Thoughts on How Our Game Should Be Played

Play NiceI love the game of bridge! But sometimes despair when I run into players who seem, at least to me, to have strange attitudes to the game.

I both direct games and play. I try very hard not to get roped into doing both at the same time! That is a topic unto itself.

While there are differences between what transpires at the table in top-level, “World Class” events and at the local bridge club, I think most people exaggerate the gulf. Or perhaps that should be worded as “…what should and shouldn’t transpire…”.

Clearly there is a big gulf between the expert bidding and play and what happens at the local club (well, most local clubs). There is also more talk at the table in local games. But that talk at the table should be social chit-chat, not discussion of bidding system, play, what we did wrong, what the opponents did… Those things are not meant to be discussed at the table whether one is playing in the World Championships or the average Open Pairs Game at the local club.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite — we all fall from grace once in a while — however there are some players who discuss the bidding and play constantly… and often loudly enough for several nearby tables (if not the whole room) to hear. How often do you hear a player saying, “Well if the opponents had…. they would have got a ruff and then… I would have gone down two.” or similar? With the opponents still at the table! Then there are the free “bridge lessons”…

I’ve not even touched on gloating (players will defend their comments with, “I wasn’t gloating, I was just stating the facts.”!)

The ACBL is starting to emphasize the Zero Tolerance policy. I like that.

However, I think some players are misinterpreting “being nice” as allowing breaking the rules (the “Laws”) — that is not what Zero Tolerance is about. In fact, it is the opposite — Zero Tolerance is about following the bridge laws. There is a section of the Laws called Proprieties which contains five laws. Let me quote the first part of one of those laws — Law 74: Conduct and Etiquette:

A. Proper Attitude

  1. A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.
  2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.
  3. Every player should follow uniform and correct procedure in calling and playing.

So, for example, not calling the Director (“Director please!”) is not being nice to the opponents, it’s breaking the rules (and if later you feel you do need to call the Director, you may not get the protection you feel the Law entitles you to).

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on How Our Game Should Be Played”

  1. John:

    And to think .. I never even knew you had a bridge blogsite! Ignorance is bliss. Let me begin by stating that you are one of the most positive influences on the game I have encountered .. especially since I met you on

    Your article is timely and appropriate as there seems to be so much dissension at the table these days. I do feel protocol should be followed .. be it the WBF, ACBL or local duplicates. Of course, the level of talent would vary greatly, but I think the protocol should not! Manners, mutual respect and ethics should be ever present. The great disparity, at least to me, would be the capability of the contestants.

    I do think there is large room for improvement in directing .. especially as far as the ACBL .. with greater concentration needed upon the grooming and education of the directing staff. Unfortunately, it appears there is more concern for not burdening their staff with better training as it is so time consuming .. but without that, the situation will worsen .. not get better by remaining idle. And, as far as appeals, there is too much politics and professional influences which shape many rulings and that should be seriously addressed. Just look at some of the decisions .. which will bear out my assessment.

    Just one candid bridge player’s opinion.

    I welcome discussions like this. It can only be a positive influence on the game rather than burying our heads in the sand.



    • Thank you Judy.

      If any of you are not familiar with Judy Kay-Wolff, she is married to Bobby Wolff, a World Champion who played for many years with Bob Hamman. He has been incredibly influencial in the bridge world, including a stint as President of the WBF. Judy was formerly married to the late Norman Kay, also a World Champion player.

      Visit Judy’s own blog on (


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