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All comments by Karen Walker
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Dan Requard passed away a year ago. He played tournament bridge for a few years after he was readmitted, but was inactive in recent years.
Jan. 3
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A local married couple printed and laminated “Sorry, partner” cards and added them to the bidding boxes. Much more useful than ZT cards.
Dec. 24, 2018
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Another program for the not-to-do list was Easybridge, which was ACBL's attempt to dumb-down the game. The theory was that if people got hooked on an ultra-simplified form of bridge, they would move on to playing in their local club games and tournaments.

That general concept might have been workable, but Easybridge took it way too far and imposed too many rules. The “presenter” (the word “teacher” was unacceptable) was required to read from a script that had a lot of bad jokes, but almost no instructional content. The players were supposed to “teach themselves” at the table using the Easybridge text, which was a comic book.

When ACBL started promoting the program (and before I saw the silly comic book), I had some interest. I called the coordinator to see if I could participate without taking the required Easybridge Presenter course. She smugly said not to bother because “Easybridge doesn't want people like you”, meaning experienced teachers. She said it was too likely that I would go off-script and try to teach people how to play real bridge, which was forbidden.

Easybridge died partly because of that arrogance and rigidity, but mainly because it was promoting a barely recognizable form of the game. Anyone who aspired to playing in their club duplicate had to start over to unlearn Easybridge and learn basic bidding. The few who tried were easily overwhelmed and many, probably most, gave up.
Dec. 23, 2018
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ACBL tried this about 20 years ago with its “Bridge America” program, led by Audrey Grant. It created a “Social Division” of ACBL and offered separate memberships, magazines and sanctions for clubs that wanted to offer this type of game.

I thought it was a good idea in theory, but the format was way too structured and it soon died. To run a social club, you were required to use E-Z deal decks to set up provided hands and then talk about them from a booklet.

The rules for the Bridge America “hosts” were also cumbersome. Potential directors and instructors were encouraged (perhaps required) to take courses at NABCs. There was also a long list of rules for promoting and running the games, how to dress, how and where to stand (never sit) during the play and exactly how to answer questions (always read from the booklet!).

Maybe it's an idea that can be reincarnated into something that is more attractive to current club owners. For that to happen, it would have to offer a lot more flexibility and – probably most important – be supported by market research.
Dec. 22, 2018
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Robb – That was you, and it was my favorite response in that long, acrimonious thread. I laughed out loud again when I found it in the archives.
Dec. 16, 2018
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Thanks for posting this Peg. It reminded me of my attempt, almost 25 years ago, to request some civility in the old Usenet newsgroup

Although most responses to my plea were positive, a surprising number of grouches saw it as another opportunity to hurl personal insults.

I laughed out loud at the reaction of these two posters:
BD: “How can anyone disagree with this post?”
RG: “How? Read on and find out. This thread may mark my retirement from this newsgroup. Flame on.
R.G. from New York City, where the bridge players aren't NEARLY this obnoxious.”

Here was my flame-provoking post from 1994:


Subject: A few words about words

A sampling of warmly worded quotes from recent posts (writers' names mercifully omitted:)

(Replies to a 99er asking about a Blackwood auction:)
“The question is put in the wrong place … If you don't know that BEFORE you ask, you should not ask. It is a sure sign of a weak player…”
“4NT is ridiculous… You need to know about trumps and red-suit queens. Please explain how you think a response to Blackwood will tell you that…?”

(To a beginner asking for info on conventions:)
“WHY??? It sounds like a case of trying to run before you can walk. Learn about basic bidding first.”

(And to others who had posted answers to bidding and play problems:)
“You really are clueless.”
“Your whole auction is too contrived for words.”
“Do you want a medal? You must play in weak fields.”
“Your suggestion is ludicrous … I suggest you give up the game. You apparently do not know what a 2C opener shows or how partner is to respond to it.”
“You can have any brain-damaged agreements you want with your partners BUT playing this way is a tell-tale sign to experts that you do not know how to bid.”
“Your last claim is a crock.”
“Ack. What a revolting suggestion.”
“This is complete rubbish, quite unbecoming the author.”
“This is not a flame, so don't take it personally, but the idea that the above hand is a strong 2C or 2D opener is sick.”
“This is complete bull.”
“This is horse s–t.”
“What kind of horse s–t is this?”
“The reason I try to reason with weak players like Mr. (NAME OMITTED) is not because I expect to convince them, but rather to dissuade novice ‘lurkers’ from these kinds of agreements.”

Come on, guys! Is there some reason you have to resort to insults to make your points? Are you personally trying to advance the stereotype that good bridge players (and I use the term loosely, since I have no idea of whether these posters are good players or not) are socially retarded blowhards with no communications skills?

This newsgroup invites “healthy” disagreement, but comments like the above are arrogant, obnoxious and, I suspect to some, hurtful. Especially disturbing are the frequent (and childish) retorts that other posters are “weak” or “clueless”. And there's no excuse for attaching such a label to a player by name (as in the last quote above).

Most of the people who incurred these insults made sincere attempts to answer questions or contribute opinions. It's clear from some of the victims' responses that they felt they had been treated rudely (in spite of the great sensitivity shown by prefaces like “this-isn't-a-flame-so-don't-take-it-personally” to comments like “your idea is sick”). Can't we treat them with a little respect and understanding?

If a poster's question hints that he's a novice or lacks some basic knowledge, there are certainly gentler, more helpful ways to respond than by telling him his bid is “ridiculous”, that his question is a “sure sign of a weak player” or that he “should give up the game”.

And if you don't have a direct answer to someone's question (as to the beginner who asked about conventions), then why ridicule him with curtly worded advice he didn't seek?

By all means, we should feel free to state our opinions, but it's not that difficult to infuse a little courtesy into even the most strenuous arguments. Eliminating the references to livestock pies would be a good start (interesting that most of these came from a poster whose email address begins bs@). And a little more of an “I-understand-your-thinking-but…” tone would make the writers appear more reasonable and their arguments more persuasive.

The next time you want to disagree with an opinion or suggestion made by a poster, why not take an extra minute or two to edit your first response? Tone down the hyperbole and invective; if your point is a valid one, your reasoning and evidence should speak for itself. Finally, try thinking of the other person's feelings and what your written words will tell all of us about your personality, intelligence and humanity.
Dec. 14, 2018
Karen Walker edited this comment Dec. 14, 2018
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Some are non-native English speakers . . . and some are men.

In general, women are better at being diplomatic and courteous in written communication. Men tend to be more “economical” in expressing themselves – they blurt out their opinions without adding the extra words that might soften a criticism.

I concede that you all know women who can be just as blunt and nasty as some of the men who post here. Me, too, but if I had kept a database of all the personal insults I had seen on the Internet over the past ten years, the male posters would outnumber the females by at least 10:1.
Dec. 13, 2018
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To me, a convicted cheater with any redeeming qualities at all would be so shamed that he would bar himself for life. I don't understand why these criminals would even want to force themselves back into the bridge world and deal with the contempt and suspicions.

Unless, of course, the lure of a payday – and a bit of sociopathy – makes them invulnerable to public scorn. That brings up another question: Why would anyone who cares about his own reputation play with – or worse, hire – a known cheater?

For me to ever become a Second Chance proponent, convicted cheaters would have to make full confessions and show sincere contrition, perhaps (as Chris suggests) in the form of a “disgorgement” of some of their ill-gotten income to an ACBL charity.

Most important, though, they would have to pledge to never again profit from the privilege of playing bridge. Let's see how many of them want back in if those are the conditions.
Dec. 11, 2018
Karen Walker edited this comment Dec. 11, 2018
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Online publication would save a lot of money on printing and postage, but there are other downsides that defeat the magazine's purpose.

A printed magazine is a tangible benefit of membership. It enhances engagement and communication with members because it's in their homes, where they may pick it up and read it several times during the month. It's a visible reminder that they are bridge players and they belong to the organization.

Accessing an online magazine requires more effort, and then it's invisible. People spend less time reading online publications than they do with printed versions, so even if everyone clicks the link and logs in, they won't absorb as much of the content.

Potential ACBL members sometimes balk at the cost of the dues. When I show them the magazine, they see more value and can justify the price as a subscription. I don't think I'd get the same reaction if I pulled out my phone and showed them a web page.

Our ex-CEO wanted to stop printing the NABC Daily Bulletins and put them online. He was finally convinced that this would not be a popular move – that people liked picking up the paper when they arrived, having a handy reference for event times and places, paging through it as they waited for the game to start, doing the crosswords.

Even the most tech-savvy people sometimes want to get away from their screens and stop burning through their data plans every time they want to read something.
Dec. 10, 2018
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We serve late-night snacks at our local regional because it reduces the rent. If we didn't pay for food, the hotel would charge more for the ballroom space.

What I've learned is that the only practical approach is to serve foods that appeal to the mainstream and, ideally, have some nutritional value. We try to build in some variety (pasta bar one night, something healthy the next), but we're limited by the hotel's menu and the costs.

The sure way to displease almost everyone is to try to cater to special preferences and dietary requirements. If the food has to be acceptable to vegetarians and Kosher dieters, why not those who are on diabetic, gluten-free, low-sodium and dairy-free diets? There are also many people who are allergic to nuts, soy, eggs, shellfish and pollen fruits.

If I took all of those requirements into account when choosing the menu, I'd have to serve salt-free, butter-free popcorn every night … and then I'd still hear from people with corn allergies.
Dec. 4, 2018
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Until 1913, that is pretty close to how U.S. senators were chosen. They were elected by state legislatures. The 17th Amendment changed it to a popular vote in part because instead of choosing good candidates who represented their states' interests, the legislatures were using the senate appointments to repay political favors and reward big donors.

I doubt anything so nefarious is operating in ACBL Units, but politics is politics, even at this level. Until the rank-and-file members show an interest in who is elected to the Board – and find a way to communicate that to their local bridge politicians – the Unit Board members are going to vote for the candidates they want, not the ones we prefer.
Oct. 27, 2018
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If you run a bridge club, the pickers are not your favorite patrons. They slow the game down because it takes extra time to replace the cards and their aim is not always accurate. That means the next person to use the box is going to have to search to find his bid – or call the director to report a “missing” card. More time wasted.

It also wastes money. Putting individual cards back into the stack frays the edges and shortens the life of the entire stack. Replacing the bidding cards is not cheap.
Oct. 26, 2018
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“Some of the people that played at night were as old as the people who now don't want to play at night.”

Very true. Back when I started, people of all ages played in games that ended at 11 pm, then they went and closed the bar.

Bridge was a lot more fun back then, and talking about hands after the game was one of the reasons. I learned a lot listening to the better players.

Now, our club games end at 9:45 and even the younger people rush out as soon as the last card is played. They go home to study their results alone, in front of a screen, instead of discussing the hands and socializing with other players.

It's a cultural change that has crept into other aspects of our daily lives, but it's an especially sad development for bridge.
Oct. 20, 2018
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You can vote your Board director out. It just has to be done indirectly, through the Unit Board members who cast the final votes.

It starts with identifying a good (and willing – not always easy) candidate to challenge the incumbent, then enlisting supporters throughout your District to lobby their Unit Board representatives. Those Boards are supposed to be accountable to their members. If you have enough players supporting a candidate – and an articulate argument about why change is needed – those voters should do their jobs and choose the candidate their members want.
Oct. 19, 2018
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You're shooting at the messenger.

I doubt that Jay was happy about having to make this plea, but he's trying to reduce the potential damages of a decision that was made seven years ago by a Board he wasn't even on. If this convinces anyone to give more consideration to booking at the host hotel, it was worth posting.

If nothing else, give him credit for being brave enough to sign his name – a refreshing change from the past when the mysterious “ACBL Official” tried to be anonymous.
Oct. 19, 2018
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I attempted to talk to a Board Member about the decision to hold the meeting in Hawaii. It went like this:

ME: Why did you vote “yes” to meet in Hawaii?
BM: Because we have so much important business that cannot wait until spring.
ME: It can't be done by teleconferencing?
BM: It's important to be able to interact in a face-to-face meeting.
ME: Then why not have the meeting in in Memphis?
BM: Because it's important that we meet at the NABC site.
ME: Why?
BM: I think my phone is ringing. Gotta go.
Oct. 18, 2018
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I'm late to the discussion, but I'll confirm that Barry is right. Although the Bulletin editors don't “officially endorse” what their columnists write, they review every article for content, accuracy and clarity.

The editors are accomplished players and are very thorough. If I write that “most experts” would interpret an auction a certain way, they're on the phone, calling players to confirm. They regularly use DeepFinesse to test writers' analysis of the play.

And no, no one is ghost-writing my articles.
Oct. 13, 2018
Karen Walker edited this comment Oct. 13, 2018
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I learned bridge from “Five Weeks” and have recommended it to many people. Its only disadvantage is that it teaches 4-card majors, but it's relatively easy to adapt the principles to a 5-card major system.

Bridge for Dummies is excellent, too – as is just about anything by Kantar. His Introduction to Declarer Play and Introduction to Defender's Play are classics that would be good companion volumes to “Dummies”.

Two other good options that offer sound advice and engaging writing styles:
Learn to Play Bridge by Gary Brown (ABTA's 2007 Bridge Book of the Year)
The Fun Way to Serious Bridge by Harry Lampert
Sept. 8, 2018
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There always seems to be a hint – or sometimes a bludgeon – of ageism in these discussions.

Is the age of other players really that much of a deterrent? When I started playing, I enjoyed “hanging out with a bunch of old people”. I had just spent four years with 35,000 people my age and I liked meeting people who had more life experiences (and bridge experience) than college students.

Our shared interest made all these “old people” ageless to me. The 70-year-olds were part of our group at the bar after the games, and the socializing did not include discussions of their health problems. One of my partners was a man old enough to be my father and we became lifelong friends.

I'd like to think that today's young people aren't such snobs that they are rejecting bridge solely because they want to be surrounded only by people who are just like them.

Maybe I'm just a dinosaur who should accept that young people really are turned off by the thought of spending time with seniors. Whether that's true or not, it's really not fair to describe older players as curmudgeons who shush their opponents and whine about their sciatica. There are plenty of dinosaurs on bridgewinners who may not care for that characterization, either – and cringe at the suggestion that we should “just die already”.
Sept. 6, 2018
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I'm sorry this happened to you, Amir, and doubly sorry that some questioned the accuracy of your account.

I have no idea whether or not you were exaggerating. What I do know is that this woman's feelings are not unusual. She just happened to be louder and more obnoxious about expressing them than most people.

I've seen her counterparts more and more often in recent years. If she's like the players I know, the source of her resentment isn't really your bidding system. And the silly speculation about her “coded racism” aside, it certainly isn't about that, either.

It's that by winning – or more generally, just being more skilled than she is – you are damaging her self-esteem. No matter how polite and friendly you are, her perception is that you think you're better than she is.

The evening game at my local club has always had a good number of strong players. For years, they and pairs of lesser ability enjoyed playing against each other in open games. That began changing a decade or so ago when some long-time, intermediate-level members started playing exclusively in the afternoon games, which typically have weaker fields.

Some of these players told me they stopped coming to the evening game because it had too many experts and it was too hard to win. I was disappointed that their priorities had changed, but at least I understood their decision.

Others, however, claimed that they left because the players were intimidating and arrogant, even nasty. They told stories about local experts who had had bullied them, ridiculed their play and gloated over their own good results.

The alleged offenders were people I knew would not do this and they denied it. I even observed a few of the “incidents”, and what happened was nothing close to the ways the offended people described them.

Like the woman at your club, they didn't want to admit that they just didn't like playing against better players. They were looking for an excuse that placed the blame elsewhere. In their minds, your innocent comment will always be a veiled insult, any attempt to be friendly is “patronizing”, preempting is intentionally taking advantage of them.

This sort of hyper-sensitivity is pervasive in almost all aspects of our society. Some blame it on the child-rearing trend that emphasizes building self-esteem and giving out trophies for coming in last. At bridge, though, it's multi-generational.

Running a club used to be more fun. It was a community of competitive people who enjoyed the game whether or not they were the best players in the room. Now, it's more like being a kindergarten teacher, and if you're one of the better players in the game, you have to be the teacher's aid to fit in.
Sept. 5, 2018
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