The Thinking Director
When the Laws Require Thinking
The Unexpected Situation
Laws About Directing
Supporting Directors (you are here)

Supporting Directors

One possible belief about directing is that the director knows the rules and applies the rules. And, as part of this belief, the director should be just applying the rules.

If you have this belief, then you will not support a director who displays common sense or makes decisions. You will not support a director who just rules equitable and consistently with the principles of the laws when a situation is not covered by the laws; instead, you will force the director to at least pretend to be a headless chicken.

You will also let the players appeal to a committee whenever the director makes a judgment and maybe even force the director to tell players of their right to an appeal whenever a judgment is made. You will ignore the director's judgment in an appeal, essentially making the director's judgment pointless.

This is not a very good millieu for a director to work in.

There is one more thing. If the director's job is to follow the laws, and if the laws are perfect, then there is one right ruling and all other rulings are wrong. If you disagree with the ruling another director makes, then you believe that other director's ruling is wrong.

Director Abuse

It is not easy to be a director if you feel you are forced to make rulings that are not fair. You will feel bad. The natural human tendency is then to rationalize. This will mean blaming the players and justifying giving unfair rulings. You will say things like "They should expect to be punished when they make a mistake" and "It is there own fault for making a mistake" and "Punishments are good because they teach players not to make mistakes."

Creating a Good Millieu for Directors

A metaphor. Someone gives you a hand and asks how to bid it, adding that his partner bid 2H with that hand. How do you rule? You can decide what you would bid, then call the 2H bid wrong if it differs from your bid.

Sometimes, there is an obviously correct bid (given the system the players are playing). Then 2H is either right or wrong. Sometimes a hand falls on the border between two bids. Perhaps the hand is right between 2H and 3H. Then it requires an arbitrary judgment (a mental coin flip). And sometimes it is a difficult situation and a collection of experts will make four different bids. In this final situation, there are still many bids that are "wrong". But you also have four bids that are "reasonable".

It is the same for directing. Sometimes there is a straightforward ruling. Sometimes something falls on the line and there is a judgment that is hardly more than a mental coin flip. And sometimes there is a complicated situation with several reasonable answers.

Creating a Better Millieu for Yourself

The first step is within. If you are a director, you have to realize that, as part of your job, you can and should use common sense; you will be called on to make decisions and judgments, some of which will be close to mental coin flips; and you might be faced with an unexpected situation where you have several choices. You should realize that when the application of the laws is not straightforward, your job is to make "reasonable" rulings, not "correct" rulings.

And you should defend your right to show common sense, apply principles from the Laws, and make judgments. You should not accept an onus of making "correct" decisions.

Second, you should strive to avoid unequitable rulings. Basically, if you don't feel right about a ruling, rethink it. You can't avoid the revoke rule, so if that rule (or any straightforward ruling) makes you feel bad, you are out of luck. Otherwise, you should try to make rulings that are fair and equitable. (However, giving everyone at the table a good score, while making those players happy, is not exactly fair to the other players in the room. So your first responsibility is to be fair to everyone.)

There is a third thing about trying to make fair and equitable rulings. The players are expected to graciously accept your rulings. Some plays do that better than others, of course. But the flip side of that, IMO, is to deserve that trust, you should to be trying to make good rulings.

Creating a Better Millieu for Other Directors

Much of the current poor millieu is caused by directors themselves. You can promote a good millieu. I know of one seminar for directors which constantly stressed that they were just supposed to follow the rules. That makes the director's job boring, stressful (because you can't always just follow the rules). And it's wrong.

When you are asked to evaluate a ruling by another director, you should not assume there is only one right ruling (and that yours is right). Allow the other director to make decisions that might disagree with yours. If a situation is straightforward, you can call the other director's ruling wrong. But in situations not covered by the laws, the question is whether the other director's ruling is reasonable.

There is another thing. A ruling can be contraindicated, not by the laws themselves, but by supplemental pronouncements. As far as I know, a club director at least is not responsible for these supplemental announcements. In my experience, they are difficult to find. So you can say that a ruling is wrong because it is contraindicated by supplemental pronouncements, but be generous to the director who simply might not know them. Same thing for "common understandings" -- they are not easy to know. Additionally, common understandings can differ by region.

Creating a Better Millieu: The Appeals Committee

Another metaphor: To decide the world champion in chess, a single game is played. The winner is the champion, except if the loser thinks he/she is really the better player. Then three more games are played, and the player winning two of those games is the champion.

Of course, the point is that the first game is irrelevant. There is no reason to play it. The people who spent time and effort arranging and running it were wasting their time.

The same thing happens in bridge. A director makes a ruling. If the ruling requires any judgment, the director is supposed to inform the players of their right to appeal. If they don't like the ruling, why would they not appeal? Three players form a committee, the directors ruling is ignored, and the three players redo the director's job.

As far as I know, no one particularly likes this situation. The solution is not to ban the appeals committee, because directors sometimes make wrong rulings and bad judgments. The solution is not to blame the players who appeal, because they are essentially making rationale choices to take advantage of a bad system. The problem is the appeal system as stands. Because it throws out the director's judgment, it is essentially a free second shot at getting a favorable ruling.

A solution is to the current problem with appeals committee's is to give the director's judgment and decision weight. First, the initial question to the committee should be, is the director's ruling "reasonable"? If they agree it is reasonable, the committee supports the director. This acknowledges that directors make judgments, it allows that, and it does not make the director's judgment pointless.

If people want to give even more weight to the director's judgment, then the odds of overturning the ruling can just be increased. I think it would work better if there were only two committee members and both had to vote to overturn the director's ruling before it was overturned. (It would probably be better if the director making the ruling was a third member of the committee.)

In short, this proposal is designed to protect players against a poor ruling or judgment by a director. However, it is also designed to eliminate the "second shot" aspect of the current system, where an appeal is essentially a free shot to get a better ruling.

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