This is the text of a proposal I submitted to the ACBL’s C&C committee in the Spring of 2003. Alas they turned it down without comment.

For reference click here for the ACBL’s current policy.

Stop card use

I propose that the ACBL adopt the Stop card regulation used by the WBF, with the clarification that the appropriate amount of time to leave the Stop card out is ten seconds. The effect of this regulation would be the same as the one the ACBL used until November of 1995. This is the text the WBF uses:

Playing without screens a player “announces” a skip bid by placing the Stop card in front of him, then placing his bid card as usual, and eventually removing the Stop card. His LHO should not call until the Stop card has been removed. (If the Stop card has been removed hastily or has not been used, an opponent may pause as though the Stop card has been used correctly.)

The main advantage of this procedure is that there need never be a dispute as to whether a player waited long enough after a skip bid. If a player makes a call before the Stop card is removed his opponents will summon the director. The TD need only observe that the Stop card is on the table and that the card for LHO’s subsequent call is also on the table. He will explain that UI is present and what that implies.

Contrast this with the current procedure. If, as happens in the vast majority of cases, a player does not wait a full ten seconds, the opponents must decide on a case by case basis whether to summon the TD. Occasionally they do. Then a “He said/she said” kind of argument usually ensues. The TD has no objective way of determining whether or not the pause was sufficient, and usually settles for “call me back if you think there’s been a problem.” As a practical matter any pause between five and fifteen seconds is usually judged to have been made in proper tempo -- Rich Colker has said as much in the NABC Casebooks. This is a sad state of affairs. Such a difference can easily make UI available, and many partnerships must be subconsciously attuned to the difference.

Another advantage of the proposed procedure is that many players find it difficult to simultaneously contemplate their call and estimate the passage of time. Under the WBF method the passage of time is estimated by a player who has nothing else to do – if he’s so inclined he can even use his watch.

Another advantage is that making our regulation closer to the WBF’s contributes to making the rules more similar everywhere, which will make things easier both for ACBL players who play in the WBF and WBF players playing in the ACBL.

Is the procedure I propose perfect? Surely not. One problem is that players may not leave the Stop card out for an appropriate interval, replacing it after two or three seconds. This is addressed by the WBF regulation, and in any case we would be no worse off in this respect than at present. In my experience calls that are too hasty vastly outnumber those that are too deliberate.

I have also heard the objection that this method gives control to the player who made the skip bid. I don’t understand this objection at all. The skip bidder is the one who ought to exercise control. If he leaves the card out too long someone can just call the TD – players will learn the correct procedure soon enough. In the WBF compliance is so easy and flaunting the regulation so obvious that one almost never needs to call the TD.

Respectfully submitted,

Adam Wildavsky

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