August 4, 1998

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

It is hoped that the Chicago meetings will mark the beginning of a new era in Board-Management relations. A concerted effort is taking place to improve the functioning of the ACBL Board of Directors in all aspects. Our task is to deal with issues of POLICY, not to micro-manage and get bogged down in minutiae.

Management is supposed to implement and maintain ACBL policies for the benefit of the league without having to worry about interference from the Board of Directors in day-to-day matters. I believe the Chicago meetings were a step in the right direction, upon which we must continue to build and improve upon.

Last year, a by-law amendment to limit each member to a maximum of four terms, or 12 years, was defeated; as we head into the next century the reality is that very few members will exceed 12 years - when we enter 1999 (with at least 4 new faces on the board), there will only be a handful of members with more than 12 years of service.

A steady and progressive turnover every 9 - 12 years now appears to be the standard - one which I expect shall continue.

I was most impressed with the report presented by our new CEO, David Silber. After just six weeks on the job, David has a firm grasp of our current situation - the problems that need fixing, the opportunities for growth, the obstacles that must be overcome.

Chicago was a successful NABC in that the final table count of 13,022 was very close to our estimate. We are now looking forward to what promises to be a fabulous NABC at the Peabody Orlando in November followed by Vancouver in March, 1999.

Highlights From the Chicago Board Meetings/NABC:

  1. Congratulations to District 2's new Junior Corps members: Craig Barkhouse, Colin Lee, Danny Miles, and Mike Nadler.

  2. Special kudos to Ottawa's David Sabourin who became Canada's youngest Life Master at 14 years, 0 months, 11 days. He surpassed Toronto's Gavin Wolpert who made his gold card at 14 years, 6 months, and 19 days!

  3. Masterpoint awards for Canada's premier events, Canadian National Team Championships (CNTC), Canadian Women's Team Championship (CWTC) and Canadian Open Pairs Championship (COPC) will be dramatically increased for 1999.

  4. The Masterpoint Committee's proposed revisions were approved on second reading and will be implemented effective January 1, 1999.

  5. Management was authorized to do a full study and report, including costs involved, of our current appeals structure and to make recommendations for improvement.

    1. Tournaments & Masterpoints:
      1. The Masterpoint Review Committee's proposals (see my Reno report) were generally approved on second reading and will take effect on January 1, 1999.

        NOT approved was the plan to reduce the overall award for lower ranks as a percentage of first in KO events. Regrettably, in my opinion, the current formula shall remain in effect:

        1100%
        275%
        3/449.22%
        5/821.63%
        9/168.29%

        What this means is that in a 4 session bracketed KO, the biggest award will still be for winning your second match. The planned INCREASED percentage for 5/8 and 9/16 was also defeated.

        However, the bulk of the plan will go forward, which will mean lower first place awards for the top brackets and slight increases for the lower brackets in KO events.

        Awards for NABC+ events were revised and some were slightly increased. The awards for the "X" strata in stratiflighted A/X events will, for the most part, show a marked decline.

        Full details will be published in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin.

      2. Canadian Bridge Federation (CBF) events will receive long overdue recognition by virtue of increased masterpoint awards.

        Specifically, the CNTC will increase from 65 to 140 masterpoints for winning. The CWTC will increase from 50 to 80 masterpoints for winning. The COPC will now be a Nationally rated event and have a set award of 75 masterpoints for winning.

        Canadian Bridge Week is scheduled for July, 1999 in Toronto and, hopefully, we shall have record breaking participation at the grass roots level. Montreal (Laval) set a high standard last month in hosting the CBF's first annual Canadian Bridge Week which was a fabulous experience for everyone who attended. If you missed it this year, start thinking about Toronto in 1999. You won't be disappointed.

      3. The plan to increase the requirements for Life Master was defeated; however, a sub-committee is looking into creating a new category for Life Masters who have significant achievements. Thanks to Ottawa's Glen Ashton who submitted some excellent ideas that have been passed on to the committee.

      4. Two new categories of masterpoint achievement were proposed: Nickel LM for 750 points and Emerald LM for 7,500 points. In addition, "Platinum" points were proposed for NABC+ events with no masterpoint restrictions. The Player of the Year race would then be known as the platinum race. Both of the above ideas were referred to a sub-committee.

    2. Education & Marketing:
      1. A new Marketing Director for the ACBL is currently being sought. I believe that, rather than spending large sums of money on new programs designed to increase our membership, we shall see a lot more test marketing than was previously tried. If a program works, it will be expanded - if not, it will be modified or discarded.

      2. A major test marketing program designed to increase ACBL membership is starting in September and Units 166 and 249 (Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, and South Western Ontario geographical areas) are part of the test market.

        New players will be given a CHOICE upon joining at the standard rate (US $28 or $14 for first time members). They will elect to receive either 12 issues of The Bridge Bulletin OR 6 issues of Better Bridge (Bridge America magazine).

        Bridge America games will remain as is for the social, less competitive players but Bridge America PLAYERS may now play in duplicate sanctioned games and receive masterpoints. Everyone will be an ACBL member - they will have choices as to which games to play in and which magazines to receive.

        Audrey Grant will be working with our local clubs, teachers, and unit officials to get the ball rolling. TOGETHER, if we all cooperate, I believe this program has great potential to succeed.

      3. In a joint ACBL Educational Foundation / ACBL undertaking, ACBL management is currently negotiating with Toronto's Fred Gitelman to develop new education software, Learn To Play Bridge, that will be offered on the ACBL web site as new teaching material.

      4. Management has been authorized to study a proposal on "Flexi-Bridge" clubs as a marketing tool to develop new ACBL members. I am opposed to the concept as it was presented to us in Chicago. I believe that sanctioning duplicate games that may elect to NOT use a qualified/certified Club Director would lower our standards, which are already minimal. In addition, I believe having certain minimum standards such as holding ONE charity game a year (in Canada, the proceeds go the CBF Charitable Foundation) is essential.

        Bottom Line: We must support and protect our existing clubs in order to grow with them.

      5. Finally, I was disappointed that we were unable to set a limit on entry fees (in Canadian dollars) for the 1999 Vancouver Spring NABC. In my view, we market a product and we must be price sensitive to different markets. The ACBL cannot treat the Canadian currency crisis as a non event and assume "business as usual". On a more positive note, much can change between now and March '99. I certainly hope so.

    3. Finance and Administration:
      1. As a result of numerous turnovers in the ACBL accounting department, the first trimester reports had to be redone. I do not feel confident making any report at this time. Management is aware of the problems and I am confident that by Orlando in November, our accounting and systems departments should be back up to par.

        As always, the Treasurer's report is available to any member upon request.

      2. The Board of Directors defeated, wisely, a plan to restructure the way the board operates by dividing into three councils. In my opinion, the proposed changes did not address the critical issues involving the board and change just for the sake of change is not good; indeed, some feared that the proposed council structure would be open to greater political abuse than the current structure.

      3. The proposal to allow for an orderly transition from President Elect (Vice-President) to President to Chairman of the Board was also defeated. Perhaps the very concept of a "Vice-President" is not very popular in the United States. I voted in favour of the proposal.

      4. By a large 21-4 margin, the board approved the excellent motion that forbids board members from participating in either the NAOP or GNT when those events are scheduled on board meeting days at an NABC.

    4. Appeals & Charges:
    5. There were the usual appeals cases, some minor modifications to the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations, and the $50 deposit requirement for appeals in NABC+ events was rescinded. In its place "Appeals Without Merit Points" have been created. Most of us need not worry. Personally, I preferred the forfeiture of the $50 deposit which went to the ACBL Educational Foundation. C'est la vie.

      The major issue I wish to discuss is our Appeals System. I believe we have created a many headed monster and, frankly, the current system is expensive, leads to decisions no better nor worse than if made by a Professional Tournament Director, and results in endless debate and bad feelings towards members of controversial committees. It's a bad system, inherently flawed. It must be changed.

      Several years ago, the Task Force on the Future of Bridge identified several problems. Some excerpts:

      1. The committee is influenced by political considerations.

      2. Decisions are delayed for hours.

      3. Litigious players use the system to their advantage...the system rewards whiners.

      4. Committee decisions are neither better or worse on average than the director's decisions.

      5. Players are frequently turned off by the process.

      6. The process is radically different from officiating in virtually every other sport.

        ...the holy grail of perfection combined with the power lust of frequent committee members is sufficient to make the bridge establishment believe that it is so different from any other sport that this anachronistic system remains firmly entrenched.

      The system is less entrenched today. Two highly controversial committee rulings, one from the CNTC KO round last month in Laval and the other from a Spingold match in Chicago have added fuel to the fire for change.

      Bob Hamman, Chris Compton, and Jeff Meckstroth are among the leading advocates who believe that for the good of the game, we must change our traditions and rethink the whole issue of our entrenched Appeals Procedures.

      The Board of Directors voted 19-6 to authorize management to do an in depth study on this issue (including costs) and report back to us in Orlando. The ACBL Competition and Conventions Committee will also be issuing a report with recommendations.

      I believe that there is a strong likelihood that starting with the Vancouver (March '99) NABC, appeals below the NABC+ level will be handled by a select group of specially trained Tournament Directors.

      If so, that will be a first step in the right direction.

    6. The Last Word:
    7. Perhaps I have been a little more outspoken in this report than previously; if so, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Whether you agree or not, you know how to reach me. Please keep sending me your views and ideas. Without your input, who would I be representing?

      It's summertime and I am in the midst of a busier than usual tournament schedule. I'll be visiting the North Bay Regional in two weeks and then on to Kingston where the CBF Junior Trials will be held. I hope to see many of you.

      Bridge is a game. Let's all have fun at the 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 home page at:

    http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st/