Paul Cronin

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”.


Judy Kay-WolffDecember 19th, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Hi Paul,

What an appropriate post!

Yes, bridge has turned into a three-ring circus. Maybe if the so-called ‘powers that be’ made an effort to officially introduce our once-majestic game into the school systems in our zone, it would have a chance to survive. We have around 170,000 members of the ACBL while over 200,000,000 children are learning, studying and playing bridge in China!

It is time someone stepped up to the plate and made an attempt to save our game!

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Hi Paul,

No doubt Paul that your description of what a present day CC looks like is enough to make a mediocre movie look more enticing.

And for critical thinking in the future of bridge in North America is, at least to me, downright dependent on Judy’s judgment, “develop bridge in our primary and secondary schools and two positive things immediately happen,

1. Bridge is insured a future similar to China and 11 countries in Europe soon to be more.

2. The accolades from the students and the teachers reactions to bridge in the school systems ring from both the mountaintops and the glens, but most encouraging are the raves from the parents of the students taking the bridge courses. Finally a student who looks forward to his classes (or at least class) where fun is injected to the learning process and all of a sudden arithmetic in the form of numeracy is learned and sometimes mastered when it should be, at an early age.

To say time is fleeting is obvious, but instead of politics and money, perhaps our governing bodies both with the ACBL BODs and Horn Lake can turn to what is no doubt the imperative order of the day, secure bridge teaching in our schools.

Those rave notices from elsewhere should make that task much easier to accomplish than arguing about how much to cheapen the masterpoint this year instead of next.

Thanks to both of you for writing an up to date progress report on the current failures with our bridge political leaders and their home office.

Paul CroninMarch 24th, 2019 at 2:55 am

Hi Bobby,

You are so right about bridge in the schools….but the ACBL doesn’t see any (immediate) cash return from that, so instead they turn to offering online “tournaments” where you play against three robots and get a National championship if you win, and they do it because they get an immediate cash return from the online entry fees. “Deepthroat” had it right in saying “Follow the money”


bobbywolffApril 13th, 2019 at 1:43 am

Hi Paul,

Your comments are on target, especially about the robot tournaments and thus the masterpoint awards. However perhaps they could give reverse masterpoints in those robot tournaments with the maximum awarded for finishing last.

No doubt “Deepthroat” had it right except when following the ACBL and its projects seems to include a magician, who makes “money” disappear.

News from them is so disheartening, I’d probably be happier to hear that someone stole it, rather than so many failed adventures and investments.

And although I am not personally affected by increased entry fees anymore, when they talk about further increasing those fees, how can they possibly justify such a thought since neither the ACBL home office nor is the ACBL BOD financing paying expenses of the American players during the World Championships, nor, of course, contributing to the WBF who will be left to their own responsibility to subsidize the continuation and thus future life, of high-level bridge.

Perhaps the sponsors involved (as well as the top players involved) are just too embarrassed to complain about such ridiculous and threatening decisions concerning the immediate future of our thought to be, magnificent game.

Paul CroninApril 15th, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Hi Bobby,
The whole "robot" thing really saddens me…especially the awarding of a National Championship for winning. How can it be "bridge" when South always has the best hand at the table? When the three robots can't read signals? When the robots can be so easily induced into making absurd defensive plays by strategic psychic bids?
The over-riding operating principle seems to be "If it ain't made in Horn Lake, it ain't happening". Reminds me so much of the five years when I created and ran the "Online Partnership Desk" for the three NABCs each year. My worst year for partenrship requests was the year I started…600+ requests. My best year was 2500+ requests. Then the ACBL decided to create their own "Online Partnership Desk", and they typically get about 65 requests per NABC. This is not providing optimal service to the membership, but is OK because it’s made in Horn Lake.
So much harder now to believe that "our object all sublime, we shall achieve in time".
Semper Fi!

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