March 20, 1997


Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

I enter the start of my second term as your representative with increased responsibilities and obligations. In 1997, I am Chairman of the Clubs, Marketing and Member Services Committee, as well I remain a member of the Appeals & Charges, Education, and Honorary Member of the Year Committees.

Also new this year is an attempt by ACBL President Howard Piltch to bring in qualified non-board members to help us with our work. The major beneficiary is the Finance Committee, where John Saxe and George Olivarri were added. Also, our own very special Barbara Seagram will be representing the interests of all ACBL clubs as she participates with the Clubs, Marketing, and Member Services Committee. The three advisors are non-voting members.

Highlights From The Dallas NABC:

  1. Glenn Smith (District 8) was acclaimed as ACBL Treasurer for the third year in a row.

  2. Dallas was a well attended tournament with truly outstanding hospitality (both food and entertainment were super).

  3. Minor modifications were made to the ACBL alert procedure. There will be a three year moratorium on any new changes.

  4. A new convention card was reviewed and will be test marketed between now and the Albuquerque meetings (summer '97), where a final version will be approved.

  5. The Board of Governors by-law amendment to institute term limits for the Board of Directors was defeated 11-14. It will now go to all Districts where a 2/3rds majority is required if it is to pass.

  6. A Letter of Intent was signed between the ACBL and Grand Slam Bridge Inc.

  1. Grand Slam Bridge Inc.:
  2. Perhaps the greatest potential for far reaching consequences was a letter of intent that the ACBL Board of Directors signed with Grand Slam Bridge Inc. (GSB). The letter "confirms the intention of ACBL and GSB to negotiate a possible contract whereby GSB would provide public relations, marketing, sales and other service to ACBL for compensation".

    Many hours were spent in discussions with GSB both by the full board and in committees. They have exciting ideas, a proven track record in promotion, and high level contacts in the business world that might translate into substantial corporate donations to help promote bridge.

    GSB offered a vision of the future that included mass publicity campaigns, a pro bridge tour, a television show, an annual 5% increase in ACBL membership, increased education in schools via the computer, and a player rating program designed to increase interest in club level play.

    While their vision of the future is enticing, few details were available. And the cost would be substantial. I am personally hopeful that an agreement can be worked out. I think that some of their programs may be fruitful but there is a lot of negotiating that remains to be done.

    The final agreement with GSB will have to be approved by ACBL's Board of Directors.

  3. Alerts, Convention Cards, and the General Convention Chart:
    1. Two changes to the alert procedure were made. First, the announcement of transfers from diamonds to hearts and from hearts to spades was extended to include ALL auctions where you are responding to a natural no trump bid by partner. This includes no trump openings, overcalls, and rebids. The announcement applies at any level of bidding and includes Texas transfers at the 4 level that are diamonds to hearts or hearts to spades.

      Secondly, the concept of not alerting negative doubles was extended through 4 hearts. Penalty doubles at the 4 spade level or higher are not alerted. Penalty doubles below 4 hearts are alertable.

    2. I tried to remove the alert of natural cue bids but failed. Please note that if you bid a suit that was bid naturally by the opponents and your bid of their suit implies a willingness to play there, the bid is an alert! For example, 1C-P-1S-2C or 2S where 2C or 2S are natural bids showing that suit must be alerted.

      The ACBL Board of Directors has imposed a three year moratorium on any future changes to the alert procedure.

    3. A new convention card that is multi-colored (blue for announced bids) and incorporates all the alert procedure changes of the past year is now being test marketed. A final version will be approved this summer.

    4. Effective January 1, 1998 defenses to natural notrump opening bids and overcalls that could show a multi-suited hand must show at least one known suit. Note: this applies to direct bids only, NOT to doubles.

      While I expect a public outcry by the vocal minority over this issue, I firmly believe that these "either/or" defenses with no known suit do NOT belong on the General Convention Chart. They belong on the Mid-Chart.

    5. The requirement for prior advertising for tournament use of the Mid-Chart for Flight A events and KO brackets with a 1,000 master point minimum has been rescinded. If the sponsoring organization decides to allow the Mid-Chart, it must be posted at the tournament site.

  4. Term Limits -- Are they good or bad for the ACBL?:
  5. One year ago, the ACBL Board of Directors (BOD) passed a four term limit (12 years) to being on the ACBL BOD by a 12-11 vote. It failed to pass because a 2/3rds majority was required for a by-law change. The issue went to the Board of Governors where it overwhelmingly passed on two separate occasions. Now a simple majority by the BOD would have enacted this legislation.

    Unfortunately, it was defeated 11-14 in Dallas. While I could argue either side on this issue, it is my belief that a 12 year term limit for the directors on the ACBL Board would be beneficial for the league as a whole. It would guarantee new blood every decade or so and give someone else a chance to serve. It is somewhat irrational to believe that no one other than the current incumbent is capable.

    The issue now goes to the district level where if 3/4ths of the districts approve the term limit by-law amendment, it will become the law. All districts have one year in which to vote. I would urge District Two to vote in favour of term limits.

  6. Financial Matters:
  7. ACBL Treasurer Glenn Smith reported that revenues in excess of expenses were $265,000 in 1996. That figure is $430,000 below budget and $209,000 below the 1995 income.

    Major variations from 1995 and from 1996 budget included:

    1. Profit from NABC's was $130,000 less than 1995 and $179,000 below budget due to a table count of 33,350 compared to a budget for 40,000 tables.

    2. Bulletin publishing costs were $300,000 higher than in 1995. Revenues decreased $54,000 while expenses increased $246,000. There were several reasons for the above including a decrease in advertising while salaries increased (including a new employee). An outstanding dispute with the post office was finally resolved that cost the ACBL about $100,000.

    3. While product sales remained constant, the cost of sales were $154,000 over budget. Expectations of expense improvement were not realized.

    Cash and investments at December 31, 1996 totalled $3.308 million compared to $3.369 million in 1995. Unrestricted net assets were $2.883 million compared to $2.507 million in 1995.

    Complete financial statements and the treasurer's report is available to any ACBL member who requests a copy.

    The ACBL BOD strongly urged all units and districts to conduct an annual audit of their financial records.

  8. Member Services:
    1. First time new members may provide from the preceding 12 months club rating point receipts and/or references to points won at tournaments. The points won, to a maximum of twenty (20), will be credited to the member's record upon joining the ACBL. No other masterpoint services will be provided to non-members.

    2. Funding for the ACBL Goodwill Committee receptions at every NABC was increased. Funding for the ACBL Junior Training Program that was inadvertently reduced in San Francisco was restored.

    3. Management is directed to design a mock-up and/or prototype of a full magazine sized Bridge Bulletin for presentation at the summer meetings.

    4. The issue of having a two fee structure where ACBL members pay $2/session less than non ACBL members in tournament play was deferred to the summer meetings. Frankly, I cannot understand the reluctance of many board members to institute such a policy. I will continue to lobby in favour of the concept.

  9. Appeals & Charges:
    1. The request of Wayne Timms, ACBL #J568183 for re-admission to the ACBL was heard. Pending additional submissions, a decision on the matter has been deferred until Summer 1997.

    2. All disciplinary cases involving a sanction of one year or longer where suspension or expulsion are imposed will be reviewed by the ACBL Appeals & Charges committee.

    3. I have been appointed Chairman of a subcommittee that will review our suggested guidelines for disciplinary sanctions. A range of suggested sanctions for each offense listed will be developed. Added to the current list of offenses will be:

      1. "Deliberately attempting to see the opponent's cards".

      2. "Deliberately acquiring scores/results of boards not yet played".

      A full report will be presented to the board this summer.

  10. The Last Word:
  11. We live in exciting times but, as we head towards a new century, the future of the ACBL as we know it remains uncertain.

    The computer and internet have found a stable niche in the bridge market but changes are so fast-moving that it is impossible to predict where the next step will lead us.

    Grand Slam Bridge Inc. presents us with a vision. But will the ACBL be prepared to take the necessary risk and financial investment that will be required to proceed?

    Bridge America, while failing to meet original membership targets, has been granted an extension. I firmly support the concept of social bridge. Management has been asked to create a program of sanctioned Bridge America games to generate revenue for the ACBL.

    All of us can help make our bridge future more secure by promoting the game we love at every opportunity.

    Let your social bridge friends know about Bridge America. Volunteer to work with your local Unit Board of Directors. Support our junior programs. Come celebrate with our stars of tomorrow at the World Junior Bridge Championships in Hamilton this August.

    All of us must work together as we face the challenges ahead to make bridge the number one game of the future! The current success in Toronto of Carol Shields' play Thirteen Hands is a testament to the game's ongoing popularity. Let's all do our part to ensure that the popularity of bridge remains strong well into the next century.

The cooperation of all Unit Presidents and Secretaries in distributing this report to their members is greatly appreciated. You may also access my reports at:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st/