March 26, 2007

Dear Bridge Friends,

The St. Louis NABC host hotels were the Renaissance Grand Hotel and the Renaissance Suites Hotel. I stayed at the Grand, built just four years ago. The high speed, efficient elevators were more than adequate to handle the bridge rush hour. The Suites is a much older building, but with larger suite-style rooms.

The hotels were pricey, but as regular NABC players realize, when you stay at the host hotel, the room rate you pay is partially subsidizing the playing space and meeting rooms. As is the case in most large US cities, the budget-conscious players were able to find an array of less expensive hotels within a small radius of the playing area. I heard of some excellent Priceline bargains.

The playing areas – NABC events in the hotel ballrooms, Regional events across the street in a convention centre, were both excellent. The evening hospitality (great food!) was substantial and appreciated. A nice St. Louis Arch NABC T-shirt was awarded to section top and overall winners.

The final attendance of 10,232 tables exceeded the pre-tournament target of 10,000 tables. All the NABC events were strong from day one, while the I/N games and Regional events were a little soft. A common problem in many large US cities is that some local players are loath to incur the additional expenses of travelling downtown, and having to pay the high cost of parking, in addition to Regional entry fees that are much higher than at their local Regionals.

Nashville in July and San Francisco in November are on tap for later this year. If you are planning to attend one or both, I urge you to make your plans as early as possible to get the best choice of accommodations.

  1. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table

    Eighty-seven players from District 2 competed to win masterpoints in St. Louis. The Top 25 District 2 Masterpoint List from the St. Louis NABC can be found at the end of this report. Here are the District 2 players who made the overalls in NABC events.

    John Rayner, Oakville, & Michael Roche, (recently moved to Victoria, BC), 5th NAP, Flight A.

    Robert Lebi, Toronto, 5th Rockwell Mixed Pairs, 40th Lebhar IMP Pairs.

    Jenny Wolpert, Thornhill, 10th Machlin Women's Swiss, 14th Rockwell Mixed Pairs.

    Leslie Amoils, Toronto, 14th Rockwell Mixed Pairs.

    Joan Eaton, North York, 16th Whitehead Women's Pairs.

    Jim Green, Toronto, & Nader Hanna, Willowdale, 19th Jacoby Open Swiss Teams.

    Jim & Joan Priebe, Mississauga, 27th Leventritt Silver Ribbon Pairs, 39th Rockwell Mixed Pairs.

    Martin Hunter, Mississauga, & Jonathan Steinberg, Toronto, 31st Lebhar IMP Pairs.

    Don Piafsky, Toronto, 32nd Jacoby Open Swiss Teams.

    Paul Leventis & Karl Schabas, Toronto, 32nd Red Ribbon Pairs.

    Gavin Wolpert, Thornhill, 33rd Jacoby Open Swiss Teams, 45th Rockwell Mixed Pairs.

    Chris Cowan & Stephen Young, Mississauga, 45th Red Ribbon Pairs.

    The following District 2 players WON Regional events:

    Gavin Wolpert, Thornhill, Casino Queen KO, bracket two.

    Doug Fisher, Neil Kimelman, Bob Todd, Winnipeg, & Karl Gohl, Oakbank MB, Saturday Compact KO, bracket three.

    Don Piafsky, Toronto, Monday Compact KO, bracket three.

    Joan & Tony Viidik, Waterloo, Wednesday Compact KO, bracket eight.

  2. Financial Issues

    Accurate forecasting and budgeting continues to be a problem for the ACBL. For 2006, the excess of expenses over revenues was $175,000. This result was $240,000 worse than the budgeted gain of $65,000.

    In Hawaii, a 2007 budget was approved, predicting a surplus of $175,000 for 2007. That figure has now been revised downwards to $36,000.

    Nonetheless, the ACBL remains in a very sound financial position. Cash reserves are a record $7,066,000; current assets $3,520,000; current liabilities $1,811,000; current ratio 1.94X; Net Assets $6,370,000.

    The ACBL Treasurer and ACBL Board Finance Committee have been working very hard with management. There has been an internal realignment of responsibilities in Memphis, and the ACBL CEO has assured us that at least one new senior financial position (primarily to work on budgets and forecasting) will be created.

  3. Marketing and Juniors

    Between 1990 and 2006, the ACBL expenditures per year on marketing and education randomly ranged from as little as $250,000 to just over $1,000,000. Regardless of the amount spent, since 1992 the number of new members in any given year has remained relatively consistent: from ten thousand to just under thirteen thousand every year. Since 1994, the number of ACBL junior members has ranged from 586 to 1,158.

    In the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the retention rate of new members (50% to 65%) from year one to year two. This is very positive.

    ACBL's Director of Marketing, Linda Granell, resigned her position, effective January 23, 2007. The ACBL Board Marketing Committee had a productive and freewheeling discussion with ACBL CEO Jay Baum over the direction the ACBL should pursue. Jay informed us that he has two distinct options: either to hire a new Director of Marketing, or to outsource well-defined specific marketing programs with clear goals. There are pluses and minuses with both approaches.

    The ACBL Junior Committee is reviewing the entire ACBL junior program from top to bottom. The 2007 Chair, Don Mamula and his team intend to formulate a long-range plan to present to the ACBL Board by the end of this year.

    ACBL members are not only indispensable volunteers, but also a major source for new ideas. If you have any thoughts pertaining to marketing or juniors, please e-mail your suggestions to Jay Baum and/or Don Mamula.

    In his front cover editorial "Go for the Youth" in the January 2007 edition of the World Bridge News, WBF President Jose Damiani explained some of the reasons why marketing to youth must be the first priority:

    A matter of numbers: if we do not replenish the Bridge population with youngsters, the game will simply die; although there will always be those in the 60-plus category who take up Bridge when they retire, without significant recruitment of young players, we will not keep pace with numbers we lose to natural causes.

    The inevitable competition from other sports both physical and “mind,” all of which enjoy a strong base of young participants. Bridge must not accept a characterization as an activity reserved for older people.

    Our own image and real development: if we cannot attract young people to our sport, we will never be a vibrant part of modern society, and Bridge will merit the neglect and limited respect of the media.”

  4. Board Actions From St. Louis

    1. The ACBL policy for NAP reimbursement was revised. The major change is a philosophical one: previously, the reward for winning the NAP was a free trip (travel and accommodations) to the national final. The new policy gives cash awards. Carried 13-12 (the only 13-12 vote all week). I voted no because I believe the philosophical change is significant. That said, the new rules will make it much easier for ACBL management to administer, and the ACBL Board ensured that the changes would be revenue neutral (although there will be individual financial winners and losers that will balance out). Here are the new rules:

      1. First place qualifiers will receive $700 per person, second place $300. Third place shall be invited to participate in the national level finals, but shall not receive any prize.
      2. In Districts with four qualifiers, first and second will receive $700 per person, third place $300. Fourth place shall be invited to participate in the national level finals, but shall not receive any prize.
      3. Invited defenders shall receive $700 per person.
      4. The monetary reward will be available on site. Qualifiers must play in the national final until eliminated in order to receive the award.
      5. There will be no entry fee for the national level of the event.

    2. The creation of the Albert H. Morehead Library Foundation was approved. The non-profit tax-exempt foundation will exist for the purposes of:

      1. Acquiring, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting objects and materials related to bridge.
      2. Identifying and recognizing those who have made significant contributions to bridge.
      3. Serving as the North American repository for objects and materials related to bridge.
      4. Engaging in fundraising activities to support the above purposes.

    3. The maximum duration of a Regional was changed from 6 to 6.5 days. In addition, a one session event that is run for the ACBL Charity Foundation, ACBL Educational Foundation, the Junior Fund, International Fund, or the Canadian equivalent of these, may be scheduled the afternoon before the start of a 6.5 day Regional.

    4. Previously, players were allowed to request a one-time only exemption to play in the Blue Ribbon Pairs. The new regulations allow ACBL members who do not otherwise qualify to request an exemption from the ACBL Chief Tournament Director in writing. Carried 15-9 (1 absent). I voted in favour. One example is that this change will allow non-resident ACBL members (with limited opportunities to acquire Blue Ribbon Q's) to play in the event if their level of expertise so dictates. Note: the above change does NOT apply to the 0-5000 Blue Ribbon Pairs.

    5. The maximum carryover in the Reisinger Board-A-Match was changed from four to three boards when 20 teams qualify; from seven to five boards when 10 teams qualify.

    6. Four session Board-a-Match team events shall have a maximum carryover of five boards. (It used to be seven.) The previous formulas produced carryover awards that were far too high.

    7. A motion to establish May as Educational Foundation Month that would have allowed clubs to hold Educational Foundation games consistent with all other special club games failed 8-16 (1 absent). I voted in favour. Some felt that since the Educational Foundation has a checkoff box for donations on the ACBL membership renewal form, in addition to being the beneficiary of the Thursday evening game at all NABCs, a special month was not required. It should be noted that a club has the option to name the Educational Foundation as its designated charity when holding a club charity game.

    8. A motion to replace the June Worldwide Bridge Contest (sponsored by the WBF) with an ACBL-sponsored game failed 10-14 (1 absent). I voted against. While the popularity of the worldwide game has fallen slightly, it remains a viable option for ACBL clubs and players. In addition, I firmly believe that working together with the WBF is to the ACBL's long-term advantage.

    9. Eligibility rules for the GNT event were revised. The concept that you must play in the District that you reside in remains; however, it was recognized that exceptions may be granted in three situations:

      1. “Snowbirds”. Any member with seasonal residences who spends more than half of the GNT qualifying period (Sept. 1 – Feb. 28) in a district other than the district of his principal physical residence may play in the district of season residence.
      2. A player who lives near district borders and who is a member of a unit in a district in which he does not reside may seek to play in the district in which he has a unit membership. Such a player must have been an active member of the unit in the district in which he wishes to play for at least five years continuously prior to the start of the competition in the year in which he wishes to play, and must not have played in the GNT in another district for that period of time.
      3. A player with multiple domiciles should apply to the Credentials Committee for a one-time choice of district in which he wishes to play. A player may be asked to document his time in each of his residences. A player must live at least three months each year in a district in order to have it considered a possibility.

  5. ACBL Special Club Games

    The concept of clubs charging an extra $4/table (designated to either a charitable fund, international fund, or junior fund) and offering “triple” masterpoint awards has become controversial to some.

    I believe that the concept is excellent – these games make our players happy, and at the same time have raised substantial amounts of money for worthy causes. On the other hand, the current regulations allow for clubs to make EVERY game a special one! In a few specific situations, club wars have developed where some clubs are doing just that in an attempt to drive a competitor out of business.

    A motion in St. Louis to radically change the current rules with reduced sanction fees, reduced masterpoints, and a myriad of other rules and regulations failed 2-23. I voted against.

    The Board of Governors discussed the issue and narrowly passed a motion asking the ACBL Board of Directors to reconsider. It is my hope that a consensus among the ACBL Board will develop to maintain the existing regulations with one key change. Instead of allowing EVERY club game to be special, it should be limited to 1 special game per month per sanctioned session. In other words, if a club has 14 sanctioned games a week, it would be allowed to hold a maximum of 14 special club games per month; if a club has four sanctioned games a week, it would be allowed to hold a maximum of four special club games per month.

  6. Masterpoint Review Committee

    The ACBL reviews the masterpoint formula every five years. The ACBL Masterpoint Review Committee, chaired by Rich DeMartino, started working in 2006. It presented a preliminary report to us in St. Louis. Firm proposals will be voted upon in July (first reading). Second reading will be in the fall, and implementation will be January 1, 2008.

    I believe the committee has been doing outstanding work. Here are some of the preliminary highlights:

    1. NABC events: Overall masterpoints will be awarded to all pairs that qualify for the finals of the 6 session LM Pairs and Blue Ribbon Pairs.
    2. KO events: A new formula for overall awards will be based on a strength of field formula, rather than the number of overall tables in the event.
    3. Brackets with 12-16 teams: They will receive full overall awards. For brackets with 9-11 teams, awards will be at 85%.
    4. Match awards in KO's: A new formula is being proposed that will slightly increase the award for winning the first match, decrease the award for winning the second match, and then slightly increase the award for winning the semi-final and final.
    5. Two session pair games: It will be proposed that awards for 5th overall and lower be increased (more places, higher awards).
    6. Swiss teams: The match awards will increase from .36 to .43 for Fl. A & X in Regionals; .26 to .31 for Sectionals.
    7. Clubs: All special event games will be limited to some maximum overall award (either 6 or 8 masterpoints based on a maximum of 28 tables).
    8. The maximum award for a regular club game will increase from 1.5 to 2.5 masterpoints. It would require a 25 table game to reach the maximum.

  7. Memphis Office

    It is expected that the sale of the Memphis office will be finalized as of this Friday, March 30, 2007. However, the ACBL will remain as tenants for 18 to 24 months. The ACBL Real Estate Committee is working to come up with recommendations as to where and when the ACBL should relocate.

    At this time, I have no idea if the head office will remain in the Memphis area, or move to another part of North America. One downside is that the uncertainty affects the ACBL employees, and at the same time makes it difficult to attract and hire new personnel.

    May 5, 2007 UPDATE: Last minute financing difficulties prevented the sale from being finalized. The ACBL Memphis property remains on the market.

  8. A Personal Note

    My responsibilities on the ACBL Board in 2007 are: Vice-Chair of the Appeals & Charges Committee; Vice-Chair of the Honorary Member of the Year Committee; member of the Marketing Committee; member of the Board Operations Committee.

    Andy Pedersen's long-anticipated documentary, “The Secret World of Professional Bridge,” featuring Gavin Wolpert and Vincent Demuy, will air on CTV on Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 7 p.m. If you are going to be playing bridge at the Royal York that evening, don't forget to program your VCR.

    The best part of the St. Louis NABC - and indeed any tournament I attend - is the game of bridge itself. I know I love the game, as do all of you. Let us all do our part to keep bridge alive and well – recruit a new member, volunteer at your local club, unit or district, or just smile at the bridge table and make everyone feel welcome.

    You are all invited to view my on-line photo albums; the most recent photos were taken during the just-completed St. Louis NABC.

    The Toronto Regional runs from April 3-8, 2007 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. I am looking forward to seeing many of you there. May we all have an enjoyable week at the bridge table.

    Top 25 Masterpoint Winners From District 2 at the St. Louis NABC

    183.63Jonathan SteinbergToronto ON
    265.67Robert LebiToronto ON
    363.07Gavin WolpertThornhill ON
    462.70Jenny WolpertThornhill ON
    554.53Martin HunterMississauga ON
    650.95Nader HannaWillowdale ON
    =747.27Vera PettyWarwick, Bermuda
    =747.27Roman SmolskiWarwick, Bermuda
    943.19Don PiafskyToronto ON
    1040.76Brian JohnstonToronto ON
    =1138.95Jim PriebeMississauga ON
    =1138.95Joan PriebeMississauga ON
    1338.62Allan SmithPort Hope ON
    =1436.58Karl GohlOakbank MB
    =1436.58Neil KimelmanWinnipeg MB
    =1634.31Paul CampbellBarrie ON
    =1634.31Leigh IvesBarrie ON
    =1830.53Douglas FisherWinnipeg MB
    =1830.53Bob ToddWinnipeg MB
    2030.28Joan EatonToronto ON
    2128.94Leslie AmoilsToronto ON
    2228.50John RaynerOakville ON
    =2328.16Joan ViidikWaterloo ON
    =2328.16Tony ViidikWaterloo ON
    =2526.45Ron HaneyWest Hill ON
    =2526.45Bing WongWhitby ON

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