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Not reminding your opponent to press the clock

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Thursday, 25 December 2014, at 3:22 p.m.

In Response To: Not reminding your opponent to press the clock (Timothy Chow)

Every game and sport has it's own standards, norms, and generally-accepted rules of good sportsmanship that develop over the years. In most games and sports, these good sportsmanship qualities are not highly defined in the rules, largely because it is very difficult to dictate good sportsmanship. Use of the clock in backgammon is relatively new, and that is why we are not totally sure where to draw the line, and when something is not absolutely defined in the rules, each person pretty much has to ask his own conscience about how nice or fair is appropriate.

Having said that, there is little doubt in my mind what is right, and there is a very simply way for me to know where to draw the line. In sports and games where there is an official to make the call, the player has very little responsibility to worry about protecting his opponent in any way...leave that up to the official. Have you ever seen a professional baseball player or football player admit that he really did drop the ball or step out of bounds? Because the referee might call it wrong against you some time, you are expected to get away with it when you don't get caught. But when you are playing games and sports without an official, I believe you have a strong obligation to be a great sport and very fair and friendly to your opponent and not only point out your own infractions, instead of trying to get away with it, but also point out technical problems like not hitting the clock, or forgetting to roll when the 6 point opens up and it is your turn, or writing down the wrong score when it is in your advantage not to correct your opponent, etc. etc.

The norm in our game, which fortunately has been clearly demonstrated by so many of our top players in the game like Neil, Falafel, Mochy, and Nack, is to not try to win a game on technicalities and by being sleazy. I have seen all of them and more show great sportsmanship in many ways, like correcting illegal moves even when they didn't have to (before most of us changed to legal moves to end this dilemma) and things like the score and clock etc.

There will always be the problem of "intent." If someone does not point out the other player's clock is running, we cannot accuse them of being a bad sport if they claim they didn't realize it, but if it is clear they did and they took advantage of it, in my mind, in our game, that is clearly unsportsmanlike conduct and not in keeping with the stated intent of the Standards of Ethical Practice that have been adopted by the USBGF and I hope, in the future, by other organizations as well, and if I were the tournament director and saw that this was done intentionally, and it was clearly intentional, I would be inclined to at the very least give the player some warning that this is not acceptable in my tournament and I might even make some adjustment on the clock. Fortunately all rules that I know of give the TD a lot of authority to maintain fair play and good sportsmanship, and this, to me, is clearly within that realm.

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