Paul Cronin

Bridge Clubs Re-Opening??

With Covid cases again on the rise, it will be interesting to see how many people turn out for F2F bridge at the clubs which are re-opening. Hopefully, it will be lots, as online bridge, as convenient as it is, is just not the same. Good luck to all!


With bridge clubs now being closed due to the corona virus, many (I hope most) of our bridge community are self-quarantining at home…something that is probably more difficult for bridge players than for the general population, as the bridge players are used to the activity (sometimes daily) and the socializing that takes place when they play at their local club. I hope that when this terrible time is over, everyone will remember how much they missed their friends and fellow players, and will show how much they missed them by being especially appreciative to one and all. Don’t forget that bridge is just a game, albeit a wonderful one, but friends and fellow players are to be treasured. 

From Bad To Worse !

For most of its history,  the ACBL  allowed players at clubs to send reports or complaints to their Unit Recorder. This was of particular advantage to players in one-club towns (or smaller cities) who had complaints involving the club manager or club owner, as their complaints would obviously not receive a fair hearing, and they could not vote with their feet and play elsewhere. It also had the overall advantage of the Unit Recorder being a centralized repository of misbehaviour by the same player across a number of clubs. In recent times however, possibly because of the litigation paranoia that exists in the US,  this procedure was abandoned, and regulations were enacted that decreed that all club misbehaviour, except serious cases of ethics violations, be handled at the club level. Now, to make things worse, the ACBL has  decided that, effective January 1, 2020, the positions of Unit Recorder and Unit Disciplinary Chair will be abolished. This means that players wanting to report or complain about something that happened at a Sectional will no longer have access to their Unit Recorder, but will have to send same to the District Recorder. Given the size of some Districts, like District 2, this will present some interesting problems in hol ding a disciplinary hearing….suppose a player from St. Catharines goes to a tournament in Manitoba, and files a complaint against a Manitoba player that results in a hearing. Where would the hearing be held? There’s always Skype, or something similar, but not at all like a personal face-to-face hearing. What will the next step be? Taking the Districts out of the picture and having all cases heard by the ACBL Appeals & Charges Committee? With all the real problems that the ACBL faces, why would it choose to make an already bad situation worse? Would love to hear from anyone on the ACBL BOD as to why they voted for this. 

Look Ma, no hands!

Checking some recent results saw that a 3 table club game awarded 1.90 MPs for coming first. There were 2 “A” pairs and 4 “B” pairs. Good reminder for me that “master points are sacred….you just can’t give them away”.

Where is the oversight?

So many people in so many Units and Districts work so hard to put on tournaments for us to enjoy, and their Board members keep a very careful eye on expenses so as to avoid losses and ensure that the tournaments continue to be offered in the future

Is the ACBL marching to a different drummer?

Losing somewhere between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 on the failed Score project 

Losing in the neighbourhood of $500,000 to $700,000 on the Hawaii NABC

Looking at a possible payout of $500,000 in the Bruce Blakely lawsuit

Looking at a possible arbitration payout of $750,000 to Ex-CEO Bahar Gidwani

A write-off of about $320,000 for the incompatibility of the Microsoft Customer Relationship Management software

A 2018 operating loss of $1,078,675

No Unit or District would or could operate like this, and since ACBL BOD members are elected by the Unit Boards, it is time for the Unit Boards to take a much, much closer look at those we elect. Either we start doing better, or we start printing money.





Here we go again!

This March 16-18 will see the fifth running of the ACBL “human and a robot partner versus two robots”  tournament. If you win, you get 48 MPs and a national championship title. In this tournament, you are always South, and you always have the best hand. You and your partner will have 20+ points five times out of six. The robots have a lot of inadequacies, including not being able to read signals, and playing you for what your bid(s) indicated even when it is impossible for you to have remaining in your hand what your bid(s) promised. Players familiar with the robots have learned their idiosyncrasies, and make bids that take advantage of them. Here are a couple of examples:

South holds  KJ9532   Q    AQ86     AQ…opening 1C and rebidding 3NT earned 99.62%

South holds  AQ82     K964    5   A1082.. opening 1D and ending in 3NT earned 99.6%

What this has to do with bridge as we know it is …….nothing, and, in my opinion, certainly does not warrant awarding a national championship to the “winner”. It does bring in additional revenue, so maybe there will be a national championship as well for winning a “Bingo Bridge” tournament where, instead of the bingo board having numbers, it has 25 different contracts. When your side makes one of those contracts, you daub that square, and go on to the next hand. Imagine needing a contract of 2D for a “bingo”, and you and your partner have 38 HCPs between you. Think of the monetary possibilities here in writing books, charging for courses, opening a “Bingo Bridge” center…….there’s gold in them thar hills! 


The State Of The Union

When one talks about “the health of our game”, it’s good to keep in mind that a significant number of people do not see bridge as a “game” at all. When wandering into a bridge tournament and seeing the hundreds of books on sale, or looking at the masses of exotica a number of players have scrawled on their convention cards, it would seem to the non-bridge playing observer that it would be easier to take up nuclear physics than it would be to take up bridge. It’s all very intimidating to the neophyte, especially in this modern age when the really popular games are those that are easy to understand, can be learned quickly, and where the average person can actually picture themselves (perhaps unrealistically) taking part. A case in point would be the popularity enjoyed by Texas hold-em poker. Back in the day when tens of millions of people did play bridge, nobody took lessons or pored over stacks of books….they just sat down and played, because at that time bridge actually was a game….simple, quickly learned, and easy for the average person to picture themselves taking part. A cynical person might also observe that a lot of bridge today is driven by money, as in the number of courses being offered to teach new systems and conventions. You can’t make much money teaching something old, so you always have to have something new to offer. When everyone has learned to play 2/1 then it will be time to introduce 3/1. When everyone has mastered transfer over-calls, it will then be time to move on to upside-down over-calls. Eventually there will be a few dozen theorists left playing on the internet, who will announce from time to time that they have invented a 146th. way to use a double, or that an opening bid of one heart can be any one of 75 different hands. Stir into this the issue of hired professionals playing for money, and the concomitant cheating that this has resulted in, and one has to take a close look at the meaning of “health” as well as the meaning of “game”.

Curiouser & Curiouser

A couple of interesting results from two recent club games:

(a) coming second in a 13 table open game paid  0.91 master-points

(b) coming second in a 2 1/2 table game the next day paid 1.25 master-points 

It’s easy to forget how sacred master-points are, and good that events like the above

bring us back to earth.

On a unrelated note, the Hawaii NABC looks like it will come in at slightly over 6,000

tables……for a loss of over $600,000. Combine that with the $2,000,000 Score fiasco

loss, and the subsequent IBM software incompatibility loss, and I wonder if fees will be

going up.  Maybe the committees could stop working on  CDR changes, or bringing

in new allowable convention charts, for a while and concentrate on getting the financial

house in order. 

On a more positive note, there can’t be many headquarters people left to fire….stability

is good! 

Going….Going……Gone !

A club game recently paid 2.63 master-points for a 4 table game, albeit some kind of club “championship” or club “appreciation” or other “special” game. The average master-point holding of the 14 players who didn’t win was 723 and the winning pair had an average  of 5,512 master-points apiece. Aside from the issue of selling master-points, there is a “quality of field” issue here that should be addressed. It occurs as well in  tournaments where winning “A” players receive large master-point awards for supposedly beating their peers, when in fact they play very few of their peers and a lot of “X” players who are forced to “play up” because of the stratification limits, and are nothing but cannon fodder for the “A” players. Maybe tournament attendance would stop falling if the 5000+ players had their own section (it would be very small), the 2500-4999 players had their own section(s), and so on for the “B” and “C” players. Then base the master-point awards on the number of tables in each section. Maybe the “C” level would have the most tables and get the biggest master-point award. Am I hearing the shrieks of anguish already, crying “But you can’t give the larger master-point award to the lowest level players!” ? Oh yeah….I forgot…..master-points are sacred.

Robot Weekend World Cup Geo Day 2

On Board 1 South holds

KJ9532     Q     AQ86     AQ

After passes by N and E, what is your opening bid?

This particular S opened 1C.

West passes, and N bids 1H.

East passes, and it’s back to S….what would your call be?

S’s actual rebid was 3NT  (why would you want to mention a 6 card spade suit ?) ,

making 5, for a score of 99.62%

On to Board 2, where there are again two passes to South, who holds

AQ82     K964     5     A1082     and you would open ???

This time our intrepid S opens 1D.

West passes and N bids 2D, which E passes. Back to S, and your rebid is ??

S’s actual bid was….2H…..I guess you don’t play reverses with a robot partner.

W passes, and N bids 3D, which E passes.

Back to you as S, and you bid ??

S’s actual rebid was……what else?…….3NT…….making 3 for a score of 99.6%.

Does this have any relation to bridge?

Out of the 8 boards played, S played 3NT six times, and 4 S once.

Six of the eight N-S results scored over 90%, and S is BBO’s top master-point holder.

Not the grand and majestic game that Judy so often brings back memories of !