Judy Kay-Wolff

MARCH, 2010 MONTHLY ACBL BULLETIN ..

I am embarrassed to admit I don’t read each month’s Bulletin from cover to cover as I once did.  Lifestyles, priorities, family, travel, blogging and cyberspace in general are all contributing excuses!   Major changes take place in our lives causing us to deviate from former routines and I was fascinated when I realized how different, upscale and so much improved the current issue is from the smaller copies which I savored and faithfully collected and filed away month after month when I first became a member in the late fifties.  In recent years, I gradually did more scanning than reading but for some reason I devoted much more time than usual these last few days and it was well worth the effort!  

Longtime Editor Brent Manley and his crew do a spectacular job in covering so many bases and there is a wealth of educational information I never realized was available.   It is likened to a monthly encyclopedia!  I especially enjoyed Letters to the Editor, specifically two which appeared on page 7. 

In “Perspective,” the Wolves’ new friend from right here in Las Vegas, Bob LaFleur, elegantly captures the difference between making Life Master back in the Sixties, Fifties and even Forties — pointing out the farther back you travel — the harder it was.  Today, with the glut of masterpoints available, it is the literal “piece of cake.”   His last paragraph was really a mouthful:  

“Being a Life Master does not mean what it once did, but being a millionaire doesn’t mean what it used to mean either.  Seeing all those bumper stickers proclaiming the driver’s child to be an honor student makes me think that the standards for honor students are lower too.   I doubt anyone who plays our game believes being a Life Master means you are an expert.   I have had more than my fair share of success at the bridge table, but I know that there is a vast gulf between my skills and those of the real experts of our game.”   A very realistic appraisal, in my opinion.  Well said!

Following Bob’s views was a Letter (“Old v. New”) from Michael Eyer, of Lake Oswego, OR.  After reading his short introductory bio, it is obvious he is no stranger to the game and has served in many worthwhile capacities for his unit and district.   I share many of his views about the thrill of mailing in fractionals and playing in non-flighted events.   Seems like an eternity ago — and I suppose it was.   Michael speaks of re-evaluation of earning points when times were harder, the creation of different Life Master Rankings for differentiation purposes and the plethora of “triple charity points for every game (although he points out that does not exist in the Portland area).     He closes his perspective with the following:

“It’s a wonderful game, but most ACBL rankings are meaningless unless there are asterisks for (1) when they started playing, (2) percentage of masterpoints achieved with professional help and (3) points won online and/or in limited fields.”   

I can’t resist closing with Marty Bergen’s oft-quoted remark:   ‘Points, Schmoints!’


7 Comments

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 11th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

It is obvious from the defeaning silence, me thinks I have a point (pardon the pun)!

jkw

Paul D O'BrienMarch 13th, 2010 at 11:54 am

Dear Ms. Kay-Wolff,

I have always be puzzled by the continuing debate about master point rankings. Although

I have long been a life master, I know that the true experts play a level of bridge far superior to me. Changes in my life master ranking and number of points say nothing about my ability. I am pleased when my level of play improves a litlle as a result of study or more experience. I am gratified when I win an event.

I think it is wonderful that newer players can have the joy of attaining life master status. At a time when we are attempting to attract more players to bridge I think it is wrong to try to erect barriers that limit their ability to attain the various levels of master.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 14th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Dear Mr. O’Brien:

You have missed the point of my blog.

Every beginner starts out at Ground Zero. When I was a newcomer, it was orgasmic to win a full master point back in the Sixties when people counted the hours and minutes until Master Point Night rolled around. It was the last Monday of the month and to a newcomer, it equated to winning a National that they had never attended (and never might)! It garnered the best players from the city (and believe me, back then, Philadelphia had its crop of the best of the best). It was an exhilarating achievement to beat everyone in your direction and win ONE FULL UNADULTERATED MASTER POINT — a difficult feat when masterpoints commanded respect and was a significantly pure indication of attainment. Yes, indeed, it was an accomplishment and IT MEANT A LOT. But, don’t get me wrong — it only happened to me on a very limited amount of occasions — though I still recall the excitement.

Today winning a master point is a joke, a farce, an aberration, a pretense — call it what you want. Sometimes — even a reward for showing up and buying an entry! Do you know many years ago a group of top-playing pranksters (from Throckmorton, Texas) registered a canine with the ACBL, got him a “number” and several people entered events (using the alias name and number of the dog) and in no time flat he became a Life Master. Also bear in mind, we were not in the age of cyberspace where records could be checked easily — so there was a great likelihood that Fido was piling up master points at several different locales at the same time. It was the laughing stock of the country when the word got out! And today, just as the mutt’s ludicrous accomplishment, the attainment of life mastership doesn’t amount to a row of dog biscuits — like the devaluation of the dollar (or should I say pound — as in dog pound)?. It is all about the money spending, plethora of points and attendance records. Learning should be someone’s primary goal — not the cloy title of LM. Understanding the game and improving is what it is all about.

The point I am trying to make (which seems to have eluded you) in citing the two articles in the ACBL March Bulletin — is that master points are there for the taking and even for sale. Their recent availability in hoards by sponsoring millionaires playing in major events (even world championships)with five professional top level players and being carried to the finish line on a dogsled by their hired huskies doesn’t carry the same esteem and decorum when six talented players (three partnerships) win strictly on merit, talent, ability — not having to pay for five shills. If the same sponsor played with five peers and won, that would truly be impressive. Otherwise, it is what it is and no one is being deluded.

How about the awarding of masterpoints to club members who finish well below average in flights B AND C (and sometimes even A)?? Isn’t there something rather sickening and repulsive about rewarding mediocirity and much worse? I think so — but it is an incentive for the ACBL to get the money from the clubs and the clubs from their members — and the beat goes on!!! If that is our only purpose — so be it!

Bridge success today doesn’t means what it used to — and bridge, in my opinion, has lost its dignity. How about the hiring of local (and especially foreign) experts for big bucks to play with sponsors in the major NABC team games to qualify for the Trials? Eventually, the outsiders are persona non grata in the Trials and have to drop off and go back to their native country to participate under their own flag and then compete against their former teammates in the world championship. Isn’t there sometime a bit distasteful and even disgusting helping your paying sponsors to earn seeding points they might not have won on their own and then playing against your former teammates whom you partially helped attain the goal of representation? It is no different than the achievement of master points with the steady horrifying relaxation of requirements. Same principle involved — the greed and the sham behind it.

And, we haven’t even come to one of the worst aspects of masterpoints — to suck the players into paying an extra buck to be handsomely endowed with triple points. Today you can win three times as many points as before — especially looking back to the days when we all vied for one master point at the end of the month. What does it all mean? Just nurturing one’s ego. But it is only a facade as most people see through it very clearly — that winning points THEN as OPPOSED to now carries a totally different impact.

Paul, I am not knocking your thrill of the great feeling that one’s level of play is improving and the goal to become a life master. I shared that exuberance as I saw myself getting better, finishing higher and higher in the section each session. That is what it is all about — getting better, developing a good partnership and achieving success! I am strictly justifying and pointing out (as those gentlemen who wrote the Letters to the Editor) is that things have radically changed and by comparison to the struggle overcoming the barriers faced by the oldtimers — getting to be a LM by today’s easy rolling out of the red carpet — removes the once great challenge we overcame and the thrill of the strife of making the grade.

Oh, yes, and one more problem I have with on line play and winning masterpoints for such achievements. Unless I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that nearby computers or telephone or text communications have been eliminated (virtually an impossibility), I am paranoid enough to believe much illicit exchange of information goes on which is IMPOSSIBLE TO BE DETECTED. Bobby once told me how his late friend, a pretty good player, would complain to him incessantly in frustrated amazement how he would always get whipped on line by this one particular pair whom he knew deep down wasn’t that good. When I ascertained who it was — it was a no brainer. This pair had a common law marriage arrangement (with different last names), lived in the same house and had side by side computers. Pretty convenient!

The bridge business has grown beyond a shadow of a doubt. But, for my money, this game originally attributed to ‘ladies and gentleman’ has been compromised and corrupted in so many ways (confirmed over the years by public investigations, stings and authenticated confirmation), and there are too many untoward factors that disturb me.

Bridge has become a full-fledged business. It is no longer a game that purely represents talent, extreme expertise, dignity, honor, majesty and sanctity. I well remember the beauty of the early game and all its accoutrements. Today it has been relegated to an organization that provides a livelihood for college dropouts and those who prefer not to hold a nine to five job (and who can blame them). In the old days, parents took pride in raising children to become doctors and lawyers. Today good bridge pros have more fun and the top ones probably make more money. Let’s face it: Money is in First and Bridge is a bad Second — and I doubt if it will every be the same!

So much for life masterships, per se — and all that goes with it!!!!!

Gary M. MugfordMarch 14th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Judy,

The Emperor Has No Clothes. In other news, Masterpoints were used to make his last set of clothes.

Back in the day, when I was operating as the PR Director of the ACBL at NAC’s, Henry Francis sent me scurrying off to kibitz a Well Known Person and get a hand for the Daily Bulletin. I won’t mention site, year or Person’s name … that’s not the purpose of this. I sat down and watched said Well Known Person and discovered, much to my horror, that the player would not have ranked in the top 20 at my club, behind some of the novices! In two hours, I didn’t see one thing done by the Well Known Person worthy of even trumping up for a Bulletin story. The Well Known Person had come to Bridge as a friend of a Well Known Player, who partnered the Well Known Person to Life Master status as a token of that friendship. In the end, I gave up and wrote up a brilliance by the Well Known Player, a delightful person who brightened up any room that person entered.

At that point, I was still way less than a Life Master myself. I might have been the only moderate to high level employee of the ACBL who wasn’t. And I, more or less, right there and then, wrote off becoming a Life Master as one of my life’s goals. If it happened, it happened. But I wasn’t going to chase points. I never once looked at a points award amount after that. And you know, I never became a Life Master. I’ve played with good and great players, even world champions, and have held my own. I’ve shocked a few by admitting how few points I actually own. And I never, ever, play to my strata when given a choice. Not that I play all that often anymore. But rating and ranking players based on cronyism, longevity and economic ability to amass points per force is a mug’s game.

Ask who everybody wants to play with. Ask who wins with a variety of partners, rather than a single parther that he or she has a deep understanding with. Ask who fills in and still plays well. Those are the good players.

Some of them are even Life Masters.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 14th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Hi Gary:

It is always nice hearing from you and enjoying your “words of wisdom,” especially about this allegedly “Well Known Person” who wasn’t (at least in your eyes) what he was cracked up to be (and believe me, I trust your judgment). I had a very wise mother who once told me to “consider the source.” I have used that guideline over the years in all walks of life — and it has proven to be good advice much more often than not.

Expertise is in the eyes of the beholder. When Bobby uses those words, I stand at attention. With others, it remains to be seen. One day I asked him to name the ten best individuals who ever played the game. I was in awe as he started to rattle some names off — but I cannot say I was shocked by his plaudits. As they say, “it takes one to know one” and being on the world scene for so long and having played with and against so many superstars in a vast number of major events, it was really difficult to narrow down the field to ten as so many sensational players have graced our game.

When I was an impressionable beginner and learned that someone had achieved that coveted Life Master Certificate, the local consensus was that he or she were an ‘expert.’ I soon discovered (as in any field outside of bridge) THERE ARE EXPERTS and there are experts. I find myself constantly repeating Arthur Robinson’s funny line — that the only difference between a novice and an expert is usually one lesson.

But — getting back to the issue of masterpoints — they are what they are! To some they come easily. Others struggle to amass them! Many take pride in earning them with peers — and there are those who have the time, resources and facility to hire the big guns. They are still merely pieces of papers and don’t serve much utility other that as an ego builder — but longevity, determination and an excess of the green stuff can afford you the best partner or teammate and have a great affect on how high the stack — with recent MP inflation playing a major role in the process!

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