April 20, 2006

Dear Bridge Friends,

The Dallas NABC was held under one roof in a beautiful Hyatt Regency hotel. It is always a major plus when all the events can be held in the host hotel, and - despite the daily room rate of just under $150 US including tax - the hotel was sold out. Unfortunately, local players failed to support the tournament, resulting in a final table count of 10, 318, almost 1,000 below pre-tournament budget estimates. In addition, I heard complaints regarding handicapped facilities and the $10 daily room charge for Internet access.

I believe it was a mistake to raise NABC entry fees for Regional events to the current $15.50 per session. That may have been one factor contributing to the lack of local support. If one can pay $20 per day to play at the Gatlinburg Regional this week or $20 per day at the Dallas Regional, why should one have to pay $31 per day for a Regional event just because it is being held within a NABC tournament?

As always, if you have the time and money, nothing beats the excitement of attending a North American Bridge Championship. Chicago this summer and Hawaii in the fall both rate to be outstanding tournaments. I hope you are planning to attend at least one of them.

Unfortunately, the "Perfect Storm" hit the Toronto Regional last week as attendance fell to 1,796 tables, down more than 10% from 2,050 tables in 2005. We were hit by the triple whammy of the Dallas NABC ending the day before Toronto started, Gatlinburg this week, and the Passover Seders that fell on Wednesday and Thursday evening during the Regional. The February CBF Regional in Mississauga may also have been a factor.

In 2007, the Spring NABC returns to March (where it belongs), ending two weeks before the Toronto Regional starts. In addition, Passover will fall on the Monday and Tuesday evening. I predict Toronto will return to being 2,000+ tables next spring.

  1. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table

    There were just 66 District 2 players who won masterpoints in Dallas, and it was a struggle for most of them. Only 16 of our players won more than 20 points! The District 2 Top Masterpoint List from both the Dallas NABC and last week's Toronto Regional can be found at the end of this report. Here are the District 2 players who performed well in NABC events.

    George Mittelman, Toronto, 3/4th Vanderbilt KO Teams.

    Robert Lebi, Toronto, 9-16th Vanderbilt KO Teams; 45th Silodor Open Pairs.

    John Rayner, Oakville, & Michael Roche, Don Mills, 12th NAP, Flight A.

    Joan Eaton, Toronto, 7th Machlin Women's Swiss Teams; 8th Whitehead Women's Pairs.

    Gavin Wolpert, Thornhill, 27th Jacoby Open Swiss Teams.

    The following District 2 players WON Regional events:

    Daniel Lavee, Thornhill, Educational Foundation KO, bracket two.

    Denis Murphy, Belleville, Texas Rangers KO, bracket three.

    Andrew McColl & Michael Hebbert, Pickering, Educational Foundation KO, bracket four.

    Wendy Dooley, Mississauga, & Roman Klein, Oakville, Thursday Stratified Swiss Teams, Flight A.

  2. ACBL Budget Fiasco (2005)

    While 2004 was an outstanding year in every aspect, as I reported last spring, 2005 rated to be more difficult. It was.

    The ACBL had budgeted for a $350,000 loss in 2005. (A robust balance sheet allowed for the loss while spending more money on marketing programs). In November, the ACBL Board was told that the budget was on target – yet, in January, we were informed that the ACBL lost $693,000 in 2005 – almost $350,000 worse than planned. What went wrong and why?

    On the expense side, the marketing department was $100,000 over budget; legal, audit, and consulting fees $90,000 and banking fees $64,000. These overages were offset by savings in budgeted salaries (fewer employees) of $188,000 and postage /supplies $77,000.

    A final payment of $60,000 for the Unit Cooperative Rebate program went unbudgeted. Some ACBL Board members thought the program had been cancelled when unit membership rebates were increased. In any event, the $60,000 payment in April 2005 went unreported.

    The major problems with the 2005 budget were on the revenue side. Sanction fees were $92,000 below budget as the optimistic projections for NABC table counts failed to materialize. Hurricanes in Florida and the Gulf Coast, combined with high gasoline costs, resulted in a decrease in Regional and Sectional attendance.

    Product Sales were short $143,000 from an optimistic budget that was expecting a major increase in sales in 2005. That didn't happen. Investment and rental income missed by $98,000 due to adverse market conditions. Rental is no longer an income item, as the ACBL has no tenants. The ACBL HQ in Memphis remains on the market but there is no news to report at this time.

    As a consequence of the 2005 financial results, management has implemented a new plan for the initial budget and a new method of forecasting. Senior financial management will meet with each department head every month to review performance and projections. There has been an internal reorganization in Memphis.

    ACBL's CEO Jay Baum referred to the 2005 results as an embarrassment for himself and all of us on the ACBL Board of Directors. Everyone is working hard to ensure that there will never again be negative surprises of the magnitude that occurred in 2005.

  3. Board Actions from Dallas

    There were very few items of significance approved by the ACBL Board in Dallas. I will mention the highlights and then discuss several issues that are important to me, some of which will be on the agenda for this summer in Chicago.

    1. Congratulations to Jerry Fleming, District 17, who was re-elected as the ACBL Treasurer.

    2. Changes to the ACBL Disciplinary Regulations were approved. All interested parties should review or download the changes from the ACBL web site.

    3. In the matter of the appeal of the Ethical Oversight Committee decision to expel Andrea Buratti and Massimo Lanzarotti: the decision of the Ethical Oversight Committee was upheld.

    4. Currently a $2.00 per game sanction fee applies to clubs that do not utilize a version of ACBL Score that provides for electronic submission of accurate monthly reports. Effective January 2007, if management believes the extra fee creates a hardship and is detrimental to bridge in the area, management may waive the extra fee for a sanction conducting 1-3 sessions a week averaging fewer than 10 tables per session. Reminder: the no-charge windows based version of ACBL Score is now available.

    5. A comprehensive re-write of ACBL election regulations was approved, effective this year. Interested parties can request a copy from Memphis or download the information from the ACBL website.

    6. Many issues relating to masterpoint awards were referred to the Masterpoint Review Committee, which is doing a comprehensive review and will report back to the ACBL Board in the fall.

    7. The ACBL Board reviewed the five-year ACBL strategic plan.

  4. Junior Funds and Bridge Camps

    The minutes will reflect that a motion to conduct an ACBL junior bridge camp in North America in 2007 and every other year following, run entirely under the direction of the ACBL, was defeated 8-14-2-1 (two abstained, one absent). I voted in favour. Notwithstanding the above vote, there will be a bridge camp in 2007! Let me explain.

    The ACBL Board supports marketing efforts towards younger players. A straw vote last fall in Denver indicated 19-6 support for the concept of junior bridge camps. The major problem is that the ACBL is in the business of running bridge games, not running junior bridge camps. Further, the issue of risk management has become more and more important in today's litigious society. Thus, the ACBL supports junior bridge camps, but doesn't want any liability in the event that an incident occurs.

    In 2004, the first ever World Junior Individual was held in conjunction with the NYC NABC, followed by a World Youth Bridge Camp. The ACBL has approved a second World Junior Individual for 2007 in conjunction with the Nashville NABC. Carried 21-4. I voted in favour. Negotiations are underway with the World Bridge Federation to finalize that event and to have the WBF take over complete responsibility for hosting a World Junior Bridge Camp in North America.

    The ACBL Junior Fund continues to generate increasing revenue every year. Currently, it is bringing in $150,000 a year. Every year, $50,000 is allocated to the USBF to fund junior international teams. The ACBL Board voted to contribute $17,000 from junior fund money towards the cost of hosting the 2007 World Junior Individual. Management assured us that in one form or another $25,000 will be available towards a 2007 summer junior bridge camp. If negotiations with the WBF fail to reach fruition, there are private parties who have expressed an interest in conducting the 2007 junior bridge camp.

    Bottom Line: Junior bridge camps are likely to continue in North America, every second year. In 2006, Europe is hosting the world camp in Slovakia.

  5. Grand National Teams

    I want to be a cheerleader for this year's event and warn you about a rule change for next year's events.

    The District 2 Final is coming up soon – May 5-7 at Hazel's Bridge Club. Full details can be found on page 41 of the Spring Kibitzer. The complete District 2 Conditions of Contest can be found on my website.

    New residence rules: Beginning with the 2006-2007 GNT and the 2007-2008 NAP, your eligibility for these events will be determined by the district where you are living on the first day of the event – September 1 for the GNT and June 1 for the NAP. If your actual home residence is in another ACBL district, you are not eligible to play in the District 2 GNT or NAP unless you get permission before the event begins. This rule applies even to those who live in border areas but have previously chosen to be members of District 2.

  6. All-Time Masterpoint Lists

    ACBL management has been making an effort to preserve our history and improve the ACBL archives. Yet, when an ACBL member dies, his name disappears from the ACBL website. Consider Grand Life Master Mark Molson, who was 49th on the all-time ACBL masterpoint list with close to 20,000 points. His name disappeared after his untimely demise on January 19, 2006.

    In order to keep the memories and masterpoint records of deceased members alive, I sponsored a motion that would require the ACBL to maintain appropriate records, and to post their names on the ACBL website in the All-Time Masterpoint Lists.

    Regrettably, my motion failed to carry by a 12-13 vote. A couple of board members thought that historical masterpoint records would be unfair because of masterpoint inflation. This is a spurious argument. Every other game honours the memories of its past stars. Babe Ruth died over fifty years ago and while some of his records have been surpassed, his name and reputation remain. Yet, in ACBL land, while the ACBL lists the Top 500 all-time players by masterpoint holdings, including all Grand Life Masters, the accomplishments of Mark Molson, Barry Crane, Ron Anderson, Oswald Jacoby, Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, and many others – most recently Jim Robison - are tossed aside and removed from the website as soon as the player dies!

    Management argued that there would be technical problems instituting my motion because research would have to be done manually and the ACBL has poor or non-existent records prior to 1985. This is another fallacious argument. There were no computers when Babe Ruth lived, yet somehow his record remains on the books. We are living in 2006 – a little bit of research combined with computer technology should be more than ample to perform task at hand.

    Fortunately, the 2005 Richmond Trophy winner, Barry Harper, along with Dr. E. J. Kales brought this motion up for reconsideration at the Board of Governors meeting, where it was approved by an overwhelming margin (at least 90%). As a result, my motion will be back on the agenda at the Chicago NABC this summer. Needless to say, I will fight adamantly to have it approved.

  7. ACBL & AARP: A Recipe for Success

    The American Association of Retired Persons, with 35 million members, is a natural fit for marketing duplicate bridge. Recently, the ACBL sponsored booths at both the Chicago and Las Vegas AARP National Meetings. The booths were so popular that the two organizations formed a partnership that will feature five AARP member games at bridge tournaments in 2006. These games will increase the ACBL's exposure, and attempt to illustrate how much fun bridge can be.

    AARP will promote the games as “Bridge To Anaheim”, with the winners qualifying for a final event at the 2006 National Meeting in Anaheim, October 26-28. AARP will provide space for bridge lectures and social games.

    Tournaments selected for the games include the Alexandria, Phoenix, Seattle (Puget Sound), and Atlanta Regionals, as well as the Chicago NABC. Schedules will be posted in ACBL and AARP publications and websites.

  8. The ACBL & The WBF: Working Together

    Currently, fifty cents from each ACBL member's dues are sent to the World Bridge Federation (WBF). A motion that would have asked the ACBL representatives to lobby for a substantial reduction in dues was defeated 10-14-1. I voted no.

    Several years ago, when the WBF dues were increased from ten to fifty cents per member, a major reason was the costs associated with the dream of becoming part of the Olympic games. With that possibility now remote, some have argued that the dues should be rolled back. In fact, at the Board of Governors meeting, this item was approved for reconsideration, so it will be back on the agenda for Chicago.

    The WBF sponsors multiple world championships (Verona, Italy in June, 2006 is open to all players) including the prestigious Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup. The WBF has a large and expanding youth program including the junior pairs championship, bridge camps, and the new junior individual event. There are now separate championships for the Schools event (21 and under) and the Youth event (26 and under).

    While one may question some of the WBF expenses, the reality is that if you believe in world bridge, as I do, then the ACBL must contribute to its efforts. Just fifty cents out of the ACBL's $30+ annual membership dues that we pay is a small amount to contribute to world bridge.

  9. Appeals Committees

    Several years ago, the ACBL eliminated appeals committees (where committee members were comprised of one's peers) at NABCs (except for the NABC+ events). This was a step in the right direction. In all other competitive endeavours, it is the referees, not the players, who decide close decisions and enforce the rules of the game.

    The ACBL has a trained and dedicated group of tournament directors (TDs) who are more than capable of handling bridge appeals. More than 30 TDs have been cycled through the regional panel process for hearing appeals. At NABCs today, all appeals below the NABC level are handled by a well-trained, experienced group of TDs. There have been few, if any complaints. The new system is working.

    But for the NABC+ events, the old system remains in place. Players deliberate into the wee hours of the morning as they wait for rulings that may decide the winners of a National event.

    There are several problems with the historical system of appeals committees.  At the NABC level, huge sums of money exchange hands between clients and professionals. At times, committee members have refused to hear a case because of possible future business relationships, while still other members, who are paid to play, remain on panels that include players and payees. This simply can't be right: it is an inherent conflict of interest, and it tarnishes the image of our game.

    A review of the NABC Appeals Casebooks reveals a wide divergence of opinion among the expert commentators. Any single case may depend upon who the committee members on any given night happen to be. Worse, in almost all casebooks, there are cases where committees reach an almost inexplicable decision – way off the charts. In reviewing regional cases since the TDs started hearing them, you find no decisions to boggle the mind. While some are not perfect, all are reasonable and none are awful. TD panels, without a doubt, render more consistent rulings than player committees.

    In 2004, NABC+ player appeals committees cost the ACBL approximately $22,000. This included hotel rooms, scrip to committee members, transportation, free plays, refreshments, and meeting room rentals. The cost PER CASE was $400.00! In my opinion, this is a waste of time and money, and is an embarrassment to our game.

    TDs have enthusiastically accepted a defining role in making ruling decisions. Player polling and extended TD consultations will result in reasonable rulings. An added plus: the number of regional appeals continues to decrease. In Dallas, there were just seven appeals in regional events.

    I will be introducing a motion for the Chicago meeting that will eliminate all player-based appeals committees at NABCs effective January 1, 2007, or if possible, prior to the Honolulu NABC this fall, which would create immediate savings to the ACBL.

    Appeals of a TD's table ruling would still be allowed. But the process would be different. The new NABC+ model would be similar to the current regional appeal process. Informal comments and testimony are taken on a tape recorder. Conflicting statements are pursued and resolved. Player consultations occur throughout the process. With several TDs involved, one would act as the reviewer, while others would poll players and fellow TDs. Many cases, with 3 or 5 TDs listed, are actually consensus decisions with other TDs offering input on law.

    Some NABC+ appeals will be resolved much more quickly. Unauthorized information (UI) and misinformation (MI) cases will almost never entail players repeating the exact same arguments. TDs can get the issues from the table director, conduct player polls, and make a decision, in some cases, by the end of the same session.

    ACBL management is strongly in favour of this approach. ACBL TDs have been in training and preparation for several years. Now is the time for the ACBL Board of Directors to take the final step and approve the new model for NABC+ events.

  10. Women's NABC Events: Have They Become Obsolete?

    The Official Encyclopaedia of Bridge states: “Just after the 1984 Fall NABC…Robert and Jill Blanchard…filed suit against the ACBL…the Blanchards' claim was that gender-based events such as the Men's Pairs violated…an anti-discrimination statute. Beginning in 1990, three nationally-rated events restricted to men were changed to open events…Around the time of the Blanchards' suit – and in response to complaints by the couple – the ACBL also eliminated gender-based events from those used to qualify ACBL pairs for WBF competition…”

    As we all know, men's events have been relegated to the dustbins of history. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, women's events remain! These events are discriminatory towards men and insulting to women, implying – as they certainly do – that women are incapable of competing in an open event.

    Let's review the history. The largest Women's Pairs was held in 1989 with 149 pairs. That was the last year that it was opposite the Men's Pairs. In 1990, opposite the Open Pairs, the number was down to 74 pairs. This year in Dallas, there were just 52 pairs competing opposite 130 pairs in the IMP Pairs open event.

    The Wagar Women's KO surpassed 50 teams in 1987, 1988, 1991, and 1995. Since then, the decline has been quite dramatic. The last time the event hit 30 teams was in Toronto in 2001. Last summer in Atlanta, just 19 teams entered the event, a record low number. 158 teams competed in the Spingold and Mini-Spingold events.

    In the fall, we have the LM Women's Pairs opposite the LM Open Pairs and the Women's BAM opposite the Open BAM. The Women's Pairs event peaked at 116 tables in 1987 and 1988, and has declined to a steady 60-70 pairs in recent years. The open event attracts about 180 pairs. In the BAM, the women peaked at 64 teams in 1988, a number that has declined to 39 or 40 teams today. The open BAM has actually been increasing in size, running between 100 and 110 teams in the past three years.

    There are many fine women players who compete and do very well in open events. Just look at the 2005 Blue Ribbon Pairs: Jenny Ryman won, Sabine Auken and Daniella von Arnim were second, Jill Meyers and Jill Levin were 5th, and Lynn Deas placed 8th.

    Indeed, several women have told me they would never play in any NABC+ Women's events because they consider them to be sexist and discriminatory. I agree. It is time to end NABC+ Women's events. It is wrong to classify discriminatory, ever smaller women's events that run opposite open events as North American Championships.

  11. A Personal Note

    Don't forget that the ACBL is currently offering a six-month amnesty program that runs through June 30. The targets are players who do not currently pay ACBL dues or service fees. If you are in this category, and if you renew your paid membership during this period, all masterpoints won while you were in non-dues paying status will be credited to you.

    If you know players who fall into this category, please encourage them to renew and to thereby avoid the $2/session extra fee that one must pay at Regionals if not an ACBL dues-paying member.

    Special congratulations to all of the hard-working teachers and club owners in District 2 who actively recruit new members. As of March 31, 2006, we had 6,269 members, a 1.92% increase in the last year. Nationally, membership was flat, so the 1.92% increase was the second best among the 25 ACBL Districts.

    Within District 2, Unit 181, Manitoba, led the way with a 4.17% increase reaching 400 members. Unit 249, SWOBA, was up 3.96%, reaching 971 members, while Unit 246, Trent Valley, was up 3.08%, reaching 1,203 members. Great work by everyone!

    The average age of an ACBL member is 67.61; District 2 members average a very youthful 65.11, while District 9, Florida, is the oldest, averaging 71.15 years.

    My responsibilities on the ACBL Board in 2006 are: Chair of the ACBL Honourary Member of the Year Committee, Vice-Chair of the Appeals & Charges Committee, and member of the Bridge, Junior, and Board Operations Committees. I am also serving in my final year as a trustee of the ACBL Educational Foundation. I remain an ex-officio member of the CBF Board of Directors.

    The summer NABC this year will be in Chicago in July. The District 2 GNT winners will be in attendance, and I urge you to join them. It will be a great tournament in a fun city.

    Best wishes to all. See you at the bridge table.


    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 Masterpoint Winners from District 2 at the Dallas NABC

    1126.25George MittelmanToronto ON
    283.07Gavin WolpertThornhill ON
    381.75Robert LebiToronto ON
    454.63Daniel LaveeThornhill ON
    551.41Denis MurphyBelleville ON
    648.64Peter PetruzzellisToronto ON
    748.08Joan EatonNorth York ON
    842.28Helen HacknerWillowdale ON
    940.68John CollinsToronto ON
    1031.78Robert HollowMadoc ON
    =1122.47Michael HebbertPickering ON
    =1122.47Andrew McCollPickering ON
    =1320.56John RaynerOakville MB
    =1320.56Michael RocheDon Mills ON
    =1520.13Gertrude BarkerWarwick Bermuda
    =1520.13Jane SmithWarwick Bermuda

    Top 25 Masterpoint Winners From District 2 at the Toronto Regional April 11 - 16, 2006

    157.83Don PiafskyToronto ON
    =251.67John DuquetteOshawa ON
    =251.67Eric ShepherdHamilton ON
    449.61Doug BaxterToronto ON
    546.31Andy StarkToronto ON
    645.77Paul ThurstonSt Catharines ON
    745.47Alan LeeWillowdale ON
    843.38Stephen MackayMarkham ON
    942.35Joseph Seigelthornhill ON
    1041.67Jeremy SmeeSt Catharines ON
    1138.13Brian JohnstonToronto ON
    1237.54Andy AltayWillowdale ON
    1337.14Lewis RichardsonToronto ON
    1434.72Leigh IvesBarrie ON
    1534.67George BertonNewmarket ON
    1633.94David BakerKitchener ON
    1733.80Stephen AaronsToronto ON
    1832.43Allan SmithPeterborough ON
    1932.29Mary PaulToronto ON
    2032.28Barbara HolmesThornhill ON
    2131.31John DoucetteAurora ON
    2230.59John MoserSt Agathe ON
    2330.26Michael RocheDon Mills ON
    2430.21Ringo ChungMississauga ON
    2529.66Lino D'SouzaBurlington ON


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