Judy Kay-Wolff

EAVESDROPPING ON BRIDGE WINNERS

There has been such a hullaballoo about the way to select the U.S. International teams, I thought you might enjoy two recent constructive pieces of correspondence between GEORGE JACOBS and BOBBY WOLFF …

FROM GEORGE JACOBS:

Marty; Congratulations!  (responding to Marty and others) …

You are spot on and the numbers are virtually correct. I have found myself on every possible end of this in the last 15 years; being in the finals after coming through the round robin, having byes, losing byes by having a poisoned pair, seeing teams come in after 6 days of play,  win 2 matches and leave as USA 1, teams with byes coming in cold and losing right away, and everything in between.

The fact is that the game has changed. Foreign players are a fact of life at our Nationals. They have made a tremendous impact on both the makeup of teams and the event results. When you see more than 80% of the teams in the round of 16 onward have at least some Foreign influence, you have to take notice. They are here to stay.

What effect has this had on the Trials? It has created a lopsided barometer where byes are rewarded inversely to the number of teams which are eligible to receive them. What this means is that there are only a few teams which meet the criteria of receiving byes, yet the potential of the bye itself is enormous. This was not the situation when byes came into play, nor could it have been predicted. There has been an onslaught of Foreign players in the last 10 years in particular. Nobody has done anything wrong. It is just that the landscape has changed.

So, after giving Howard full credit for the original suggestion, your formula shows a lot of merit. There should still be byes, just harder to earn. By the way, picking one’s opponent is a huge benefit under normal circumstances, but is no lock. The Italians picked South Africa in the round of 8 in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl, and promptly lost.

While I am writing this note, I may as well mention 2 other items:

1) team chemistry: there has been a lot of talk about this topic. I believe that it has no real basis in fact. Yes, it is nicer to have teammates you like and who like you. Dinners together and rooting for one another are great. Being sympathetic about lost imps and being willing to play an extra set are all pluses, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. At various times, I have played with people I didn’t like and had great results and with people I loved and did poorly. Some of the best results I ever had were playing with two pairs who refused to speak to one another over some acrimony in Italy.

If you really look at this honestly, the most successful American team in the last 20 years has had some people try to get individuals and pairs replaced on the team, or to force them to change their systems. I am not judging in any way, merely observing that in spite of some dissention on the team, their results have been remarkable.

There are lots of really nice people that you might wish to have on your teams, but when push comes to shove, you want winners and fighters and people who take advantage of any opening within the rules. If they are not your favorite dinner companions, so be it.

2) standing up for what is right in these discussions rather than what is best for you: All of us know that having things one way or another is better for us personally. The beauty of this discussion group is that it amplifies your voice. You are heard by more people and more people have an opportunity to be heard. Please do not take advantage by only trumpeting your own narrow position. In the previous discussions there were 20+ calls for the vote when the chairman had said that further discussion was due. We are not unique. I can assure you, having been President of two other National organizations, that this is a pattern of all such groups. It is so easy to only argue from your own selfish position that it often takes a reminder that doing what is best for the group at large trumps personal benefits.

We have had individuals state the same point of view, over and over, as if sheer volume would replace the quality of their position. Make your view known and allow others the same courtesy. When we have resorted to name calling and shot taking, we have not in any way made it better or swung someone over to our side. That kind of stuff is a distraction and takes away from the value of what we are doing.

It is also important that we not blindly support Howard’s position. It would be easy to overwhelm the three teams that are the most likely to ever receive deep byes. I would be just as unhappy to find that people were voting against a team or teams rather than what they believed was right for the future of bridge.

As far as when to start the repachage or who to allow or what round robins should be played or not, I will support whatever decision is made. Strangely, I have no opinion on this and find the mathematical discussions to be sort of a distraction. So to help you with a complete understanding and simplification of the dynamics of the formulas involved, I leave you with this anecdote:

A farmer died, leaving 17 cows to his three sons, to be divided as follows. His oldest son was to get 1/2 of the cows, his middle son to get 1/3 and his youngest to get 1/9 of all the cows. No one could figure out how to do this until a wise man said to borrow a cow from a neighbor, making 18 cows. He gave 9 (1/2) to son #1,  6 (1/3) to son #2, and 2 (1/9) to son #3, for a total of 17. Now he returned the borrowed cow to the neighbor.

Thanks, George

IN RESPONSE FROM BOBBY WOLFF…..

Hi George,

I’m here to tell you that your letter is one of the best ones I have ever read for clarity, summing up the current USBF bridge world (in its entirety), and also recounting recent (and also more stretched out) major events in the past 15+ years. 

You also are DIRECTLY on target in discussing so-called camaraderie issues.  I have been on countless teams, as many different combinations as is almost humanly possible, and never has it played any force on what happened when we played together.  It simply doesn’t matter, unless lunatics are involved and while there probably are some in the bridge world I, at least up to now, have been fortunate in avoiding them.

The same with working out exact mathematical CofC’s.  The main and only important issue concerns itself with FAIRNESS and the idea of at the very least, giving an excellent team, at that time of the tournament, a chance to win without spraying the road with nails in front of them.

Also, the thought of the future of the game with its constant changing complexion, has to always be of current intense interest, with the hope that future younger players make it with their personalities maturing along with their experience gleaned from playing with and against the best in the world.  When I see otherwise excellent field goal kickers in high-level college football (it has also happened often in the NFL) missing chip shot field goals in crucial situations it should be a reminder to all of us, that less confident mindsets lead to these very sad endings and the anxiety many of our oral disputes cause, plus the pressure of professionalism, is often guilty of causing them.

The foreign bridge invasion at U. S. nationals have been a major plus, but also a minus in attempting to regulate our own International representation.  Such is also the case when sometimes the people in control misuse their power to try and self-serve and get what is best for them.

What I am attempting to say above to you, George, has also been better said and although sometimes you may regard me as an enemy to professionalism, I can assure you that the overall plus from professionalism is very necessary for our future, but, as with everything else, it has to be somewhat regulated otherwise the USA (or call it the USBF) will fade into oblivion while losing several steps, going straight downhill.

Until someone becomes a bridge pied piper and leads us into the sunshine from the dark position we are now presently situated, we will continue to be confused and lost in the desert.  Why don’t you get the Red Sea to part and I will be the first one to follow you?

Best,

Bobby


3 Comments

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 5th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

It makes me proud to reflect upon bridge half a century ago with my husband Norman and his teammates … Edgar, Sami, Eric, Alvin, Bill and eventually Richard when the words money or professionalism were never mentioned. Their sole objective was putting together the fiercest team – with no regard for anything else. The focus was on the cards — not their bank accounts. My, my, times have changed.

Cam FrenchJanuary 5th, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Indeed they have.

And as Edgar noted “money is an inducement to the unscrupulous.”

Personally, though hardly a world class player, I always prefer to play with friends. The dinner time conversation and the post-match refreshments are better. Of course, I am not hiring world class people and the money does not factor into my equation.

I think 80% of us prefer compatible and “friends” as team mates, but a sponsor may have personalities in mind which do not always jell. Jacobs was right, if all you care about is winning then it is easier to accept acrimonious players/partnerships as team mates.

But this is a situation unique to the Spingoldiggers. I will wager 90% of us play this game for pleasure, and that means a nice time at the table and away from it. Money doesn’t enter into the equation and therefore does not poison the conditions of contest for most of us.

Sure if I am George Jacobs, or Roy Welland or some other expert with more money than I know what to do with I MIGHT consider hiring a top flight pair with whom I was incompatible. On second thought – no way- tricked you! I play this game with people I like and respect because that adds to my pleasure.

Now if George wants to call me and my buddy, I am prepared to be even more charismatic. But I better like him and I hope he likes me and doesn’t shout too much at my sub-par results.

C

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 6th, 2012 at 12:28 am

Bridge is a many faceted game and unfortunately as I get older it seems my responsibilities grow and my free time is less. To be quite honest I play for the excitement of doing well and/or winning. There’s no fun to me in losing and that has a direct bearing on my partner or teammates. Of course, I woudn’t play with someone I didn’t like — but I don’t buy that ‘camaraderie” rah rah.

Everyone receives different satisfaction from the game and each should do what makes him or her happy. I have always hitched my wagon to a star.

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