The Umpire Strikes Back
A scream for the Director frequently disrupts the game for the other players. On one occasion when the stillness of the game was shattered by a raucous shout of ‘Di-rek-tor’, the Director went to the microphone and softly, oh so softly, said:
‘Who called? Please raise your paw.’
In major events, it is common to use ‘silent bidding’. Instead of the bids being called out, they are written on a special bidding pad. This has many advantages. It cuts down the noise level, it reduces the chances of overhearing another table, it cuts out the need for a review of the bidding and it eliminates the arguments about the final contract.
Before silent bidding came into vogue, this incident took place at a club in New Zealand:
North: No bid.
The Director was called and East explained that he did not hear North’s pass, but heard a bid at the next table. Thinking that was what North bid, East doubled.
North: May I ask East what he thought I bid?
Director: No, you can’t.
North: Well, may I go over to the other table and ask for a review of their auction?
You know things may not go well for your side when there’s a dispute at the table and you suggest that the Director be called and your sweet young opponent raises her hand and calls out: ‘Dar-ling’!!
Actually, Directors tend to be tough on their spouses and friends so that there can be no possibility of a charge of bias. Also, many Directors bend over backwards to try to keep everybody happy, an impossible task.
When the Director was called to a table to resolve a dispute, everyone was talking at once, so the Director hollered ‘Quiet!’ When the fracas abated, he continued:
‘Now, let me hear the details from each side in turn.’
North then proceeded to tell his version of what had happened. At the end, the Director said: ‘You’re right.’
East then gave his version of what had taken place and this was radically different from North’s account. At the end of East’s tale, the Director said,
South then remonstrated: ‘But that can’t be so. First you said North was right. Then you said East was right. They can’t both be right.’
‘You’re right, too,’ replied the Director.
The call was loud and clear:
The Director hurried over to the table:
‘My opponent,’ said the declarer, ‘has made a premature gloat.’
A glove was found on the tournament floor and handed in to the Director who stepped up to the microphone and announced: ‘Have I got a hand for you!’
The Director had just completed the scoring and mentioned to the players huddled around the scoring table that it was curious that there had been no slams that evening.
‘Oh yes, there was,’ piped up one of the players. ‘On Board 7.’
The Director flipped over to Board 7, noticed that 12 of the scores were +680 and said, ‘Yes, but no one bid it.’
‘We did,’ said the player. ‘See that minus-100?’
In top class tournaments the organisers provide bidding boxes rather than use written bidding. These boxes which often hang from the table contain a card for every possible bid, together with special cards that read Tournament Director and Alert.
In the final of such an event, a player discovered that someone had spilled water over his bidding box. He called for the Director to ask for the box to be replaced.
When the Director arrived, the player’s partner explained the position : ‘Yeah, his bids are all wet . . . as usual.’
In a game where bidding boxes were in use, the auction had gone : 1 Diamond . . . 2 Spades . . . 2 Diamonds . . .
‘Insufficient card,’ said one of the opponents.
‘Director,’ shouted the North player.
When the Director scurried over, North complained :’East bid before I had a chance to call’.
‘Just as well,’ said the Director, looking down. ‘East is the dealer on this board.’
Sometimes a Director spots a score that is patently wrong. To discover what has happened, the Director can ask the players involved, but if they are in the middle of a hand, the Director does not like to disturb them and instead will often take a look at their personal score card, which may reveal what the correct entry on the travelling scoresheet should be.
On one such occasion, the Director approached a table and seeing that the players were busy playing, spoke softly to the dummy.
‘Are you keeping a private score card?’
‘Yes, I am.’
‘Could I see it, please?’
‘Certainly.’ (Hands the card to the Director.)
‘But it’s blank?’
‘I don’t keep the scores, just the score card.’
A player who had vowed never to lead from an ace died. When he awoke he found himself in a bridge game holding :
A 4 2
A 8 7 4
A 7 5 4
As he was on lead against 3C he did not need the Director to tell him where he was.
When there is a large tournament and there are many sections, it is not uncommon for a pair to wander to the wrong table and frequently into a wrong section. At the excellent Gold Coast Congress, held each February in Surfers Paradise by the Queensland Bridge Association, two pairs were both trying to sit in the East-West seats at the one table. Obviously one of the pairs was at the wrong table. The Director was called and, to sort out the problem, tried to ascertain the table the players had just left.
Director: Where have you come from?
Player, helpfully: Sydney.
During large tournaments, the Directors are assisted by ‘caddies’, young players or non-players who move the boards, put out the bidding pads, pick up the leftover supplies after a session, and so on. At one tournament, the Director sent out a new caddy near the end of the session to retrieve the excess supplies. Finally she came back, looking pale and exhausted and close to tears, with just seven pencils and a few table numbers.
‘They just wouldn’t hand over their cards and their system cards,’ she explained.
Overheard at a major tournament:
One caddy to another: ‘I’m going outside for a couple of minutes. You stay here in case the Directors need someone to yell at.’