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All comments by David Yates
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There must have been some cosmic screw-up because I know I belong in a different parallel universe - my friends tell me that too. If I ran this universe:

I would banish the word ‘trials’. (Starting with every reference on the USBF Website). Somebody must have decided sometime back it would be cool to name it the ‘International Team Trials’. Why? I dunno. Doesn’t ITT didn’t mean something else to most people?

Lets play word association. I say ‘trials’ and you say. . . tribulations, perhaps? We may never get this game back on track popularity-wise, but calling something ‘the trials’ is a sure-fire way to guarantee you will NEVER get a corporate sponsor. The closest you might get is a cease and desist order from the International Telephone & Telegraph Company.

Why are we not calling it what it is supposed to be? The United States Open Bridge Championship. That, at least, actually sounds like something that some company might want to sponsor. More to the point, it actually sounds like an event someone might want to enter.

Oh - and NO LETTERS. Calling it the USBC is just a bunch of jumbled letters. MLB has the LDS and the LCS and the average person has no idea WTF that is - nor do they care. But everyone knows what the WORLD SERIES is. That sounds important - even if the world never had anything to do with it.

The reason we should have this event in Rosenblum years is not just because the players voted for it, or because it is good practice, but because we should have a championship event. To that extent, there seems something wrong with not having a US Women’s Championship or a US Senior Championship in those years. Well, what is actually wrong is no one really looks at it as a championship. So we have to start calling it that. We have to keep holding it. Otherwise, the perception is this is only just an event one can enter to so one can enter a different event.

In my universe a Women/Senior Championship event - even if it has to be held at a regional and we couldn’t swing the screens - is better than no event. If you give up holding events then those events become meaningless. It cannot be seriously taken as a championship if we decide not to have one.

Next, if we are having this event because the players want to play - why do we have a COC so intent on sending people home? I don’t know much about running a bridge tournament, but I would think that for starters I probably want to collect entry fees. And probably, the more people willing to pay fees, the better. And the longer they can keep paying them, the better.

Our qualifying event for the last Rosenblum actually ran longer than the Rosenblum Cup. And ironically, the USBF cut the field down way faster than the WBF did.

Oh and I do know that hotels like to sell rooms. As a hotelier, why would I be interested in a having a convention that practiced decimation? Though reducing by 1/10th is better in the hotel’s view than cutting in half - which is what we do.

Henry posted “They reject the notion that getting the experience of playing a long RR is necessary. . (I have proposed it twice. Rejected either sneeringly or with derision both times.)”. Henry! Don’t take it personally. These people are SMOKING CRACK! Or maybe not getting enough Geritol.

In 2010, they had TWO RR. The first RR was to dump 6 teams in a hurry. So they held two brackets with 9 teams and 8 matches of 9 boards. Only a crack smoking, geritol deficient dude could sneer derisively at Henry and say: “of course, we need to play 120 board KO matches (twice the length of any segment including the final in the Rosenblum) but we are going to insure that the methodology to get to those 2-day long slugfests is about as random as we can make it.”

A 72 bd RR to Q for a 120 board slugfest. Really? This was what they came up with?. So on day 1.5, we dump Mahaffey, playing with Passell, Lev, Pepsi, Weichsel & Seamon. Because those guys obviously don’t belong in the round of 16. Excuse me, they don’t even belong in the next RR. Oh, and we also said goodbye to the Sanborns. Fortunately, they went to Philly anyway and won the Bronze Medal in the Mixed Teams.

So if you are getting the impression that maybe this stage of the event the format is somewhat random, I assume I made my point and can move on.

Anxious to send more people home because we don’t need entry fees and the hotel is happy to have empty rooms, the USBF held a second RR which proved that Gordon (Raja, Cheek, Grue, Hurd & Wooldridge) obviously don’t belong in this event. Lets revise Horace Greeley: ‘go home young man”.

This is insane. If the people want to play - let them play. Collect the money. Keep people in the hotel. Keep the hotel happy. Maybe they even let us come back. It certainly wouldn’t kill the USBF to cut the KOs to only 150% of the length of the KO in the Rosenblum. And 90 boards is still way longer than the Vandy or the Spingold. If you made a segment 16 boards, then the 96 board segment is the length of the SF in the Bermuda Bowl! And still longer than any segment in any other major event.

Also, why isn’t there a once defeated bracket to drop into? Oh, and don’t write back: “because there is no USA-2". WRONG! This is the US Open Bridge Championships. In my parallel universe we just set the format so the people who fall out of the (longer) RR and KOs drop into the once defeated bracket. That bracket plays through until it produces two once defeated teams by the end of the SF. On the day of the finals (or 1.5 days if 90/96) the SF losers each play the two remaining teams from the once defeated bracket in a 45/48 board KO. The winners (still once defeated each) play 45/48 boards for - the bronze medal. This is, after all, supposed to be the United States Open Bridge Championships. Have medals. Give people a great event. Let them play bridge.

But right now it is just a lot of bridge for just the two two teams who will play longer here than in the Rosenblum. The USBF is just too intent on sending people home. And then Henry has to ask why people are no longer showing up. Amazing.

Note to Jan M: you will NEVER have an advance list of teams beyond the approximate few that are there now unless the USBF figures out how to make this a more attractive event. Because all the teams that stopped playing this event are going to wait each year to see the entry situation and calculate based on x nbr of teams what the likely play scenario will be and estimate whether it will be worth attending.

Right now it is a $360 entry fee and $150 per session. The bridge fees alone are $810/team for the first RR.. If all I got was to play 72 boards for my airfare, ticket, two nights stay, cabs and the $100-$150 bucks the airlines are going to charge me to change my flight, I’d probably think I must be smoking crack to have thought this was a good idea. And if Mahaffey with 4-world champions on his team gets bounced, then basically everyone has to figure it can happen to them.

Or the USBF could figure out how to make this the do not miss event of the year. The event that everyone schedules. But I doubt they will. Too many entrenched interests and too much of the “this is how we always did things mentality”. Reminds me of the ACBL.
April 24, 2013
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I can also specify parameters for how aggressive or conservative the opponents might be. On this hand it is favorable and they are more likely to act.

BOREL is a program that was developed by the late John Lowenthal. It has its own scripting language. (A script is a small programming language). One can basically do anything. I can write library routines or even create my own bridge deal attribute variables - which I never needed to do because John included so many attributes (like spot card average) that I do not even use them all.

For example, for the opening 1NT, I can set the library function to 15-17 or 14+ to 17-. I can specify whether a 5CM or 6cm minor is OK. If 5CM/6cm OK, I can specify suit quality for the long suit, whether 0 or 1 unstopped side suit, whether there are any constraints on the doubleton(s). Also if you open 1NT with a stiff honor. Specify if A or K or Q+. Also whether 5-4 patterns are allowed. Which 5-4s. What the doubletons should look like, etc. If you want me to check for spot cards, I can do that too :)

John really created a neat gadget if you can script. The most important thing is the sims are true. Because the programs does not fill to constraints. Doing that will likely skew results because a ‘fill’ is not necessarily statistically valid.

With BOREL you specify the parameters in your script. In this sim, the N hand would be preassigned. The remaining cards would then be randomly dealt and the program checks the deal against the script to see if it matches the constraints. If it does not (most of the time because S needs to be a 1NT bid and W has to pass) the deal is rejected. If the deal does fit the parameters, the deal is saved. This insures the remaining hands are randomly created and not filled to a specification. ‘Filling’ can misrepresent pattern and HCP frequencies.

“If you want a ruff, lead a trump” - J. Lowenthal.
April 23, 2013
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I run sims all the time. I use BOREL because I can script to control for any factor. In this case the auction is actually 1NT - (P) to responder. Glancing at the generated file, the first problem is that it appears many of the opposing hands would not pass over 1NT.

Therefore a “save” consideration will probably not be as valid as suggested because it will more likely that after an actual pass that 2nd seat will be more balanced. Also, if 2nd seat can start a good hand with a “double”, then a relevant file sample would shift more HCP to the 1NT bidders right and again the 1NT hand would tend to have more defense than the generated sample.

My experience with well scripted sims is that the double dummy results are not that different from 100 hands to 1000 hands. Given that all of Michael Rosenberg’s objections are valid, the ‘adjusted’ figures which correspond more to actual play are not that difficult to compile, but it is semi-manual and would take about a hour or so for a 100 hand sample.

The first thing in trying to bring results into real-world is controlling for the opening lead. Deep leads perfectly. If I led that well, I bet Michael would not play me for $ because even though his play and defense is way good, I doubt anyone could overcome totally accurate leads by the defense. (Plus, I could even figure out why that lead is right and continue the defense. Well, maybe.)

On the given hand, just looking at dummy how probable is a club lead? That is likely to be best for your side because there are so many ways it will set up pitch of a losing spade or diamond. Also, what auction are you assuming? If you Texas-xfer, 4th seat has a better chance to double for diamond lead. Might not happen over 2D. You need to look at the generated hand and include those actions/non-actions in your data set for each hand.

You need a quickie spreadsheet to calc totals because some hands have choices of leads. If one possible lead sets and the other doesn’t, then game is at best a guestimate of the likelihood of the favorable lead.

You need to be aware of when Deep is always making contracts because it doesn’t follow 8-ever, 9-never. It does what works on each hand. So best is take a look at opening leads from a defender’s view, make a quick plan (most declarer play will be similar since it is always the same dummy) and after a couple of cards it is simple to realize whether the hand is always making, needs a guess etc. Deep quickly gives the trick total, you can quickly calculate what that is based on. (Guess, gimme, or a play you would never make at the table).

Deep plays & defends perfectly. But do not assume one off-sets the other. It really depends on the nature of the play and defense problems that are being generated. Also, if you bid game you will try to make it, even if the only chance is to take a losing finesse for an extra undertrick. Deep returns -1, your result will be -2. Vul that adds up. Also, if 4D-Texas gets X'd you have to look at a hand and decide if 4H is then going to get whacked. -500 against against 4C making is real world possibility. Not accounting for that is a serious skew because vul games at IMPs do get hit. It wont be too hard on many layouts but the computer wont account for that.

The major benefit to sims is gaining a better understanding of what the other three hands tend to look like on a frequency basis if the problem is properly scripted. Notice that the beginning of this thread starts - as all these problems do - with people constructing various bridge hands. What one sees in a sim - assume one flips through the hands and doesn’t take a machine’s word - is the relative frequency or good fitting vs poor fitting possibilities.

Also, by paging through each deal one can eliminate output that wasn't adequately controlled for in the sim. For example, a pass over 1NT script doesn't always exclude all hands that would pass because maybe you left something out.

One can learn quite a lot from sims - but one needs to properly define the bidding problems and manually examine the output. Sims, BTW, always tend to resolve an issue like transfer and pass or transfer and invite. As one pages through the output, one will gain a better understanding - assuming the bidding is properly scripted - as to how many 4th seat hands would pass over 2D but reopen if 2H was passed around. What hands would accept a GI which would decline, and how good are those choices?

Looking at 10 properly generated sim hands is often more useful than constructing possibilities. But never, ever take a pile of statistics as useful information.
April 22, 2013
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I know. My point is that beyond an indication of who the top seeds are the formula is not accurate. We also do not need the formula to pick those teams. Nor is the formula necessary or desirable to apply as the seeding throughout the event. Beyond insuring Diamond does not play Nickell before the SF, for example, who cares? Answer: all those mid-ranked teams who do not want to play Nickell or Diamond early.

BTW, I am rooting for you guys to grab one of the spots, because (a) you did great in 2010 and (b) you really should get something better than bus fare to Philly. (Bali seems right). Good thing you won the gold or you’d be stuck with Cheesesteak sandwiches as the booby prize.
April 22, 2013
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Thanks Mike,

Apparently I was going great with my post until I screwed up details at the end - sort of like my declarer play.

If there was a larger starting field and a USA2 bracket, the solution is 2x as many non-Qs drop from RR into USA2 and play 90 board KOs instead of taking off 1.5 days to visit Disney World. Bridge is good, more good bridge is even better.
April 22, 2013
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Thanks for the full facts Danny. I just culled from prev posts on this year. Always good to have those backup matches in USA2 bracket because it is more great bridge (well by the ops anyway, hopefully by us as well)

Some years there is no secondary bracket as only one rep.
April 22, 2013
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Opening Up the ‘Open’ Trials

I think, that in answer to Henry’s original question, the 29 & 32 teams in 1995 dwindling to 16 this year is due to a function of cost and what I will call the ‘seeding barrier’.

Looking at the reviews of the Trials, everyone loves the nature of the event (even Steve Bloom loves the inherent nature, but hated Schaumburg). The Trials give players a chance to play long matches in top flight competition. One cannot get better at this game without trial by fire and such opportunities are very much lacking on the bridge calender.

In the late 90's I came back to bridge and wanted to break into the higher ranks. My partner and I scheduled the NABCs and the Vandy & Spingold were my favorite events. Of course we had no seeding points. The good news is we got to play Nickell, the Italians, the Poles or whomever was going to probably win the event. The downside was we played just one or perhaps two days. Our best was Cincy. We played Nickell the first day and the Italians the second. The first day was a three-way with two survivors. Had my pard and I played as well as our ladies, we could have actually ousted Nickell before the Rd of 64 since Nickell lost their other match and we were close. Ironically, the third team who beat Nickell got ousted on quotient - so there is no justice.

Drawing against a 10 seed or so, we could normally play well enough to really scare them on day one but that does not earn seeding points. (Today’s fields are much deeper and #10 seeds tougher). It isn’t that I don’t want to play Nickell. I just prefer to play them later. In any event, the valuable lesson and play time was over too quickly. What next? Win a B2 or B3 morning KO? Been there, done that.

If one wants to take the narrow view that the Trials is just about the current best US representative and in the interests of our country therefore everyone is praying that is not me, I would not disagree. But the reality is that most of the pack is probably not going to be successful either.

In my view, beyond perhaps the top seeds, the seeding is not accurate. Look at 2011. Bathurst was a #10 seed. Ask Nickell if Bathurst played like a #10 when those ‘kids’ won by 45 IMPs in the QF. Bathurst became USA-2. Outperformed USA-1 in Veldhoven and took home the silver.

Those ‘kids’ got great because of a sustained junior program and exposure to high-level bridge. (Frank might have whimsically regretted buying entries for the juniors in previous Trials and helping them learn how to win. As an aside, WT-heck aren’t our junior teams given a pass on entry fees if they can beg, borrow or stowaway to the trials? When they get KO’d give them jobs as VG operators.) Main point: practice makes perfect.

This year, we have Adam - the self-anointed bracket buster and his nil seeding points. There are lots of more experienced players, but he is awfully good for a nil seeding. In the middle we have TGH & JL. The best player ever and one of the best prodigies ever. Can you really quantify that partnership right now? At the high end we have two world champions - Chip & Zia - and a bazillion seeding points. But the fact remains that, by WC standards, this is still a new partnership.

So how exactly does the USA benefit by a COC that reduces the playing time for Chip & Zia? Especially when everyone (including probably Chip & Zia) will tell you that there is nothing about bridge they need to learn EXCEPT how to play together as a WC partnership and that can only happen with time and experience!

The seeding points are a function of past years and different partnerships. We know who the top teams are. The complete ranking is not valid from a standpoint of who has the more effective partnerships and which teams are in ‘stride’ right now. Only a competition can determine that -else why are we playing at all?

Seeding the entire event is simply a protection for the middle of the pack. Because it insures that the few survivors of the RR play-in will draw the top seeds in the KO phase and not the mid-seeds. The Rd-16 is 120 boards - no different than the finals. As long as Cayne vs. Nickell in 1995 isn’t scheduled early, what difference does it make really if Nickell plays a play-in #16 seed in R-16 or an 8-seed - which is not playing well? Or even an underrated mid-seed like Bathurst? If Bathurst is going to KO #2 Nickell early, they could KO them late. Probably Nickell’s only complaint should be the original seeding wasn’t really reflective of current skill - but then that is my point.

Had there been a full RR in 2011, there is no way Bathurst would have entered the KOs as a #10.

The Trials are expensive and the play time is uncertain. Look at this year’s format. Teams #13-16 play a RR and eliminate 50% of the field. Those are some pretty good teams and not coming in 3rd is no gimme. Even a competitive team has to estimate that there is a 50% chance of going home after a day and a half. And the prize for Q-ing might be playing your final round right away, because the COC pairs your team immediately against the toughest available opponent.

Contrast this with what I (and perhaps Henry) would schedule. 14 teams play two 7-team RR brackets to eliminate one team each. Six matches of 15 boards. I would protect the two bye teams and let them pick opponents from either or both of the lower half of the RR results. The best RR qualifiers can then pick from the remainders and I would fill out the KO bracket that way.

That is the way they fill the KO in the Bermuda Bowl - except they do not even protect the highest seeds. So why don’t we mimic the event for which we are qualifying? Because certain special interests had a say in constructing the COC.

A more complete RR is more appealing. First, the RR is more ‘honest’ because even if qualifying is assured, teams are now always competing for position and will always have something to play for. Secondly, the RR result will be more indicative of actual current strength than any formula. Third, playing is GOOD. Practice makes perfect. If you want to argue that it makes you tired, I say weed out the teams that wont last the two weeks in the Bermuda Bowl right now. Fourth, the average strength in the RR is improved and thus the event is more appealing.

Finally, teams will perceive a higher chance of making the KO phase and would be more willing to commit to the trials because of a greater chance of extended play time. Since the travel, scheduling and costs are not trivial, this prospect of extended play has to be potentially viable. That it is is a major reason as to why these teams have since dropped out. (Original Question by Henry). A RR of just #17 thru n is not that appealing. I can schedule those level matches on-line. A chance to play against the best teams (and right now they are not in the RR b/c organizers insist on making it small) and a reasonable prospect to make a run (by not scheduling an early departure due to the seeding-bias) would offer the prospects of valuable top-flight play experience - making attending the trials more appealing.

Note that all we would be doing this year is extending the play time for 10 teams by 1.5 days and make most of the KO seeding merit based. To the extent that we could perhaps eventually attract the 30 or so teams they originally did, that is more revenue for the USBF and a better ‘sell’ in negotiating with a venue.

The Trials as now constructed discriminates against low seeds without protecting the top tier that needs to be separated. And in 2011, relying on the USBF overall seeding formula certainly did not help our #2 seed.

Certainly a bye to the KO can be earned. But is this year's format serious? No offense to the players - they are certainly talented and capable and I chose them simply because they are the lowest ranked team not playing the 4-way RR - but how does Alex Kolesnik's team rate a bye to the KO but a former USA-I with two talented juniors have to play in?

In any event, I fail to see how good teams playing less gets them ready for world class events.
April 22, 2013
David Yates edited this comment April 22, 2013
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Apparently Bobby reads The Republic. (He replied to Brian below, but this is in response to points made by Judy). And while it might be hard to argue with Socrates or his disciple, Plato, I am willing to give it a try.

What is significant about the group Bobby cites is not the small size nor the obvious talent. It is the diversity represented. There are directors, administrators, sponsors, top players, ‘lawyers’, an elder statesmen. There were a lot of competing view points held by very intelligent people who worked together to form a consensus - which was also the process that produced the US Constitution.

There is one group not represented in Bobby’s list. Mine. The #17-32 teams that attended those first open trials but are no longer competing. That was the original question posed by Henry. And the short hand answer is that since we had no representation in the oligarchy nor since, we have faded away. I’ll get to that in a second post, but let me stay with Trials & oligarchy.

Here are some questions, because it does have to do with some of the stated goals of the trials. Are we trying to assure the best team goes? Are we trying to assemble the best team? Are we trying to create a level playing field? How important is providing an event to also develop future talent? How do we balance today’s needs and tomorrow’s future?

In ‘95, the best US team was easily the Nickell team. If we assembled the oligarchs and had them simply anoint a representative, Nickell would have been the obvious choice. But Nickell was not USA-I in ‘95. The Cayne team won the Trials. That year we had two entries - Rosenblum years just one, so this is relevant. Because Nickell won the Bermuda Bowl in Beijing and Cayne team tied for 9th. It could be argued that the Trials did not produce our best result, in that, had we had just one entry, there would have been no subsequent USA victory. JEC would point out he and his team certainly earned the right to represent the USA and I would not argue.

If we extend the principle of oligarchs’ power and let them cherry pick the composition of the USA team, Dick & Nick (even though world-class experts in their own right and they DID win the whole thing) would not have been amongst the three pairs. I assume a ‘95 cherry-picked team would have been Meckwell, Bob-Bobby & Goldway (from Cayne).

The argument against cherry-picking (besides ‘American principles’) is that it never did work back when we were incapable of assembling a team that could beat the Italian Blue team. Sponsors provide a critical component: opportunity and experience for supremely talented players. Amateurs hardly ever beat top pros in any sport. Ai-Tai Lo pointed out that in bridge they can be competitive. But the fact remains that if Ai-Tai Lo’s full time job was bridge and the Trials were not his vacation time - he would be even better. Simply because would now play all the time. Sponsors perform a critical function by insuring a deep, experienced talent pool. Someone has to pay for the yacht in America’s Cup. And someone has to provide financial incentive if we are to be serious about being competitive on the world stage in bridge. So if you are also good enough to sail the yacht, or in this case to battle at the bridge table (Nickell/Cayne) then sponsors deserve to be there. They certainly EARNED the right. And if you aren’t good enough to battle at the highest levels (and smart enough to know) like Corn/Lavazza - they still contribute mightily towards the game.

The problem with small groups is that they can become cliquey and start to protect small interests. So if the process is not open, subject to review or immune from criticism, it can quickly go bad. I would rate sponsors as a critical component to international success. However, if for example, sponsors wield too much power or influence, the natural tendency is to put their short term interests ahead of our long term goals.

Competition is what makes people better. Period. There could be many reasons why Cayne beat Nickell in those Trials. Ranging from luck to skill to matching up well. Ultimately, losing to Cayne in the Trials could never a bad thing for Nickell because at a minimum it is a wake up call. Success can breed complacency. When you dominate events like the Spingold it is easy to think ‘Spingold’ should be replaced by ‘Spinickell’ and winning is divine right. This happens even amongst highly competitive people. We will never know for certain, but maybe the extra work Nickell put in between losing the Trials and winning in Beijing made a difference. Whatever, in the final analysis: competition and the need to succeed is what molds players and keeps players sharp.

To that extent, I question whether late byes to the Trials are anything more than a concession to special interests. If a team is to win the Bermuda Bowl, they will have to play top flight competition for two solid weeks. So how does showing up for the semi-finals by itself prove that they are battle-worthy? When the Trials were closed and brief, the short answer is that often these teams were not ready.

No American team has proven more battle-hardened than Nickell. But that didn’t just happen. That toughness was forged in close KO matches in high-level competition. And the origins of this toughness for Bobby, Bob, Paul & Bobby G can be traced back to a guy named Joseph Musumeci. Ultimately, there is nothing more competitive than warfare. So bring in the Lt-Col who trains people to win by literally killing the opponent.

Today, we could do better this year by cherry picking a team. But insulating people from the rigors of competition will only make us weaker over time. The event needs to be seeded, but I think that, only in-so-far as your four best teams do not square off before the semi-finals does the seeding objectively matter. (I’ll get to this is my next post).

The main issue is we can improve on Plato’s oligarchy. “The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.” - Voltaire

The best solution for producing winning teams is competition.
April 22, 2013
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I think the purpose of the law in not requiring a pair to call attention to an infraction is to avoid the hornets' nest issue of whether someone is cheating or oblivious if they do not say anything. To that extent, the law makes sense, because that issue can never be proven and should be avoided. Note the laws do forbid a side from deliberately attempting to cover up the revoke - that can be proven.

I would probably say something, but I am pretty good about following suit - even if it is not always with the best card from that suit - so I cannot recall it happening

A more interesting question would be: you hate your opponents and they did not notice the revoke. Do you (a) keep the top board and say nothing, knowing how much they hate getting a bottom from you or (b) tell them they aren't smart enough to count out a hand and also let them know you are not required to give them their points back, but you just don't care.

The immoral dilemmas are always the hardest.
April 22, 2013
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I am pretty sure that if you lost to a team that doesn't notice revokes, either you or the other pair needs new teammates anyway.
April 22, 2013
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There is a bigger gap today between the top and the average than when I first started playing. Marty Bergen was a fixture at my local club. So was this kid Larry Cohen. Ron Gerard, Alan Stauber, I could go on. The NY Regional looked like a mini-NABC. Guys like Passell-Lair would make the trip to play together in the Goldman Pairs.

Bridge atrophied. I wont go into the many reasons, but people stopped taking up the game. Besides Larry, I was the 2nd youngest kid at the club. Then there were all those ‘old’ people. Starting at about 30 - 40 years old. It seems funny now, but when one is 12, 30 seems ancient. When Larry won the Spingold in 1981, some of those old guys on his team included Gerard, Rosner and Stauber who were mid-30s at the time.

Passell-Lair are way past playing Regionals. After 30 years of playing (and winning) it loses its appeal. Stauber plays some NABCs, Gerard not very much. But these guys are also way past playing in clubs and playing at sectionals and regionals. Rosner plays occasionally with a friend or his wife at the local club, but mostly with clients.

To blame ‘pros’ for the quality of today’s game is absurd. The only reason most pros even bother showing up at lesser events is because someone will hire them. After years and years of play and success, one graduates and moves on.

As in tennis. When one is younger and a tennis junkie, one wants to play and play. You enter local and regional tournaments and work your way up the ladder. Once you’ve played center court and Wimbledon, the Westchester County Championships loses any prior appeal. One moves on, not backwards.

But in tennis, there is some young up-and-coming guy who now wants to win those tournaments. There is always new young talent in the pipeline - some times more, sometimes less - but the game moves on.

But bridge did not move on. There is now a huge gap simply because the pipeline dried up years ago. When I first played, I would play against Lair-Passell or Bergen-Cohen because 30 years ago at that stage of their bridge career, they were playing as expert partnerships in local tournaments. At that time people like Edgar Kaplan had retired from lesser events and just played NABCs. Now Bergen has retired from competitive bridge and so has LC. Lair & Passell still play but only in a professional capacity.

What happened? Nothing happened. That is the problem. There have been very few players since the 1970s that actually took up the game and became experts. When I first started playing, everyone had day jobs and played at night. Now people take up the game when they are retired and the games are during the day.

So there are fewer good players. Simply because the good players moved on and not enough new players came along to learn, get better over time and to take their place. So today, if one is interested in getting a good partner and improving one’s game - you aren’t likely to find that at the partnership desk. People who want a good partner and to learn have little alternative but to hire someone who - quite frankly - would not play otherwise.

In any event, be thankful someone is hiring pros and keeping good players in the game. It certainly has not been because the ACBL made the game appealing and got lots of talented people to take the game up over the last 30-40 years.
April 21, 2013
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We played 4-handed in the Trials because we wanted to get as much play time in as possible. At the end of our short little run I think we could have lost to a random foursome from the local bridge club. I was surprised how tiring it was. Perhaps others are more experienced and better conditioned, but then the guy who just won the Vanderbilt playing 4-handed is the one raising the fatigue factor issue.

The early finish time is nice. And the evenings are relaxing. But I found that the half-day format where the RR and KO matches start in the middle of the day and end in the middle of the next day were difficult. There is no chance to vent - celebrate - unwind - recharge. One simply grabs a sandwich and goes into the next battle. They do this because it makes the whole format fit together perfectly, but when one first experiences it, it is really tough and tiring.

April 21, 2013
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At one time it did not matter whether one was a member or not. Only that non-members did not have their points recorded and did not receive the bulletin. That has changed. The ACBL does now collect entry fee surcharges from non-members at regional and sectional tournaments. Let your membership lapse and see how fast a TD comes to your table for an extra 2 bucks or the full dues.

I agree that expert only events benefit bridge. So does the junior program. And lots of old people occasionally pay an extra buck to the fund. There was no junior program when I was young. (I had to walk to the bridge club in the snow). And now, having the junior program meant, for example, that I didn’t have a partner for the WC in Philly. But the junior program is good for bridge and the future of the game.

The standard is not whether someone benefits directly, but whether the game benefits.

P.S. Thanks to Jan M for all the information you took the time to post. Also, many thanks to anon for supporting the USBF and the Trials.
April 20, 2013
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Judy, that $5M for ‘general’ might refer to all those subsidized, dirty-water hot dogs they pass out at tournaments.

I find it simply amazing that someone could complain about “< 1%-er’s” supposedly benefitting when - if he bothered to read Jan’s post - the USBF is even paying rental fees to the ACBL for equipment. (That plywood is expensive). Also, if he bothered to do the math, he would have seen that it costs $270 per session (amortizing the entry fee) just to try to Q for the round of 16. And then $150 for every session afterwards.

From the ACBL: “The mission of the ACBL is to promote and sustain the game of bridge. . .” If the organization is not going to promote and sustain a World Championship, all lower level events become even less meaningful.

Hey, lets not have a SuperBowl because only two teams get to play. . .
April 19, 2013
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I noticed you and Adam managed to bring the seeding average down for the former USA-I team :)

Ditto everything Roger said about playing the trials. I probably should edit my previous long-winded post to: “because I must be foolish for not going”.
April 19, 2013
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If we think of ourselves as bridge players, then what can be wrong with playing?

Rome used to elected dictators - perhaps we can arrange to elect Henry as Czar.
April 18, 2013
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I played when the Trials where in White Plains. Wonderful event.

To turn the question around a bit, I played in WHP but not at others basically because of travel considerations. The event is a little ‘pricey’ though that by itself is not a deal breaker. (As an aside, since Jan’s report demonstrates that the event has a certain ‘nut’ to crack before any hands are played, to the extent that more teams play, the daily fee might be contained a bit).

The event becomes pricey when we factor in airfare, hotels, those $$$ taxi rides and the missed work for what might be a very short bridge outing. There is a difference between scheduling the NABC and the Trials. When one is booted from the Vandy, one simply looks for another event to play. When booted from the Trials, the event is over.

So if one is stuck in Schaumburg, Phoenix or even Orlando what now? (I’ve been to the amusement parks) The outing from a bridge perspective does become expensive when we add airfare, hotels, taxi & those ever increasing airline change fees to schedule a departure.

Most of the ‘missing teams’ - which might help defray costs - do not have a realistic expectation of lasting long in the event. Either last year or the year before only one team was selected (Rosenblum). WHP was a RR with a double KO format. Participants were guaranteed 90 boards of RR and if Q’d, then a couple more days since the first KO was not fatal.

As a minor point, we Q’d easily in the RR. But the COC specifies original seed# for the KO portion of the event. Being the lowest starting seed, we automatically drew the highest seed (at that point) for the KO. That might be best from a “this is the Trials” perspective. But what it means is that lower seeded teams will never have much of an expectation of lasting very long if their qualifying performance cannot at least buy some protection from being picked (as in say the BB). If only one team is selected and we go to single elimination KOs directly, it figures to be a very short event for most.

J. Ras. mentioned not playing the ‘top seeds’. Most will be out before Nickel starts since they will likely have a late round bye. But we played Passell, Rosenberg, Lev & Pepsi in our KO. The other teams on our side of the RR included Robinson (who went on to win as USA-I), Fleischer (who lost to Robinson in the finals), Meltzer, Beatty, Sprung & Lall and the Cole team with John Adams (who Q'd too). So there is no shortage of bridge talent.

I don’t have an issue with the seeding arrangement, but it does mitigate expectations. On the plus side, the Trials is a wonderful bridge event. On the minus side, it may be just a couple of days. I don’t want to be stuck walking around a big mall in Schaumburg. (Dear Bobby & Judy, it wasn’t worth $120 to get there, but it is easily worth that much to leave).

So I probably wont be playing again until (if ever) it cycles back around to the Northeast. They do try to rotate playing sites around the country, but I am still waiting.

A ‘solution’ - and it is not that realistic - would be that I would find Vegas attractive as a playing site. Especially in May or June. (Who wants to go to Phoenix?). I think they tried Vegas one year, but it was at the Green Valley Ranch - about 10-11 miles from the middle of the Strip. The upside to Vegas is that when bridge is over, I can play poker or blackjack. Take in a show or hang at the spa. Getting KO’d in Vegas is the beginning of a party. So I would feel comfortable booking five(+) days in Vegas. If bridge lasted only two, I would not worry about losing three days of vacation time because I can vacation there. If bridge lasted longer than five days, even better. Blocking out a bunch of days to visit Schaumburg or Phoenix is not appealing. Orlando is better, but still marginal.

Vegas has cheap flights, cheap hotels and stuff to do. The site would need to be more central than GVR. However, no one really wants to host a bridge tournament - so there is that.

The shorthand, Henry is that I would LOVE to play the Trials again. But it becomes problematic when factoring in both the travel and the inherent uncertainties involved in the event format.
April 17, 2013
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Yes, 4S is a bit of an overbid, but the only alternative of 3S is a bit risky. N might well pass a 3415 18-19 count and the double black fit makes for a good game.

I think that 4D should be LTTC-like in this type of an auction. It simply says “I almost jumped the first time”. North burying partner for taking an aggressive view of bidding game wins the shovel award. Nevertheless, I assign blame as 50-50 since they agreed to play with each other.

I saw a practice session on BBO before St L where Katz/Nickell produced a bad result. Ralph immediately apologized for his play (he only misguessed) and Frank immediately apologized for his bid. (Wasn’t that bad). World class partnerships always try to assess the blame, they just do it differently from the rest of the world.
April 6, 2013
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There might have been a typo, the 1NT range was 16-18. I noticed that few people mentioned playing 5CM instead of the 4CM in standard Charlie. Based on experience, that would be the first change. Once one plays 5CM, negative doubles become an imperative.

Q: does asking for weak 2-bids use up 2 conventions? Since we now play 2C as art F. Assuming just one, from most to least important, my ranking:

Neg X
Transfers over NT
Responsive doubles
Weak 2 bids/Strong 2C
2NT as a 4-card M raise
Gadget over ops NT besides straight DONT

For my tenth wish it would be that my opponents could play 1000+ of their favorite conventions. (Unless they were named Jeff & Eric and actually knew how to assemble a system). If choice that doesn’t count, then modified Walsh.

BTW, when I wanted to learn bridge, I read Goren, thinking that I had learned “Bridge Complete”. I never noticed the copyright date. The first time I went to a bridge club, I had no idea what a weak 2-bid was. Passing the ops 2H opening with a 15 count because I thought I’d get another chance to act did not work out so well.

The plus side to Goren is (a) very easy to learn (b) one learns about natural bidding and © one learns to play the cards well since the final contracts can be a bit strange. Especially when the ops compete. The most common is being in 4-3 fits with 3NT cold.

I think the migration to more complicated basic systems has been a minor factor in the decline of the widespread appeal of our game.
April 6, 2013
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As with Bart, Judy, Jason & Brad before me, I think Henry's summation was perfect - it just cannot also speak for my grief.

Joan wore a lot of caps & held a lot of titles, but what she cared about was bridge. She cared about having tournaments and that those tournaments ran well.

In the cause of bridge, Joan would do anything and everything. The workload described by Ron was not an exaggeration. In the short time it took to install a new program on her computer and reboot, voila! 45 new bridge e-mails in her inbox.

She was also my friend and I shall miss her. My condolences to Ron and to Joan’s very fine family.
April 5, 2013

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