Friday, March 17, 2006

Slow Play

One reason for a club losing members or for low attendance is slow play. This can be a major cause of disaffection in clubs.

Clicking on the link will take you to a list of suggestions for making improvements.

I think all the suggestions made by Bruce McIntyre are excellent and will do much to improve the situation, but there are others. Sometimes there are factors that are difficult to do anything about. I play in two clubs and there is a large overlap in the memberships. One is much slower than the other. No, it isn't really the Tournament Director it is mainly the fact that one club has a bar in the playing room and at the end of each round players queue up to buy drinks!

I think though that if we are honest the main problems are none of the above. The real difficulty lies with one or two individuals in each club that are always much slower than everyone else.

David Stevenson addresses the issue in this month's Bridge Magazine (UK). He states that players do not have the right to upset others by slow play and considers it to be a 'breach of proprieties' (law 74B). He suggests that it is easy to deal with! Players affected should keep on at the TD to deal with it and if that is not effective approach the club committee.

He says that often no action is taken because it is believed that tackling the offender might cause them to leave. He suggests that those upset by the offending player should band together and threaten to leave the club as a group if no action is taken.

I have several problems with this approach. Firstly, there are degrees of slow play. While everyone knows who the slowest players are there are often others who are only marginally quicker. After all, there must always be a slowest player in every session by definition. If the whole evening finishes on tiem should we say we have a problem. I think that maybe we should have some give and take on the matter but we really need a better system, Chess has got it sorted with time clocks for each player. Can someone please invent the equivalent for Bridge?

PS I thought of one! How about the TD or his assistant keeps a record of which pairs finish last on each round? If a pair finishes last on (say) half the rounds then they would be penalised by a certain percentage!

Perhaps the last word on the subject is this brilliant verse submitted by Peter Rowlett:


"Won't you play a little faster?" the Director said to me -
"It's a Congress, not a funeral - I was standing here to see
You trance all through the bidding; now you're trancing as you play...
Though it's Hesitation Mitchell, you can't hesitate all day!
Your playing rate would not disgrace the average three-toed sloth:
Don't think you're Tony Forrester or Raymond Brock, or both!"

But I was working out the hand (one can't afford to rush);
The speaker was distracting me. I shook my head for hush.
Now was that lead fourth-highest? No, I dare not play a card
Until I'd planned my strategy, a task I find quite hard.
Could it be third and fifth, perhaps? I stared out into space.
The wisest course, it seemed to me, was not to force the pace

"You're holding up the movement!" The Director had returned:
His dewlaps danced with dudgeon and his eye with ire burned.
"Unless you start to play this hand, and play it like a shot
I'll send your name to Aylesbury - they'll give it to you hot!
They'll know just what to do with you, who sit and think for ages:
It's in the Laws and Ethics Book, or else the Yellow Pages!

But I was working out the hand (I've read a lot of books
By Kelsey, Reese and Mollo) so I just ignored his looks.
My gaze was fixed on dummy, and I viewed it with unease:
What entry problems would there be if I essayed a squeeze?
An injudicious card from me would quite destroy the play...
So as I fell once more to thought I murmured "Go away

"Get on with it!" he yelled at me. "What are you trying to prove?
Like Earth, pre-Galileo, sir, we simply do not move!
All these good folk have gathered here at twenty quid a head:
Most think you're cataleptic; the remainder think you're dead!
I just don't need this aggro: a Director's life is hard,
So will you, won't you, will you, won't you play a ruddy card?"

The experts all advise a chap impulsive play to curb.
I waved a hand dismissively and muttered: "Don't disturb,

One cannot rush these matters..." The Director struck his brow
And staggered and fell sideways, looking mad as any cow.
Well this was bad! His rude display had quite derailed my train
Of thought. There was no help for it: I'd have to start again.

He reached into his jacket then, and expertly withdrew
A standard Aylesbury Magnum (issued by the EBU).

"On fines or penalties," he growled, "I will not waste my breath!
For slow play on this scale, my friend, the penalty is DEATH!"
He fired the gun; and through the head (the hole was very neat)
He plugged my patient partner, who'd been dozing in his seat!
"You'll want an explanation," the Director calmly said.
"You'll want to know just why I shot your partner through the head
When you were the offender. Well, the whole thing is to do
With legal complications, for your family might sue!
I thought about it just in time - I had you in my sights -
Then luckily remembered that a dummy has no rights!"

Peter Rowlett


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