Paul Cronin

ZT Revisited

Am looking for suggestions as to what should be included in a ZT education program. Players in general are not seeing ZT in action often enough for them to become familiar with its workings, and I think we need to put together a primer on its mechanics. Ideas please!


Jeff LehmanMay 30th, 2012 at 12:31 am

With apologies, Paul, for not responding directly to your request … but I wonder if the bridge teachers of the world should, at some stage of their getting students ready for duplicate clubs, be teaching not only Zero Tolerance, but also something about bidding and play Breaks In Tempo and Unauthorized Information.

Those of us who read a lot about bridge and occasionally attend tournaments might pick up some useful knowledge on these important subjects, but my experience is that the club players have learned very little and that the club directors do not consider it an important part of their function to instruct on such matters. That’s a shame because the subjects can be brought up in a constructive manner such that the “offender” need not feel accused, at least by the director.

paul croninMay 30th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Thanks for the ideas, Jeff – will incorporate same into the position paper I’m preparing.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 30th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Dear Paul , I know you don’t agree with my views but many outbursts by players , which would subject them to severe reprimands under ZT policies , DO NOT take into account the provocative acts by the so called innocent parties ( alleged victims ). If ZT is to become a major force within all bridge clubs then the priority should be tackle the cheats , the slow players , the needlers, and all those who use coffee house tactics and the like. Remove the cause of the problem and perhaps the number of petulant outbursts might be dramatically reduced.
The times I’ve had to bite my lip , count to 10 , and hold my breath are innumerable , and being a gentleman who doesn’t want to cause a scene or an unnecessary fuss , I prefer let to things ride. But should my patience go one day as I fall victim yet again to a blatant hesitation designed to convey a lot of unauthoriised information, please allow me once to blow my cool before calling over the TD.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 31st, 2012 at 12:09 am

I agree with Jeff 1,000,000%. It is the responsibilities of the mentors to teach their potential players manners and etiquette. Honor to the game and their peers should be uppermost on their list of priorities. By the time it reaches the club level, it is too late. Owners do not want to lose players (paying customers) and many let the issues slide to not insult the newcomers and keep them coming back. There are some exceptions — but few and far between.

That is why we have reached the stage we are in. Too little — too late. It is a difficult situation to reverse.

paul croninMay 31st, 2012 at 2:48 am

Hi Howard,

Many thanks for your thoughts -always appreciated!

I believe, very strongly, that where ZT is concerned, there is no justification for misbehaviour. Whatever anyone does, we have to keep calm, and say nothing except “Director, please”. We cannot plead that we were provoked into misbehaviour. Even if you believe, and could prove, that someone is cheating – that still doesn’t allow you to publicly call that person a cheat. And if you did so, that would be a very serious ethical offense. What someone else does is not, under any circumstances, licence for us to misbehave.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 31st, 2012 at 5:09 am

Dear Paul , I thoroughly agree that any incident of improper behaviour a TD should be called over. However , we are all human and at times a little prickly. The point I am trying to make is that provocatiion does not excuse or condone petulant outbursts of extreme disapproval , but should always be considered AS A MITIGATING FACTOR when charged under ZT policies. In all walks of life one has to accept the hustle and bustle , the give and take , and the occasional knocks and bumps , which have to be encountered along the way.
Nevertheless , two lessons need to be taken on board : 1. Never allow other people to rattle you , by striving to remain calm at all times 2. Don’t do things that provoke other players , because whatever happens next YOU ARE TO BLAME

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMay 31st, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I believe a director should be called IMMEDIATELY (after a long study and a PASS) BY THE LHO specifically to have them explain to the partner of the huddler that they are not to take advantage of partner’s long study. It is the aftermath that causes the unpleasantries and in this manner quite often avoids the partner from taking advantage of unauthorized information. I am from the school of the firm believer that you don’t wait for the infraction to occur if you are in a position to prevent it.

I say this from experience. When I first started playing at a club, the above scenario was quite frequent — and sure enough the “no
balance hand” often found a bid which caused the director to be called. If it is done in advance, you’d be amazed how often it does not occur and everyone sticks to good behavior. Even the huddles have lessened.

Larry LowellJune 2nd, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I thought the new ACBL recommendation (2011) was to agree at the table that there was a hesitation and if agreed, no director call until later. Europe does it that way.

MaggieJune 7th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Paul et al.
As one of many hundreds of bridge teachers across North America, I’d like to say that we DO teach all that stuff you are talking about. Or rather, we try to! Do they understand, and take it in? Who knows! Do they know the answers if I ask them? Yes! Do they remember while they are playing? No, not very often.

I also direct a 49er game at our club and during our pre-game mini lessons I spend a LOT of time going over stuff like…pausing after a preempt, not hesitating with the bidding box, who anounces the transfer bid, what the stop card is for (and not for!), calling the director etc. It is DRILLED into my guys. Yet they STILL come to me after the game and say….’well, I didn’t like to say anything, but….’ and I say ‘Why didn’t you call the director?’ It really is an up-hill battle to get them to behave like ethical, expert players, they have so much to learn! They are still struggling with bidding, play and defense concepts and I’m asking them to think about their body language too. My only hope is that they will improve with experience, as long as I keep at it.

This week the complaint I got (after the fact of course) was so bad I think next week I’m going to suggest they bid AND play without looking at their partner until the hand is over.

But really, we DO TRY!

bobby wolffAugust 4th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Hi Paul,

Please allow me to weigh in on some of your back and forth concerning ZT with what might be considered a somewhat new perspective. While doing so I will refer to some of the comments made by Jeff, HBJ, Larry and, of course, you, but will do so in the interest of brevity and without specifically naming the source each time.

While discussing this important subject I do not claim to have anywhere near all the answers, but rather by pinpointing the problems, and choices for remedies we may at least have a starting position for the worthwhile goal of going in the right direction to make our wonderful game more fulfilling and therefore considerably less stressful. I would also, before we begin, offer a disclaimer that subjects like the human condition, value judgment on the importance of winning along with demanding at least equal consideration with any and everyone else, great player or not, pleasing personality or not so, troublemaker or wimp is often in the eye of one’s own experience and judgment, rather than a scientifically known fact.

As far as teaching new players to learn our game, the ethics of bridge are one of a kind, since, at least for high-level competitive purposes, the fact that bridge is a partnership game with the only legal communication based on the bidding and play of the cards and since physicality in bridge is simply not meant to be a factor, any body language, emphasis, intonation, or otherwise somewhat unusual emotional behavior during the hand can easily be classified as unauthorized information (UI), never to be used and inadmissible to all who garner it (intentionally or not). Thus, keep in mind when anyone, other than a very young person first learns bridge, he (or she) needs to be reminded the above unique nature of our game and just how his responsibilities will not be the same as he has learned to play ALL other games up to that point.

At least to me, when we talk about ZT we are also discussing sensitivity, especially when we are including mostly normal type personalities who would be considered up to at least close to emotionally stable people. When a TD is called, all the pre-talk of how calling the director is no sign of impropriety but only a way to protect everyone’s rights is, to me, an oxymoron in practicality. While, I, am not saying in any way, not to call a TD when one should do so, I am saying that the caller of the TD, needs to practice an excellent “table-side manner”, equivalent to a doctor explaining a serious medical condition to a patient, unless, of course, the victim of the call is battle hardened (BH) to the point of not being bothered to be so signaled out. Also it needs to be known that there are probably not as many BH players as some might think.

When the TD arrives he or she, in a perfect world, or at least one where the TD will in actuality do more good than harm, we need to briefly state his (or her) necessary qualifications. To name a few:

1. know the applicable law and more importantly, the reason for it,

2. be a general peacemaker and be aware of sometimes volatile emotions which go along with playing a competitive game,

3. be confident in one’s manner, even if leave is taken to go consult with another who may be better versed on the particular ruling,

4. be compassionate with one or sometimes both parties to the dispute, keeping in mind that some of our bridge laws do a poor job of restoring strict equity to a possible transgression at the table.

5. stay calm, if for no other reason than to have one’s action serve as a positive rather than a negative influence on others also staying calm.

6. before leaving, and if at all possible, explain to the table, while usually looking at the pair who perhaps got the worst end of it, why the rule had to be the way it is and what it is supposed to accomplish (such as restore the status quo or sometimes punish an offender who, at least on this occasion was a disrupter).

7. Finally, and in very rare cases, it should be the TD’s duty to file a recorder slip on very suspicious circumstances should they be present. It can be done by only the TD and who it happened against (but often the victims do not want to get involved, but they must allow themselves to be witnesses in case they are needed), and by no one doing it, is neglecting the TD’s responsibility to act as an important and necessary agent of the game to do what he or she can to prevent what in a very few isolated cases a distinct evil to the game. Somewhat like a traffic cop who stops a car for speeding only to find out he unknowingly stepped into something much larger in scope.

The entire above could be thought of as a beginner’s manual on a TD’s responsibility and necessary training for all to be educated on what it takes to be a competent TD.

It should be noted here that a TD should also take the time and effort to try and understand if the side which called the TD is also a “needler” or in other ways a player who sometimes provokes others to dislike him, usually by ultra competitive tactics and/or
sometimes by obviously disliking someone himself which sometimes shows through or else comes up in the investigation. If so, the TD needs, at the very least, to let it be known at the table that such behavior should be eliminated or seriously toned down, otherwise the antagonist will also be subject to a disciplinary penalty. Provocation in a dispute is just as serious as the deed done and all need to be aware of it.

It was mentioned that some bridge venues encourage a player to suggest, “We should now all agree that there was a hesitation, so that this dispute will be settled in case of what might now happen”. OK, if it is done in such a manner which does not inflame someones sensitivity and that can only be accomplished by a skilled people’s person who understands the human condition and, more importantly, caters to it. If so, it is a good idea, if not it will do more harm than good and better to wait until after a possible UI accusation is on the table. I would say that most intelligent players realize their responsibility to lean over backwards not to take advantage of UI when it occurs and so the information sought before any transgression occurs may not be necessary.

I’ll finish by listing the enemies of the game:

1. Taking advantage of UI.

2. Extremely slow play when not called for by a very difficult hand, but when and if a complicated hand arises, should within reason, let extra time be taken with absolutely no rancor. The simple reason for this is that is what good bridge is all about, solving problems, some of which are difficult.

3. Coffee house (shady) tactics which are meant to illegally cause the opponents to go wrong, have no right to ever be used in an effort to introduce a “poker” element into our game which it is well known (or should be) that bridge demands ethical compliance by its very nature.

4. Using or merely implying the word cheat prematurely which almost always applies unless a thorough investigation so reveals the probability of it having occurred and then only by an official representing authority.

Summing up, the ACBL needs to train its TD’s to comply with what is suggested above. Believe it or not, experienced bridge club operators more often than not learn as they go and the best clubs feature them as their game directors. Cronyism and friendships, whether personal or because of being among the club’s best customers is never a reason for positive bias and when it appears, needs to be reported to the Unit, District or to the ACBL itself, but when that is done, it is sad that the league itself takes a laissez-faire approach which, IMHO, only serves to make it more difficult for bridge to take a giant step forward to improve ACBL wide bridge behavior.

I suspect that the reason for the above is that the league has no investigative division, therefore they beg off in issuing discipline. It is time they changed that position and led the way in making tournament bridge a better game and one in which we can be more proud.

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