Judy Kay-Wolff

“ Real ”  Bridge Over Troubled Water

Forgive my referencing the popular Simon and Garfunkel title, but I can think of nothing more appropos than our worsening situation here in Zone 2. I cannot speak for other administrations, but I do want to share sincere facts and concerns of a writer, Barry Senensky, who made contact with me on my site for the first time a day ago. With his permission, here are his feelings verbatim:

Thanks for following up with me. I really appreciate it. First a little background on myself:

I am one of the younger bridge players (I turned 60 last year-which I believe puts me around the 10th percentile in terms of age). I have been an ACBL member for over 40 years. I am an actuary and have my own small business (with 5 employees) which focuses on building predictive models for the insurance industry. Many of the large US and Canadian life insurance companies are my clients. I live in Toronto. My district director is Paul Janicki.

Over the last few years I have become very concerned/interested in the future of bridge and while I have not “run any numbers to prove it” believe that membership/attendance at tournaments is likely to “fall off a cliff” sometime within the next ten years.

I wanted to do something about this, so at the start of this year I reached out to ACBL president Suzi Subeck suggesting that we develop a series of question and answer columns together for the bulletin discussing the various strategic challenges facing the ACBL and the boards position on these issues. My theory was that if the membership became more aware of the issues, something might come of it to improve the situation.

Suzi was semi-open to this idea but the editor of the bulletin vetoed it (saying that the bulletin was not for this purpose and that if Suzi said something incorrect he would have to edit and he didn’t want to be in that position — reasons that in my opinion made no sense). Suzi was not going to challenge him (again something that made no sense to me as she was the President of the Board and he was an employee of the ACBL), so the articles did not happen.

Subsequent to that, I corresponded with Suzi and Paul Janicki about my view that membership is likely to fall off the cliff in the next ten years or so. Suzi indicated that everything was fine with membership levels and she would let me know if there was a problem. Paul Janicki responded differently saying the board knows there is a problem with membership (and the extent of the problem) but it is being addressed and under control.

Paul provided me with a report that is produced quarterly for the board on membership levels. The report was very basic and really did not provide the metrics on membership that a well run organization would want to assess where they stood. In particular, the information on distribution by age of new members and new member continuance of membership after one year (40% do not renew their membership after the first year) was not available. After reviewing the report, I reached out to Suzi and volunteered that if they could provide me with information on new members, I would do a 10 year projection of ACBL membership using sophisticated actuarial software that I license (taking into account the age of members and continuance rates that vary by age and years of membership). I would do the projections for free provided that they agree to publish the results on the ACBL website. I also indicated that the projections would be done using assumptions agreeable to the ACBL board and that the ACBL board would have full rights to audit my calculations. Suzi agreed to this and put Paul Janicki in charge of making it happen. Well, it is two months later now and I am still waiting for Paul to do something on this initiative. When he does respond to my e-mails (which isn’t often), he indicates that he is very busy with other board matters which take priority and will get to this when he can.

The response I have received from Suzi and Paul has only increased my concern/interest in the management and future of the ACBL. While browsing the ACBL website, I found financial statements for 2013 that indicated that board expenses were $625,000, which equates to 25,000 per board member. So I asked Paul if those were the expenses of the board members and he indicated that they were. To me, this seems quite excessive for volunteers. Especially in this day and age when most entities are dramatically cutting down on their expenses either by shrinking overhead or technological advances. So I asked Paul if he would consider taking a motion to the board proposing reducing board expenses to $300,000 a year (still a large amount by my thinking) and using the freed up monies to reduce card fees at Nationals by $2.00 per session. Paul indicated he would not support this and thought that the expenses of the board were appropriate. I asked the same question of Suzi and have not yet gotten a response.

In conclusion, feel free to use whatever I say on your website and I would be more than happy to discuss any of this further with you.

What I have learned over the last little while can be summarized as follows:

In my opinion, the ACBL board has close to dictatorial power, is not focused on the important issues (and arguably does not have the skillset to do so). Much of the long time membership and the younger pros are aware of these issues, but feel either that they are powerless to do anything or are not motivated to do something about it. In my opinion, the only hope for the ACBL to survive long-term is for a group to emerge and take control of the board (by winning elections for director in enough districts). This group would run on a platform of transparency and fiscal constraint and would have as a top priority the development and implementation of a strategic plan to bring North American bridge back to health.

(I am only the messenger, but thought this would be of interest to all bridge lovers who constitute the dues paying membership. JKW)

Your Opinion Please …

How would you judge the equity of one ‘couple’ (by legal documentation or association) simultaneously holding five (5) ACBL Unit positions between them? Tournament Chair and Board President, Assistant Tournament Chair, Partnership Chair and Chair of Section Top Awards. I kid you not. It is akin to the Queen Mother holding court. Egotism, megalomania and nepotism at its finest! Has anyone experienced anything similar?

What is a BRIDGE GURU????

If you question twenty people, no doubt you will receive twenty different opinions. However, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition (as applicable to our game) is “a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject.” Knowledge and experience are the keys to the bridge kingdom. Having survived six decades on the hearing end of these rants, I firmly believe the bottom line IS MOST CERTAINLY the two components mentioned above: KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. It doesn’t take much observation to prove my point. Just casually meander down an aisle after the completion of a hand or round … and listen to the falsely expounded personal emphatic opinions of the fallacies of partner and/or opponents … either solicited or otherwise. I have witnessed it at our table as Bobby clenches his teeth, bites his tongue and restrains himself from getting involved. Besides out and out cheating, my pet peeve is know-nothings espousing their dogmatic views as if it were gospel. There are many present day young up-and-comers who eventually may rival the greats in bridge history … but it may take decades of practice, comeuppance, putdown by the true experts and the proverbial black eye or two. In a widely read publication, I recently viewed a critique of an auction by a relatively young, naive enthusiast which sent Bobby through the ceiling. I had to calm him down with a couple Cabernets to prevent him from going bonkers and publicly exposing the ineptness and ridiculousness of the confidently analyzed hand. Last evening, having dinner with a lovely local couple (and the gentleman being a successfully proven peer of Bobby’s), Bobby presented the hand that riled him beyond description. It obviated the failure of the young assessor to recognize the huge elephant in the room which totally obfuscated his intended point. Our guest patiently awaited the punch line of Bobby’s tale as the analysis was beyond reality and so off target. When told, he shook his head in disbelief as it was so embarrassingly beyond absurd.

A lesson to be learned: Until you have the scalps on the wall (whether in playing, directing, authoring or analyzing) … don’t be too hasty and foolhardy to advertise your inexperience, naivete and lack of understanding to the high level bridge community before you (yourself) are confidently qualified to pass the litmus test!!!

Non-stop at the Trop

Returned late Friday night from what appeared at first to be our Bridge Swan Song at the Las Vegas Tropicana. “Wrong again!!” as you will read below. It was an exhausting five day adventure but many more positive aspects than negative. The rooms reserved for players were adjacent to the bank of elevators which led to the playing site. They were roomy and convenient to reach – besides well lit. Many of us participated three sessions daily in our chosen venue but I must confess entering the fray at 9 a.m. was a bit much for this old bitty. The second session began at 1:15 p.m. and if one survived, the last encounter was at 7 o’clock. I did suggest (especially for those Las Vegans who were commuting) that the games should begin at 9:30 and start the afternoon session BEFORE 1:30 (as planned) because a two and a half dinner break is far too long. This will be taken under consideration.

The choices of dining spots (fast foods, coffee shops, buffets, high end dining … whatever … ) were superb!!! You name it, they have it! But even better than the venues available was they catered to locals who were staying at the Trop. With a special card (Trop Plus) your dining tab was reduced by 50%. You didn’t have to gamble to enable you to enjoy this special accommodation. The room fee (which included a resort fee) included complimentary WiFi. The hotel picked up your WiFi charge and I had both a laptop and iPad with me. Manna from heaven. The pool was lovely … but few had time to catch their breath … or even gamble. The action was continual!

Here are the plaudits…

To the Board of Directors – Unit 373 and other affiliated Unit Members from Jane Rubin…

Please bear with me as I have much information to share with you, but I promise it ends with a happy surprise.

Firstly, I want to thank all of the volunteers who have been with Bruce and me since we started running these tournaments under difficult conditions. Charlyn Johnson, Jane Ahnger, Jacque Brickey, Gary McGough, Karen Kimes and Leila Huff have stuck with us through thick and thin without question of loyalty, and have all been exceptional in the work they have done for the tournaments, and for the Unit. In addition I want to thank those who began with us; Tom and Sue Grue who were not only the treasurer/s, but also my right hand at completing so many various tasks at the tournaments including the I/N Program, and Mike McClain who taught me so much about the supplies, equipment, storage shed and set-up. I also want to thank our newer volunteers including Ed Matulis who has taken on the role of Supply/Equipment Chair, with eagerness and gusto, along with the help of Hy Chansky. Our new Treasurer, Chris Hahn, and I/N Chair, who was previously Liz Hamilton, and is now Gordon Fast, have also been outstanding in their efforts and dilligence.

Secondly, I want to thank my husband, Bruce, whom I believe has been maligned by a few, but has certainly been appropriately respected and appreciated by many. Although he isn’t at many of the meetings, I want everyone to know what he has actually accomplished behind the scenes and the amount of money he has saved the Unit. When we first took over the tournaments, we were thrilled with the one tournament that was held at the Riviera, but soon learned that Ballys along with their ill-advised contracts as well as the Flamingo, would be more of a challenge. Caesar’s properties were difficult to work with at best. Bruce soon, with the Board’s approval, entered into a contract with the Tropicana that was for ten years. It included a high number of guaranteed room nights, as he used the number our predecessor used before us. The first disaster was the Sectional in the Spring of 2014, at the Flamingo in which the Linq was opened the same day, and our players had difficulty parking and entering the play site only to find a non-working escalator. Due to the difficulties we encountered, Bruce was able to negotiate the amount we owed for room night shortfall to less than 50%. Better than that, Bruce also was able to eliminate our entire amount due to the Tropicana for room night shortfall after the Fall, 2014 Sectional, even though contractually they had the right to move us into the room that they did. Best of all though, due to the new Board’s request, Bruce did the impossible and procured a mutual release of our ten year contract with the Tropicana with no financial liability to the Unit — “unheard of”!!! He also renegotiated the contract for this past March, 2015 Sectional at the Tropicana, with slightly over half the room night guarantee from the prior contracts, for the same amount of space. Now comes the coup de grace – we still had a room night shortfall that ended up being 43 nights. (The final count was only 300 room nights achieved). In theory we owed over $4,000 for just the attrition. Bruce went back to negotiate and once again, was able to receive a release from any room night short fall liability. We owe them nothing for the shortfall!!! In addition, they are happy to have us back next spring with a similar contract to this past one, if the Board agrees.

Finally, it has been my (and Bruce’s) pleasure to serve the Board and the Unit members as Tournament Co-Chairs under the most extreme circumstances. I wish you all the luck in the future, and am anxious to attend upcoming tournaments as merely a bridge player.

Respectfully,
Jane

When I catch my breath I will share some exciting hands and plays produced by our teammates. In my book, it takes four to tango!

Onward and upward. Looking forward to our next bridge soire this summer. Details to follow.

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES?

Being in the bridge world for what seems like an eternity (and with the availability of the Internet), we have all been privy to reading about devastating bridge issues .. some true, some not.  It was difficult to fathom the 1.9 ACBL computer programming debacle which has dominated several sites .. mainly Bridge Winners .. but sadly it appears to be true.  Recently I heard indistinct negative ramblings about an icky million dollar pension fund brouhaha and then overheard non-discernible dribs and drabs about it at a tournament this past week — hopefully with no basis for concern.  It would be comforting to have someone in authority officially deny both the alleged rumor and amount.

DEPARTING FROM THE NORM

Though I am far from a philosophic individual (to which Bobby will readily attest), I was mesmerized this morning while shopping when I happened upon five beautifully presented colorful wall hangings with marvelous (anonymously inscribed**) words of advice.  Each had a captivating one-word title accompanied by a brief explanation.  The applicability between real life and bridge moved me so much, I wanted to share them with you.
SUCCESS:  "Success is a journey, not a destination."
QUALITY:  "The race for quality has no finish line."
CHANGE:  "A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn."
EXCELLENCE:  "Many times the difference between failure and success is doing something nearly right or doing it exactly right."
TEAMWORK:  "It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone."
The commonality of these realistically presented truisms with our challenging game I considered almost eerie .. as success in bridge as well as happiness in our everyday lives share the same common denominator.  Forgive my sentimentality, but it really struck a cord.
(**)  Since writing the above, I researched the origin of all five, although I claim no authenticity regarding the original authors.   My findings were:  Success (attributed to Arthur Ashe and others); Quality (undetermined); Change (Helen Keller); Excellence (Edward C. Simmons); Teamwork (unknown).  If any of you quotation buffs can add (or correct) anything, I would love to hear from you.

What has become of our once-exalted Bridge Hall of Fame?????

It is a crying shame that the ACBL HOF has been the increasing target of bones of contention .. (some deserved and others not) in recent years. It no longer is synonymous with a stalwart supreme salute to an institution that has honored the prides of our majestic game as it has branched out in a myriad of directions .. administrators, officials, directors and truly world class players. It has sadly even housed some acknowledged and recognized cheats!!!. I know that is a mouthful but the HOF  formerly reigned as the supreme palace on high — saluting the best that Zone 2 recognized. To combine world class victorious players with other assorted contributors to the game (though many are most deserving), detracts from the glory and supremacy of the designation HALL OF FAME. To me, tossing dozens of individuals’ names into one big cauldron deflects from its majesty. It would be more accurate if broken into applicable categories where the victors would be recognized and classified amidst their own peers. A melting pot is not the solution.

Very recently, the issue of the sexes has been brought to light. There are many deserving women who have been overlooked perhaps because of the voting procedures (percentage/mathematical standards designated) which determine who wins and who loses. Perhaps the time is right to review the ‘process.’ 

At one time, soon after Norman passed on, I was invited to serve on the HOF Selection Committee. I was honored. However, it was not long after my appointment that I became dismayed as I did not approve of some of the goings on and the obvious politics and favoritism that emerged, including partiality to friends. That is NOT what the Hall of Fame should be all about.  The overall process and objectives (whether by vote or selection) should be rethought and categories established (and delineated) ..recognizing all those worthy of the honor .. regardless of where their talents lie.

As far as different categories for men and women, I see no reason why they should not be encompassed within one non-gender grouping — honorable top bridge experts.

Let us return to the distasteful subject of bridge cheats. To me, cheating is cheating .. though in the eyes of some relenting souls, unethical behavior (a matter of body movement, slow or fast actions, etc.) deserves a mere slap on the wrist. Whether just casually ‘helping partner’ on occasion or stealthy, pre-arranged signals, I consider them unacceptable and in the latter case — despicable and intolerable. These horrendous actions have been recognized by our organization and to avoid  scandalous chatter, some of the rightfully accused permanently ceased play. However, others who were fingered, charged and convicted, stopped playing for a while and then resumed. Yet .. their names still discredit our Hall of Fame.

And, don’t get me started about Norman and Bobby and their world competition heartbreaks. That is old news!

Bridge Hanky – Panky

This blog was inspired by our good friend from the United Kingdom .. “Howard Bigot Johnson” .. who via his humorous tongue and creative mind has, for years, tried to right the ship.  HBJ’s frequent renderings are listed at the very bottom of bridgeblogging.com’s main page on the lower right hand side.   I suggest you begin with his February 8 contribution captioned “I’ll Tell You What Constitutes Unfriendly and Anti-Social Behaviour .. and  It  isn’t Foul-Mouthed Criticism and Rudeness.” It will help you to understand how the indifference of unqualified and unconcerned bridge administrations are destroying our once-wonderful game.  From what I have been reading on other sites, it has become universal.  Cheating (whether out of naivete or ignorance) is in a class by itself.  I remember in my early exposure to our game, those with the credentials and authority to stop it here in the States, deliberately closed their eyes for fear that official finger pointing and punishment (temporary banning or permanent expulsion) would generate lawsuits.   I understand their concerns as juries do not house knowledgeable bridge players and the verdict might have been in favor of the cheats — because of lack of sophisticated knowledge of those in decision making positions who may not have any clue about the protocol of our game.  HBJ covers cheating and other unethical behavior (deliberate or unintentional) and how it affects everyone participating in the event by distorting their scores and invalidating the final standings.  From his vantage point, club committees and governing  bodies turn a blind eye to the culprit and turn their attention to the accusers.  He goes on to discuss the realms of acceptable behavior versus venomous actions as decided by committees.  His tales are portrayed with exaggeration and humor .. but if “kidding on the level” ever applied, HBJ would  (with no close second) win the award for telling it like it is!
More to come ….

W B F Luminaries….

veldhoven

Sorry for my tardiness, but lacking skills as a computer techie (among other things), I finally was able to reproduce this beautiful assemblage of the five WBF Presidents taken in 2011 in Veldhoven.  From left to right:  Bobby, Jose Damiani, James Ortiz Patino, current WBF President Gianarrigo Rona and Ernesto.  I  also wanted to share with you a touching one liner from fellow Brazilian bridge legend Gabriel Chagas who was a close friend of Ernesto .. “Indeed a very sad moment in my life.”  I met Gabriel back in the early seventies when he visited New York and bunked out at Edgar’s.   Then decades passed and he came back into my life as he was in continual touch with Bobby via the Internet.   No one has a larger repertoire of humorous articles and stories than Gabriel and Bobby and I look forward to his weekly renderings.

Benevolent Brazilian Bridge Icon Passes On

I read with extreme sadness that Ernesto d’Orsi, one of the most respected and beloved Administrators in the annals of international bridge, died today.  Before Bobby came into my life, Ernesto’s name represented merely a friendly wave or warm smile.  After 2003, when I began to accompany Bobby to a multitude of exciting world championships (mostly on foreign soil),  l got to know and adore Ernesto and his charming wife, Cecilia.  Our hearts go out to her at this very sad time as well as the entire d’Orsi family and thousands of his bridge friends all over the globe.   Bobby and Ernesto worked together several decades for the betterment and perpetuation of our incredible game via The World Bridge Federation.  You might enjoy reading Bobby’s heartwarming tribute on Bridge Winners to a man whose friendship he cherished … and deservedly so!

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