The 2014 Buffett Cup has been cancelled, and one of bridge's greatest events will not take place this year -- perhaps never again. The Buffett Cup, akin to golf's Ryder Cup, was a biennial bridge triathlon, consisting of a teams, a pairs, and an individual competition, that pitted Europe vs. America. According to Bob Hamman, "It is the strongest event in the world for the purpose of capturing the attention of the public."
In the spirit of the Ryder Cup, the event alternates between a European and an American host site. 2014 was Europe's turn and Monaco graciously agreed to host and provide funding for the 2014 event with the exception of airfare. The USBF agreed to provide airfare for the American team, but this funding was repealed. In a statement posted by the event's originator Paul Hackett on www.buffettcup.com, he explains why the event will not be held:
"Monaco offered to stage the event in June last year (2013). They only made two conditions. First, we find a suitable date, and secondly, that the USA would field a strong team. I contacted George Jacobs and he informed me that the USBF had taken over from Bob Hamman, and in a follow-up email in October, that Jill Levin and Warren Spector had been appointed co-chairs.
After several emails we were able to satisfy Monaco's first request, and found a suitable date in November of this year. It took a few months for the USA to name their team, but Monaco and I were more than satisfied with the team they proposed, and as promised, Monaco started to go ahead with the preparations.
On April 12 I received an email from Jill Levin stating that some members of the USBF were not approving of the team proposed and had decided that they would not provide the airfares for their players. This of course left a hole in the budget at a relatively late date..."
Let me say that Monaco, under their president Jean-Charles Allavena and Pierre Zimmerman, have supported me all the way, as have Jill Levin and Warren Spector, and it is a great pity that all the work they have put in has not come to fruition. I am extremely grateful to them.
I would also like to thank all the players who had accepted to play. Both teams had great stars and it saddens me that the bridge playing world will be unable to watch on BBO what looked as if it was going to be a great show..."
The USBF Board minutes tell a similar, but slightly different story. First, the USBF Board voted to approve the funding of the team, as noted in the USBF March 13th, 2014 minutes. Here are selected excerpts from the minutes:
"The Buffett Cup Committee (Bob Hamman, Jill Levin & Warren Spector) presented their report. Bob explained that the Buffett Cup started in 2006 in Ireland and has been held every 2 years, alternating between Europe and the US, ideally being at about the same time as the Ryder Cup although that hasn’t always been possible. Warren Buffett consented to the use of his name, but has not provided economic support...
George [Jacobs] appointed Marty [Fleisher] and Jonathan [Weinstein] to join Jill [Levin] & Warren [Spector] as members of the Buffett Cup committee, to ensure that the Board will have meaningful input in deciding on a selection process and in selecting players for the team...
USBF will support the 2014 Buffett Cup by paying Business Class airfare for each player and the NPC on the US team, up to a maximum total amount of $75,000, reduced by any income received through sponsorship or donations...
The motion passed 4 to 1."
Jill Levin and Warren Spector, as part of the The Buffett Cup Committee, then organized a team of America's top players and got them to agree to participate. The team that was selected included players that had all won either a gold or silver medal in a World Championship. Jill Levin indicated that they used objective standards of results, and when in doubt, the "tie breakers go towards youth and the ultimate objective of regenerating interest in our game." As a result the team they selected was:
Approximately 1 month after the prior USBF Board Resolution on April 10, 2014, the USBF passed a second Resolution repealing its prior Resolution. Shortly after the USBF repealed its support, former USBF President George Jacobs resigned. This may or may not have been coincidental.
"By resolution dated March 13, 2014, the Board voted to support the 2014 Buffett Cup by paying business class airfare for the U.S. players competing in that event and their NPC (subject to a cap of $75,000). That decision was predicated upon our expectation that our Board would both have final approval of the team and be materially involved with the process for selecting the team. Subsequently, however, whether due to a miscommunication or otherwise, the team was selected without any involvement from the Board members we designated to work on this project, and we were emphatically told that we cannot alter its composition. As a result, we do not approve funding for the team as selected; i.e., a team chosen through the closed process that was used here. The Board hereby repeals its March 13, 2014 resolution regarding funding for the 2014 Buffett Cup team.
We want to make clear that we have no reservations about the skills of the players who apparently intend to represent the U.S. in the upcoming competition. To the contrary, we have the highest regard for those players, many of whom have represented the U.S. in world championships. Today’s decision rests solely upon our disapproval of the process used to select that team, which resulted in our Board being asked to rubber stamp a fait accompli without having meaningful input."
It is a shame for the game of bridge that the Buffett Cup will not take place this year. We hope this will just be a bump in the road and not the end of the line for this great event.
Plus... it's free!