Application of Procedural and Disciplinary Penalties

I have some questions around how exactly these are applied.
1) Where the penalty would reduce a pairs score below zero MPs, does the score go negative or just go to zero?
2) Are penalties assessed against a particular board, against the pair's overall score, or does it depend on what the penalty is for?
3) Are the rules different for the two different classes of penalty?

I'm aware that in some circumstances 1) and 2) might be the same question!




  • Penalties (i.e. PPs/DPs, as opposed to adjustments) are, in the EBU (and most other bridge organisations), assessed against overall score once all the scoring has finished. (The Laws don't seem to explain how penalties are applied at all; the only mention of the application of penalties in the Laws is in 91A, which states that DPs are measured "in points", whatever that means; there's no similar language for PPs.) For the EBU rules, see 8.12.3 in the White Book.

    The easiest way to see this is to look at VP-based events (e.g. IMP to VP, which is a common scoring method in large Swiss tournaments). In this case, an assigned adjusted score would effectively change the number of points scored on the hand (by assigning a different contract or number of tricks), which would then change the number of IMPs scored on the hand: it's clearly tied to a hand (and thus couldn't, even in the most extreme circumstances, change the hand's result outside the +20 IMPs to −20 IMPs range). On the other hand, a PP or DP would be given directly as a number of VPs, affecting a side's final tournament result without having any impact on the other sides. (For example, a DP would normally subtract two VPs directly from a team's total.)

    The way to think about it is that penalties aren't attributable to any particular board (or even any particular opposing partnership); they're purely intended to punish one partnership for disrupting the tournament, either because of an accumulation of small errors that became disruptive due to the partnership failing to correct them despite being warned, or because of a single disruption that was egregious enough to be punishable by itself. In the "accumulation of errors" case (where you give out warnings and finally a penalty), you're punishing a side for something that happened on multiple boards; even the "single disruption" case needn't link to a particular board (e.g. if a player receives a DP for being grossly offensive to other players in the event, that could have happened between rounds rather than being linked to a particular board or table). And because the penalties aren't attributed to any particular board (even though in some cases they could be), they aren't reduced just because a particular board happened to have a low score.

    For example, say that in a matchpointed round-robin pairs event, a partnership uses an illegal method despite being warned about it previously, but their opponents end up luckily making the resulting contract and end up with an 80% result on the board. The board isn't adjusted (even though it normally would be after the use of an illegal method), because the adjustment would be to an artificial score of 60%, and the opponents scored better than that – they weren't damaged, so no adjustment. However, using an illegal method after a warning incurs a PP, which in this case is 25% of a top. The partnership has 25% of a top deducted from their total matchpoint score at the end of the event; because of the additive nature of matchpoint scoring, this is equivalent to the result you'd get from giving them an assigned score of −5% on the board (and, based on the scoring technique/software you're using, treating the board as −5% rather than 20% with a 25% penalty may be the simplest way to do it).

    Now suppose the same thing happens in a Swiss pairs event with 6-board rounds. This time, we can't score the board as −5%; the board's scored as 20% (the result that doesn't count any penalties), because the penalty isn't measured in matchpoints at all. Rather, 1 VP is deducted from the offending side's total at the end of the event (this could be most conveniently scored by attributing it to the round on which the penalty occurred, giving out only 19 VPs for that round by removing 1 VP from the offending partnership's total).

    At least in the EBU, PPs and DPs work exactly the same way (the only difference is that the "default" size of a DP is twice that of a PP, but in either case a Director can apply a smaller or larger penalty than the default if the offence is smaller or larger than a typical offence of that type).

  • An amusing event happened at the European Open Championships in Ostend this year: a player arrived late for a match so was fined the required 1VPs. His phone then went off, for which the fine mandated was 2VPs. Now his partner's phone went off for another 2VPs. Their bridge result gave them no VPs, so the match ended up with a score of 20- -5, which led some viewers to wonder if the software had accidentally been set to use an old obsolete VP scale.

  • Thank you. ais523, for your clear and detailed reply. Very helpful.

  • "Now his partner's phone went off .... "


    I find that if someone's phone goes off, there is then mass activity within a significant radius of folks double-checking that their own phone is switched off!

    Barrie Partridge - Senior Kibitzer in Bridge Club Live - Pig Trader in IBLF

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