March 23, 2000

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

The Cincinnati NABC was a study in contrasts. On one hand, the local volunteers provided fabulous hospitality for the players, but on the other, the host hotels did not meet the quality standards that our membership has come to expect. The final attendance figure of 10,830 was respectable, but it was also 3.3% below ACBL management's estimate and a little less than the 1994 Cincinnati NABC.

The ACBL Board meetings were noteworthy not only for what motions were passed, but equally so for the difficult issues that were deferred to a later date. The latter include ACBL's relationship with the World Bridge Federation (WBF); membership dues increases for 2001; publishing an on-line version of the monthly ACBL Bulletin; as well as many marketing issues such as how best to recruit and retain new members.

I have often heard members ask why the number of ACBL employees has not declined in the computer era we live in. ACBL's CEO David Silber, in his report to both the Board of Directors and Board of Governors, noted that the 1999 Memphis staff of 93 employees (full-time equivalent) compares favourably to 1995 (93.5) and 1992 (96.5) levels; however, many new programs and services have been added to the workload. These include EasyBridge staff, ACBL Score, internet/website, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Hall of Fame, Junior Camp, and the Unit Growth Program.

One interesting statistic is in member communications. In the Club/Member Department, the number of telephone queries via the MAD line has dropped from 1300 to 1100 (per month) in the past four years; however e-mail queries have increased from 0 to 2,600 per month!

You may e-mail ACBL's CEO David Silber at: david.silber@acbl.org The CMO is Michael Calhoun: michael.calhoun@acbl.org The ACBL's meeting planner is Nancy Foy who can be reached at: nancy.foy@acbl.org

  1. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table:
  2. *** While District 2 players were not too successful in NABC events, I noticed that many of our players were winning the Zip Swiss events throughout the week! Congratulations to all! ***

  3. Worthy of Distinction:
    1. Penny Augustine , the Toronto 2001 NABC Chair, was appointed Assistant Chairman of the National Goodwill Committee. She is one of seven Assistant Chairmen throughout North America who work with Aileen Osofsky, the National Goodwill Chairman.

    2. Robert Lix (District 20 - Brownsville, CA) was re-elected ACBL Treasurer, effective May 1st, 2000.

    3. The ACBL Educational Foundation announced a $200 subsidy to all ACBL participants (up to a maximum of 70) who will be attending this summer's Bridge Camp 2000, August 2-10 at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA. The cost is $225 ($425 minus the $200 subsidy), which includes accommodations, all meals, bridge games and lectures, sporting events, and special excursions. A great opportunity for our junior players -- please spread the word.

  4. Appeals Controversies Continues...:
  5. One year ago, I wrote about the now famous "Oh S__t" case from the Vanderbilt. In Cincinnati it seemed that all the appeals were based on tempo. The "if it hesitates, shoot it" philosophy seems to be winning more and more converts, at least among those who decide these matters.

    In one case, a player who misresponded to Blackwood realized that he/she had an extra key card and then raised partners five level sign off to six. It seems to me that the ONE clear cut situation where the Blackwood responder can raise partner's sign off is when you realize that you have made a mistake! We are not all experts and until there have been 3 passes we should have the right to correct our bids. At least that was the thought last year in Vancouver. In Cincinnati, the contract was rolled back. Consistency anyone?

    I am distressed to report that, in the Vanderbilt round of 32, there was yet another controversial appeals committee ruling that decided the winner in one match. Clearly, the message being sent out is to bid quickly in potentially tempo sensitive situations, and to plan your bids in advance. Personally, I am distressed by this trend. Human bridge players are not machines. I believe appeals committees have strayed too far from the "let's just play bridge" philosophy.

  6. NABC Issues:
    1. Funds provided to the local organizations for hospitality and registration gifts have been increased effective with the Spring 2001 NABC. The host organizers will receive $8/7.50/7 per table depending upon whether the city is high/average/low cost. For the Toronto 2001 NABC, this means that we will be receiving $2 more/table than we would have received this year. I believe this increase was necessary and is required in order to provide appropriate hospitality to our visitors. Carried by a 16-9 vote.

    2. NABC starting times is an issue I have discussed before. Both Vancouver and Boston had 1 and 7:30 PM starting times in 1999 and both tournaments were huge successes. By another 16-9 vote, the default starting times for the prime time sessions at NABCs for all events is 1 and 7:30 PM, effective with the summer 2001 NABC.

      Notwithstanding the above, management, in conjunction with the local sponsoring organization, may set 1 and 8 PM as the starting times if appropriate (lack of sufficient restaurants within walking distance, insufficient cab service, etc.).

      A survey at the Boston NABC last Fall revealed an overwhelming preference for an earlier evening start time. This makes it easier for local players to return home at a reasonable hour (and catch the last subway/train). It allows the late night entertainment to start a half hour earlier. It may help prevent some of us from falling asleep at the table!

      A little publicized move by management saw the NABC Pair games have a set time of 15 minutes per round, one minute less than previously, which is the same time limit as Regional events. This meant that the NABC Pair events were finishing at the same time or even earlier than the Regional Pair games (earlier on the second day when the NABC boards are pre-duplicated).

      By my clock, I always finished the afternoon session around 4:40 PM, plus or minus 10 minutes. More than enough time for dinner and a break before a 7:30 start. Anaheim this summer is scheduled for 1 and 7:30. Birmingham in the Fall will be 1 and 8:00.

  7. Other Board Actions of Interest:
    1. One of the benefits of becoming a Life Master was that Life Masters paid a reduced service fee/membership due. This reward for attaining the rank of Life Master has been part of ACBL's history. No longer. By a 20-5 vote (I was opposed), it was approved that "those joining or re-joining the ACBL after June 1, 2000 will pay dues at the full rate starting the second year regardless of their player rank". The effect of this motion is that eventually all members will pay the same dues, regardless of their rank or LM status.

    2. Perhaps the most significant action the Board took was to accept the report of the Ad Hoc On-Line Bridge (OLB) Committee. By a 23-2 vote (I was in favour), "management is authorized to enter into and conclude an agreement to offer ACBL OLB service provided that:

      • The policy requirements of the report are met.

      • League Counsel first reviews the agreement for legal considerations.

      • Any cost, expensed on an annual basis, must not violate the established ACBL financial guidelines."

    3. More masterpoints, less bridge play! The trend continues as the Board by an 18-7 vote (I was opposed) will soon be allowing clubs to hold open games with the minimum number of boards played being 12 (previous minimum was 18). Sanction fees will be the same as for regular games. Masterpoints will be awarded 80% of the award for open games. I was particularly opposed to the 80% number. But as the saying goes, the barn door has been open a long time, and the horses have long since fled...

    4. The conditions of contest for the US Junior Team Trials were amended to allow teams of four, five or six members to enter the event. I supported this motion (at the request of the silver medal winning US team in Holland last January). I have also urged the Canadian Bridge Federation to pass similar regulations and recommended that the CBF hold the 2000 Canadian Junior Team trials (leading to the 2001 World Junior Championships) this summer at the Anaheim NABC in conjunction with the US trials.

      There are several reasons for my recommendation. Perhaps most significant are the long term bonds of friendship that develop among Canadian and US junior players. From a competitive standpoint, joint trials are excellent training for Canadian juniors. Finally, many of our young players will be attending the bridge camp just prior to the NABC and thus will already be in Anaheim.

    5. North American representation to the 2000 IOC Grand Prix Women's match (a 4-pair team) will include two Canadian women! The pair will be selected from the winning team of the 2000 CWNTC in a manner determined by the Canadian Bridge Federation.

    6. I am on a sub-committee that is reviewing the concept and financial history of Bridge Ventures. We will report back to the Board this summer. Meanwhile, if anyone out there has any ideas on the concept and/or philosophy of the ACBL running money bridge games (with or without masterpoints), I welcome your submissions.

  8. Appeals & Charges:
    1. A motion co-sponsored by Bruce Reeve (District 7) and myself unanimously approved the principle that significant amounts of masterpoints shall be removed from the record of any player suspended for one year or longer, as a result of ethical transgressions. The ACBL disciplinary code is being amended to reflect this.

    2. In the matter of the request for reinstatement of Dan C. Requard, ACBL #L712249: the request was denied. Mr. Requard may reapply no sooner than one year from March 9, 2000.

    3. In the matter of the sanction imposed upon Ken Warren, ACBL #O865216: There were three issues which were heard simultaneously. The mandated review of a discipline in excess of one year's suspension, an appeal from Mr. Warren for a decrease in discipline and an appeal from the ACBL Recorder for an increase in discipline. The committee increased Mr. Warren's discipline to expulsion. Mr. Warren may apply for reinstatement no sooner than five years from November 23, 1999.

  9. A Personal Note:
  10. In 2000, I am Chair of the ACBL Education sub-committee; Chair of the the ACBL Honorary Member of the Year Committee; Vice-President of the ACBL Educational Foundation; member of the ACBL Marketing Committee; member of the ACBL Governance Committee.

    The calendar peculiarities of Easter and ACBL's Spring NABC means that in 2000 there is a full month between the end of the Cincinnati NABC and the start of the Toronto Easter Regional (Canadian Nationals) on April 17, 2000. I am looking forward to seeing a record turnout -- I hope you are planning to come to our party.

    This summer brings the London Bridge Regional (July 4-9) and the Cambrian Shield Regional (Sudbury, July 25-30). Please support our District tournaments.

My best wishes to all of you for a wonderful Spring, Passover, and Easter.

The cooperation of all unit Presidents and Secretaries in distributing this report to their members is greatly appreciated. This report may also be viewed on my home page at:

http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st