Join Bridge Winners
A Modest Proposal
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After another day at the bridge club, pleased with my results but annoyed at the dwindling table count and general malaise of the game, I logged onto Amazon. To my surprise, Amazon had a new recommendation "Just for me"

"The History of Contract Bridge in America -- 1900-2050" by J. S. Schrecklicheschwein

Obviously this was a typo or a joke, but it was cheap enough (Thanks, Amazon!) that I ordered it on a whim. Thirty six hours later it arrived. For a joke publication, it was nicely done. Well typeset and reasonably if not elegantly bound. While flipping through the book I first noticed the appendix of all major national event winners.

But what caught my eye was chapter eight "2020-2030 : When the ACBL Revitalized the Game." I started reading...

"While warning signs had been visible for decades, the revolving door of leadership passing through Horn Lake seemed unwilling (or unable) to grapple with the issue, leading to falling membership and a general malaise of the once vibrant game.

But by the early 20's and another near bankruptcy, the ACBL started casting a wider eye and taking more desperate measures, which included -- for the first time, according to my research -- talking to actual people.

The rise of social media over the prior two decades had shown that vast companies could be built and fortunes could be made without providing anything of tangible value. By simply providing a platform for bragging, vanity, false humility, wit, insults and giving an outlet to all human emotions (high and low), the social media giants of the time had made billions while the ACBL dwindled.

The ACBL's existence had been based on this very idea: people would pay money to play a game traditionally played for free (not counting stakes) in kitchens, dorms, libraries and lunchrooms around the nation. And while card rooms charged, they provided a safe venue, nice playing environment, equipment (and sometimes act as enforcer or banker to transfer winnings). The ACBL did none of this (at least for the many clubs). 

It simply provided a crucible that let people judge your RHO's bragging. And everyone considered that a reasonable and valuable service. When a player in the 1950s quietly demurred, "why yes, I am a Life Master," this was the Eisenhower-era equivalent of a humblebrag, with ACBL providing the "Verified" blue check mark. But the ACBL had lost its way and thought it provided something tangible. In short, the ACBL thought it was General Motors, not Twitter.

And having not kept up with the times and the proliferation of how social media had changed culture, the ACBL had rested on that laurel for nearly seventy five years before some employee -- accounts differ -- took a look at 2020 era social media and realized what was missing. And that realization saved the company...

Perhaps the unknow savior of the ACBL was familiar with the works of Victor Mollo, when he (or she) proposed the Purple Point. But unlike Mollo's satirical Monster Points, which were meant to shame bad behavior, the Purple Point (its name evoking the U.S. Military's Purple Heart award for those injured in combat) offered consolation.

After all, the ACBL had been selling master points for winning for years. Why not sell points for losing? But just like any good humble-brag, GoFundMe request, or million-hit apology video on Youtube, it wasn't enough to simply lose. The ACBL cleverly setup awards so that players were rewarded for losing only to players much higher ranked. Originally only intended for knock-out matches, members soon demanded micro purple points for each zero inflicted. Fortunately with the revamped ACBLScore, this was easy enough to provide.

While Flight C's could earn purple points against Life Masters, even average Life Masters could "get purpled" by tossing a board against Diamond Life Masters or National (or World Champions).

With this simple change, Pros no longer inspired fear and muttering when they came to the table. The lambs awaiting slaughter now expected (and usually were) to be well compensated in purple points for their contributions to the game. Finally the ACBL had figured out how to align incentives so that everyone viewed Professionals as a net positive (if not an actual blessing).

Camaraderie also grew as tournaments abolished all of the ludicrous stratification. Players would no longer allow themselves to be relegated to flight B (or the 2nd bracket of a knockout) and lose out on the prospect of picking up a few purple points. And if they happened to not earn in purple, that meant they had acquitted themselves well, for the true genius of the purple point was that you could brag whether you won or not! Often a pair that avoided going purple scratched or even won the event, or could at least brag about having avoided any problems against famous players X, Y and Z!

The Social-Media influenced idea also lead to an actual increase in actual socialization between all levels of players, reverted the organization to the more genteel era in which it had flourished. Even during the first tumultuous years before the system was well tuned and players discovered they could earn more points by simply giving out a zero to top pairs, the game felt rejuvenated....

At this point, I stopped reading. Now I'm anxiously awaiting the result of this year's Spingold. If Schrecklicheschwein gets that right, I'll not only make a killing in the Bridge Winner's fantasy bracket for the next few years, I can finally allow myself to be hopeful about the future of the game.

Author's Note -- Yesterday I played one of the least pleasant matches it has been my misfortune to play. The setting was a free club swiss (with lunch provided) hardly the most cut-throat environment and what should have been pleasant fun. And in the third round when my partner (~3000 MP) and I arrived at the table we were greeted with fear and loathing.

"We shouldn't have to play you. We have a loss. Have you lost a match? No, I didn't think so. This is ludicrous. This swiss should be bracketed."

This would have been an uncomfortable diatribe to sit through if it had lasted a minute. It lasted the entire round.

Frankly, it would have been better for me if the lady in question dropped a few F-bombs (she's too nice for that) or directed any anger directly at me or partner, as then I could have summoned the director and/or clearly had the moral high ground to ask her to stop. (She's very nice, in general). I could have summoned the director (after a few minutes) and been in the right, but that certainly wouldn't have helped the game. We have a lady who is already threatening to walk away from a free game (Direct quotes include -- "If we have to play another good team after this, I'm going home" and "Partner, thanks for calling me to play, but in the future if its not a bracketed game don't bother.")

So partner and I let her vent. And -- in a way -- she wants what she wants. She'd like to win (sure) but frankly our team (with 3 experts and a mentee) is much better than hers and she (rightly) thought she was going to lose. If she'd simmered down instead of complaining incessantly she'd have lost by 15 IMPs less, but it still wouldn't have been close. She'd already lost to the eventual 6-0 winners (who we lost to narrowly to come in second) and -- as far as she was concerned -- having to face us was a bridge too far.

I want to play the best (playing NAOP Flight A when I could have played in Flight C) and sometimes our team will claim a ludicrous number of masterpoints for bracketed KOs or Swiss events. I suspect that's true for most BW readers. But its not the membership.

It's certainly not the lady from round three. 

Apparently my unconscious solved this problem, because when I woke today the idea of purple points popped up into my head. It's a silly idea.

Isn't it?

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