Friday, 20 June 2008

L&E Minutes for June 2008

Apologies for the excessive amount of EBU stuff on my blog, but we live in interesting times ...

6.2.1. New permitted agrements at Level 4.

So we have some new "toys" at Level 4. They are all pretty harmless, being things that it makes sense to allow given what is already permitted. For example, in the rule for "Either-Or Club" both the strong option and the weak option now correspond properly to what is allowed at lower levels.

6.2.2. 2C Fert.

This is the evil convention from Brighton where 2C shows 0-5 points with either 4+ spades or 4+ hearts or 4+ diamonds. The L&E decided that they didn't like the way this could be opened on a two-suiter with longer clubs. So they've banned this.

I'm not sure this makes a whole lot of difference. This change doesn't really affect the defenders' options. And there are other hands with longish clubs that could still be included by modifying the definition slightly - for example it seems a pair could still play 2C as "any hand except for a two-suiter with clubs as the longest suit".

The problem is these ferts should never have been allowed in the first place - not when Level 4 is to be used for nearly all EBU events. The pre-2006 rules defined the permitted methods in terms of one-suiters, two-suiters and three-suiters. This might have looked a little clumsy but it did at least mean you ended up with bids that actually had a definition. With the 2006 rules, if you want to get around the requirement not to include the suit bid in the "specification", you can do this simply by not specifying anything much at all! These things should not be allowed: the EBU should be requiring a minimum amount of "specification" like the pre-2006 rules did. This would still be considerably more permissive than, say, the WBF "Brown Sticker" regulations.

6.2.3. Alerting of doubles.

Good news here: the L&E discussed three decent options, and decided to go with this one:

Alert strange doubles only at any level. Any double that is takeout, penalties or somewhere between the two is not alerted.

In my opinion this is not only the best of the three options discussed, but indeed an excellent solution to the problem. Finally, after about three years of discussing this, the L&E has found something which will actually work. I'd really prefer there to be an exception for doubles of natural opening bids (a double of a suit opening is expected to be for take-out) but that is a relatively minor niggle.

The bad news is that this now has to be approved by a new committee of the EBU, the "Club Committee". Now don't get me wrong - I think it is perfectly right that clubs should have an input into this process. But now is not the right time. The views of clubs should have been sought during the initial period of consultation - in fact they were, I believe, though if the EBU's committee had already been set up at that point then perhaps the consulation could have been done more effectively through them. But when it comes to a final decision, that ought to be solely the job of the L&E. The L&E is perfectly capable of taking into account the needs of its club players when making its decisions; in fact, while I can't speak for the committee, I am quite sure that this has always been their number one consideration.

Instead, having already put up with the awful 2006 rules for two years, the implementation of the new rules is being delayed by at least another few months, despite the fact that we already know what they should be. And this is all assuming that the Club Committee actually approves of the idea. The real reason why you shouldn't have two committees looking at the final proposal is what happens if they come to different conclusions? Then the L&E would be faced with either not being able to implement what they know is right, or pushing it through and having it look like they aren't listening. It's just not good political sense to put yourself in this position.

But no complaints with our elected members here, since it was evidently not their decision.

6.2.4. Rewording of OB 3E.

This is the section on how asking questions can transmit unauthorised information. England has a reputation for being much harder on this than other countries. The new wording doesn't do much to change this, except in the case of asking about doubles:

3 E 2 Questions asked during the auction about the meaning of an opponent's double shall usually not be considered to pass Unauthorised Information, nor to have the potential to mislead declarer about the questioner's shape or values. However, the TD may still use his discretion to give an adjusted score if the nature of the questioning clearly provides partner with unauthorised information.

Presumably this is linked to the proposed change to alerting (it wouldn't make much sense with the current rules). I am very happy with this new wording. But it does seem oddly inconsistent with the rules for other situations. Why say this about doubles but not about alerted bids, or bids above 3NT? I think there is a better case for saying "questions about alerted calls are usually not considered to pass UI" than there is for saying the same thing about doubles.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Busy Week

It certainly has been a busy week. First of all for me personally: in a few days' time I'm going back home for my dad's birthday, and before I leave I really need to have finished a draft of the main section of my thesis. So, as you can imagine, I've been working pretty hard. On a similar note, congratulations to my friend David Hodge who submitted his own thesis down in Cambridge on Monday.

In the bridge world, there was the vote on the EBU's strategy proposals at Wednesday's EGM. The proposals were voted through, with 52 in favour and 31 against, meaning that Pay-to-Play is to begin in 2010. As you know, I think this is misguided. But I'd like to echo what Jeff Smith said at our county's AGM which took place the following day: now that the proposals are a reality, it's important that everyone helps to make it as successful as possible. If the proposals are implemented well, then it may be unpopular but the EBU will survive. But if mistakes are made there is the potential for disaster. I would have to say that in the past the EBU has been very bad at communicating its ideas, even the good ones. This can't be allowed to happen for something as important as these changes. The number of clubs that have said they would disaffiliate is really quite shocking, particularly here in Manchester and in my home county of Hampshire. I hope that many of these clubs can be persuaded that they should remain a part of our NBO. I'm sure that some of the objections are things that could be overcome by better understanding.

Thursday was the first time I'd been to my county's AGM. It took three-and-a-half hours, but actually I was quite impressed by the relatively small amount of pointless argument. My contribution was to suggest that, in order to try to reduce the number of teams who withdraw from the first round of the cup without playing their scheduled match, teams should not be allowed to enter the plate unless they actually played their first-round cup match. (Teams do have the option of entering straight into the plate, if they do not want to play in the cup.) Apart from this I managed to keep quiet, and avoided being given any jobs to do (having the excuse that I may be leaving the county at the end of the summer).

Also on Thursday was a meeting of the L&E. It appears that they have made a decision concerning the alerting of doubles, but details have not been made public yet. Mr Stevenson said that before being adopted it would have to be looked at by the new "Club Committee" of the EBU. That's slightly scary since I get the feeling a widely held "club" view is that everything the L&E tries to do is wrong; but perhaps we can hope that an official committee would be more constructive. Anyway, it looks like some progress has been made.