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All comments by Jonathan Steinberg
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So many Spin Doctors… the mind boggles. As the District 2 Recorder Paul Cronin posted:

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

MP, having just gone down one in 5HX, for -200, and knowing that his opponents at the other table will be in 4H making, for +620 , a swing of 820 = 13 IMPs, accidentally moves the SJ from the East hand to the West hand. The SJ, the one card, out of all the cards that might have fallen out of the East hand, that results in 4H being unmakeable by his opponents!“

Isn't that the bottom line? Not metal VS plastic boards, not what the top card was or wasn't, not how cards fall of out boards and so on ad nauseam.

Look: I play a lot of bridge, cards do fall on the floor – I even lean the boards against the table leg…what's the problem? A card falls out, I put the board on the table, all 4 players ensure it is placed correctly before we pass the board on. End of story.

Later, when the fouled board is discovered, does the player who admitted ”accidentally“ fouling the board, go to any Tournament Director to solve the problem? No, he says to the victimized team you won two imps, what's the problem?

EOC sanctions the player and then the bridge world, including many professional players and teammates of the accused, joins the fray. All of which leads to the inexplicable fatally flawed and tainted ruling by the politicians on the ACBL A&C Committee. Donald Mamula, one of the A&C committee members, posted that there was ”no deal" but if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

A joint statement by the ACBL & A&C Committee? Unheard of. Sweetheart holiday suspension (timed perfectly) but no probation? Never done before. Arguably the worst ruling in ACBL history which sets a horrible precedent and leads to the widespread belief that it is not what you do, but who you are that determines the outcome.

What a travesty!
May 19, 2016
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment May 19, 2016
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All the more reason why I am pleased that ACBL TD's will be in charge of ALL Appeals at NABCs. Which begs the question: Are top bridge pros the best people to serve on the EOC Committee? They seem to have done an excellent job (as long as they can remain anonymous – sort of, since all 15 names are known).
May 7, 2016
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Regrettably, players have been suspended and/or expelled for cold decking boards. It requires some effort – players have literally used famous hands from books! They have their own set of prearranged cards, in some cases the boards as well. They go to a club game or sectional Swiss (for example) where the boards are not preduplicated and switch boards when no one is looking (or so they think). They then proceed to bid, defend, and declare brilliantly.

IMO, cold decking an entire hand is similar to collusive cheating, using unauthorized signals by a pair. The former involves one person acting on his/her own; the latter involves two people.

A fouled board involving just one or two cards is different. The TD must examine the cards, speak to the players, look at the results of the board, and determine how it happened. Was it accidental or deliberate? If deliberate, was it a spur of the moment decision brought on by who knows what or did the player go to the tournament with a premeditated plan to foul a board or two if he/she got a bad result? I find the latter to be highly unlikely.

There is a significant difference between the two. Of course, if the same player is found to have fouled a board to his advantage a second time…

Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits. But the difference between a cold deck and a fouled board, IMO, is significant enough to warrant separate definitions and suggested penalties in the ACBL CDR.
May 6, 2016
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One problem that may have created difficulties for both the EOC and A&C Committees is that in the CDR, E 13 states: “Prearrange a deal or part
thereof including one card
(CDR 3.1, 3.2 and 3.7)”
The suggested penalties are 2 years suspension to expulsion and removal of 25-100% of players masterpoint total.

The problem with E13 is that it does not differentiate between someone who with premeditation cold decks a board
Cold Deck: “refers to a ”stacked“ deck (i.e., a deck of playing cards arranged in a preset order, to effect a specific outcome, once dealt) which is deceptively switched with the original deck of cards in play—to the benefit of the player/dealer making the switch.”

as compared to someone who accidentally or deliberately (in the heat of the moment, temporary insanity, blood sugar imbalance, I don't know what came over me) fouls one or two cards to gain an advantage.

Both transgressions are serious but the premeditated cold deck should be a capital offense while a first time offender in the heat of the moment fouling of a board should leave some room for rehabilitation and/or an explanation.

The positive news is that an ACBL Board member serving on the A&C Committee plans to introduce legislation to separate the two offenses.

For those who are interested the full ACBL CDR can be found at: http://www.acbl.org/tournaments_page/ethics-and-discipline/acbl-code-of-disciplinary-regulations-2/

From the CDR: “#
If a committee imposes a suspension it is encouraged to also impose an
appropriate term of probation following the term of suspension.”

Why this was not done will always remain an eternal mystery to me.
May 6, 2016
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment May 6, 2016
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Even if one ignores the facts of the case, forgets the name of the player involved… we are still left with the incomprehensible actions of the ACBL A&C Committee overturning the EOC findings and imposing a sanction consisting of a two week “holiday period” suspension (timed perfectly to cause no hardship) but NO PROBATION. An unprecedented decision. A dangerous precedent. Exactly what membership organizations are not supposed to do.
May 6, 2016
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Recent decisions by various ACBL Disciplinary Committees have led to a widespread belief that it is not what you do, but rather who you are (and who your friends are) that will ultimately decide your fate.

Speculation will not satisfy either side. Nothing will change. EOC and the A&C decisions will remain confidential… however a dangerous precedent was set when the “public outcry” led to such an extreme reversal of punishment.

I served on the ACBL A&C Committee for many years…suspensions were always followed by a longer period of probation. I thought it was mandatory. Apparently not. Certainly no longer. The two week suspension between Christmas and New Years (no probation) looked like a brokered deal between the ACBL and Mike. The optics were terrible.

In my day, the ACBL League Counsel informed the A&C members that the courts had given membership organizations great latitude and freedom regarding discipline imposed as long as the membership organization acted with consistency and fairness. Draw your own conclusions.
May 5, 2016
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I had wondered who the other players involved in the Passell incident were. I don't believe we have ever met. I applaud your courage in going public. Thank you for putting a face and a name to the “other side”, the players who were victimized at the table.

I, too, thought the Passell case was over and done with. I have no idea why the Bridge World chose to resurrect the controversy with an editorial.

The system is what it is, flawed and imperfect, but for the most part volunteers are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances. Nothing will change. Life will go on.

Thank you again for for speaking out. I hope you & Linda are able to move on and continue to play and enjoy the game for many years.
May 5, 2016
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Jonathan,

Thanks (?) for posting that horrifying link. I know it may be off topic, but some issues are more important than what system is best, how to bid and/or declare a hand.

Truly shocking to see a 2015 “Kill all the gays” rally and Ted Cruz supporting the people involved!
April 13, 2016
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I posted the ACBL statement after the CEO sent it to me (I had asked to see it and suggested it be posted on the ACBL web site). My understanding from speaking to several ACBL Board members is that not only were they consulted but at least one Board member (not the President) helped draft the letter. Perhaps more than one.

Bottom Line: it was not a unilateral action taken by the CEO and ACBL President. The Board was consulted via e-mail. Was there a formal Executive session meeting and motion passed? That I do not know.

While I am critical of the financial (mis)management of the ACBL over the past few years as well the capabilities of the ACBL Board, on this issue I wholeheartedly applaud them.

2016 is shaping up to be a bad year with attendance down 5-15% across the board. I'm in Gatlinburg this week. Every session is down 50+ tables from last year. 2015: 8,600 tables. 2016: they are hoping to reach 8,000 tables. Too early to be certain.
April 13, 2016
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment April 13, 2016
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John, in their system the transfer and 3 NT DENIED a flat hand. They play 1NT-3C as a variety of hands including a 5-3-3-2 shape with 5 card M. Opener responds by bidding a 5 card M if he has one, bidding 3NT if he doesn't care, or 3D asking the 3C bidder to clarify and show his 5 card M if that is his hand type (bids the M he doesn't have).

The 1NT opener with four trumps, 3 key cards plus the heart Q might well have started with 3H. Having not done so, to not cue bid 4C over 3NT was “criminal” ;) IMHO which is why I gave South 90% of the blame.
April 13, 2016
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Multiple shades of grey to me. I'm in a 3-way match. We compare scores, my team survives. We do not pursue a possible appeal since it no longer matters to my team.

Is it now our obligation to check on the scores of the other two teams and see how close the match was? To start calculating that if we won our (non) appeal, it might affect the other matches. How far down this road should one go? I think it opens a can of worms that arguably might create more problems than the issue of fairness that we are trying to achieve.

Regardless, the ACBL should have firm rules covering this type of situation in 3-way KO matches with two survivors. Where is Donald Mamula when you need him ;)?
April 5, 2016
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Treasurers Report (Georgia Heth

District 8)
2015 saw a small operating loss of $103,687
__________________________________________________

The above is factually incorrect. The actual loss for 2015 was $303,620. In 2014 it was $359,225. On top of the huge write-offs (ACBL Score, Pension Fund), the past few years have produced very poor financial results, substantially worse than original (or revised) budgets.

The $103,687 number was the INCREASED loss compared to what we were told the 2015 loss would be in Denver.
___________________________________________________

There was extensive discussion regarding the NABC Appeals Procedures to take effect in Washington. A motion asking the Board of Directors to reconsider the decision to allow TD panels to replace players on Appeals Committees was defeated by a 2 to 1 margin. There is no mention of this item in your summary.
March 27, 2016
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Another negative is that Reno is a difficult city to fly into. Long connections, bad weather. Today it is too windy. There must be 100+ bridge players stranded at the Reno airport with me as United flights to Denver and San Francisco are “delayed” and most will miss their connections. Looks like I won't be home until Tuesday evening.
March 21, 2016
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Affordability is a major issue and one of the main reasons attendance has fallen and will continue to decline. Take away the smoke and Reno would have been great. But the smoke is more than an inconvenience… it is a killer.

Washington and Orlando are great sites for the wealthy. For the rest, it is the subway in Washington and renting a car in Orlando.

The next affordable NABC will be Spring, 2017 in Kansas City. The host hotels may be under $100. I used to attend the XMAS Regional at the same location and I highly recommend attending.

Toronto follows in the summer. Not really affordable for Canadians but a great city and for all my American friends, now may be the time to buy Canadian dollars while the exchange rate is favourable. No one can predict what it will be in 18 months.

The unsigned anonymous letter (different thread, I know) raised serious issues. I hope the ACBL Board will not go on a witch hunt to find the writers but rather seriously investigate the underlying problems.
March 21, 2016
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Reno is a wrap. Attendance fell off as the smoke filled week continued. 11,600 is about 500 tables less than the last Reno NABC and ballpark 500 tables below the budgeted estimate. This continues the downward trend at all ACBL tournaments.

Sinus and respiratory problems increased as the exposure to second hand smoke built up. Players, TDs and ACBL staff complained (perhaps not to Robert). Lots of people became sick including my partner Alex Hudson who woke up ill yesterday and is worse today. I've begun to cough…

Leaving for the airport. Goodbye Reno. I won't be back!
March 21, 2016
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The Bulletin editors have a very tough, tiring job working until the wee hours of the morning so that we can wake up, turn on our toys and read the Daily Blurb online. Errors are inevitable. Yes, they do listen and I, too, noticed the difference today in listing all the players on the upset winners teams. Good.
March 17, 2016
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See today's (Wednesday, March 16) Daily Bulletin. There is a page 1 story announcing the new Appeals system to start at then next NABC.
March 16, 2016
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Judy: The Board of Directors (BoD) meetings ended last Thursday. The Board of Governors (BoG) meeting is always held on the first Sunday of the NABC (10 AM) after the Board of Directors meetings are over. The BoG are given a summary of motions passed, including the votes. The BoG have the opportunity to ask for reconsideration of any motion (or not) as well as bringing up new motions for the BoD to vote upon.

The Board of Governors meetings are open to everyone. More people should get involved and attend..
March 15, 2016
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Gary: a very insulting comment towards ACBL TD's. I really believe that openly berating ACBL TDs and questioning their integrity and motives is both wrong and counter productive in any discussion as to how best to handle NABC Appeals. Surely, the least one can do is wait and see in real life how the new system will work.

The current user unfriendly post midnight player committees, rife with real or potential conflict of interest in the high stakes world of professional bridge, has rendered numerous “Oh shit” controversial decisions including the infamous Chicago 2015 ruling that took the at the table win from Richard Schwartz and gave it to Cayne (Lotan Fiher, Ron Schwartz) by one imp.

Now its time to give the new system a chance to prove itself (or not).
March 15, 2016
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On the contrary Don. What I said is that after the ACBL Board had extensive deliberations and expert input from both sides, they voted to make the change. The ACBL Board of Governors voted 2 to 1 not to ask for reconsideration. At some point, the losing side must live with the majority vote. What I and Michael Rosenberg have said, is that it is now time to give the new system at least a two year trial and see how it works. Then it can be reviewed. Repeating the same arguments against over and over does not appear to be helpful, just extremely stubborn.

TD panel appeals started in 1999 for all events at NABCs below the NABC+ level. In 2008 the ACBL Board discussed the Appeals issue and a similar motion failed 13-12. I believe, Don, you were one of the 13 votes against.

As a result, there have been many more highly controversial appeal committee rulings up to and including the Chicago 2015 infamous ruling that reversed the Richard Schwartz at the table victory and allowed Cayne (Lotan Fisher/Ron Schwartz) to prevail by 1 imp.

Now it is time to move forward and give the other option a chance to prove its worth.
March 15, 2016
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