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All comments by Karen Walker
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Nine members on a committee is almost unmanageable. I have served on committees with four to seven members, and even seven was too many. It's not just a vote. The issues are clarified by a back-and-forth discussion, and that doesn't happen easily in a big group.

I will also hazard a guess that it WAS difficult to get members to serve on the Passell case, and those who volunteered did not do it gladly. No one is anxious to be put in the position of judging and sentencing a popular player, no matter how interesting or celebrated the case.

To read the other thread, those who did serve are now just a little less popular than Steve Bartman and should go into hiding if their names ever become public. The inflammatory “discussions” going on there may have these players thinking long and hard before they volunteer again.
Aug. 20, 2015
Karen Walker edited this comment Aug. 20, 2015
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Why do you assume that the “total idiot” was on the Bulletin staff? I have worked on the DB staff and I can tell you that in the past, we would not have been authorized to make a decision about publishing something of this nature. The printing of anything regarding League policy or actions was always a directive from an ACBL staffer or Board member and was subject to their approval.

Neither is it clear that idiocy played any part in this. My understanding is that regulations require that members be notified of committee actions and that the DB had little or no discretion in how to word the report.

Maybe that policy should be changed, but for now, all we can assume is that everyone involved was just doing what the regulations required.
Aug. 18, 2015
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I was originally scheduled to serve on this committee, so I have read all the documentation. For reasons not related to Mike, I had to withdraw. Serendipity.

The charges and supporting evidence created questions in my mind about intent and motive. If intentional, why would he so freely admit that he was responsible for touching the cards after the play? And why risk an act that was so likely to be discovered by the opposing team?

Someone who was trying to cheat – and I do know players who are capable of this – would either deny it or claim that the opponents accidentally mixed the cards when returning them to the board. Or maybe invoke the precedent of claiming that stress/depression/the voices in my head made me do it.

Thanks, Mike, for being so candid in sharing the details. I had hoped there was a plausible explanation and I was relieved to read your version, which was consistent with the facts in the charging documents.

About the Bridgewinners discussions:

I read the other thread, and I would not characterize it as a “mob”. With some over-the-top exceptions, even the more strident posters’ tone was a conditional “IF he cheated, bar him for life”. For the most part, it was a protracted discussion of minutiae, punctuated by some wild, but not necessarily accusatory, speculation. That’s a common malady on Internet discussion sites, especially when the vast majority of the posters have Y chromosomes.

Some who described the previous thread as a lynch mob are now guilty of creating another one by making precipitous accusations against the committee. They had a thankless job. We have no idea of what came up in the actual testimony and deliberations nor what constraints were placed on them, and we probably never will. Without these facts, the outrage is unjustified.

Ditto regarding the Daily Bulletin staff. They were required to report the findings and use that language, and they made a wise decision to wait until the last day to publish it. If they hadn’t published it at all, there would be 400 messages on Bridgewinners complaining about transparency and cover-ups.
Aug. 18, 2015
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Thanks, Peg, for sharing the perspective of tournament organizers. As the long-time chair of our local tournament, I'll add my agreement.

One issue for tournament chairmen is partnerships, and if awards are reduced – or entry fees increased – for 6-person teams, it's going to be more difficult to accommodate those who need partners. Our partnership chairmen often have to set up 5- and 6-person teams, and there are many times that I've asked an established team to add a single or pair who couldn't find team-mates. It's a lot easier to get people to cooperate if they know they'll be saving a few bucks on the entry fee without having to give up masterpoints.

I disagree with the idea that 6-person teams cost the tournament money because they're paying less per person toward the overhead, cost of snacks, etc. That's based on the premise that if you charged more and paid lower awards to multiple-person teams, all those extra people would form new 4-person teams and pay separate, “full” entry fees.

In practice, that would not happen. Some pro teams would stay home. Some of those fifths and sixths would not come to the tournament at all. Other teams would burn out and leave early.

I often play on 6-person teams, and some of my team-mates do care about the masterpoints. If the awards are reduced and they want to play with just four, I can do that, but it will affect how many events I enter. If I have to play every board, every session, without a break, I'm ready to go home after three or four days. The net result is that the tournament gets fewer dollars from me and my team in entry fees.

As a tournament chairman, I don't care about the proportionate fairness of six people paying the same entry fee as four. I would much rather have 6-person teams who enter every event than 4-person teams who go home mid-week. If ACBL has to provide the “unfair” incentive of equal masterpoints to every team member to encourage that participation, I'm all for it.
July 28, 2015
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For some historical perspective:
ACBL tried the “Pro Rush” concept back in the late 1970s. I don't remember the official names, but pair games at the nationals were divided into events called something like “Professional” and “Amateur” and all pro-client pairs were required to play in the Pro flight.

It was a failed experiment that lasted maybe a year. The Pro event was very small, and there were plenty of pro-client pairs who entered the Amateur event because the qualifications were impossible to enforce. Some might have been slumming for easier masterpoints, but in many cases, the pro pairs just didn't want to be forced to advertise financial arrangements that should be confidential.
July 27, 2015
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I'm enjoying these stories, although they make me a bit sad that attitudes have changed so much.

When I was a novice, our team played a big, gruff player who always scared me a bit. Unhappy with how his partner played during the match, he stood up after the last board and announced, in a booming voice that attracted the attention of several other tables, “It's embarrassing to lose to a team this effing bad.”

That story might not seem to demonstrate the benefits of playing against experts, but it motivated me. I was insulted but also amused. I don't even remember if we actually won the match, but having the Big Expert think that he lost, even for a moment, felt like a victory. We later became friends and team-mates.

Today, his outburst would be a ZT penalty and the novice might have been so offended that she would quit bridge forever. I don't want to go back to that lack of civility, but I wish more of today's new players had the toughness to laugh off the occasional bad actor and the motivation to keep competing in spite of failures.

I don't know if it's possible to revive that attitude, and I'm not sure the problem centers on masterpoints. Our society puts so much emphasis on instant gratification and self-esteem that people have become less patient with activities that make them feel inferior, even for a short time. They also have more choices, so if they don't experience fairly fast success at bridge, they move on.

I agree with everything Peg said, especially about selling the concept as competing against the player we were yesterday. It's a pretty small target audience, but if enough people are encouraged to try, the numbers might be there.
July 12, 2015
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I would expect the editors to work on Truscott's column because it originated with the NYT and was then syndicated out to other papers. My understanding was that Alder had his own syndicate and the NYT was just one of the papers that subscribed to his packages of columns.

If Alder is actually under contract to the NYT to write the original columns, not just provide them with the syndicated versions, then I agree, their editors would be responsible for polishing up the copy before the columns were sent to other newspapers. If that's the case, then giving Alder the axe means they're losing the syndication fees.

It also means that unless Alder takes over the syndication and keeps writing, newspapers throughout the country will have to find another supplier. That will give them an easy excuse to stop running their bridge columns, too.

Alder's column runs in my local paper. It disappeared a few months ago and the objections poured in. The editors assured everyone that it was not gone, just moved to a different part of the paper – the classified ads section (which is fast becoming the next candidate for elimination). Looks like it might be gone for good now.
April 29, 2015
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I don't believe Mrs. Mattoon's claim. They might have to spend some time formatting the copy to fit it on the page, but there's no way that a copy editor is checking the column for accuracy of the bridge analysis.
April 29, 2015
Karen Walker edited this comment April 29, 2015
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The issue isn't really whether or not avid bridge players can find another column. It's the loss of exposure and relevance. I've had many students tell me that they took my class because they had always been intrigued by the bridge column in the local newspaper and thought it looked like an interesting game.

My personal opinion is that Alder's column could be a lot better (the opening quotes waste space and make irrelevant, sometimes silly tie-ins to the bridge material). Good or bad, though, its presence in the paper is important in maintaining the public's awareness of our game.
April 29, 2015
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Such sad news. The first time I met Garey was when he (with Clarence Goppert and team-mates) showed up at the White Squirrel Sectional in Olney IL. We were all quite surprised to see a pro team at our “backwater” tournament.

I had about 20 masterpoints and was very nervous when we played Garey in the Swiss Teams. After he made a 4H contract, I was shaking my head. He correctly read my “I'm sure I could have beat this” expression and politely asked if I would like to know why he made it.

He first offered a compliment on how I had defended the hand up to the critical point, then explained why my club switch had given him his tenth trick and how I could have figured it out.

I was profuse in thanking him and apologizing to my partner. He finally saved me from total self-deprecation by squeezing my hand and saying, “A lot of players would have made the same lead, dear.”

To this day, I think of that match – and Garey's kind advice to a novice – whenever I see that suit combination (Qxx in my hand and 10xx in the dummy on my right).

The bridge world has lost a great player and gentleman.
Feb. 6, 2015
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Tom Dodd and Chris Habegger from South Bend IN. I think they were the champs for almost a year in the late 1980s.
Jan. 27, 2015
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I don't have an issue with the size of the city, either, nor even the host hotel rates as long as there are reasonably priced hotels nearby. I don't mind walking a few blocks to save $50 a night.

I had no problem finding good hotels in Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Toronto. A few times, I actually got the host hotel by accident (lower than ACBL's rate) by booking through Priceline and LMT.

That's the big problem in New Orleans. Even with the highest-priced rooms ever, ACBL actually has the best rate in town because other demand is so high. If the solution is to schedule more tournaments in off-season locations, maybe that should be the priority in the future.

Minneapolis in November sounds fine to me.
Jan. 23, 2015
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I have always wondered why the ACBL rooms are so often sold out several months before the tournament. No matter what the city, no matter how outrageous the prices, there are seldom enough rooms for the players who want them.

A logical assumption is that the more rooms ACBL promises to sell, the cheaper the rate the hotel would offer, but someone in the ACBL tournament department told me years ago that this isn't always the case. Hotels in big downtown areas may be stingy with the number of rooms they will put in the convention block because they think they're losing money on them (the idea being those rooms could be sold at retail rates to business travelers). The result is that to get a bigger block, ACBL has to agree to a higher nightly rate.

Another variable in rate negotiations is the number of comped rooms included in the contract. Maybe this is an area where ACBL could economize. I don't begrudge the Board members their free rooms, but do they have to be on the club floor? Does the president really need a suite as big as a ballroom and catered parties every night? How about giving the president just a “regular” suite and cutting back on the number of parties and guests?

Maybe someone who has worked in the hotel industry can explain exactly what factors come into play in these negotiations – and which contract concessions ACBL could offer to make tournament hotels more accessible and affordable for players.
Jan. 23, 2015
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Rooms are available for parts of the week, but none for Tuesday, March 10, which is when I'm arriving.

It appears that ACBL is not making good estimates of how many rooms are needed in the block to accommodate NAP players. The same thing happened at the Las Vegas NABC this summer. The LVH hotel had availability for most of the week, but quickly ran out of rooms for the Tuesday before the tournament, when the GNT events started.
Jan. 23, 2015
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I've tried a lot of different “hooks” over the years in ads and course descriptions and I've asked students what they remember from the ads and what drew them to the class. Based on those informal conversations, here are the words/terms/benefits that seemed to get the most positive reactions:
#1 - Play-as-you-learn
#2 - Bill Gates
#3 - The idea that bridge is more popular than they thought (world's most popular game, 60 million people)
#4 - fast-paced (mainly men)
#5 - psychology (mainly women)
Oct. 24, 2014
Karen Walker edited this comment Oct. 24, 2014
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Here's some copy I wrote for a radio PSA for a series of college lessons. When I rewrote it for an older group, I emphasized memory improvement instead of math and logic skills.

==============
Ever wonder what Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates does in his spare time?

He's a fanatic for bridge, the world's most popular card game. In this play-as-you-learn class, you'll discover why Gates and 60 million other people around the world can't get enough of this exciting game.

When you play bridge, you'll use – and improve – your skills in communication, logic, math and psychology, all in a fun, fast-paced group game. You'll also have the chance to win great prizes in a tournament at the end of the class.
Oct. 24, 2014
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I share some of Aaron's disappointment in the modern trend toward selling easy masterpoints and what many feel are tainted achievements. ACBL isn't the real perpetrator, though. We have a different culture today than we did when many of us started playing, and ACBL had to respond.

Flight B and C events weren't available when I was a novice. We entered 200-table open events at regionals and prayed for enough luck to scrape up a few gold points for topping a section or going 6-2 in the Swiss Teams. It took months of failures before that happened.

The bridge-playing population would dwindle quickly if we expected today's new players to deal with those frustrations. We now have a society where the masses demand instant gratification from leisure activities. If they don't get it, there are plenty of other choices, and they are quick to move on.

So ACBL added flights, new LM levels and gimmicks to give everyone a chance to experience some success and an incentive to come back for more. The Gold Rush games do that. They're a long-term home for those who don't aspire to become experts and don't enjoy playing against them. For others, they provide playing experience that serves as a stepping stone to participation in more competitive fields.

The latter group is what we need to develop and, as others have pointed out, most will be young people. Thanks to our educational system and some (misguided) child-development experts, many people in their 20s and 30s grew up in an environment that emphasized high self-esteem, whether it was deserved or not. Everyone in the class got gold stars on their arithmetic tests and trophies for their last-place sports teams (if the school even allowed them to keep score). If a child added 2+2=5, teachers were told to call it “creative”, never “wrong”.

The result is that great numbers of our potential players will need an occasional trophy (or masterpoint) to provide encouragement and keep their interest. There are many young people who are talented enough at the game to persevere without these fast rewards, but there aren't enough of them to keep bridge alive. If ACBL wasn't offering Gold Rush and other tiered games to attract the other 90+ (99?) percent, young and old, it would be a gigantic marketing blunder – and the rest of us would soon find fewer and fewer opportunities to play in any flight.
Oct. 16, 2014
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Another perspective, from a club manager who has to pay to replace the decks:

“Hard” shuffling a 13-card hand as if it's a full deck, and doing it numerous times, puts a lot of extra wear and tear on the cards, and they are not cheap. A gentle mixing of the cards is sufficient.

And while I'm at it, I'll add a complaint about the practice of pulling single bidding cards out of the box instead of taking out the stack behind the chosen bid. The extra fumbling on the individual bidding cards frays and creases the top tabs and putting each one back into the stack frays the bottom. Replacement sets are really not cheap.
Aug. 29, 2014
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We have “no methods”, but we have the eccentric agreement that a cuebid between two bidding opponents is 25+? Even in the Stone Age, that wasn't standard. I don't think 3S is the standout bid here, but if I chose that action, I can't believe any partner, including Charles Goren, would treat it as a high-card mountain.
Aug. 18, 2014
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Rules are rules, but I'd like for the directors to have some discretion in enforcing them. If a team can play fast enough to make up for a late arrival, then let them play all of the boards. Getting a “real” bridge result is always preferable to throwing out a board and assessing a penalty.

On the second day of the Platinum Pairs in St. Louis, my partner and I got stuck in traffic and a downpour and arrived 15 minutes late for the evening session. The director removed one board, explaining the assigned scores, and asked us to try and quickly play the other.

It was a fast auction and a faster claim, and because the session had started late, we still had 5 minutes on the clock. I asked our opponents if it would be okay if we played the other board.

They could have refused and taken their average-plus. The director could have refused and quoted rules and interrogated us about why we were late (maybe our drenched clothes made that unnecessary). But instead, everyone agreed and we played the board and finished on time.

I shouldn't be surprised to encounter such accommodating opponents and such a helpful director, but I was, very pleasantly.
July 30, 2014
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