The minutes for the meetings of the EBU's various committees are published on their website. I always take a particular interest in what the L&E are doing. Here are some thoughts on the latest set.
2.2.3. Use of the term "self-serving".
In the previous minutes, the comments of a player who was deemed to have fielded a psyche were called "self-serving" by a committee member. That was completely inappropriate. I don't like the term at the best of times, but its usual meaning is for a statement a player makes about their own methods or style or thought processes which would help their case if true but is not backed up by evidence, and so tends to be ignored by a TD or AC unless it is particularly credible. This instance was completely different, since it was a player's honest attempt to put his side of the case on the basis of agreed facts. It is totally out of order to dismiss this as "self-serving" - how can you have a problem with someone arguing their case like that?
The committee added a new comment to say that they didn't find the arguments convincing - fine, I agree with that - but the original comment still sickens me.
3.2. Announcements for "Acol Two"-like openings which fail to meet the definition of "strong".
This has been a known problem since before the new rules were introduced - I certainly asked about it, and I can't believe I was the only one. The problem is that neither "strong" nor "intermediate" really describes the agreement accurately - it falls between the two. I like the approach that the committee decided upon, announcing as "strong or intermediate", but there remains the question of whether the regulation is actually going to be changed to put this right. Or, more generally, what should happen to two-level openings which do not fall neatly into any of the announcement categories. It seems like they've ducked the issue a bit.
[Update 17/7/07: I should have had more faith: it has now been revealed that they actually went ahead and made a change to the OB, coming into force this summer, to address this point. So in fact this is another job well done in my opinion.]
3.5. Correspondence on announcements and alerts in general
Yes, the introduction of announcements has been a PR disaster. The committee really needs to realise that it's not just enough to make the right decision, you also have to communicate it properly to the players. I'm really disappointed in the way it's been handled. A belated consultation about it seems like a reasonable start in trying to put this right, trying to get back the support of the membership. The problem is that this consultation has to offer (or at least appear to offer) the possibility of discarding announcements completely, which would be a huge step backwards of course. All in all, very depressing that it has come to this, though we can hope that the results will be positive.
3.6. Minimum strength for "strong" openings
Brilliant work from the committee here, in the most important decision of the year so far. It's such a difficult subject - some definition of "strong" is essential, but it's so hard to express precisely where the line should be drawn. There was no doubt that the committee had previously got it wrong, making the requirements too restrictive and disallowing many hands which are normal strong openings for many players. The new definition is not exactly a thing of beauty, and people might complain that it is too complicated, but it seems to come pretty close to allowing the right things.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the decision itself was the fact that they've clearly listened to the complaints, sat down and thought about how to do better, and come up with something. You'd think that was an obvious thing to do, but it seems that very often known issues are just ignored because no-one wants to think about what to do about it, or to listen to people that have thought about it. But this time they have. (Eventually.) More of the same please.
The only slight disappointment was the decision to wait until August 1st to implement the new rule. Once you've admitted you're wrong, why let people continue to suffer? In my opinion, the right time for the change is as soon as it can be published in English Bridge (I suppose April would be unrealistic, but how about June?). We saw this with announcements - they were publicised nearly two months before the rules actually changed, and that was too much time for people to remember and keep up their initial "enthusiasm". Particularly for a relatively minor change like this, it should be immediate as soon as it is publicised. Note that the announcement of the change went up on the website immediately and people would be entitled to ask why they should have to wait another five months.
Evidently the L&E has received some complaints that Moscito is allowed in the NICKO (since this competition is now level 4). Well, I agree with the complainants. As I've said before, I feel the standard level for tournament play should be somewhere between levels 3 and 4, and Moscito is just the sort of thing I would leave out. I've played it myself, and I know the amount of disruption it causes. The whole of level 4 would be appropriate for most team events, but the NICKO is intended to be accessible to non-experts and so I do not feel that this is appropriate.
Now, the L&E has decided that "it was a Tournament Committee matter". Very amusing. While this is strictly true, it is the L&E which has caused the problem by getting the "levels" wrong and by recommending that EBU events should be run at level 4. To be fair, there's not much they can do about it now, but it would be nice if they admitted responsibility.