Best Behaviour

The above hand was being bid at the end of the evening by a very experienced NS pair and a much weaker and far less experienced EW pair.

E opened 1NT and S bid 2NT. W asked N what this meant and was told "at least 5/5 in the minors". There was then an alleged BIT by W before she passed. N said something along the lines of "shame I didn't have a stopwatch running whilst you were thinking" and then bid 3D. E now bid 3S at which point S lambasted W for her hesitation (more about this) after which I was called.

Everyone started talking at once when I arrived and so I asked who had called me and was told that it was W. I asked everyone to be quiet and I asked W why she'd called me. I then got explanations from everyone round the table as to what had happened with NS being particularly voluble. Once I had established the apparent facts I ruled that they should continue bidding, play the hand and that NS could call me back if they felt that they had been damaged. I also warned N that his behaviour did not meet the requirements of BB at Bridge and that if there was a repetition I would penalise NS.

I returned to the table after the hand had been played to find that the result had been 4SX -2 by W. 300 to NS and a share of the top matchpoints. For the record it is worth pointing out that :-

a) neither W nor E accepted that there had been a BIT
b) W had been intending to bid 2H (xfer to S) before the overcall and had then wondered whether she could do this over 2NT (strongly implying that there must have been BIT)
c) E was of the opinion that there was no reason why she couldn't 'save' into 3S with her hand

None of the above has any relevance to the reason for this post because when I sat down with EW to help them understand why there had been a problem I discovered that the real reason why W had called me originally was that after East's 3S bid S had said to W that her BIT was 'cheating'.

At this point I called S back (the tournament had now finished) and advised that I would be imposing a penalty of 10% of a top (2MPs) which simply drew more venom from S, this time in my direction and also towards the senior Club TD who had had some words with S as a result of her attitude.

I realised some time later, that under 91B I had the power to disqualify the pair from the competition and that the latest document entitled Best Behaviour at Bridge on the EBU website states that "If a player at the table behaves in an unacceptable manner, the director should be called immediately. Annoying behaviour, embarrassing remarks, or any other conduct which might interfere with the enjoyment of the game is specifically prohibited by Law 74A. Law 91A gives the director the authority to assess disciplinary penalties. This can include immediate disciplinary board penalties and may lead to disqualification from the current event. In addition any violation may result in a disciplinary hearing where player(s) future participation in tournaments will be considered."

Had I been aware that this power was available to me I would have ruled that as a DP the pair were disqualified rather than the entirely inappropriate minor penalty which I actually imposed. Everything is easy with hindsight but I'll know better if there is a next time. The offending pair actually won the NS section by 10 MPs after the penalty had been applied.

My question to fellow TDs here is what would they have considered appropriate action in the above circumstances?


  • The White Book section 2.8.4 has advice about standard penalties to use in this situation. Offensive language aimed at the opponents (e.g. accusing them of cheating) is something that's penalised as a first offence. It should be noted that "10% of a top" is the standard amount for a procedural penalty; by default, a disciplinary penalty is 20% of a top (i.e. the same amount as two PPs). So for S's lambasting against W, I'd give S a penalty of 4 matchpoints. (DPs don't have to balance between the two members of a partnership, which is particularly important when one partner is abusing the other!) You can adjust the value of the DP if you think the offence is particularly minor or particularly grave; adjusting all the way to a DQ for the first offence should be reserved for extreme circumstances, though (the White Book lists physical violence and intimidation as the only behavioural offences that major).

    The incident that you originally warned about fits the description of "general BB@B breach" quite well, and your warning was appropriate (according to the White Book, that's warned about on the first occasion, then given a DP every time it occurs from then on).

    Arguing with the director is a warning the first time, then escalating DPs each time after that. As S was arguing with both you and the chief TD, then I have no real issues assessing a penalty for that too, as it's two offences. DPs are allowed to be adjusted due to other DPs; thus because south has already been given one DP (for the accusations of cheating), I'd give South a double DP for arguing with the directors (an additional 8 matchpoints). It sounds like that would have been enough to knock her into second place. (North could still win the event if he stayed out of the argument / otherwise behaved; behaving after being given a warning is what we want to happen, and so it's not something we'd want to penalise him for.)

    If South was swearing at you, as opposed to merely arguing with you, then that would be a second DP (probably a double DP, 8 matchpoints) for what is now the second offence (their actions towards West were the first!). The third offence of that nature is a DQ, and it sounds like South might well have gone that far (e.g. swearing at both you and another director, in addition to insulting an opponent, is three offences). Of course, the disqualification of South would make it hard/impossible for North to place in the event.

  • I agree that this is a serious matter indeed. Worth noting that when the White Book is updated in August the standard amounts for penalties will be increased to 25% of a top, or 1VP or 6 IMPs, with DPs usually starting at twice those amounts.

  • How would we penalise South and not North, assuming using EBUScore or ScoreBridge?

  • You can't. You have to treat the pair together.


  • Score penalties apply to the competing unit: team, pair or individual.

    The TD can suspend a player and the competing unit may be able to continue with a substitute.

  • As a club director whose main concern is organising the movement and scoring is the point of dealing with bad behaviour not being missed in this discussion ? As a playing club director , I don't have the depth of experience to have at my fingertips the penalties to be applied. I think also applies to my fellow club directors who are generally club qualified rather than panel,

    In the heat of the moment on the night, it is impossible to be able to go through the White Book (150 pages) to work out the penalties for us run of the mill directors.

    In fact to confidently work out the penalties can be very time consuming, perhaps taking hours of consideration and then still being certain of the position. Meanwhile the bad behaviour may be festering in the background and the penalty when applied is possibly brushed aside by the offenders.

    We take a rather different approach to that of working out penalties and applying them afterwards. - it is to not tolerate bad behaviour in the first place - our club committee has set up deliberate strategies to stop bad behaviour before it starts- we discuss behaviour patterns at our committee meetings attempting to work out what we think are the best strategies; for example all experienced players are encouraged to be tolerant of the less experienced to help set up a club culture - there are other actions - they seem to work.

    I have noticed over the years that EBU directors at higher level events appear to have taken a different approach to bad behaviour compared with say 20/30 years ago. Effectively stopping it before it escalates . The event directors are highly trained and have the advantage of being non-players so are able to step in early - and know the rules inside out.

    I assume that Adam was directing a club event. Generally people who behave badly have form and either have to change or ultimately are removed from the club.

    I would suggest that the club constitution /procedures are looked to start with on disciplinary matters . Normal methods seem to take an escalating approach to disciplinary matters - much as the White Book does . When we do have bad behaviour our first step is for the club chairman to speak to the players direct - with the tacit full support of the committee - this seems to stop bad behaviour early and prevent incidents as described . I have been aware that at some clubs bad behaviour seems to be tolerated and it can eventually get out of hand .

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