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All comments by Karen Walker
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Bridge plagiarism is much more common than most of us would believe.

I have a lot of experience with plagiarists, having spent three decades teaching a college-level course in writing research papers. I have also been a frequent victim, if that’s the right word.

Bridge teachers have posted word-for-word copies of my articles on their own web sites, replacing my name with their bylines. A foreign bridge site removed my name and copied and uploaded my entire site (120+ files) to their domain. A nationally syndicated bridge columnist published a hand, the auction, analysis and blocks of copy from an article he found on my site.

These were all discovered by accident or by someone else who notified me. If I started searching, I’m sure I would find more.

In some cases, I’ve contacted the web masters and “writers” and asked them to either remove the articles or add attributions. A few were contrite and complied, confessing that they didn’t realize that what they did was wrong. They thought anything on the Internet was “fair game”.

Most, however – including a couple of professional teachers/players who should care more about their reputations – didn’t even reply. Although I felt taken advantage of, they didn’t really take anything of value from me, so I let it go.

I don’t excuse their thefts, but I can accept that they did not have evil intent. Most plagiarists are motivated by laziness, not larceny. Some lack confidence in their own writing skills and decide that they couldn’t say it better, so they don’t even try.

Their mistakes are breaches of ethics, not evidence of an unredeemable character flaw, and hardly deserving of the outrage and hyperbole in this thread’s comments. Calling plagiarism as serious as bridge cheating is like comparing shoplifting to the Lufthansa heist. Even hinting that it’s as heinous as racism and child molestation is downright disturbing.

Horton’s readers deserve to know what happened, but why did it have to be a public shaming? I don’t understand why Bridgewinners is involved, nor why the poster felt it necessary to go to any “authority” instead of contacting Horton directly. Horton should have been given the opportunity to admit his mistakes and apologize instead of being ambushed and defiled on a public forum.
July 25, 2018
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Here is the structure that I have long thought would be an effective way to reduce the size of the Board. If it can be an official motion, maybe it would at least get people to think about the problem.

Reduce the Board to nine voting members -– eight zonal representatives and one from the Board of Governors.

There’s no need to redistrict. For purposes of electing Board members, current districts would be grouped geographically into eight zones -– seven zones of three districts, one zone with four. Population could be considered when assigning zones, but it's more important that each zone comprise contiguous districts.

Each zone has one voting director and two alternates (one from each district), all elected to three-year terms. A type of term limit is built in, with the first alternate becoming the voting member after one year, the second alternate assuming that role in the third year.

Alternates can attend Board meetings at their own expense (or be subsidized by their individual districts). They would not vote, but would be available for committee work.

The Board would have one meeting at one NABC per year, with all other business conducted by email and online meetings.
July 23, 2018
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Don:
When you say it's incorrect that ACBL schedules regionals, are you just quibbling about the word “schedules”? Is “sanctions” the right term? Or “gives permission for”?

Or are you saying that the national organization actually has no control over how many regionals can be run on any given date – that district tournament coordinators make all those decisions? If so, then “sanctions” is the wrong word, too – and it's no wonder there are so many complaints.

I have to fill out a sanction application every year for my tournament and get approval from ACBL. If they can never disapprove, I'm wondering why that's necessary.
July 22, 2018
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Just one person has to “entirely own” ALL the shortcomings when a tournament doesn't get big attendance and run perfectly? That is harsh.

If I believed that, I would quit right now. And no one else would take the job, either, if they thought they would be judged by those standards.

I take plenty of blame when my tournament attendance goes down. I will not, however, “entirely own” it when ACBL schedules nine regionals east of the Mississippi – plus a sectional within 150 miles – all on the same weekend. That was their blunder.

Neither is it all my fault that the pool of potential tournament attendees is getting smaller and older every year. I've spent most of my life promoting bridge in my “realm”, but my reach and influence are limited. The Board of Directors is supposed to be helping by marketing the game nationwide – “to promote, grow and sustain the game of bridge”, as stated in their mission – and they aren't doing it.
July 20, 2018
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That is good news. We are envious of that turnout here in the backwater, although I don't know what we'd do if that many showed up here, as our hotel can't fit more than 90 tables a session. Congratulations to the organizers in Reston.
July 19, 2018
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David:
Thanks for your comments. I didn't take them as being overly critical, but you may have misinterpreted my main point.

I didn't mean to imply that Steve wasn't entitled to his opinion or his use of a “disapproving expletive” regarding Choice Pairs. I was interested in his reasons, which he explained in another post. I agree in large part with most of his observations.

My view is that the customer is always right, so I take complaints seriously. I have modified the schedule many times to accommodate those who make gentle suggestions as well as those who rail that I'm the devil for forcing them to play in their non-favorite events. Although I know it's impossible to make everyone happy, I keep trying – and perhaps that's part of my problem.

I assure you that I am not in denial about our lack of success in maintaining attendance. I consider it a failing on my part, although it's probably some combination of that and ACBL scheduling, gold points at clubs, demographics and some other factors I haven't been able to identify.

Yes, there are too many tournaments, scheduled too close together, but there are not easy solutions. In the Midwest, we don't dare try any dates in November through March.

Maybe ACBL should eliminate some of the spring and summer regionals here, but I'm not convinced that would significantly increase attendance at the others. We had almost 60 locals at our tournament and not one of them went to Chicago or Coralville. It wasn't because they were already “played out” or couldn't afford to go to a second summer regional. It's because most just don't travel. If we didn't have a local regional, many of them would never play in one.

I don't know what double message might have been suggested by my comment that our tournament was “doing fine”. Maybe I should have said “surviving”. My point was that small tournaments meet a need for important segments of our membership. As long as we aren't losing money or reducing the attendance at other tournaments, eliminating our regional is unlikely to solve the bigger problem of declining attendance everywhere else.

Your comments and observations are appreciated, and if you have other ideas, I promise I won't take them as criticisms.
July 19, 2018
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Emily:
Wow! And thank you! Very interesting breakdown.

For the Champaign Regional, total attendance by local players was close to 60. Our metro (ahem) area includes Urbana, Savoy and Tolono. A handful of other small towns within 40 miles sent people who regularly play at our club, so we consider them locals. There were also a few players who live here during the summer but have permanent addresses in other states.
July 19, 2018
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Steven:
Thanks for your suggestions about the Champaign schedule. I have actually tried some of these ideas, and for reasons that may be unique to our area, they didn't work.

In previous years, our schedule offered just a Stratified Swiss Teams on Thursday and just a pair event (barometer and BCD) on Sunday. I got hate mail (I am not exaggerating) about both decisions. The team players said they would go home rather than play a pairs event. The pairs players said they wouldn't come at all if they couldn't play pairs every day.

If Chicago managed to please everyone with just one choice per day, I'd be interested in knowing their secret.

I'm not sure why you believe Choice Pairs deserves an expletive, as it has actually been received well here because it accommodates everyone's schedule preferences. Our tournament has an afternoon/evening schedule for main events because players in my area prefer it. Some have full-time jobs, and this allows them to get in a half-day of work. Choice Pairs offers a two-session event for them and for those who want a morning/afternoon event.

I have a Gold Rush pairs running with every open pair event. I scheduled a Gold Rush teams with the open Swiss one year and it didn't draw enough teams. Maybe I'll try it again.

I agree there are too many regionals and that in general, bigger is better. Smaller does not make it bad, though, especially if it's drawing players who can't or don't go to other tournaments. Our tournament is one of only two opportunities our locals have to play in a regional without driving 150+ miles (the other is a small regional 75 miles from here).

Until about five years ago, we were averaging 800-850 tables. I don't know what has caused the precipitous drop in attendance, but we still do fine. We have an affordable hotel, players have fun, local charities get donations and we always make money. It would be a shame to axe our tournament just because it doesn't reach the numbers of those in bigger cities.
July 19, 2018
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I always enjoy watching you and Nick on Vugraph because you play a straightforward, mostly natural system. It would be interesting to learn how you've modified it over the years and what prompted the changes. Coach's recommendations, to cater to new bidding trends by opponents, to fix problems?
July 12, 2018
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It's still fun for me, but if I had to choose another adjective, it would be “enriching”.
July 9, 2018
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Steve: Can you share where your regional was? And maybe provide a link to the schedule?
June 9, 2018
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Here's a summary from my web site called “Why Play Bridge?”:
http://kwbridge.com/why.htm
June 7, 2018
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Ira points out one of the (many) problems with handicapping, which is that people have different ideas of how great the advantage should be to the lower-masterpoint team.

My view is that the handicap should provide a cushion, not a significant edge – similar to bowling, where you get only 80% or 90% of the difference in pins between your team's average and your opponents'. If both teams bowl their average, the higher-ranked team always wins. The team getting the handicap wins only when they bowl above their average and/or the higher-ranked team bowls worse.

Others seem to think that the handicap should be big enough to give the lower-ranked team a clear advantage. Essentially, the higher-ranked team always has to play better than average to win.

The other – and bigger – problem is that masterpoints are not a reliable indicator of what a fair handicap should be. At my recent tournament, we had to give IMPs to a team that regularly wins the top flight of team events, but has relatively few masterpoints. When lower-ranked teams played that team, they didn't get enough of a handicap to bridge the difference in skill levels.

In general, handicapped events give just about everyone something to complain about. Some teams are unhappy no matter how big the handicap because they just don't want to play against experts. The expert teams feel they have to run up the score to make up for big handicaps, which their opponents see as unsportsmanlike.

In an ideal bridge world, no handicaps would be needed. Less-experienced players would enter open events because they enjoy playing against better competition and want to improve their skills – and occasionally, have the thrill of beating a better team.

Those days, of course, are over, but there must be a better way to run knockout events at small tournaments. I don't know what the solution is, but I'm ready to scrap the handicapping system we have now and try something, anything different.
June 7, 2018
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ACBL records may not go back that far, but my memory does, and we did not have a regular May regional in our district any time close to 1993.

From around 1980 to 1992, Urbana had a sectional on the third weekend in May. I am certain that it was not in conflict with a regional in our district.

Maybe you're thinking about the St. Louis regionals, which were on Memorial Day in the late 1970s. Before the 1990s, Springfield, Decatur and Paducah had regionals in June. Peoria, Rockford and Fort Wayne had October dates.
May 31, 2018
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Terry:
I don't know where you got your information about the history of Champaign regionals, but it is in error. I have been running this regional since it began, which I can assure you was in 1993. Our city did not have a regional before 1993 unless it was back in the 1960s.

It's possible that our tournament drew some Chicago players who played in Minneapolis more than 25 years ago, but I doubt that's costing your tournament many tables now. It's another consequence of our aging membership base. Those players were likely in their 30s and 40s back then and willing to take a 6.5-hour road trip. Now that they're in their 60s and 70s, how many would still be driving that far to a tournament?
May 31, 2018
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Terry Beckman wrote:
“Champaign is the problem here. They moved to the Memorial Day weekend long after the other tournaments from the week before.”

Champaign has had a Memorial Day regional every year since 1993. We've never had a regional scheduled for any other time, so we didn't “move” to that week.

Champaign is more than 500 miles from Minneapolis and 450 miles from Cleveland – far enough apart that there shouldn't be that much of a geographical overlap in the areas we were drawing from. For years, that worked fine and all three tournaments did well.

Other cities became the “problem” much later. Around 2000, ACBL scheduled NINE Memorial Day regionals east of the Mississippi, plus a sectional in Milwaukee. Since then, there have always been six or seven regionals during this week.

Regionals in Midwest states have problems avoiding conflicts because we're competing for a limited number of dates. People here won't “risk” driving if the weather might be bad, so we're limited to April through October, and three of those weeks (Easter, Mother's Day and July 4) are out. Champaign is a college town, which eliminates even more weekends (local hotels sell out during campus Mom's Day, football games, high-school state tournaments, NCAA events and May and August graduations).
May 31, 2018
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One of the big differences between chess and bridge is that a player's chess rating doesn't depend on the skill of his partner.

A rating system that penalizes players for poor scores will discourage people from playing with less experienced partners. This type of rating system may be technically superior to just plain masterpoints, but if it disincentivizes mentoring partnerships, it's not good for bridge.
May 4, 2018
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Bridge expertise and an understanding of the issues that affect the entire membership are not mutually exclusive. Larry is probably right that the most elite professional players tend to be out of touch with the needs of the masses, but there are plenty of other experts who are.

These are the long-time members who are accomplished, successful players, but have channeled much of their bridge energy into volunteer activities. They teach, promote, run clubs, chair tournaments and serve on Unit boards. They have good ideas about how to recruit players and improve the game at all levels, from clubs to national championships, because they actually play in all of these games.

One of these people would have been a good addition to the search committee. Everyone on the committee is qualified, but 5/6 of them are Board members/bridge politicians. Another perspective might have provided a valuable balance.
May 4, 2018
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When you make your husband stop the car in the middle of that creaky bridge and back up so you can get a photo of the sign.
http://kwbridge.com/weakbridge.JPG
Feb. 5, 2018
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At a long-ago regional in Decatur IL, a man had a heart attack at Barry Crane's table during the Wednesday Men's Team event. Two players administered CPR until the ambulance arrived. The man died at the hospital later that day.

On Saturday, his wife was back at the tournament to play in the Open Pairs.
Feb. 3, 2018
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