December 1, 2000

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

It gives me great pleasure to announce my appointments to the ACBL Goodwill Committee for the year 2001. This is a lifetime appointment, honouring players who exemplify the best of our game and promote goodwill at the bridge table.

Congratulations to our year 2001 Goodwill Committee members:

  1. Birmingham:
  2. The advocates for the Birmingham NABC promised an affordable tournament with excellent playing facilities. On the plus side, the hotels and parking were relatively inexpensive and the convention center was carpeted and well lit.

    Unfortunately, I received more complaints from unhappy players during my first few days at the tournament than I had received during my prior six years on the ACBL board of Directors. The host hotel was incapable of serving our players -- they didn't have enough staff or facilities. Worse, there was NOTHING within walking distance of the hotel/convention center: no shopping centers, no drug stores, no food courts, no restaurants. As a crowning touch, Birmingham is noted for its lack of taxis. A 30-45 minute wait was common!

    The Board of Governors expressed their displeasure by unanimously passing a motion that before any future NABC site is approved it must be reviewed by a second party that is not part of ACBL's professional meeting planning department! Of course, the ACBL could never adopt such a policy, but their point was well made.

    You can contact ACBL's professional meeting planner by e-mail at: Nancy Foy <nancy.foy@acbl.org> .

    Final attendance of 8,214 was about as expected, although I have been informed that the official ACBL financial budget was based on 9,000 tables.

    The numbers are not what counts; what counts is did the players who came enjoy themselves? If not, will they rush out to book tickets for Kansas City in March 2001? The ACBL have a captive audience who will put up with a lot in order to play this game that they love so much, but there are limits.

  3. Names In The News:
    1. Jane Johnson, 67, a long time ACBL employee who was in charge of the Club Membership Department, passed away early Thursday morning, November 16 just prior to the start of the NABC.

      The Board suspended normal procedures and made Jane one of two ACBL Honorary Members for 2001. In addition, the Jane Johnson Award was established to honour an ACBL employee who exemplifies extraordinary care and concern for our members.

      We will miss her.

    2. Jim Kirkham, San Bernardino, CA (District 22) will be the 2001 ACBL President.

    3. Norman Kay was named as the 2001 ACBL Honorary Member of the Year. He shares the honour with the late Jane Johnson.

    4. Peter Rank, Los Angeles, became the ACBL's new League Counsel. He replaces Jeffrey Polisner, who had served the League for many years with distinction. Jeffrey is now League Counsel for the World Bridge Federation (WBF).

    5. George Retek, Montreal (District 1) was reelected and Alan LeBendig, Los Angeles (District 23) was elected (defeating Virgil Anderson who had served with distinction for several years) as ACBL's representatives to the WBF.

      The ACBL has five representatives to the WBF. I'm sure they would love to hear your thoughts. You can reach them at:

  4. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table:
  5. Marketing & ACBL Membership:
  6. The number one ACBL priority has been to stop and reverse our declining membership numbers. In the last few months ACBL membership has stabilized and even marginally increased. It is still too early to positively state that we have turned the corner, but signs are encouraging. However, there has been a cost for this effort. The ACBL's marketing and EASYBRIDGE expenditures are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In order to balance the budget, cuts had to be made elsewhere.

    The ACBL has always signed up new members, helped by the 50% new member discount. Unfortunately, our retention rate in year two is barely above 50%. Will our new EASYBRIDGE members stay with us? We hope so, but it is too early to be certain.

    Another ongoing issue on retaining new members is whether to send them the ACBL Bridge Bulletin, Better Bridge, or both magazines. After much discussion, the ACBL Board decided (in perhaps one of their wisest decisions of the week!) that they did not have the expertise to make marketing policy decisions and gave management carte blanche to both set the new member discounts as they wish and decide what magazine(s) to send to whom.

    Do you have an idea how to market our product? Please send your thoughts to ACBL's Marketing Director and CEO.

    For the moment, management is committed to offering new members some sort of discount, although the 50% number may be reduced. I suspect that in 2002 all new members will receive both the ACBL Bulletin and the Better Bridge magazine for at least the first year. Better Bridge caters to our newer members and may increase the likelihood of their renewing.

  7. Financial Issues & Price Increases:
  8. ACBL's 2000 loss is expected to be between $325-375,000. The ACBL has established financial guidelines and liquidity ratios. We are now at a point where we were compelled to approve a balanced budget for 2001. Here are the changes for 2001. First, as previously announced: effective January 1, 2001:

    1. ACBL membership dues will increase from US $30 to $32. Corresponding increases will be made in other dues categories to preserve their current relationship to the regular annual membership dues level, to the nearest 25 cents.

    2. The fee per sanctioned game will increase from $1.00 to $1.25.

    3. The annual sanction fee per club sanctioned game will increase from $11.00 to $11.50

    NEW Increases approved in Birmingham:

    1. TD session fees will increase by 3% over and above the 3% for salary increase, effective January 1, 2001.

    2. Table sanction fees will increase effective April 1, 2001:
      • Regional sanction table fees will increase from $4.30 to $4.45
      • Sectional sanction table fees will increase from $3.00 to $3.11
      • STAC sanction table fees will increase from $2.30 to $2.38

    3. Club Rating Point table fees will increase from .60 to .65 effective April 1, 2001.

    Everyone involved with the ACBL contributed in order to reach a balanced budget for 2001 while maintaining our expenditures in the marketing, public relations, and Easybridge areas. Here are some examples.

    1. ACBL salary increases for 2001 will be 3% instead of 3.5%.

    2. ACBL Board of Directors trimester expense allowance has been reduced from $750 to $500 ($18,750 savings). I voted in favour. Carried 13-12.

    3. ACBL President's expense allowance was reduced from $50,000 to $40,000. I voted in favour. Carried 13-10-2.

    4. The ACBL sponsored volunteer dinner held just prior to every NABC will be restricted to local volunteers, ACBL CEO, President, and host District Director. Previously the entire Board of Directors and some ACBL staff attended the dinners. ($6,000 savings).

    Here are other significant financial impact changes for 2001:

    1. The subsidy for the NAP winners has been cut. The winning pair will continue to get free air fare and hotel room. The second place pair will only get free air fare ($36,000 savings).

    2. No more travel awards for ACBL Instant Matchpoint winners.

    3. Prizes for the North American 49er Pairs have been eliminated.

    4. The $6 third year recruitment rebate (for teachers and club officials) will be eliminated effective January 1, 2001.

    5. Membership dues for patron members will increase from $150 to $200 for individual members ($200 to $250 for household patron members). Effective January 1, 2001.

    On the positive side, no cuts were made to promised funds for NABCs. There were proposals to reduce the local per table allocation for NABCs, eliminate registration gifts, eliminate the restaurant guides at NABCs, eliminate guides to provide directions at the Toronto NABC, and eliminate shuttles for Toronto NABC. All of the above were kept in the budget, as was catering for the Goodwill committee receptions, as well as juice and danish for the Board of Governors meeting!

    Last, but certainly not least, is the issue of our falling Canadian dollar. For the first 11 months of 2000 the ACBL used an exchange rate of 1.46 in converting Canadian dollars. We did well while the ACBL lost money. As of December 1st, 2000, the new exchange rate is 1.55. Management is authorized to change the rate monthly as required if the Canadian dollar rises or falls by more than a half cent.

  9. Junior Bridge -- Our Future?:
  10. I believe, as a matter of policy, that the ACBL must fund and actively promote junior bridge. While short term results may be hard to quantify, the future will be bleak if we ignore our young players. Unfortunately, the budget crisis of 2001 had little good cheer for our juniors.

    1. The ACBL budget for 2001, as a matter of policy, states that the ACBL Junior Fund must be self supporting. What that means is that no general funds should be used for junior programs. Funding must come from Junior Month contributions and/or outside sources such as the ACBL Educational Foundation.

    2. Future ACBL Junior Bridge Camps have been cancelled. I voted against. Carried 20-5.

    3. There will be no subsidy for Junior Bridge Festival Attendance.

    4. Confine junior team training to internet play, not face-to-face.

    However, notwithstanding 3) and 4) above, things are not all bad! The Holland International Youth Bridge Festival for 2001 was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. Hopefully, it will return in 2002 and we can try to get funding next year.

    The ACBL Educational Foundation has generously agreed to fund the revival of the ACBL Collegiate Program, designed to increase bridge games and ACBL awareness across campuses throughout North America. As a result, ACBL will have Junior Month funds available for some face-to-face training for the US junior teams.

    Our bridge camp is gone for now but if we can increase ACBL junior membership, we may be able to bring it back at some future date. I certainly hope so. The ACBL is planning (subject to the continued success of Junior Fund games) to pay the camp tuition and entry fees for all juniors going to the WBF European Bridge Camp and World Junior Pairs next summer.

    A request by the USA 2 junior team to ratify their selection of NPC (as approved by management and in accordance with the conditions of contest) was amended by the Board so that a motion that passed 15-8-2 (I voted against) instructed the team to pick their NPC from a previously approved list of non playing captains. A regrettable decision, in my opinion.

    Finally, the Birmingham Daily Bulletin printed a list of ACBL's top 20 masterpoint leaders in the Youth (under 21) category. No less than 10 (50%) of them were Canadians! Congratulations to our stars of the future:

    (3) Isabelle Brisebois Ottawa 316
    (5) Daniel Lavee Thornhill 239
    (6) Gavin Wolpert Thornhill 216
    (7) David Sabourin Dunrobin 213
    (9) Erin Anderson Regina 181
    (10) David Grainger Etobicoke 181
    (13) Vincent Demuy Laval 172
    (15) Josh Heller Toronto 133
    (16) Mathew Mason Kingston 126
    (20) Samantha Nystrom Burnaby 84

  11. Canada & The Bermuda Bowl:
  12. ACBL President Glenn Smith, VP Jim Kirkham, and I co-sponsored a motion that would have asked the WBF to reconsider the Zonal allocations for the 2001 Bermuda Bowl in Bali in order to give Zone 2 (ACBL) a 3rd team. In essence, that 3rd team would go to Canada.

    This is a complicated issue. The WBF divides the world into 8 zones. The ACBL is Zone 2, the second largest zone in the world. Indeed, Canada alone with its 16-17,000 members is larger than several smaller WBF Zones.

    In my opinion, the WBF's qualification rules are discriminatory, unjust, and confusing. Whatever political games occurred in the past to create this mess is not the issue, but the reality today is that the 2000 Canadian CNTC winners will have NO opportunity to compete for a chance to play in the 2001 Bermuda Bowl. No other country in the world is denied that opportunity. This is clearly wrong.

    Unfortunately, our motion was amended by one of our WBF representatives to change the year 2001 to 2003 which rendered the original motion meaningless. The fix was in. The ACBL's WBF representatives appeared to be unanimous in their opposition to helping our Zone and Canada acquire a spot for 2001. Despite the obvious inequity in the existing rules, their position was that no change could be made now -- all we could do is try to change the rules for the future. Cold comfort for Canada's 2000 CNTC winners: Doug Fraser, Jeffrey Blond, Nick L'Ecuyer, Kamel Fergani, Jurek Cyzowicz and Darren Wolpert .

  13. Bridge and Masterpoint Decisions:
    1. Thanks to Gary Westfall and others who complained that in 3-way KO matches with 2 survivors, using "imp quotient" to determine which teams advance was not the best method. Effective January 1, 2001 "net imps" will be the simple method used to decide which teams advance. There are detailed rules that apply to tie breaking situations. Carried 24-1.

    2. The Sidney H. Lazard Jr Award for Sportsmanship was created to recognize players who exhibit admirable ethical behaviour and a strong sense of fair play at the highest levels of bridge. The award will be presented at the Hall of Fame banquet. A permanent trophy shall be kept at ACBL headquarters.

      Our thanks to Hall of Famer Sidney Lazard who not only came up with this idea but is also funding all costs for the permanent trophy. Thank you, Sidney.

    3. A new special event was approved -- the "Club Appreciation Team Game" to be held once during the month of October. Sectionally rated to award black points; however 5% of all masterpoints awarded shall be gold. Carried 20-4-1. I voted in favour.

    4. The NABC Fast Open Pairs, which I think is silly, was approved on a trial basis for 2001 and 2002. Carried 21-4 (I voted no). The event will be held on the final Saturday and Sunday at the summer NABC. First place will pay 100 platinum masterpoints.

    5. The 0-2000 KO used to be a popular event that died with the proliferation of bracketed KO's every other day. The Board has approved a new NABC KO event to run opposite the Spingold that will be in two flights: 0-1500 and 0-5000. I voted in favour of the concept but was opposed to creating 2 flights. The event will start at this summers Toronto NABC.

    6. The CNTC Flight B will pay 50 gold masterpoints to the winners.

    7. As everyone is aware, in any KO event you must win 2 matches in order to get overall awards. Or so I and my fellow ACBL Board members thought. NOT SO! That rule does not apply in NABC events. Thus, in Birmingham, we had 19 teams enter the NABC Senior KO. Teams that won their first match but lost their second were awarded 45 platinum points for placing 5/8th overall! What a travesty!

      I have been assured by incoming ACBL President Jim Kirkham that there will be an agenda item early in 2001 to extend the "must win 2 matches" rule to all events!

      I also believe that restricted NABC events (Seniors, Womens) must meet minimum size requirements in order to qualify for the large set masterpoint awards. I have fought and lost this battle in the past but maybe I will be more successful in 2001.

    8. The ACBL Board wants more people to feel good about themselves in NABC events! By a 17-8 vote (I voted no), the Board approved the following philosophy: "more emphasis should be on the number of contestants qualifying from one level to the next than on the technical perfection of the event." Specifically, the board would like as close to 50% as possible of the field to qualify from one day to the next -- never less than 40%.

    9. We unanimously approved an 18 day Regional Tournament to be held in Montreal in conjunction with the WBF Championships in Montreal from August 16 - September 2, 2002.

  14. A Personal Note:
  15. 2001 promises to be a great year. I look forward to seeing you at our January 5-7 sectional at the Royal York Hotel. It is always one of the largest 3 day sectionals in ACBL land.

    Our Toronto Easter Regional has new dates, a new schedule, and new starting times! It will run from Thursday, April 12 until Monday April 16, 2001. Check your Kibitzer for all the details!

    2001 should be a great year for NABCs: Kansas City in March, Toronto in July, and Las Vegas (also with unusual starting dates -- check your Bulletin carefully for the info) in November. The world will be coming to Toronto this summer and there is no doubt that it will be a fabulous party for all.

    Meanwhile there is still time to get involved! Please contact our NABC Chair Penny Augustine with your support and check out the 2001 NABC web site at: http://www.acbl.org/nabc/Toronto/Toronto.htm .

    The holiday season has arrived! I wish each and every one of you the very best for a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.


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 web site at:

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

Top 15 Masterpoint Winners From District 2 at the Birmingham NABC
122.80 Andy Stark Hamilton ON
117.80 Henry Caspar Toronto ON
115.33 Tom Buttle Toronto ON
100.95 John Duquette Oshawa ON
84.56 George Mittelman Toronto ON
66.48 Jackie Boisseau Etobicoke ON
64.90 Deanna Goh Peterborough ON
64.44 Fred Gitelman Toronto ON
62.61 Joan Priebe Mississauga ON
62.61 James Priebe Mississauga ON
61.23 Morrie Kleinplatz Windsor ON
45.95 Charles Galloway Bolton ON
44.44 Gloria Silverman Toronto ON
43.64 William White Markham ON
43.64 Lorraine Herlick North York ON