, and I have little sympathy for them. In fact, I suggest to them (as well as those who complain that the N-S field is so much harder than the E-W field, and and and...) that if they don't want a sitout (want an easier field to score against,...), they can choose to sit E-W next time. Frequently that gets me a "how dare you even suggest that the world doesn't revolve around me" glare as a response, and I shrug and go on to the next problem. Of course, sometimes they take me up on my suggestion!

Now yes, there are those that *need*, rather than *want*, stationaries. Those I try to work around; in a 16.5 table game I'll figure out how to minimize the number of "need"ers that sit out, praying to the RNG that it works out over time. I also try to entice some people with the last sitout; that usually improves their mood. However, frequently (by no means always) the "need" N-S are also slow (whether in general, or for the same reasons they need the stationaries, or their cards sorted, or...); at which point a sitout is an advantage, at least for the director and for the game.

What I will never do is have N-S at the highest table be the phantom. That way lies madness.

The correct answer, of course, is a paid director that has people on speed-dial that they can call two minutes from gametime to fill in the hole with. "But it will take 15 minutes to get there". Great, gives me the first round to get everything settled and into the computer. Like all the other answers above, however, it has its issues (the paid part, the "why would I direct when I could play" part, ...)

Oh, and if you can get the phantom "behind" the slow pair/slow groups, so the sitout catches up the pairs that are getting behind...
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#4 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-August-24, 17:39

Those were general comments, but I guess I should answer your specifics.

6.5: just sucks. Best is to run the 7-table Howell (if 24 boards is sufficient, you get two stationaries. If 13 rounds required, it's possible to have two stationaries, but it takes some skill on the director's part and some attention on the "moving" stationary pair's part.) The ACBL has a silly "double-bump" movement for 6.5 tables, but it's really silly (less so with an arrow switch, but only less so). Your worst option is the 7 table Mitchell with the 4-board sitout.

7.5: is almost worse. Most clubs don't have the 8-table Howell cards, so you're using guide cards or printing your own. Good news if you do go down that route: you get more stationaries. If you're a little mean, you can make one of them the phantom, and just put a card on that table that says "you're out this round". Bad news, all the stationaries but one have some arrow switches, which don't match and if someone forgets, it's somewhere between a problem and a real problem depending on when they notice and tell you about it. 5 hours later, sitting at dinner watching the football game, is not the best time for you to find out. Ask me why I know.

Another option is the 8-table share-and-relay. But it's 24 boards, which means the pairs sitting out play 21. But you get 7 stationaries if you pull the trick above and have N-S 1 (not 8!) be the phantom, killing the share. But a 3-board share is much easier than a 2-board, so as long as you find two fast pairs that know what they're doing, you can keep the E-W stationary.

The ACBL's double-bump for 7.5 tables is actually much less silly than the 6.5 (and close to fair if you arrow switch). I usually run this one if 28 is allowed.

Another option is the EBU's hesitation Mitchell - 8 tables, 9 rounds, 27 boards, with players going E-W 8-> N-S 8 -> E-W 1. There's a share in this one as well, but if you make the phantom N-S 1, bye-bye share. It's a 3-board sitout, but you can kibitz table 8 while you're sitting out at 1 (as those are the boards you're sitting out).

The 8x7 web would work, of course; with two sets of boards. But again it's a 4-board sitout. 8x7 with 32 boards out is the worst of your options.

8.5: The 9x3 is pretty much your only sane option - yes, everybody N-S gets a sitout, and it's 3 boards, but oh well. You could run the 9-table Howell - see the 8 table Howell, and add two "pivoting" stationaries.

9.5 10 table Web probably works best for 27 boards; if you want 24, nothing's really nice (30 boards in play, and you get 21/24 of them?).

"All the strong pairs want to be N/S, and complain when they also have to sit out". Yeah, makes sense. Push to get some of them E-W, especially if you do expect a sitout - claim it's "balancing the field" (which it is), but also offering the lure of "you'll be playing all rounds even if another pair doesn't show up at the last minute". Plus it becomes less of a bunny-bashing contest.

Bonus for the movement weirdos: I was reminded by reading that 10.5 makes a great 1 1/2 table Appendix Mitchell - 1 and 10 share, E-W go from 10 to 11 (sitout) to 1. 27 boards in play. Violates the "N-S at highest table sitout" rule, but you don't have an issue, because "1 & 10" boards go to 9 (there's never any boards on 11), and one of N-S 1 or 10 will let the E-W know they're sitting out.
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#5 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-August-25, 06:18

Thanks for all of this: will digest and get back!

Just to be clear, I have already got the NS clingers used to my balancing the lines so that they don't always get that preferred position. It's one of the disability players that is doing the moaning and unfortunately he convinced the club president that the best solution is to alternate the line that sits out.

So I'm looking for solid arguments why phantom in NS is madness (I can see some, but I bet I'm missing others).
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#6 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-August-25, 09:04

There are also some appendix movements with stationary E-W that you could look into. Normally, this is only done when entire tables show up late, but you can plan on it especially when doing 7x4 and 8 tables, and the like.

Or you can have a "stationary" E-W that starts off against the other "need" N-S, and then moves to their table where the other N-S come to them in order.

Again, if (at least one of) the two disabled pairs are a stronger pair, you can argue it's "line balancing" to get people used to the idea.

But I think (assuming 24 boards is okay sometimes) that if you ran:
  • the 6x9 Howell with one of the pivot stationaries as the phantom for 5.5, (yz)
  • the 7x12 Howell for 6.5, (xz)
  • the Hesitation Mitchell (with N-S 1 phantom) for 27, the no-share-and-relay 8x3 for 24, or the ACBL double-bump with arrow-switch for 7.5, (y)
  • the 9x3 with an E-W phantom for 8.5, (x)
  • the 10-table Web (again E-W phantom) for 9.5, (or the 30 board if you can only have one boardset) (x)
  • the 1 1/2 Appendix (N-S phantom) for 10.5 (there's a 3-board share here you can't avoid without 2 sets), (y)
  • and the 12x2 no-share-and-relay for 11.5 (really want two boardsets for this one if it fills, though), (y)

*consistently*, the complainers get what they want and you can legitimately argue that "People prefer to sit N-S, so there's a small benefit for the moving pairs to compensate; N-S sits out unless it's better for the movement" (especially for the Lords of the Table who complain).

(x): stationaries sit out
(y): stationaries play all
(z): only two stationaries. This is by design.
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#7 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2022-August-25, 10:50

Frankly, N-S phantom isn't madness (except for phantom N-S last table, when boards have to sit). As we're all saying, making the sitout N-S is just one of those things we do to make "wanna N-S" have a downside. Because we all know that if we didn't do these little things, we'd be in the classic joke position of "Well, if nobody wants to swap to E-W, I'll run the game as it is. But there will be a *lot* of sitouts". I've never had to use that line; but I have had 10 N-S and 6 E-W and *lots* of grumbling...

Absolutely, if it *always* hits the players who are "have to stationary" rather than "don't wanna move", then it's overdoing its job and "punishing" people who don't have a choice. So, sure.

I have a benefit (or had, before The Fall) where most of my games were either all-play-"all" Howells or 18-20 table games where I could massage who got a sitout somewhat. Your 6-10 table issue is in the middle world where "all N-S, but not 'all' players" get a sitout - where it is an issue for the disabled pairs. I kind of agree with your club committee on this one, even if I might go with 2/1 rather than 1/1. Because of who I am, though, I'd first play the "best movement" game (while still ensuring that some of the best movements are, in fact, E-W sitouts).
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#8 User is online   pescetom 

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Posted 2022-August-26, 09:22

View Postmycroft, on 2022-August-25, 10:50, said:

Frankly, N-S phantom isn't madness (except for phantom N-S last table, when boards have to sit). As we're all saying, making the sitout N-S is just one of those things we do to make "wanna N-S" have a downside. Because we all know that if we didn't do these little things, we'd be in the classic joke position of "Well, if nobody wants to swap to E-W, I'll run the game as it is. But there will be a *lot* of sitouts". I've never had to use that line; but I have had 10 N-S and 6 E-W and *lots* of grumbling...

Absolutely, if it *always* hits the players who are "have to stationary" rather than "don't wanna move", then it's overdoing its job and "punishing" people who don't have a choice. So, sure.

I have a benefit (or had, before The Fall) where most of my games were either all-play-"all" Howells or 18-20 table games where I could massage who got a sitout somewhat. Your 6-10 table issue is in the middle world where "all N-S, but not 'all' players" get a sitout - where it is an issue for the disabled pairs. I kind of agree with your club committee on this one, even if I might go with 2/1 rather than 1/1. Because of who I am, though, I'd first play the "best movement" game (while still ensuring that some of the best movements are, in fact, E-W sitouts).


Yes the last table scenario is clearly madness, but even at higher tables N-S phantom worries me a bit. When every table has a stationary NS then they feel responsible for the table and the boards / travellers and also tend to know the sequence of boards and opponents (for good reasons I hope). In any case they can usually figure out correctly whether EW are just late or a phantom: at worst they might accept the wrong boards, or open the travellers to sign bye just before EW turn up, but these are easily handled. With NS a phantom then things look less predictable. I guess a big red sign "BYE" on the table would help. Hopefully I can transition the club to electronic scoring before the end of this year and then any risks should be much reduced.

Before Spring I had a benefit that we were kind of stuck on 6 tables playing Skip Mitchell, which meant I could massage to avoid a sitout for the always present player with the clearest disability (he is blind). Since then we acquired a dealing machine which makes it practical to play Howell, but we also seem to alternate 7 and 9 tables.

Thanks for all your very useful advice here, I'll study the options and see what people are happy with.
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