Ray Lee

As others see us

The ACBL has to be one of the most complacent organizations in the bridge world.  I well remember in 2001, when the world championships were in Paris, Marc Fiset and I (CBF officers at the time) spent a fascinating day at the HQ of the French bridge organization, and were impressed with their education department and their weekly nation-wide games scored over the Internet.  None of the half dozen ACBL Directors at the event bothered to do the same thing, I assume feeling that there would be nothing to be learned.

I was reminded of this by an article in the latest issue of  ‘Australian Bridge’ by Paul Marston, who attended the recent San Francisco Nationals.  Here’s part of it, which gives an outsider’s views of the pluses and minuses of ACBL tournaments.

While there is much to admire about an NABC, system control is not on that list.  The ACBL have tried to dumb the game down in a misguided attempt to serve the rank and file bridge player.  For example, you can only play a Multi 2D if you carry around a 4-page defense for the opponents.  As one American opponent said as he and his partner read painstakingly through the notes at the table, "It feels kind of dirty to be playing bridge this way."

Before each round I was required to tell our opponents that we play a strong club with unusual responses.  When Reisinger winners Alfredo Versace and Lorenzo Lauria arrived at the table, Versace stopped my speech by waving his finger like a metronome, and with a big smile he sang, "I am not Americ-aaan!"

The ACBL’s intentions may be right, but they have gotten it wrong.  They stifle system development without providing any useful benefit to ordinary players.  Ordinary bridge players do not have a problem with system innovation.  I know from years of playing forcing pass.  Most opponents enjoyed the novelty and they soon adapted.  In new Zealand in the late 1970s, no one gave a hoot whether a pass meant less than 12 HCP, 15+ HCP, hearts, spades, or any combination of the above.  Even the pairs that came last had a defense.

The ACBL should understand that it is only yesterday’s heroes who have a problem with system innovation.  The sad part is that the committees that decide these things are well stoked with yesterday’s heroes so there is little hope for common sense to prevail until they fall off the perch.

If you are a seriously addicted bridge player, then I advise you to put an NABC on your list of things to do.  They are very well run with every detail being long proven.  This is part of their strength and part of their weakness.

The strength is you know the complete timetable: you know when the breaks will be and you know what the food stalls will be serving up.  Also, the formats are very good.

The weakness of familiarity is that there are none of the advances offered by the Internet.  In total contrast to this country (Australia), there is almost no information of relevance presented on the web.  You cannot even see the scores by electronic presentation at the venue.  The only way to check the score is to trudge down to where you were playing to read the printout from an old dot-matrix printer.  It is hard to understand that they have failed to keep up on these fronts when you consider that they are the richest bridge nation on earth and the ACBL has a full-time staff of close to 100.


Bobby WolffFebruary 19th, 2008 at 10:47 am

Two things come to mind when considering your comments about ACBL weaknesses and strengths.

First, my only disagreement is about unusual and unique conventions—I DO think it necessary for the users to carry around defenses to their particular unusual systems (PUS). Without those defenses (and requirement to pass muster as to among the best ways to defense them) especially when playing average to not-so opponents, they will be totally lost, probably just pass and wait patiently for the next round, which gives much too great an advantage to the PUS players. A convention or anything to do with bidding should require that method to have bridge value such as a possibly better and more accurate way to reach final contracts without giving away more than it accomplishes.

Although the above sentence is not yet in our bridge rules, IT SHOULD BE, and force the poison gas labs to meet that requirement. When and if such conventions are discussed, and if the end result shows conclusively that it is technically not better, however the overall match point or IMP results will still improve due to idiot actions or non-actions by the intimidated opponents it, at least to me, crosses over the line into SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. Not unlike how our medically approved prescription medicine system works or at least is supposed to.

On a more agreeable subject similar to your French Federation story, when I was in Seoul, Korea about 8 years ago I visited their GO building which was devoted to only the nationwide favorite game of GO. There were so many young enthusiastic employees running around the building showing GO positions to each other and keeping up with the daily televised $6,000 final match of the daily competition which is held every day. Quite a difference to Memphis and their indifferent employees (often non-players who constitute well more than 1/2).

We need a savior to come along, see and deal with all these handicaps and oversee the game’s growth. It is unlikely that I, for one, will live to see this happen.

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