August 15, 1996


Dear District Two District and Unit Board Members;

The Miami Beach NABC meetings were long and contentious, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"! Here are some of the highlights and issues that we are facing:

  1. - The Good -
    1. - Winners Circle - :
      1. Congratulations to our Red Ribbon Pair National Champions, Ringo Chung of Etobicoke and Vinay Sarin of Thornhill! Well done!

      2. Canada's number one team to the 1997 World Junior Bridge Championships (WJBC) in Hamilton starting August 4, 1997 will be: Eric Sutherland, Darren Wolpert (Toronto area), David Levy, Jeff Blond, Fred Pollack (Montreal area), and Mike Roberts (Victoria). Fred Gitelman will be their non-playing captain (NPC). The team led the Junior Trials from start to finish.

      The World Bridge Federation (WBF) granted Zone II (ACBL) a fourth team on account of Canada being the host country; however, the extra spot went to the ACBL at large. I moved an amendment to the Junior Trials conditions of contest to ensure that no more than two teams from any NCBO could qualify, virtually guaranteeing a second team for Canada. The Board of Directors (BOD) passed the motion 18-5 with one abstention and one member absent.

      As a result, Canada's number two team will be John Gowdy (NPC), David Halasi, Ben Zeidenberg, Mike Nadler, Dan Nadler, Colin Lee (Toronto area), Barry Piafsky (Montreal).

    2. - Bridge America: Social Division of ACBL -
    3. The BOD approved an ambitious proposal from Audrey Grant to create Bridge America. The target market are the millions of social bridge players who have no desire to enter the competitive fray of tournament duplicate bridge. The cost will be $35 Canadian ($30 US for US members). ACBL teachers will receive commissions for selling and promoting this new concept. Members will receive their own publication, a special gift, and other items. There are no masterpoints involved and no membership money will go to ACBL Units.

    4. - Tournament Matters - :
      1. There will be NO changes to the new alert procedures until Spring of 1997. By then, we will have had ample time to evaluate the situation. It is expected that any changes made at that time will signal a moratorium on further modifications for at least three years.

      2. A new convention card will be ready by the summer of 1997, incorporating the new alert procedures. A separate card will be used by players using a forcing (strong) club system. The new cards will continue to be "colour coded" to distinguish among alertable, announceable, and normal bids!

      3. Inter-city club championships were approved. In general, all clubs in any city should be allowed to participate and the local Unit(s) should be the co-ordinator.

      4. Effective January 1, 1997, clubs will no longer issue rating point slips to players. All club masterpoint awards will be sent to Memphis by the club.

      5. The position of Tournament Assistants (TA) was approved for use in Canada (deferred pending an IRS ruling in the US). The TA is engaged by the tournament sponsor and must have passed the ACBL Club Director exam. Compensation is determined by the tournament sponsors. It is hoped that with judicious use, the TA's may help reduce the costs of running our tournaments.

    5. - Appeals & Charges - :
      1. Changes were made to the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations.

      2. Completely revised Recorder regulations and procedures were approved.

      3. A Handbook For Disciplinary Proceedings was approved.

      All of the above material is available upon request for interested parties. In addition, "The Philadelphia Story", can be purchased from the ACBL - this is the handbook of appeals cases heard at the Philadelphia NABC. Eric Kokish and Rich Colker did a superb job putting it all together.

    6. - Miami Beach Hospitality - :
    7. For the lucky people who made it to Miami Beach in August, a great time was available. Thanks to the local volunteers for an outstanding array of evening entertainment, snacks, and ice cream sundaes! The weather was incredibly favourable, the beach and boardwalk superb (Atlantic ocean a balmy 85 degrees!), and the lagoon pool, complete with waterfalls, was THE place for everyone to cool off!

  2. - The Bad -
    1. - NABC Site Selections/Miami Beach NABC - :
      1. Unfortunately, my prediction from my Philadelphia report, "This summer, we are facing the double whammy of $100 hotel rates plus 100 degree heat - we shall have the smallest summer NABC in years." was all too accurate. Final table count of 9,395 made this the smallest summer NABC since Minneapolis in 1962!

      2. Things will not improve in 1997 when we are scheduled to return to Albuquerque (1982 attendance 9,776 - smallest since 1962 until 1996 Miami Beach). Why are we returning there? Even worse, management proposed Birmingham, Alabama! as the site for the Fall 2000 NABC followed by Kansas City (690 miles away) for Spring 2001!

        I was unsuccessful in attempting to stop the BOD from approving Birmingham. The whole question of selecting NABC sites, marketing them properly, and providing ALTERNATIVE INEXPENSIVE housing for our members is an area where I feel management is sorely lacking. Perhaps the Miami Beach disaster will be a wake-up call.

      3. The BOD defeated my motion 11-14 that "as a matter of policy, commercial bridge-related flyers and brochures that offer our members alternative lower priced housing at NABCs shall be allowed to be distributed at all ACBL tournaments". Sad! Fortunately, the Board of Governors (BOG) almost unanimously voted to request that the BOD reconsider the motion so it will re-appear at the San Francisco meetings.

        Who knows how many people would have come to the $65 Days Inn if they knew it was available? We open our monthly ACBL Bulletin and all we see are $100 hotels. Yes, if we are diligent, we can search out and find alternatives...but why doesn't ACBL management encourage and advertise cheaper housing so that we can INCREASE our attendance? Why do we fight with travel agents who want to help improve our NABCs and make them affordable for people who otherwise would not come?

    2. - Steve Sion -
    3. The BOD, subject to signed agreements from Mr. Sion to not represent ACBL in WBF events for five years and further to allow the ACBL to publicize his letters of contrition, shall remove him from his current "permanent probationary" status. Carried 16-7-2.

      Mr. Sion was expelled in 1979. He was then involved in a costly lawsuit - the repercussions still being felt today - which led to his re-admission in 1983 and permanent probationary status. In the late 1980's, Mr. Sion reached another legal agreement with the ACBL and voluntarily abstained from play from three NABCs.

      I argued that by removing his "permanent probation" status, he becomes, by definition, a "member in good standing". I do not feel this is a good message to be sending to our membership.

    4. - Bridge Ventures -
    5. This is the separate, for-profit organization that the ACBL set up to conduct cash prize tournaments. Personally, I feel that money and masterpoints are a fiery combination and do not mix well. My experience here in Toronto is that after a brief surge of interest, duplicate players prefer to play for masterpoints and keep their money in their wallets! A brief experiment by Unit 246 combining cash prizes with a sectionally rated event died a quick death after it's second attempt. Local club efforts to promote bridge calcuttas have been steadily declining.

      In Miami, Bridge Ventures ran a small money/masterpoint matchpoint game that attracted 13 tables in the "A" and 9 tables in the "B". A well advertised effort to run a swiss event on the final Sunday had to be cancelled when fewer than 10 teams entered.

    6. - Alcatel World Wide Pairs -
    7. This the expensive to play in, poorly run and badly organized World Bridge Federation instant matchpoint game. A money raiser for the WBF, a headache for the ACBL. As of today, more than TWO months after the event, the prize for our local junior players (David Halasi - Ben Zeidenberg) who won the Worldwide Junior Competition is still unknown!

      The BOD agreed to participate again in 1997, hoping (and offering to help) to see a much improved event. Basically, this was the same thing we did a year ago, to no avail.

    8. - Finances -
    9. A cursory glance at our balance sheet appears promising. The reality is that our profits in 1996 will be substantially below budget for many reasons, but certainly the declining attendance at our NABCs is a major factor. The final figures from the Miami NABC (attendance 75% of estimate) will not help.

      To quote ACBL Treasurer Glenn Smith:
      "It continues to be obvious that our financial condition is rapidly deteriorating...our dues paying membership continues to decline, our expenses continue to increase and many are seeking solutions..."
      A detailed copy of the ACBL Treasurer's report (like the minutes from any BOD meetings) is available to any member upon request.

    10. - Tournament Committee 1:00 am Meetings -
    11. The ACBL BOD has a long tradition of having "emergency" meetings at 1:00 am during an NABC to discuss whatever "emergency" item has come up. This year, a request to allow our junior players to participate in the Spingold and then be added (as a 5th or 6th) in the Junior Team Trials when knocked out was defeated. A majority felt that this would have violated (heaven forbid!) our rule that you cannot play in two events at the same time. This ruling left a bad taste in the mouths of many of our junior players as well as with me.

      Quite frankly, these 1:00 am get togethers are not conducive to sober reflection and judgement.

  3. - The Ugly -
  4. The Board of Governors meetings on Sunday August 4, 1996, reached a new low in ugly, slandering and self-serving accusations. The tirade was led by one of District One's well known outspoken representatives and continued downhill from there.

    It was open season on the Board of Directors as a whole and in particular against ACBL presidential candidate Howard Piltch. The abuse and unproven innuendo directed at him in this public forum were an embarrassment to the entire organization. No one deserves such treatment.

    We have disciplinary bodies and appropriate venues for aggrieved individuals. This misuse of the Board of Governors meetings was a shameful action that I hope will never be repeated.

  5. - Future of Bridge (FOB) Report/Actions Taken -
    1. The Classic Game. Approved in principle for immediate implementation by management. While everyone likes the "concept", no one can agree on the final convention card and treatments allowed. I suspect that the marketplace will give the final verdict.

      The Classic Game can be offered at any level of bridge, at the discretion of the sponsoring organization. At the tournament level, the Classic Game will be part of the open or senior event - it will NOT be a separate event; rather, some sections may be "open", while other sections use the "Classic Game" convention card rules only. Scoring will be across the field for overall awards plus the usual section placing awards.

    2. ACBL Field Office test program. The BOD approved a salary and operating budget of $40,000 to establish a pilot field office program. In addition, three additional ACBL field offices at an annual budget not to exceed $40,000 was approved at management's discretion.

      The Board of Governors expressed great concern over the haste with which this program was approved without any real detailed plan of attack. The item will re-appear on the San Francisco agenda.

    3. Membership Rebate Program. Currently, the ACBL offers half-price membership for the first year with a $2 rebate to the teacher/club signing up the new member. There is a $3 rebate if the member renews. The new incentive plan provides for a $6 rebate to a club/teacher with a minimum of six new members plus another $6 for first and second year renewals.

    4. All masterpoint services for non-members shall be discontinued. In addition, all non-members (and Life Members who do NOT pay their service fees) will be charged an additional $2 US (or $2 Canadian in Canada) per entry fee at all sectional and regional tournaments (except for 0-20 games). One dollar would remain with the sponsoring organization and one dollar would go to the ACBL. Requires second reading before implementation.

    5. Appeals Committees! The FOB recommendation to abolish appeals committees ran into a wall of protest. This is too bad. Running these committees costs the ACBL between $30-40,000 a year. Having to appear at midnight or later for an appeal is inherently user unfriendly. Most players have better things to do with their time! It should be noted that the FOB report would still allow appeals from a director's ruling to a higher authority - the Chief Tournament Director or designated individual with experience and training. It is NOT appeals themselves, but rather the PROCESS of appeals COMMITTEES that would have been eliminated at some levels. But the concept was defeated.

    6. Several other suggestions from the FOB report were defeated including a committee to reduce the number of regionals and sectionals; a proposal to give all junior members 12 vouchers for use at participating clubs; increased fees at the club level for non-members; uniform conditions of contest at ALL sectional and regional tournaments.

    7. Other proposals were sent to new or existing committees for review and study. These items included a new "computer membership" and a broad study on the size, functions, and operations of the ACBL Board of Directors.

  6. - The Last Word -
  7. While attendance for a summer NABC hit a modern era low, this was not the case for unpleasant behaviour, player memo/recorder slips, and the number of charges that were heard by the NABC Appeals Committees. I even heard a rumour that a player actually bit his/her partner!

    Mondays are "Goodwill Days" at each NABC. Unless we make EVERY day a day of goodwill at our clubs, sectionals, regionals, and NABCs, there will be no future for bridge. There are many ways to help reduce our frustrations and problems but please, let's not vent our rage at our partners or anywhere in a bridge setting.

    Let's all endeavour to smile and be pleasant, every day and at every tournament we attend!

As usual, the cooperation of all Unit Presidents and Secretaries in distributing this report is greatly appreciated. This report has also been posted on the internet and can be accessed at:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st/