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Enforcability Issues--non issue

Posted By: phil simborg
Date: Thursday, 13 March 2014, at 10:14 a.m.

In Response To: Here's something we can agree on, can't we? (Matt Cohn-Geier)

I received a very passionate email from someone who stated that their biggest complaint with LM is that the rule is "not enforceable." In other words, if we make players responsible to point out each others legal moves and someone does not, you cannot prove he intentionally missed it and you can not "enforce" it or penalize him for not doing so. Therefore, with the LM rule, if a player sees his opponent make a wrong play that is to his advantage and doesn't say anything, we can't do anything about it.

That is absolutely true. A less-than-reputable person could choose to remain silent. A person like this could also make an illegal play himself that is to his advantage, realize it, and not say anything hoping to get away with it.

First, this "problem" is only a problem with people who are cheaters, and they can also cheat and take shots with NLM as the rule. Second, for the rest of us who are good sports, this does change how we play the game and will keep the game going along in a friendlier, less contentious manner, and puts the responsibility on each of us to police ourselves. The bad actors will be identified and the TD's and players will know who they are and will be careful with them, but regardless of the rules, each player always needs to watch his and his opponent's moves carefully regardless of the reputation of the other player--everyone makes mistakes.

Many years ago, when I was the National Rules Commissioner for the sport of Handball, and then 10 years later in that same post for Racquetball, we put in strong language that it was each player's responsibility to call double-bounces, "carries" and other illegal hits on themselves. This attitude was required whether there happened to be a referee or not. There was an outcry that this was not enforceable, because you could never prove that a player intentionally failed to call a bad hit on himself. Within a year, virtually every pro, and virtually all top amateurs began immediately calling their bad hits as they knew it was their ethical responsibility and they did not want to have a reputation for being a cheater or bad actor. Both games became more gentlemanly are are to this day, as you will constantly see pro players calling infractions on themselves even if the ref did not catch it. Often, the fans applaud. Ruben Gonzales lost the last point in a major championship calling a miss-hit on himself that the ref missed.

Yes, there were one or two people who got a reputation for not being fair, and soon everyone knew who they were. As head of the professional referees, I personally coached all referees to be extra diligent against these people and make sure to call every close call or where there is a doubt against them. These players soon learned that dishonesty did not pay.

Once everyone in backgammon follows the intent of the rules, that in a game with no referee (and even when there is), the player has a responsibility to be fair and honest, and the more we see our top players and leaders, like Neil, Mochy, Falafel and other Giants who refuse to take a win and remain quiet if their opponent makes a technical error or puts the wrong checker on the bar or forgets to pick up a hit checker, etc., the rest of us will admire and follow that example.

It is correct that with NLM there is not an "enforcement" problem, but I ask all experienced players this question: who do you play, either on the tournament circuit, in your club, or in private games that you do not trust and you think would take a shot by intentionally making illegal plays or not correcting yours? I doubt you can name many, and the ones you can name, aren't you going to be very careful and watchful of these people no matter what the rules are? You better be. Like they say, "Trust everyone, but cut the cards."

We want rules that assume people are honest and encourage people to be honest and with almost everyone playing that way, enforcement is not a problem.

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