E*V*I*L Undos: An unfortunate incident in Week Three of Season Five prompted me to write this for the benefit of our E*V*I*L players. The best way to start is probably to just give the details of the incident without the names of the people involved.
At the point in the evening where most matches are starting the second segment or ending the first, I was told by one of the team captains that a board was in dispute. The board was a 12 IMP swing to the team up 30 at halftime, one table had bid to 3NT and the other table had passed it out, despite the third seat holding a balanced 18-count.
Our minimal IMP League rules recognize that Director calls at the time are nearly impossible because of the bubble that players are in when they set up team games. Only the table host (who may be at the other table) can chat with anyone outside the team game, and nobody outside the game (including me) can chat with any of the eight players at all while they are at the table. Because of this, we ask that players agree whenever there is an issue about a board, either coming to some adjustment that is acceptable to all, or agreeing to present the facts to me at the end of the segment and let me decide the issue.
Also in the instructions for setting up a team game is the recommendation NOT to allow undos. They tend to make rulings more contentious and more difficult to resolve fairly, especially if the undo rollback cancels multiple bids or plays that are impossible to ignore in the ensuing auction or cardplay. Plus, undos that cause disputes tend to make the other side more likely to try to get revenge later (as we shall see). You're not prohibited from using undos if you prefer, but the rulings you get will almost certainly be less unexpected without them.
In this particular situation we have a conflict with the well-known rules of Virtual Club games, where no misclicks are allowed to be corrected under any circumstances. It is well-known that this is not in keeping with the Laws, which allow some bids and some designations from dummy to be corrected if a mechanical error or a slip of the tongue is involved, rather than a change of mind or loss of concentration. In most cases, the player needs to say something fairly quickly to indicate his mistake, so during the break between sessions, I asked the opponents in private chat whether something was said at the time. One did not respond, the other said 'we were told no undos.' I assumed from this that something was said about the misclick at the time, but no agreement was reached at the table except that there was agreement that one player was claiming a misclick.
As I wrote on the IMP League web page, the criterion for a score adjustment here make it a rather high bar. If you have undos set I'll need to know why they were not used to correct the problem. (In this case even with undos set the deal would be over after the fourth pass and a correction would not be possible.) There needs to be some action taken fairly quickly by the player who misclicks, either a message to the table (not best since this will probably give unauthorized information) or a private message to the opponents. We absolutely cannot let you play out a result and then claim a misclick if things don't work out. And finally and most importantly, the misclick MUST be blantantly and obviously unintended by basic bridge logic. This is not at all even remotely similar to the way Directors poll players to decide what may be a logical alternative. If ANY responder in a poll would even consider the call made, it is not going to be accepted as an unintended misclick.
One more law applies in this situation. If we cannot adjust a result to a fairly obvious score, and instead scrub the board, we still need to check the result at the other table. If one side has obtained a clearly favourable result that rates to gain IMPs, Law 86B1 allows the Director to assign a score, or a weighted score, to the missed board, and award IMPs based on that assigned score. In practice this means that if 3NT making at the other table was clearly an unusually favourable result to the declarer, we might award a few IMPs to his team, and if the declarer should have made overtricks but did not, we might award a few IMPs to the other team. In this case, there was a fairly obvious lead that made the play for nine tricks dependant on a finesse which worked, the partner of the 18-count had passed in first chair with 8 points, and the declaring side had no 8-card major suit fit, so 3NT seemed the obvious spot and the near-certain result.
As I was coming to the conclusion that this fit the criterion for a scrubbed board, I was told by the incident reporting team captain that the other team captain (not one of the players at the table where the incident happened) had agreed to scrub the board, turning a 30-IMP lead into an 18-IMP lead and playing an extra board in the second segment. Small problem here: the first team captain set up the match with the other team captain at the other table, so I was unable to get confirmation from that player before the second segment began. And as it later turned out, the quick setup of segment two, once the captains agreed, meant that the other pair was not informed of the captain's decision. Let's be sure we ALL agree before we return to the bubble if we have a dispute like this in future, match hosts. However, in this case the four people on the other team all sat down for the second half knowing there was an extra board in the set, and no complaints were made.
Here's where it gets hairy. The team who misclicked won the second half by just enough to win the match. I sent a message to the other team captain asking for confirmation of the agreement, and I did not receive a response. I was online for at least forty minutes after the end of this match, and no complaints in chat, BBO mail, or in e-mail. But the following morning, the team captain informed me that the other pair was angry at the way the situation was handled, and had brought up a deal in the second half that they felt was comparable: a 4=5=3=1 6-count had responded 1♥ to a 1♣ opener and passed the 2♦ reverse. Now they were claiming that passing was a misclick, despite not saying anything about it after the match.
Remember earlier when I said that one undo controversy will prompt other revenge situations? Game might be reachable with a six-count opposite a reverse to 2♦, but it might also be impossible if the reverse is a good 16 count and 3NT lacks stoppers in the majors. Passing is NOT blatantly and obviously unintended; almost any player would at least consider passing, having scraped up the first minimum response.
The aggrieved pair made several other claims, that they were unaware that they were up 18 and not up 30 and they would have played differently, and that my decision was favoring friends (the pair involved is not local), and that they would not continue unless the first half decision was overturned and the second half claimed one was allowed. After checking with some other players about my decisions in the situation (without revealing names) and discovering that I was not at all off on a minority view, I gave that ultimatum the response it deserved, and as a result, the team now has some new people on its roster.
Let's all note that the captain, who is continuing, did the right and sportsmanlike thing from the start and tried to get the frustrated pair to accept the situation and continue, then ensured some replacement players so nobody would be inconvenienced by forfeited matches. Let's also note that the vast majority of IMP League play over the past ten months has been cordial without the need for Director intervention except for a very very few cases. We have a good thing going here. I am confident that the very few table disputes we have will be fairly handled by agreement and that in disputes that I decide, my decision will be accepted.
But we do need to understand that E*V*I*L is NOT a Virtual Club game, and a misclick that is blatantly obvious can be corrected, or at least minimized, if caught properly. But it must be abundantly clear, and a clearly favourable result at the other table will still be taken into account if the misclick leaves no result fair to all. One TD I consulted about this told me that the "no undos, no exceptions" rule for Virtual Clubs was set because sadly "the majority of ACBL Club Directors are more concerned with making good coffee than making good rulings." Well, I don't drink the stuff, so I should probably let the players handle coffee and concentrate on the rulings. In the IMP League we can do better.
In many cases (let's hope there are not many) where I need to make a decision, I may need to ask people questions about what happened when. If there is a dispute at your table you need to be aware of this, because when I ask a simple question and I get a long pause, or an answer to a different question, or both, or no answer at all, I assume that the answer to the original question is unfavorable to the responder. Your chances of winning a close dispute may come down to how you answer the questions I ask.
It may be possible in some cases to send BBO mail to me (McBruce, not a VACB address I use to run Virtual Games) to alert me of a dispute before a segment ends. I will be able to kibitz your table and get a look at the board involved (make sure you tell me the board number!), but I won't be able to talk to players at the table until the segment ends. Ideally what we want is for the players to agree on a decision (scrub the board, assign a result, or let the TD decide) before going on. Saying nothing, or claiming that there are no undos, when the matter is brought up, doesn't get you off the hook later. If you want to win IMPs on other people's unintended mechanical errors, this is not the game for you.
Let's be clear: this is not a rules change, and neither is it an invitation to casually try your luck when something goes wrong (in fact, frequent misclick claims or claims that are obviously not blatantly unintended will get you a penalty). If you misclick often, you need to get better equipment: I have found that a stylus on a touchscreen and selecting "hand diagrams" instead of "pictures of cards" makes misclicks almost impossible, but trying to play on a cellphone screen with a thick finger is just asking for constant trouble. If you are frustrated about a decision reached at the table about a misclick, tell me about it right at the end of the segment, don't look for revenge! You can't play good bridge with that mindset.