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All comments by Larry Lang
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Well. I have to secede the “last word” to Stu. It would be interesting to know what the committee thinks about the $1.9M write off. But I imagine they will keep their opinions to themselves, and perhaps rightfully so.
March 7, 2015
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OK. Is this committee reviewing the CEO? If not. Why not?
March 6, 2015
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I think this is an easy one.

Most private corporations (as well as non-profit organizations) eventually end up in the hands of a CEO, who goes out and buys $12,000 shower curtains for his new yacht. He appoints himself Chairman of the Board, Chairman of the Salary Committee, and responsible for appointing board members (just as he did with our very silent technology committee).

It is the job of the BOD to supervise the CEO. But this particular BOD cannot do so for 2 reasons:

1). There are two many directors to privately discuss and make thoughtful decisions.

2). They have never been a CEO of a a company and have no idea of what trouble signs to look for in a large organization.

In a sense, the ACBL BOD is ideally placed to appoint an independent Working Board of Directors (who would have to be paid something) to watch, hire & fire the CEO, set his salary, ensure transparency, and to pay attention to finances. They would protect the organization from the CEO, and perhaps protect the CEO from us when too many pitch forks show up at the front door.

The committee would not be elected. It would be appointed by the BOD (definitely not by the CEO). It should consist of members who are experienced with bridge AND management of large organizations.

The committee would be part-timers – consultants. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Fred Gitelman immediately come to mind. Ideally, the committee will consist of members with differing life experiences, which they can quickly bring to bear. They won't do much, unless they sense trouble.

On another note. Don't expect the ACBL to resurrect Bridge. It ain't happening. The demographics are overpowering. But we can demand that the CEO be open and honest, and that he bring down the ship gracefully in future years.

March 4, 2015
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This is the 2nd Technology Committee. The first one had very special members, including Fred Gitelman. After many meetings and a lot of work, their efforts culminated in the ACBLScore+ project. Almost $2M – seemingly down the drain.

We now have a newer technology committee. They are very capable, and good people, although perhaps not up to the celebrity status of Fred Gitelman. I don't see much difference.

Unfortunately, all software projects move to obsolescence the moment they are conceived in ways that cannot be predicted. A sense of urgency is important to reduce risk. So is a devotion to quality, a strong vision of what is trying to be accomplished, and determination to learn from past mistakes. I don't see that. I feel like I'm watching a dark comedy.
Feb. 9, 2015
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True enough. And the Canadians and Alaskans seem to play more bridge. But this is easy to explain.

In some parts of the world it's just too damn cold to do anything else except play bridge.

And people in Socialist countries can't afford Nintendo so they play cards. (You'll have to forgive my conservative views. I'm from the sticks).

Feb. 2, 2015
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How can I not admire someone like Jim Priebe who agrees with me? Exactly, we need a champion – or some real off the wall ideas.

A lot of the people on this site (I've never met any of you and yet you seem to know each other) sound like big city slickers from the East.

I'm from the sticks. And I gotta tell you – we are already fighting for survival. Units that used to have their own sectionals are closing up. Most of the bridge clubs in Eastern Washington are slowly moving towards going belly up with perhaps the exception of Spokane and Tri-Cities – and they're not that far behind.

“Tournaments will be attended as long as they're fun” What tournaments are we talking about? It's a 3-hour drive to Seattle, and out in the West – that is a long drive. Give us 10 more years and we won't have any tournaments in Eastern Washington. And who wants to play in Seattle? Those folks aren't as cordial as people from the sticks.

I've thought about this quite a while. My best proposal is so desperate and unlikely as to be laughable.

We must recognize that video games have changed the landscape, and many of the people that we want to enlist are playing video games. Maybe ACBL creates a World of WarCraft game with mazes, different kinds of puzzles, and a place called Bridge Town – or something similar. Video players have adventures, gather tools, and get bridge robot upgrades. Eventually, they get opportunities to improve their character's capabilities by playing bridge themselves against other human players, or by coaching their robot to play better bridge. The process could approximate adaptive learning. Improving their bridge skills painlessly and in a fun way. The site should be affordable but not free. They must feel they are playing for stakes. Perhaps the site is partially sponsored by ACBL. Perhaps the first 3 weeks are free. Perhaps the ACBL partners with a computer gaming company. Compare “Learn To Play Bridge”, versus “Worlds of Warcraft”. Which would you prefer to play if you were – anybody?

To interest adolescents – the more upgrades you add to your bridge robot, the sexier it looks. Just the look of your bridge robot portrays it's capabilities and your status as a gamer.

I'm emphasizing game robots so that players of average intelligence can compete as well. They compete more by upgrading their robots, which they can use as a stand in.

Those more interested in actually playing, participate in corners of the game in which they compete against each other – perhaps with a robot as well.

Also, we need to convince schools and parents that bridge introduces inductive logic capabilities to kids at an accelerated rate and will increase their scholastic capability.

Finally, we need to convince teenagers (and younger) that bridge is a high status activity. We tackle that by actually awarding game bonuses (or other kinds of bridge bonuses) to people who achieve at school in ways that are “cool” as well as perhaps scholastically. Cheer leaders, high school officers, band members, jocks, and honor students all achieve “awards” from the ACBL for bettering themselves or serving as role models. So, if you show up at the gaming site with significant extra hardware, you are a “cool” person.

If it sounds like a lot of work and unlikely to achieve the objective, I agree. Since I can't think of any better ideas – that's scary.

It will take a true champion to “reverse the tide”.

Feb. 2, 2015
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I run a club for bridge newbies – most are 60 or older. I tell them Bridge is good for their health and I believe it is. However, the newbies are not going to last much longer than the “oldies”. It might go the other way around, because dyed in the wool bridge players are too stubborn to die.

Studies suggest that after a certain age, mental activities are more beneficial to our personal health than physical exercise. And Bridge is better mental exercise than slam em up video games. But the same study indicates that the best thing you can do for your health is to be in the same room with another person. More of your brain lights up than for any other activity. It is what we are born to do. (By the way I consider myself to be an introvert).

As an aside, it is only a 15 minute drive to any place in the city where I live. So that also explains a potential difference. Perhaps you should introduce some kind of Black Plague into your area It's amazing how it can reduce traffic congestion and holiday shopping blues.

Feb. 2, 2015
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I care greatly about the future of bridge as well.

We don't meed a Marketeer at the helm, (i.e. someone like Steve Ballmer of Microsoft) we need a Sociologist. But I suspect that not even Hari Seldon or a Second Foundation can save the day at this point in time. The demographics are incontrovertibly stacked against us.

Within 10 to 20 years, actual playing cards will be an unnecessary encumbrance. Any semblance of bridge, as we know it, will be played electronically, perhaps with surgically implanted cell phones. And that's not the kind of bridge I'm interested in. I want opponents (and partner) at the table so I can visit.

Suzi can't help you. Neither can Hartman.

If you wish to tilt at windmills (I do so all the time, and I'm not denigrating it as an activity) I suggest you try something equally intractable but more important – such as zero population growth.

Please don't be offended. I'm not insulting your concerns – I agree 100%. But if you are determined to try to do something about it, I would suggest looking elsewhere for actionable ideas.

Feb. 2, 2015
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Thanks Andrew. You can bet I'll take a look.

And thanks to Kopera (I think) for being – Kopera.

Jan. 27, 2015
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That sounds interesting. Another problem I wrestle with is the 4 card Major with 5 clubs. Did you use some sort of canape for that as well?

And while I'm on it. How did you handle all the 4414 combos? I like the Precision 2 Diamond bid, but I also like weak 2 twos as well. It seems that weak diamond 2 bid will come up much more often, which is no big deal at IMPS, but definitely worth considering at match points.
Jan. 27, 2015
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After thinking about it some more – Switching 1H and 1S opening bids is probably a bad idea. Responder cannot pass as often, and so the switch ends up losing more bidding space than any gain it might cause.

Jan. 27, 2015
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Okay. I'm speculating, just as you are. And both of us are guilty of stating things as fact that are not necessarily so.

Your statement that there are no benefits to opening 1H with 5-5 in the majors cannot be proven. It's very difficult to prove a negative. If you purport to be stating facts, you are just plain wrong. And I'm probably guilty of the same crime.

You've asked for my reasoning – which I admit could be in error. I'll assume you are sincere and interested in what I have to say. Please keep in mind that I'm most interested in adapting Precision to play in Match Point events,

Statistics indicate that the “good part score contracts” are 1NT, 2H, and 2S. This comes from statistics taken from OK Bridge. And statistics are simply that – statistics. 3C and 3D are net minus contracts, but they aren't as bad as letting the opponents play in 2H or 2S. Thus about 2/3 of the time, the par spot for a match point battle is at 3 of the lower suit. The pair that bids at the 3 level doesn't “win” – they just lose less than if they let the opponents play in what I call “A Happy Two.” A happy two occurs when the opponents bid to 2 of a suit, and they are clearly happy to be there. In that case, I usually feel mandated to force them to the 3 level unless I have some unexpected holding in their suit – like QT9x or something like that.

My whole philosophy as a match point player is that generally I'm too stupid to know when to let the opponents play at the 2 level. So generally I don't. I assume that someone must play at the 3-level, unless alarm bells go off. I think the Law of Total tricks gives a trump total of 16 or more about 70% of the time. In other words, most of the time it is right to play at the 3 level by the Law of Total Tricks.

I agree with you that spades is the most important suit – for so many reasons that I can't count. The spade suit can act as the “bluff” suit – the thing we use to make them bid higher. But sometimes it is the suit we must completely describe, so we know exactly how high to go. When that's the case, I call it the “Boss suit”.

Obviously hearts are important as well, but more often, hearts is the obfuscation suit – the suit we use to push the spade people higher. Sometimes I pretend to have more hearts than I have, just to get the spade bidder to make a mistake. The guys with spades are more often in control, and the people with hearts have less control. I even grade my weak twos and preempts this way. I am more disciplined with spades, because often partner will make the final decision, and if we have spades usually we are in the “captain's chair”.

If spades is the most important suit, and if it can be used in several different ways – both obfuscation but also as the “boss” suit, we want as many different auctions as possible to help us out so we can use it to maximum advantage. Opening 1 Heart with the spade suit gives us twice as many available auctions, and it obviously is a plus to open 1H with the spade suit. Is such an approach twice as good? I don't know.

If my penalty for opening 1 Spade with hearts is greater than my bonus for opening 1 heart with spades, then I'm wrong. But I'm not sure it is. Spades is the more important suit.

Your concern involves the heart suit. If I open 1 Spade with hearts, how do I pass out the hand at one heart? My experience tells me that I don't play in 1 Heart very often. When I do, I probably shouldn't have been there. In my experience, the auction usually goes to the 2 or 3 level.

I know I can devise a system in which I get better results by opening 1 Heart with a spade suit – rather than opening 1 Spade with spades. I might have to experiment, but eventually I'll get there. But how about opening 1 Spade with a heart suit? Do they counter balance?

If we talk in the context of Precision and match points, devising a system for an opening bid that swaps hearts and spades is easier than if we were playing Standard American and IMPs. I'm fairly confident I can do so, but I'd really have to take a deep look and get out my DealMaster Pro software to test my theories.

The 1 Spade bid effectively acts like an 11-15 2 Heart bid, in which opener might only have 5 hearts. There is a lot of room between 1S and 2H to decide if we want to go higher.

If I open 1 Spade, showing hearts, we are in grave danger of losing a 4-4 or 5-3 spade fit, and as you mentioned, spades is the most important suit. So I'm going to have to pull a fast one. I'm going to say that since I am playing Precision, I can use the 2D bid as suggested by Jannerstein to also show a Flannery hand. Thus, 1 Spade never shows 4 or more spades. It shows 5+ hearts and 3 or less spades.

Maybe the responses to 1S (showing hearts) would go like this:

Pass = 5+ spades, 0 or 1 heart with 0 to 10 HCP
(This is a waste of what should be the most popular bid in bridge – pass – and I don't particularly like this response.)

1NT = 0 to 10, denies 5 spades – partner will usually pass.

2C = relay, 11+ HCP, denies 5+ spades
2D = 11 to 13 and 5 hearts
2H = 6+ hearts and 11 to 13
other bids show 14+

2D = relay, 11+ HCP, promises 5+ spades
2H = denies 3 spades and shows minimum
all other bids are pretty much game forcing

2H = heart raise

2S/3S = 6 to 10- points / 11 to 12 points, 6+ spades

Other bids = same as SAYC

If you are truly interested in how this would work out in the field, I could spend a lot of time, do some simulations, and tweak the system.

If I liked it, eventually I would be told the system is forbidden in most ACBL events.

I don't expect you'll see this approach anytime soon.
Jan. 27, 2015
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Is Precision a “natural” system? The question was raised in the context of a system like Precision.

Yes, “un-natural” systems are more difficult to remember, and I'm not suggesting that they are better.

Actually, they are better if both partners have identic memory.

But clearly, if memory isn't an issue. A one heart bid should show spades (the most important suit) and 1 Spade should show hearts. Meckwell Precision has some similarities. And there is a hint of that kind of thinking in what Eric is proposing.

Maybe 1 Club should show spades, 1D should show hearts, and so on. But in Precision, the first two bids are taken up for other reasons.

Jan. 26, 2015
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I think there is a theoretical reason for opening 1 Heart with 5-5. In an ideal bidding system, 1 Spade openers should occur at half the frequency of 1 Heart openers. Yet we do just the opposite, and give the preference to 1 Spade.

If I remember correctly, Barry Crane used to open 1 Heart with 4 hearts and opened 1 Spade with 5 spades – same kind of deal?

I'm also wondering if Match Points versus IMPs might make a difference. I love Precision at IMPs. But I sometimes wonder if it could be tuned differently for match points, and get much better results.

So yes, if they compete, it is not good, but do I care at Match Points? Will I get burned that often if I come in with a 5-card spade suit at the 2 level? Heck, I come in with 5 card spade suits to the queen without any other redeeming features – at the drop of a hat – let alone when I have a 5-card suit on the side and no one can mention spades. I do all sorts of outrageous things, and never seem to get burned. Nobody doubles for penalties anymore. Maybe I'll just barrel along and take my zeroes when they come. If I get enough tops other times, I don't care. It would be interesting to try.

I see no votes from people who refuse to try it, and sympathy from those who have – which is also interesting.

Jan. 26, 2015
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I give it to the one who looks most ready to receive it. (The first to get their hand back in the board and to finish writing on the score sheet – the one who is looking at me.)
Jan. 2, 2015
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Kevin Lane,
Thanks for the explanation.
What I'm hearing is that a legitimate motion was to be discussed at the BOD meeting, calling for an independent Technology Committee and the item was removed from the agenda without explanation. That's all I need to know in regards to what I care about – open and honest communication – without political shenanigans.
In my book, the other issues pale in comparison.

Just to give you an idea of what can happen when people are not honest, I live next to a nuclear reservation called Hanford. We have about 100 tanks of nuclear waste, each tank bigger than some football stadiums. Most of the tanks have waste that should just sit for 300 years, and then it will be relatively harmless. ( Another generation of tanks should be built to keep the waste stationary). About 5 of the tanks store bad stuff that won't decay, which needs to be turned into glass and stored at Yucca Mtn, which was recently shut down by an executive order from Obama in what a recent government report calls a “triumph of politics over science”.

$2 billion dollars have been spent a year, for maybe 20 year now, and will be spent every year for perhaps for another 80 years to complete a thing called a vitrification plant that will probably never run. If it does run, it will convert the low-level waste, which isn't a problem. Because the vit plant has at last count 385 significant design problems, a few of which could result in a criticallity, the stuff that needs to be glassified, will probably never go through the plant. The only reason they will run the plant is to show that they “can do it” and therefore have something to show for the $20 billion spent so far.
Meanwhile, some of the tanks are leaking and need to be replaced, but this isn't happening because DOE keeps pretending they have a plan.

All of this information is in reports, but they are not available to the public. Why? Because of the lawyers. They're afraid that if these reports are released, people will lose their jobs, and DOE will get sued. So the reports stay buried, and the biggest financial fiasco imaginable keeps on going.
Meanwhile, the environmentalists are happy, the state is happy (it gets $2 billion a year coming into the area) and DOE cannot afford to admit failure, so they keep a lid on it and kick the can down the road to the next administration.
Open honest communication is the only antidote for these kinds of things.

Dec. 30, 2014
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The whole thing still seems odd to me.
But I do know that the incoming Pres of the BOD is not instated until after the new year starts, and the outgoing Pres is probably unlikely to take any action this late in her term, for fear of stepping on the toes of Suzy. So the BOD may be more interested than it appears at this time.

Dec. 30, 2014
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I am curious who made the original motion, why they retracted it, and if they are now on the technology committee.
Do I have this straight? Motions can be submitted before the BOD meeting without anyone knowing where they came from? Then the motion can be retracted, just ahead of the meeting, and no one knows why or who retracted?
Doesn't this seem odd?
Dec. 30, 2014
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Your goals and mine are not quite the same.

You wish to “usher in the 21st Century of IT” which is all very good. I just want the ACBL to do what is best for its stake holders. Maybe our wishes follow the same path, maybe not. I really don't know.

If the committee is balanced and open, I can accept the recommendations, whatever they might be, and go on. They are very smart people. We might actually get some sense of closure.

My question to you is, what if they don't recommend what you want? Is the matter over? Are you setting yourself up for a heads, I get what I want. Tails I ask for another flip of the coin?

I'm not trying to suggest ulterior motives. You don't want to turn the ACBL upside down. But it seems to me if we say the content of the committee doesn't matter, closure will be very elusive.

Dec. 29, 2014
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I agree, who needs more enemies.

But if Hartman is chairing, shouldn't Nicholas be on the committee as well? If we want to make good decisions, all stories need to be told. Has Nicholas been asked to present to the committee? Probably not. Will he be asked to present? Not if Hartman is chair.

I believe that Hartman cannot allow the committee to succeed. If they come to a good solution, he looks like a ditz. If he recuses himself, at least he has shown good faith.

Most of us know that any software project can blow up – big time. It's so easy to get sold a bill of goods that just doesn't turn out. If you've worked long enough at software, then you've been part of such a project yourself.

Hartman was not around when the thing got started. I can easily forgive and forget if he is open, and if I believe he is acting in the interest of ACBL members.

But he seems intransigent – determined to treat all software efforts as secret endeavors and to cover his rear.

I hope I'm wrong. It happened once about 10 years ago. I think I was managing a software project at the time. (Never happens at the bridge table, my finesses always work)

Dec. 28, 2014

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