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Bridge Rules and Active Ethics

from David Schokman

What are ethics? They are the moral principles that govern a person's behaviour in the conducting of an activity, and there is no doubt that every one of you is convinced that you would never do anything unethical at the bridge table. That means not hesitating with a singleton, or when a knave is played - giving the slightest indication that you have to think about covering it, or not. Then there is coffee housing, very unfairly named the Tasmanian asking bid. So we are agreed that we are all fair and ethical -but how about active ethics? I heard a story the other day, which I hope is untrue. After the last round of an event the director gives us a sheet to check on our scores, as, believe it or not, we all make scoring errors, and you would hate to lose because of one.

So you find an error in your favour. Do you take it to the director and show it to him, even though it may result in you losing the event? The answer is yes, as that is active ethics. You are not being dishonest as you expect your opponents to be checking their scores too. They failed to do so, so did not alert the T.D. to this error in their favour.

The fact of the story is that even if they brought the score to the T.D's attention they would still have won the event, but the injured party may have won a place, but they did not check carefully enough. The next two stories are not about ethics and I do not know what to call them.

North opens 2C, a game force, and there is some light hearted banter around the table. East passes, as does south, and then west. This is not an afternoon club session but a relatively serious competition. What do you do? I believe that the opponents allowed the pass to be removed and a bid to be made.

Then another situation - N/S bid to a slam, and as the cards lay it could not be defeated. The slam was claimed but both opponents had both noticed a revoke at trick five. It did not affect the result and they were not damaged. Do you play by the rules, or say forget about it, and give them +1430. Remember that you have team mates and other teams to consider. If this is allowed do we turn a blind eye in every situation, to every infraction? You cannot do this as it would be chaos. It is the same as a lead out of turn. These minor errors cannot be ignored as without a set of rules, which should be followed rigidly, no game can be played with any integrity.

But virtue has its own reward, and justice has a way of getting balance into the world. In the first situation, where the opponents allowed a pass to be taken away and a bid made, their opponents went a little too high, and got a minus score. In the other case the team that lost a lot on the harmless revoke went on to win the event. So all is right with the world, but remember that you play this game because you love it and do not want to be like Shylock always demanding your pound of flesh!

(Ed note: NOBODY is allowed to ignore an infraction or waive any penalty as it may effect every other team / pair in the room)


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