The General Approach: Call the Director!

By David Stevenson, Merseyside and the late Ian Spoors, Newcastle upon Tyne

A conversation overheard at a recent county event: 'I was directing at the club last night. Never again - run off my feet, hardly able to play a single board without being called'; 'Really? We hardly ever call the Director at my club'. Which club would we prefer to play at? Neither! Sorry, a trick question, but it raises some important points. Club committees should be thinking about the sort of experience they give members on club nights and how that can be improved. We as players should think about when it is appropriate to be calling 'Director, please'. This article summarises some of the circumstances in which failure to call the TD often causes problems
In clubs where the TD is playing you can help the TD by not calling him or her if it is a problem you can sort out yourselves: one of the cards on your curtain card has been badly recorded or that dozy pair at the next table have written the wrong EW pair number on the traveller (again!). So how do you know when a problem is sufficiently 'serious' to merit a call ? The Laws and Ethics Committee has discussed this and strongly recommends you to call the Director immediately in the following cases:

  • When there is a defender's exposed card
  • When an opponent has corrected any information he or his partner has given - and this includes saying that something should or should not have been alerted.
  • When there is any bad behaviour.
  • When there has been an insufficient bid.
  • When there is a dispute over a claim
  • When a player can't (or won't) answer questions about the meaning of a call (or play).

What makes these six cases different is that by calling the TD now , you avoid much worse problems which often arise later in the hand. If you try to sort out your own exposed cards, you may well forget about lead penalties or minor penalty cards. Saying 'just put it back in your hand and forget it' may be doing the opponents an unkindness by putting them under a lot of ethical pressure.
In cases of misinformation, the TD has options to limit or remove the potential damage for both sides, but of course he cannot apply them if you don't call him until too late. Bad behaviour is best dealt with before things get out of hand, and usually can't be dealt with if it's only brought up in the bar afterwards. A good TD will be able to stop the sort of thing which turns newer players away from the game and make it clear to all how the club expects its members to conduct themselves at the table.
Players often think insufficient bids can be "made good" without penalty but the Law is far more complex than that. Claims are a matter for the TD anyway, since if there is any objection, all play stops and only the TD can act fairly to both sides. As for questions about a call or play, again the TD has options, which will help both sides, so he needs to be there.
The L&EC are suggesting that players should be using their common sense and not calling the TD all the time, but expect that the six areas above should nearly always lead to a Director call. Make that call a friendly one, 'Director, please', or better still, let the player who has caused the problem be the one to summon the TD. We all enjoy our game much more when the Director is called when he should be, and not when he isn't needed. We hope that the players we overheard read this article.