008: Let North do it

Cards2_l_tnbA senior member of my bridge club suggested the other day that we have an educational problem that needed to be addressed — not because people aren’t trying to help, because apparently they are, but because they just don’t know the right thing to do.  And no one has ever told them.

So here’s the lesson, phrased anonymously so no one takes offence at being told directly. Folks, when you’re at the duplicate table, LET NORTH DO IT.  And that means:

  1. When the board is finished and you’ve put your cards back in the board, North is the person responsible for taking the board and putting it at the bottom of the pile and making sure that the new board is the correct number.  North is the only player who should touch the boards.
  2. North is the player responsible for scoring, whether that’s the old-fashioned way on a traveler slip or the new way on a BridgeMate terminal. No one else should be touching the buttons on the BridgeMate and, OMG, absolutely not making changes to a traveler. North is the only person who should do the scoring.
  3. North is the player responsible at the end of the round for taking the boards to the next table.  If North has mobility difficulties, she can ask another player to do it — she can make an arrangement with her partner at the beginning that South will handle that task for the evening.  North is responsible for making sure that the boards get to the next table.
  4. North is responsible for ensuring that all three boards are in the correct order at the start of the round and, very importantly, are facing in the right direction. North is responsible for making sure the boards are in the correct order and facing in the correct direction.

If anything goes wrong in any of those areas, North is responsible. It might not matter, but if the director yells at anyone, it will be North, even if it was East or South being “helpful”.

Some years ago, I was North, playing a three-board against a very nice and friendly pair.  We finished the first board, call it board 1, and I was distracted for a moment.  When I turned my attention back to the table, I switched the boards for the next one and we played it — only to find that we had just played board 3.  One of my nice opponents had done what he thought was a nice thing and moved board 2 into place.  I hadn’t noticed and switched to board 3; he didn’t notice me do that. So we had to enter the score for board 3 before we had played board 2 (this was back in the days of traveller slips). Not much of a problem … but if it had been an important tournament, it would have been me and my partner who took any penalty that was assessed if we had potentially fouled the movement.  And if we had been using modern-day BridgeMate computer scoring, we could have fouled the scores for boards 2 and 3 at our table.

Similarly, I’ve been at the table when all three boards were played the wrong way up (North had South’s cards and vice versa). That’s technically a foul to the movement and I believe North took a penalty of half a top for that boo-boo.

Of course there are many, many worse things that can happen. I heard a horror story about a large tournament where someone at the highest-numbered table (16?) was taking her boards to table 1.  Unfortunately she was taking them to table 1 in another section, because it was closer. The other section’s highest-numbered table was using an inexperienced caddy who completed the snarl-up by not asking for directions, but figuring out that the table 1 that was missing the boards was the one he had to take them to. I think they had to throw out the scores for two complete sections that day and that lady was NOT popular. Then there’s the guy who decided for himself that since he hadn’t heard the instruction to skip a table, it hadn’t happened, and he helpfully switched the boards back to where he thought they should be. The lady who wanted to show her partner what a good hand she’d had on board 16 and put it back in the slot for board 15, heaven knows how. No one at the next table noticed that West had blue cards and everyone else had green cards until two aces of trumps hit the table on the same trick. People who accidentally put East’s cards in the West slot and vice versa — or East’s cards in the South slot, which is even worse. When the director notes that for the first seven rounds, N/S were in 4S making 5, and the last four rounds, E/W were in six diamonds making six, there’s very little that can be done.

There are all kinds of ways to foul a movement. Most of them that I’ve seen are not caused by people doing something silly deliberately, but primarily were caused by someone who just wanted to be helpful. And — an important point — it’s super-tough for North to look a nice, helpful person in the eye and say, “Please don’t touch the boards, that’s my job.” Because nobody wants to be THAT guy. And these days, it’s pretty clear that very few people have ever been told the rules, so it’s really mean to “yell at you” for not knowing them.

It’s not unheard of for a player to ask North if it’s okay to switch the boards, or do some other task. Just ask first.

There are many more little tiny points of bridge etiquette that many players have never learned. Some are rules; some are merely common politenesses. I’ll cover them over the next while, when I gather enough that focus on the same thing. But in the meantime, there’s one rule that everyone should follow 100%; if you don’t know what the right thing to do is, CALL THE DIRECTOR.  It’s never wrong to call the director — that’s why they’re in the room.

And if you want to be helpful at the table and keep the movement flowing quickly and properly, the best way to do that is to LET NORTH DO IT. 




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