Yesterday at the club I met up with my regular partner ( a decent fellow who rarely complains ) , who was especially keen to hear my views about a particular incident that took place the night before. This was his story :
" Mid-way through the session we had the misfortune of having to play three boards against two rather unsavoury characters, one in particular renown for his abrasive nature and acerbic wit. On board 14, I opened 1H, and with no interference bidding from our opponents the bidding proceeded as follows: 3C ( forcing agreeing hearts) -3S (showing extra strength) -5H ( an overstatement for sure ) - Pass. West, the nasty one, led out the king of diamonds, which I took in hand with the Ace. But on cashing my A/K of hearts I discovered West was sitting there with 4 hearts to the 10. So now I played a low spade over towards dummy's QJx, only to see West hop up with the Ace like it was a stiff. He then continued with the queen of diamonds which I had to ruff in dummy. At this point I paused to reflect, for prospects of steering this contract home looked bleak. Dummy had come down with QJx....Jxxx.....x......AKxxx, opposite my Kxxx...AKQ9....A10x...84. While I pondered over what to do next, West's sarcastic-laden voice boomed out " what on God's earth can you be thinking about ? " . My instinctive and honest answer was " how many tricks this contract might possibly go down by ". Finally, I decided to play the queen of spades, which West gleefully ruffed, before continuing the force in diamonds. Using my last trump in dummy to ruff his diamond jack, I played out A/K of clubs, and with the suit breaking 3-3, I was able to ruff the third round, draw West's last trump, hop over to dummy's jack of spades, and claim the contract.
The crestfallen West knew he had dropped a bollock by ruffing the spade queen. Discarding a club would have been the killing defence, because he could then ruff the Jack of spades which would have followed next. Now he could a play diamond for dummy to ruff. Because this time on the play of the clubs he ends up making his 10 of hearts no matter what I do. But typical of this man..... he calls for his saviour, the TD, claiming that my remark had somehow influenced him to ruff spades early.......something he would not done if he suspected this was a makeable contract after all. The TD agreed and substituted a score 5h-1. "
Well, I was flabbergasted. If that was a judgement ruling, then it was naff. In my view there were several points the TD needed to consider :
1. Why did West make such a unwarranted and sarcastic comment ? In my mind it was solely to break up declarer's concentration and focus. When a player clearly has a problem , it is completely out of order to sabotage his thought process.
2. Declarer's reply was a genuine confession based on his sound analysis that the contract was far from secure.
3. West's quick and immediate ruff of the spade queen was in keeping with his impulsive nature and manner of play.
4. If West was arguing that declarer's comment had lulled him into a casual and complacent approach towards his defence ( given he was assured the contract was doomed ).....then this flies in the face of competent defending in that West should be looking at all times to inflict the maximum damage possible......or at least to make certain the contract goes down.
There can be no doubt about the TD copping out, being too frightened to challenge or upset a player, who belongs to his favoured clique. In this instance, cowardice and prejudice had a far greater impact on his judgement ruling than justice and fair play.
Is it not time therefore to insist that all TD training courses have classes on " assertiveness ", whereby trainees must demonstrate both an ability to be impartial and assertive, before they can be considered for taking up such posts ?
Does anybody out there agree ?