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All comments by Max Schireson
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Regarding the USBC issue, I will explain what I believe is the relevant rule and the source of the 15 seconds that was referenced there. I was not onsite so I am working from my general knowledge of the rules and what was posted on the USBF website about the appeal. I am not trying to express any opinion about the actual ruling or appeal, just respond to statements about a “15 second rule” that seem to me to be without context.

The rule is that behind screens, up to 15 seconds is presumed not to be UI. The other side can hold the tray so that an insta-bid is not visible to partner as such. Thus if the tray take 10 seconds to come back with two passes after (P) 1H (P) 1S (P) 1N (P) 6N and you push it across, your screenmate has no UI that his partner was thinking about doubling for the lead (which presumably is what someone might be thinking about there).

That doesn’t mean that anything beyond 15 seconds is always UI in every auction, just that - with screens only - faster than 15 seconds is presumed *not* to be UI. I believe that if the tray takes longer than 15 seconds the rules is that it “may be considered to have made UI available if it is apparent that one side is responsible for the delay.” This does not seem overly black and white.

Without screens there are plenty of situations in real life where 3 seconds is, for that auction and player, clearly a break in tempo, but it is very hard to win rulings in those cases. Same for the instapass that hits almost before opponents bid… and insta-double is penalty, thoughtful but technically “in tempo” double is take out. Being able to hold the tray is a good solution to these cases but the possibility of the tray having been held means that moderate delays don’t transmit UI. The 15 seconds addresses this issue and I think in that context it is quite reasonable.
May 16, 2019
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In this case the committee did not change the directors ruling.
May 16, 2019
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Regarding Oren’s tough loss right now the scores show them ahead.

Anyway there were a number of close matches so condolences to whichever teams lost. I am sure there will be full results soon, with the possible exception of the appeal.

Edit: it looks like the “total” does not yet include the final segment (as of 7:16 pacific), perhaps pending the appeal. It looks like none of the final segments swung the match, again pending the appeal, about which I don’t know any details.
May 15, 2019
Max Schireson edited this comment May 15, 2019
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Rough timing to have to play better than “the husband”.
May 13, 2019
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Beginners are beginners the whole world round, and have been from time immemorial.

Should we also penalize a beginner for bidding 1D - 1S; 4D unalerted without spade support (which an expert opponent would expect opener to have) or for responding 6N with a 4-3-3-3 15 count when their partner opens a 15-17 1N?

If we ask directors to penalize these situations we would have even fewer new players than we do now. I don’t think this is the intention of the rules, and if it is it needs to be changed.
May 13, 2019
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Where? I don’t see anything that covers this case.
May 12, 2019
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Ed

The question is about what bids are highly unexpected/unusual.

This judgement is subjective, and what is highly unusual in one context is normal in another, so I am suggesting a principle for how a club director can make that judgement call.

If they judge that the call is not highly unexpected/unusual in that context, then there is no failure to alert and no violation of any rule.
May 12, 2019
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John,

I think the issue is that some players think of “playing reverses” as being similar to “playing transfers”: a conventional choice. They don’t see that they are forcing partner to potentially bid to the 3 level so the requirement for extra values is a first principles argument, not a conventional/agreement issue.

I think it’s problematic to try to apply laws and regulations designed for serious tournament play to these players. They also might not have agreements about what is forcing in situations where most players would think that a call is clearly forcing. Again, I don’t think it’s sensible to require them to alert.

When playing with my son, I pre-alerted each pair that we played that he was a new player who didn’t know “standard” bidding and we didn’t have agreements in many common situations. I think this is the practical situation.

I think the principle that a new player should not have to alert an unusual treatment of a natural bid that they don’t understand is unusual is fair. I would explain that to them and their opponents, but eventually as they gain experience you can begin to do as Jim describes. One hint that it’s time for them to alert: the same is raised by opponents multiple times.
May 12, 2019
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Theoretically a call with a highly unusual/unexpected meaning should be alerted.

I would find it highly unusual if an expert pair bid 1D - 1S; 2H without extra values. I wouldn’t if a beginner pair did the same.

Personally I don’t think it is reasonable to require a beginner(-ish) pair that thinks they “don’t play reverses” to alert this.
May 12, 2019
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Melanie,

Does the same risk exist when asking around about playing strength?

I am not suggesting that asking around be mandatory, but I think it would be smart, so I see the two cases as symmetrical. Btw I suspect that the first person many clients would ask would be their pro partner, who would likely have a strong incentive to not see their meal ticket suspended, and certainly wouldn’t sabotage the team. The next set of people might often be connected to that partner, so might have a similar incentive.

References are often used in highly competitive business contexts and most people asking for references have a network that they think will give them honest info even when there is some competitive overlap. I am not saying your issue is nonexistent, just that in practice I think it is manageable.
May 9, 2019
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Thanks Steve. Is the solution making points transferable “downwards”?
May 9, 2019
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Leigh,

Do you think that many ACBL members living outside the US care about being ACBL life masters?

My assumption would be no but I am in the US and haven’t discussed with foreign players so I am curious.

Also are the black points an issue?

— Max
May 9, 2019
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Why are transfers announced?

If it were an alert, many players would not ask because they would assume they know. If the “alert” were, for example, that 2H actually had the highly unexpected meaning of showing hearts, often players would not expect that. Having everyone ask every time would only slow the game down.

The range of all notrump openers needs to be announced. Imagine asking 3 times and hearing 15-17, then you don’t ask and it’s 12-14 for a different position/vul. Again better to just announce.

The range of NT overcalls is neither an announcement nor an alert unless it is outside “normal” (I think defined as 14-19 for a 1NT overcall). This makes sense because while weak or mini NT openings are reasonably common enough to justify an announcement of range, very few play eg 1S (1N) as 10-12 or 12-14.

Most cue bids are not alertable because they are considered self-alerting - opponents wont expect them to be natural and will ask if they need to know.

Unusual 2NT (and Stayman, and common ace asks…) are not alertable because they are considered common/standard.

How does the process work? I think a committee works on this, and presumably considers the trade off of slowing down the game vs opponents being surprised va helping partner remember and tried to decide what best balances those trade offs, while minimizing the number of special cases to memorize.
May 9, 2019
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I just followed the link posted at bottom to read Migry’s account of B/L.

Some of the discussion was about whether some of his teammates likely knew for many years, and if they did whether they reasonably could have convinced the sponsor to not hire the suspect pair. This system would have changed that dynamic significantly.

(Yes, I recognize that Lavazza is a special case with a non playing sponsor; the simple solution would be that a player has to assume this responsibility in the case of an NPC. This solution would also eliminate “disposable” NPCs on teams where the sponsor plays.)
May 9, 2019
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It is part but not all of what I would like to influence.

I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the model of hire a cheat and win and either:
- you don’t get caught and you keep the title
- you get caught and you give the title back

Yes, it’s embarrassing to have a cheat on your team and have to give titles back, but I would like to see stronger incentives to not only do diligence in advance but pay more attention to what’s going on with your team once they were hired.

I think most people agree that Boye did a good and brave thing around F/S. I don’t in any way blame him for not doing the same when they were his teammates, but I think if this rule were in place he or others might have caught them earlier. Maybe a Spingold lost to cheating would have been saved. Maybe more.

Would this reduce the pressure on ruling bodies to catch cheaters? Possible, but my belief (which certainly could be wrong) is that more accountability in the ecosystem would increase pressure overall, including on the authorities.

Also I think it is unfair to put the whole financial burden of enforcement on the league, which trickles down to membership fees and table fees across all events, when it should be shared by the the pro teams in major events.

Again I don’t think this proposal is likely to be accepted, but my experience is that leaders of organizations pay attention to what they are accountable for, and this could and should be harnessed to help clean up our game.
May 9, 2019
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Nope, those are all red points.
May 9, 2019
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David,

The offense would not be a failure to act on past evidence.

The offense would be having a pair actually cheat on your team. Past evidence or actual knowledge would not be necessary.

Yes, I think past conduct would be examined closely. If I were going to put together a team under this structure, I think the process would be something like:

1. Ask around about the pairs I am considering. Right now people presumably ask around regarding perceived skill; if this rule were in place people would as around about possible cheating too. I might ask Steve Weinstein and Michael Rosenberg and Boye Brogeland if they would have any worries about a given pair. There are 3 cases:
A - they tell me absolutely no worries, they are extremely confident that pair is not cheating. I hire the pair and don’t worry
B - they tell me they don’t really know; they have no significant suspicions but don’t have enough knowledge of the pair to be 100% certain
C - they tell me that I should be careful hiring this pair

Let’s say A is 20% B is 70% and C is 10%.

In case A I hire the pair and that’s that.

In case B I hire the pair, and I hire an auditor for the team. For example, I pay Kit Woolsey or someone to keep an eye on the teams results and report anything suspicious to me. Note that every public company has auditors to double check the financial statements; this is in significant part to prevent fraud. If you say you sold company X $500k of your product, the auditor calls them and asks if they bought $500k of your product (among other things that they do).

In case C I don’t hire the pair.

I think most people organizing serious teams would have sufficient contacts to be able to follow a process like this, which I think would reduce the likelihood of cheating on those teams quite a lot. Those who did not would almost always have a partner who did.

Top level players putting together amateur teams would have the skills to audit themselves; sponsors who were short of that hiring pros would hire top level players for that role. Right now people hire coaches etc; why not also invest in keeping the game clean.
May 9, 2019
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I don’t think they need LM status anyway, since they are able to play in LM pairs based on equivalent status in another bridge organization.
May 9, 2019
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Also opener could sometimes have only two cards in their minor - if they opened 1H with 4=5=2=2.
May 8, 2019
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Timo:

I never intended to convince anyone why it’s ok to play against Lanzarotti.

I did repeat the arguments I heard that led to me entering an event they were playing in. I am still not sure that decision was right, but I am happy that Sabine and Roy presented what seems to be a principled framework that seems consistent with the decision I made.

Truth be told I still feel moderately uncomfortable about my decision, but given the choice between:
1. Taking a strong stand against a cheater who was convicted before my time and served his sentence - when I judged that others would not join - at the potential cost of not being able to play competitive bridge
2. Accepting a decision I strongly disagree with by the ACBL to readmit that player

I mostly did the second. I did my little protest of boycotting hotel blocks for a year (still in progress), but wasn’t willing to potentially give up serious bridge events over the issue.

I apologize if my repeating what others told me about why they thought it was ok came across as supporting the idea of playing against Lanzarotti.

In the end I made the practical decision to make only a low-personal-cost protest against something I thought was wrong and worthy of protest, but not so unspeakably wrong as to be willing to protest without regard to personal cost.

Others can judge whether this was a reasonable decision but I don’t want to pretend I thought readmitting Lanzarotti was remotely ok, or not bad enough to be worthy of protest.
May 8, 2019
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