December 5, 2006

Dear Bridge Friends,

This is the time of the year when I have the pleasure to announce my lifetime appointments to the ACBL Goodwill and Charity Committees. My 2007 appointments to the ACBL Goodwill Committee are:

My 2007 appointment to the ACBL Charity Committee is:

  1. Hawaii NABC

    Hawaii is justly referred to as “paradise”, which may well be true; unfortunately, it is an expensive paradise. While I suspect that all who attended enjoyed themselves immensely, not enough players decided to take the long trip. The ACBL budgeted for 10,000 tables; the final number was just 8,606, fourteen per cent below the estimate.

    Congratulations to NABC Chair Busaba Williams and all her volunteers, who provided gracious Hawaiian hospitality throughout the tournament. Thanks also to the weather gods who ensured blue skies and kept the rain clouds at bay!

  2. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table

    There were eighty-nine District 2 players who won masterpoints. Three players surpassed the century mark: Nader Hanna with 179.91 points, Gavin Wolpert with 124.54 points, and George Mittelman with 120 points.

    The Top 25 District 2 Masterpoint List can be found at the end of this report. Here are all the District 2 players who placed in NABC+ events:

    George Mittelman, Toronto, WON the Senior KO.

    Nader Hanna, Willowdale, 4th/5th Victor Mitchell Open BAM, 5th Nail LM Pairs, 11th North American Swiss Teams, 41st Blue Ribbon Pairs

    Gavin Wolpert, Thornhill, 9th Reisinger BAM, 23rd Victor Mitchell Open BAM, 34th Blue Ribbon Pairs, 39th Nail LM Pairs

    Don Piafsky, Toronto, 5/8th Senior KO

    Joan Eaton, North York, 7th Women's BAM, 16th North American Swiss Teams, 28th LM Women's Pairs

    John Rayner, Oakville, Michael Roche, Don Mills, 11th North American Swiss Teams

    Jenny Ryman, Thornhill, 21st Blue Ribbon Pairs, 23rd Victor Mitchell Open BAM

    Robert Lebi, Toronto, 27th Victor Mitchell Open BAM

    Daniel Lavee, Thornhill, 5th Mini-Blue Ribbon Pairs

    Ringo Chung, Mississauga, 16 Mini-Blue Ribbon Pairs

    Malcolm Ewashkiw, Belleville, Bob Hollow, Madoc, 25th Mini-Blue Ribbon Pairs

    Roger Snowling, Hamilton, Wendy Dooley, Mississauga, 27th Mini-Blue Ribbon Pairs

    The following District 2 players WON Regional events:

    Rob Avery, Barrie, Bob Hollow, Madoc,WON Sunday/Monday KO, Bracket 1.

    Don Piafsky, Stephen Aarons, Toronto, WON Saturday/Sunday Compact KO, Bracket 1.

    Marie Overweed, Gloria Wilkinson, Sheila Hodgkinson, Nicole Formanek, Mississauga, WON Thursday/Friday Compact KO, Bracket 3.

    David & Frances McCrady, Scarborough, Lynda Marks, Sharon Ruttan, North York, WON Aloha Compact KO, Bracket 4.

    Kay Thacker, Mississauga, Thomas Poisson, Belle River, Korrie-Sue Marshall, Oakville, WON Ray Lo KO, Bracket 7.

  3. Names in the News

  4. Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies

    The sale of the ACBL Product Store to Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies was one of two significant actions taken since my last report. It appears that the transition has progressed remarkably smoothly with few, if any, complaints.

    Baron Barclay is the leading expert in the bridge book market. Service to ACBL members appears to have remained excellent and should continue that way.

    At the same time, there will be significant savings to the ACBL in 2007 and beyond, as a result of the sale. The number of ACBL employees has decreased by about 14%; there is no need to own a large warehouse facility. The seven-year agreement gives Baron Barclay exclusive licence to the ACBL name and logo but at the same time the ACBL will receive significant royalty payments.

    This is a win/win scenario for both parties.

  5. Real Estate

    The second item of note since my last report is that progress has been achieved regarding the sale of the ACBL building in Memphis. By the time of the 2007 St. Louis Spring NABC, I expect to be able to report that the deal has been finalized.

    The new ACBL office will be smaller, with fewer employees and no requirement for large warehouse facilities (see Baron Barclay above). The ACBL will be getting out of the business of being a landlord. There will be a transition period, during which time ACBL Headquarters will remain in the same location.

    Decisions will have to be made in 2007 as to whether to buy or rent a new property, to remain in the Memphis area, or to relocate. Owning a building allows certain tax benefits that apply to some organizations, but would not be applicable to the ACBL. My view is that the ACBL should rent the appropriate amount of space in a growing, safe neighbourhood somewhere within a one hundred mile radius of the current location. That would entail the least amount of disruption.

  6. Financial Matters

    The 2006 ACBL budget was supposed to break even. The report presented to us in Hawaii estimates that 2006 expenses will exceed revenues by about $116,000. As a result of the below budget attendance in Hawaii, I expect the final 2006 loss to be closer to $200,000. One of the biggest unbudgeted 2006 items was the ACBL-wide insurance coverage that was purchased last July. This was a prudent decision to protect all ACBL units and officers despite the impact on the budget. Another factor contributing to the estimated loss was the closing of the ACBL Product Store. Income from sales stopped in mid-September, but it was decided to keep the affected employees on the payroll through the end of the year.

    Notwithstanding the above, the ACBL remains sound financially. Prior to 2005, the ACBL enjoyed several very profitable years, and is well within all the financial guidelines it utilizes to determine its financial health. Tournament attendance is up, good attendance is anticipated for the 2007 NABCs, staffing levels will drop as a result of the elimination of the product store, investment income should be up, and board expenses will be down.

    In my Chicago report, I predicted possible membership and sanction fee increases for 2007. I am pleased to report that will NOT be the case. The ACBL has been able to present a 2007 budget with an estimated surplus of $175,000 without raising sanction fees, NABC fees, or membership dues.

    There are several reasons for this, among them the sale of the ACBL Product Store to Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies, a smaller number of head office employees, and reduced printing and postage costs for the ACBL Bridge Bulletin.

    The only increase will be per session Tournament Director charges, which are going up by 8% effective April 1, 2007. Four per cent of that increase goes towards salaries, while the other 4% is “catch-up”. The latter 4% is an internal issue related to fully allocated cost accounting procedures. It is not money going into the hands of any tournament director.

    In order to break even (and cover the 4% TD catch-up increase) per table sanction fees will DECREASE by approximately 6%, effective April 1, 2007.

      2006   2007
    Open/Senior Regional $4.39   $4.13
    I/N Regional 3.04   2.86
    Open/Senior Sectional 3.04   2.86
    I/N Sectional 2.04   1.86

    The per session sponsor fee for tournament directors, effective April 1, 2007 will be:

      2006   2007
    National TD $143.00   $155.00
    Associate National TD 143.00   155.00
    Tournament Director 131.50   142.00
    Associate TD 107.00   115.55
    Local TD 85.50   92.35

  7. Board Actions and Other News From Hawaii

    1. The ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations and the ACBL Recorder regulations were revised. I urge all interested parties to update your documents. The revised material should be available on the ACBL website.

    2. Effective January 1, 2007, clubs are no longer required to run a charity game for the benefit of the ACBL Charity Foundation. The first charity game, if any, plus at least every other subsequent Charity game held at a club must be for the benefit of the ACBL Charity Foundation or, in Canada, the CBF Charitable Fund. Carried unanimously.

    3. A motion to designate a specific month as Educational Foundation Month was deferred to spring 2007. Carried 20-5. I voted against deferral. The designated month would allow special games at clubs along the identical lines of Charity, Junior, and International Fund games. I see no valid reason not to give the Educational Foundation the same opportunity as the other three fund games. Meanwhile, please note that any club may choose to designate the ACBL Educational Foundation as the recipient for any charity game that is held.

    4. The European Bridge League asked the ACBL to sanction the European Open Bridge Championship and allow ACBL members the opportunity to win masterpoints. Their request was denied by 6-19 vote. I voted in favour. The last European Open Championship in Menton was sanctioned and masterpoints issued. There were no problems. I believe in keeping good relationships with our bridge-playing friends around the world. The practical effect of approving the request would have been minimal. I am saddened by what I perceive to be an anti-world, anti-WBF sentiment among some ACBL Board members.

    5. A motion to allow part-time ACBL TDs to serve as elected or appointed unit or District Board members was defeated 4-21. I voted in favour. Management was adamant that they perceived a conflict of interest if an ACBL employee was an elected or appointed official member of a unit or District Board. Nonetheless, many ACBL TDs regularly attend unit/District meetings, serve on committees, and perform valuable functions. There is no problem in doing so as a volunteer.

    6. A motion to approve a new ACBL Foundation to fund educational, charitable, social, scientific, and historic endeavours that either promote bridge or are for the benefit of bridge players or bridge entities was defeated 12-13. I voted in favour. Management believes a new Foundation would be a vehicle that would allow large tax-deductible donations towards, for example, the ACBL Library or Hall of Fame. The motion raised questions regarding the future viability of the existing ACBL Charity and Educational Foundations. It is necessary for all the parties involved to agree before moving forward.

    7. This was not an ACBL Board action, but I'm pleased to report that the ACBL website now lists all sectional and Regional tournaments that overlap into two months in BOTH months. (Previously you could only find the tournament information in the month that it ended.) This will make it much easier to find the tournament information you are looking for.

    8. At the Dallas Board meetings (spring, 2006), the ACBL approved hosting a World Junior Individual event to be run by the World Bridge Federation (WBF) at the Summer 2007 Nashville NABC. A junior bridge camp was expected to follow. The ACBL WBF representatives have now reported that the WBF has cancelled all plans to hold either event. In my view, their decision is a setback for junior bridge. I can only hope that the WBF reconsiders its actions.

  8. Looking Forward – Possible Major Issues in 2007

    1. Every five years, the ACBL reviews the entire masterpoint structure and makes recommendations. The Masterpoint Review Committee started its work in 2006 and is expected to present its final report for approval next summer. Second reading would be in the fall, and any masterpoint award changes would take effect January 1, 2008.

      One issue being addressed regards large club games, such as Hazel's Bridge Club in Toronto. They have 20+ table sections scored across the field, pre-duplicated boards, and hand records for everyone. Yet current regulations limit the award for a section top to 1.50 points, whether it is a 15 or a 25 table section.

      The entire club/on-line masterpoint structure, awards for bracketed knockouts, and pair game awards are all being reviewed.

    2. Going into the final Sunday at the Hawaii NABC, Barry Rigal informed me that there had only been 3 appeals from NABC events and 4 appeals from Regional events. I believe the trend toward fewer appeals has been progressing for several years; a major reason is that TD training and subsequent rulings have dramatically improved. In my Dallas NABC report (spring, 2006, Section I, Appeals Committees) I argued that TDs should take over the entire appeals process. In Chicago (summer, 2006) a motion to that effect was narrowly defeated 12-13. Two of the ACBL Board members who were opposed will no longer be serving in 2007. Perhaps the political winds in 2007 will have shifted enough to bring about this long overdue improvement.

    3. Over the years, I have frequently argued that the age of 55 for ACBL senior events is far too low. Check out the letters from Partha Mallela and Jack Mendelsohn (pages 7 and 8, November ACBL Bulletin), who appear to agree. Indeed, 85% of ACBL members are now 55 or older – thus, in effect, senior events discriminate against the 15% of ACBL members who are ineligible to compete.

      The WBF is in the process of increasing the eligibility age for senior events every year until January 1, 2009, when the age of eligibility will reach 60. I believe the ACBL should do the same and effective January 1, 2009 increase the age to at least 60.

      Currently, there are just two Senior Regionals on the ACBL calendar. The sponsors of the large Mesa, Arizona Seniors Regional would prefer to switch to an Open Regional format but to date the ACBL Board has not allowed it, and has consistently argued that raising the senior age would hurt attendance. I totally disagree.

    4. One complaint that I heard in Hawaii was that all the Regionally rated Swiss events were just seven matches of seven boards each instead of the customary eight matches. The host District is in charge of the Regional event schedule, including how many boards are to be played in KO matches and Swiss events.

      In District 2, we have a strict policy that ALL Regional Swiss Team events (including the final Sunday) must be either eight seven-board matches, seven eight-board matches, or in low attendance areas, six nine-board matches. It is a policy I strongly support.

    5. Just prior to the start of the Hawaii NABC new state regulations went into effect banning smoking virtually everywhere. Hotel staff even came into the ACBL President's suite and removed ashtrays from the balcony!

      Those who haven't been able to quit smoking yet, be warned! In 2007, all three NABCs will be at Marriott hotels, which are 100% non-smoking. If you are looking for a worthy New Year's resolution…

  9. A Personal Note

    St. Louis, Nashville, and San Francisco are the three 2007 NABCs that will provide the best in excitement and fun that the ACBL has to offer. Please consider planning your vacation around one or more of them.

    The days are short, the nights are long, but with the holiday season upon us, good cheer is in the air. My travel plans this month will take me to the popular Charleston Regional between Christmas and New Year and then back home to celebrate District 2's largest sectional, the City of Toronto, at the Fairmont Royal York, January 5-7, 2007. I look forward to seeing many of you at the bridge table.

    You are all invited to view my photo albums; the most recent albums feature the Hawaii NABC, and a party honouring Flo Belford, the 2006 Audrey Grant Award winner (for excellence and professionalism in the teaching of bridge).

    My best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

    Top 25 Masterpoint Winners From District 2 at the Hawaii NABC

    1179.91Nader HannaWillowdale ON
    2124.54Gavin WolpertThornhill ON
    3120.00George MittelmanToronto ON
    477.66Joan EatonNorth York ON
    561.05Don PiafskyToronto ON
    =660.55Roman SmolskiWarwick, Bermuda
    =660.55Vera PettyWarwick, Bermuda
    859.33Jenny RymanThornhill ON
    =949.93Michael RocheDon Mills ON
    =949.93John RaynerOakville ON
    1145.53Rob AveryBarrie ON
    1244.61Robert HollowMadoc ON
    1341.49Daniel LaveeThornhill ON
    1440.04Andrew RismanToronto ON
    1536.80Cari SalmiShebandowan ON
    1635.22Andrew CollinsToronto ON
    1731.48Allan MowatWinnipeg MB
    1827.42Fred DayToronto ON
    1926.92Merryl ChinToronto ON
    2026.23Thoma PoissonBelle River ON
    2125.23Robert LebiToronto ON
    2223.93Raymond JungHamilton ON
    =2322.95Frances McCradyScarborough ON
    =2322.95David McCradyScarborough ON
    2522.93Ranjan BhaduriToronto ON

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