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All comments by Jonathan Steinberg
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Sorry, I know I said goodbye several days ago but I feel compelled to state the obvious.

There is an awful lot of money in the world of bridge today. Some of today's top clients are listed in Forbes Top 1000 wealthiest people in the world! Professional bridge at the highest levels creates incentives for unethical behavior, perhaps more so to foreign players who arrive from poorer countries, perhaps not. But I digress… that is a topic for a different post.

There is also an awful lot of money associated with the selling of masterpoints online – for the ACBL, it is several hundred thousand dollars per year. For Fred and BBO who knows? Their financial statements are private. Some posts in this forum suggest that it may be in the millions. There is a lot of money in play. BBO has been great for bridge and the ACBL. But the ACBL and masterpoints have also been great for BBO.

Gavin honestly admitted that he gets paid to play online. So do a lot of other people. They have a clear self interest to protect their livelihood.

The reality that I see in my travels is that people love all the good stuff about online bridge and BBO but they recognize the differences. Separate masterpoint lists is not discrimination – it has always been that way with “colorless, unpigmented” online points. It has always been that way with yearly masterpoint races where online players compete against online players. F2F players compete against F2F players.

Why should lifetime lists be any different? They shouldn't be. The motion - if people actually read it carefully - does not comment on the quality of online play, it does not take away anyone's masterpoints nor their ACBL ranking.
It denigrates no one. Nothing would change except that lifetime online and F2F lists would be separate. Why would people call this a second class list or discrimination? It isn't. The “separate but equal” posts comparing this action to the famous US Supreme Court ruling is BS.

The vociferous uproar on this online forum amazes me - the discussion re: robot games and how to market the game of bridge is very interesting but not relevant to the actual motion. The motion is very specific and limited in scope.

People say masterpoints have been devalued and inflated. True, but irrelevant. Who was the best heavyweight fighter of all time? Comparing greats from different eras will always be problematic. But live F2F bridge and online bridge are very different animals. We should recognize that.

Playing against 3 robots (your score is compared to humans also playing against 3 robots) requires skills but it is a very different type of skill from F2F. The Laws Commission has even ruled it to be an “illegal” form of bridge.

Human to human online bridge has been compared to bad club games – some argue that is false, other say it is even worse. But what is clear is the you can play several games online for the same (or less) money and in much less time than would be involved to drive to a F2F bridge club. Thus online players have far more opportunity to win masterpoints. They can win 1000+ plus points much easier than if you had to only play F2F.

We have the best of both worlds – we can play both forms of the game as much as time, money, and/or inclination allow. But the points should be separate.

What is crystal clear is the lack of controls while playing online at home - perhaps with your notes in front of you, with a book on suit combination play, with your partner in the next room, with a telephone next to you, with your spouse or some friends visiting who may suggest a bid or play… and so on and so forth. Or perhaps not.

But it is clearly different. Thus the need for monitors when it is a GNT event or a junior team trials that is played online.

No one is downgrading the value or importance of online bridge for multiple reasons. Clearly people are paying money and like to win points. The only thing the BoG motion recognizes is that playing online at home is very different from playing live F2F bridge – one has been around for 75+ years, the other for perhaps ten.

Both have value. Both should be celebrated. All masterpoints count for rank advancement and seeding purposes. But just as the yearly masterpoint races are separate, so should the lifetime lists.
_________________________________________________________

On a personal note I take strong exception to Bob H. (who apparently was one of the 4 negative votes in the 50-4 Board of Governors vote – even if he was not authorized to vote) who wrote: “Lesson: when you make a really bad proposal, you are going to be attacked.” Four people actually “liked” that comment. I think it was reprehensible.

Regardless of whether a proposal is “good or bad” (surprise: not everyone will agree), no individual should be subject to personal attacks on this forum. Maybe I'm dreaming…

I will now return to hibernation and will once again resolve to say no more…“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”…

Aug. 19, 2014
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John A, this thread has taken on a life of its own and discussed playing against robots in great detail. That has been an interesting thread but it is not what the motion before the ACBL Board is about.

This motion is not about me, but how to tabulate and compare F2F points and Online points. I have not dodged any questions and if you have read all my posts, you know my views. We do not have to agree.

As I just posted to Josh, "Clearly we do not agree – I consider live bridge (in any form) to be significantly different from Online bridge (in any form) played at home. I believe both have standing and should be celebrated. But Online points won should be compared with online points; F2F points won compared with F2F. Neither of us are going to change our opinion. We will have to agree to disagree.

Neither the world, nor the ACBL, is going to end regardless of how yearly and lifetime masterpoint lists are tabulated.

This ends my participation on this post. Goodbye, all. I hope to see many of you at future F2F bridge tournaments - the Atlanta Labour Day Regional will be my next stop. Feel free to say hello. Ill take your photo.

Cheers :)!

Aug. 14, 2014
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Josh, the ACBL does differentiate between the multiple forms of F2F bridge. That is why there are black, red, gold & Platinum points. NABC players have their Player of the Year race which is restricted to Platinum points won at NABCs.

The ACBL has multiple lists to make as many people as possible happy because people, protests notwithstanding, do like to see their names on masterpoint lists and accomplishments publicized.

I am currently at a small Regional in Northern Ontario - Sudbury - there is no question that the F2F players here would prefer not to be compared with online players and consider it to be a very different type of bridge game, warranting two separate lists. I speak to F2F players all the time – I know what they believe and what they want.

The comparisons to famous Supreme Court rulings and separate but equal are patently ridiculous in the context
of what we are discussing. But people became quite emotional online.

Clearly we do not agree – I consider live bridge (in any form) to be significantly different from Online bridge (in any form) played at home. I believe both have standing and should be celebrated. But Online points won should be compared with online points; F2F points won compared with F2F. Neither of us are going to change our opinion. We will have to agree to disagree.

Neither the world, nor the ACBL, is going to end regardless of how yearly and lifetime masterpoint lists are tabulated.
Aug. 14, 2014
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Aug. 14, 2014
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Alan, many online players will react positively with separate lists. Instead of being buried in a combined list that incorporates 75 years of F2F play, online players will be at or near the top of their own masterpoint list.

For those who play both F2F and online, their standing will fall in the F2F list but increase in the online list. Total points will not change. Nor will any ACBL ranking.

The key is to market and publicize both lists so no one will get the wrong impression. It will be fairer method for both camps.

Many posts have argued that F2F players - not all but a significant number - have no clue about online bridge play. Very true. Nor do they want to play online nor do many want online points to be merged with F2F points.

I contend that many players will be very happy if F2F points and Online points are kept separate… just as they currently are in all yearly masterpoint races.
Aug. 14, 2014
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“a demographic base that is fast circling the drain….”

Richard, when I served on the ACBL Board, someone repeatedly argued that ACBL membership would fall off a cliff when the average age hit 70? 72? – were you that person? If so, you have been forecasting the end of the world for the past couple of decades. But it hasn't happened. ACBL is bringing in just as many new members every year as they are losing. Membership is stable.

Tournament table count is down this year but in many cases more players are attending. We are just playing fewer sessions per day and taking more time off.

I prefer to be optimistic - the World Youth Bridge Championships are currently underway in Istanbul. Todays junior players are as keen and enthusiastic as we all were when we were young. The ACBL is working very hard promoting collegiate bridge as well as its various teaching programs.
Aug. 14, 2014
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There are no proposals to “eliminate all on-line points” or even any online points. As you noted F2F players would be compared against F2F players; online players would be compared against online players. I believe this would be a fairer and more valid comparison. Combined points would still be used for all ACBL rank achievements.

Going forward, no one can predict future advancements to the game or modifications to the ACBL masterpoint system.
A couple of years ago, the requirements for LM increased from 300 to 500 points but no one who had become a LM lost their ranking if they fell between 301 and 499 points.

There will always be modifications and new rules and regulations. The game of bridge is not static nor should it be.

Aug. 13, 2014
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Not very much. You will still have 1804 lifetime online points and 3047 lifetime F2F points. Your combined total of 4851 means that when you win your next 149 points to reach 5000 you will become a Diamond LM (5000+ points). I am assuming you have met all the other requirements (colored point, paid up ACBL member, not under suspension, etc).)
Aug. 13, 2014
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it is not discrimination to recognize that F2F bridge play is significantly different from online bridge play and to keep separate masterpoint lists for both categories of play. Different environment, different controls, different skills required to win. So why not celebrate the differences but keep separate records/masterpoint lists?

We can agree to disagree.
Aug. 12, 2014
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Playing against robots do count for ACBL online masterpoints. This is not debatable, it is a fact. From Leo's post:

“2011 Louisville, they decided to limit the number of games played to 2 per hour. Many believe that this was a result of my record year in 2010. They were looking to minimize the number of online masterpoints that were earned. (See pg. 6/7 of attached BoD minutes from Louisville).

In 2010, the robot matchpoint games were held every 15 minutes and were worth 1.20. I was able to win a high % of the games that I played, and earned 3,339.99 online points that year (see Mar. 2011 Bridge Bulletin pg. 30).

Also, the board decreased the maximum award for the ACBL robot games from 1.20 to 0.90”

From the ACBL's 2011 (most recent) review of online points:
• “Robot games continue to run as an Individual event.”

From BBO: “ACBL Schedule

The schedule repeats daily. All times are in Eastern Standard Time (EST) or Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EDT). The Speedball pairs games are limited on the masterpoint awards available, as are the Individual tournaments. The 18-board Pairs games which run three times daily from 6:05 PM to 10:05 PM are not masterpoint limited.

Robot tournaments in either the 12-board or 18-board formats start frequently for both MP and IMP scoring. Just check the ACBL Tournament Schedule when you are logged in for a game starting soon.”
Aug. 11, 2014
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Not accurate since ACBL online points would still count towards becoming a LM and subsequent rank achievements
Aug. 11, 2014
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Many posts imply that masterpoints have little or no value. How can one “devalue” something that already has no value?

The ACBL has clearly labeled Online points as second class by virtue of calling them colorless and unpigmented. Yet people still keep paying and paying and paying.
You can not achieve any ACBL rank status without meeting the minimum requirements for black, red & gold points.

The current ACBL policy is inconsistent in allowing online points to be merged with F2F for lifetime totals but not for yearly totals.

F2F bridge involves so many factors including the randomness of humans, pure luck, psychology, partnership harmony, and much more. All of those elements make bridge what it is. It is not chess. It is not playing against machines.

Playing bridge online against three programmed robots where you have the best hand is not the same as F2F against real humans. Playing at home with no TDs or any form of monitoring is not the same as being in public in a live F2F environment.

Playing under pressure at a F2F tournament is not the same as playing online while sitting on the can with your laptop, giving new meaning to executing a double squeeze (with apologies to a friend who sent that line to me - which I have probably mangled).

I commend Peter Boyd for having the courage to post on Bridge Winners. His comments echo the views of many who will never post on this forum.

The value you place on online points is, as always, in the eyes of the beholder. The proposed motion merely wishes to keep two separate lists recognizing that F2F bridge, with 75+ years of history, is different from online bridge.

Why can't both forms of the game be celebrated without people complaining that a separate list would “devalue” their colorless online points?

The vociferous opposition to the separation of lifetime online and F2F points belie all the comments about the worthlessness of masterpoints. A lot of you seem to care an awful lot.
Aug. 11, 2014
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Baby boomers get old? We have redefined the definition of “old age”. As have bridge players – the world is beginning to recognize how beneficial bridge play is in keeping our minds young.
Aug. 10, 2014
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When the ACBL created online masterpoints, they were deemed to be “colorless” (no pigmentation) points to differentiate them from black, red, gold & platinum points, all won in F2F play. The color of the points won is based on the perceived ranking/difficulty of play. Platinum points are restricted to points won in NABC events.

The ACBL created a yearly online masterpoint race – online points do not count for the Top 500 or any other yearly masterpoint list. They have their own race. F2F points do not count for the online masterpoint race.

The online point world has grown beyond what many originally thought possible. Robot games emerged from the imagination of the people who created them. Bravo. The top yearly online players win 2-3X more points than the top yearly ACBL club players. Good for them.

But one should not pretend that online bridge play against robots or humans is the same is F2F club or tournament play.

Given that colorless online points do not count for yearly masterpoint races (other than their own), can someone explain the logic of combining them with colored points for lifetime masterpoint lists? It doesn't add up. It appears to be illogical. There should be a separate lifetime list for online points won along with a separate lifetime list for F2F points won. It would be consistent and fair.

The motion before the ACBL Board of Directors does not remove any online points that anyone has won in the past or will win in the future. It does not change any ACBL policies that combines all points (in various formulas) in order to achieve higher ranking (LM, Silver LM, Gold LM, etc.)

The most recent ACBL regulations on online masterpoints (July, 2011) include the following:

• All masterpoints won online continue to count toward a player’s total.
• Online masterpoints continue to not count toward masterpoint races such as the McKenney and Mini McKenney.
• Online races, as currently established, continue.
• Online masterpoints continue to be unpigmented, with no online masterpoints needed for any Rank advancement.
• Online masterpoints continue to count 100% toward strat, flight and rank advancement.
• Robot games continue to run as an Individual event.

The Board of Governors motion would ONLY change the first point on the above list in that online points would be tabulated separately from colored points for lifetime masterpoint lists. The points would still remain and be valid. There would be two separate lifetime lists – one for F2F pigmented points and one for online no pigmentation points. There would be no other changes.

There is a 75+ year history of F2F bridge – online bridge is relatively new. Historical all-time lists should recognize those differences.

The bottom line is that if online points do not count towards yearly F2F masterpoint lists then they should not count for lifetime F2F lists. But online players would have their own yearly and lifetime online masterpoint lists.


Aug. 10, 2014
Jonathan Steinberg edited this comment Aug. 10, 2014
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Yes it is.

There are only three ways for a motion (proposed legislation) to come before the ACBL Board:

1) From an ACBL Board member
2) From management
3) From the Board of Governors

Any motion approved by the Board of Governors MUST be voted upon by the ACBL Board of Directors.
Aug. 10, 2014
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No problem, Bob. Thanks for recognizing my “youth”. I'm thinking of a multi-coloured hairstyle for Providence. Hope to see you there.
Aug. 9, 2014
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Does this mean the vote was 50-3? Does that change it from “overwhelming majority” to “almost unanimous” :)?
Aug. 9, 2014
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Flannery is a great convention even if many younger players today downgrade it. You never have a rebid problem with a 4-5-2-2 hand. The 1S response to 1H showing 5 is useful. Often players step into a Flannery auction and get hammered.
Bottom line: it works.

But a complete set of agreements and follow-up bids are critical. I play that all invitational hands start with 2NT. Jumping to 3M is slammish - follow up calls require discussion.

Regardless of system, many times you just have to look at your hand and take your best shot.
Aug. 9, 2014
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I will not be responding to every misguided comment but I must address the most extreme. John Adams, undoubtedly you know Leo LaSota better than I do; however as the maker of the motion, I know my motivations better than anyone else. I resent your comments that the motion is an attack on one individual – you state as it if it were a 100% fact. Your assumption is false.

Sadly, many players will refuse to post their thoughts on BW because of the personal attacks which often ensue and the nature of what is primarily an un moderated forum. Very understandable.

I have received numerous private e-mails thanking me for this motion. Leo's name has never been mentioned – others are. I will not embarrass anyone by name, but what people in all parts of the country complain to me about are players who no longer play in any club or tournament, sit at home and have accumulated thousands of online points - their name begins to rapidly rise to the top of local unit, District and National masterpoint lists and no one has ever seen them, or in many cases even know why they are!

While I recognize their accomplishments, the supporters of this motion believe that online points and F2F points won are very different. Just as yearly masterpoint lists are kept separate so should lifetime lists. It does not imply one form of the game is better or worse, just different.

By all means promote online winners and lifetime achievements. I believe there should be sections of the ACBL Bulletin solely devoted to Online bridge activities – perhaps an insert. At some future dates, demand and finances may allow for a separate Online Bridge magazine.

But the Online bridge world is very different from the F2F world. We should not destroy ACBL history of F2F play by combining online points with F2F points.

Bob H. – from my seat in the Board of Governors meeting, there were two hands raised in opposition - perhaps I missed a 3rd or 4th hand, no more. So the actual vote was very close to unanimous, 50-4?

Incidentally, I resent your gratuitous 65+ comment – I am still under 65 but it is not relevant other than perhaps to illustrate that older people have a greater sense of the importance of history than younger people.

Fred G. – the Board of Governors motion is not an attack on BBO or online bridge. It attempts to recognize that winning online points (just one part of what BBO does so well and successfully) is very different from attending face-to-face clubs and tournaments. ACBL numbers indicate that the top yearly online masterpoint players win 2-3 X more points than the top yearly club players. In time, online masterpoint winners will overwhelm F2F players.

There is nothing wrong with that but combining the two in lifetime lists is, in my opinion, wrong. They should be separate. Both should be celebrated.

You are correct that I have not won an NABC event - two open NABC seconds, several top 10's plus a CNTC second :) - but that is as irrelevant as the false assumption that this entire debate concerns one player who has won more online points than anyone else.

We should debate the merits of the motion and avoid the personal insults, intended or otherwise.

Aug. 9, 2014
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Hi Gene,

I have no idea if I can enlighten you, but it is common knowledge that the ACBL is in the business of selling masterpoints. People pay a lot of money to accumulate them and achieve various ranks. Lifetime lists are a historical record. It may be of little significance to you, but it certainly matters to many.

The same reasons for separating online points from face-to-face points for yearly masterpoint races applies to lifetime lists.
Aug. 8, 2014
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Ideally, there would be screens and pre-duplicated boards for everyone. Space, time and cost factors make it impossible. But on the final day, I believe it is customary that the top 20 teams (top 10 matches) use pre-duplicated boards every round. Some Mid-Atlantic Regionals do the same thing on the final day A/X Swiss.

I believe all or most of the teams in day three of the NAST use both pre-duplicated boards and screens. The field is small enough by the third day to make it feasible.

What happened on the final day last weekend – some top 10 teams shuffling while others used pre-duplicated boards was the worst possible scenario. A Royal Screw-Up.
July 31, 2014
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