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All comments by David Yates
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I posted this somewhere else on this site about Lance Armstrong.

My friend, a former professional cyclist, ending a listing of reasons for his early retirement with “…, plus I was tired of taking the drugs.” I found this surprising, particularly since most athletes are entrenched in denial. This led to a day-long conversation on the floor, that “everyone” in cycling - including Lance Armstrong - was taking PEDs.

This was back in 1999, just after Lance's first Tour de France win. My friend went on to say that Lance Armstrong was hands-down the best cyclist. “In a clean field, no one beats Lance. But if Lance was clean and someone else wasn't, Lance doesn't win.” My friend was honest enough when questioned, to say that on PEDs, he probably couldn't beat a clean Lance. He said that “Lance is really that good. I could take him on the first stages. I am flat-out fast. But Lance is an insane climber. There are not that many guys near him. But there are enough that if they are juicing and Lance is not, Lance would lose.”

My friend was completely unperturbed about the PED use in his sport. His view was that since “everyone” was using the same drugs, that “cycling was the fairest sport”. This conversation was just after McGwire's 70 home runs in a season in 1998. The same year as the Festina Affair in cycling. The subject of PEDs was starting to become an issue in sports. He said that baseball was not fair because some players use and some do not. But according to him, “cycling was a level playing field, maybe the only level playing field in sports”.

Looking at the 1999 Tour field, Second to Lance was Zülle. (Festina & self-confessed). Third was Escartin. (Later outed by teammate). Fourth was Dufaux, (Festina) Fifth was Casero, who was named by Spanish police in their investigation into Dr. Fuentes who catered to to numerous cyclists. 6th place was Olano, who was a customer of the later banned Dr Ferrari. The same doctor who had Armstrong as a client.

When the whole Armstrong affair started to play out, I thought about how the reality was that in retrospect, Lance had no winning options. He was the greatest talent of his era, destined for the unprofitable obscurity of trying to crack the top ten if he was clean. A guy like McGuire was still going to be a star and make millions for clean 30 HR seasons. No one knows or cares who came in 13th in the Tour.

In the end, Lance was a tragic figure. We blame people for not being able to be bigger than the world they need to cope with. And we humans love to crucify our idols.
March 6
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Regarding PED in bridge. Certain drugs (and nothing Geir was taking) improve one's focus. The two on WADA list are methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil and other). These drugs – along with caffeine - have been demonstrated to improve chess skill in a double-blind randomized trial. Methylphenidate demonstrated a 13% increase, modafinil 15% and caffeine a 9% improvement.

For the record, I find the last point very discouraging. I am usually so “doped up” on coffee that if there is only an extra 6% improvement assuming that I switch to modafinil, it looks like I am never getting to the Bermuda Bowl. BTW, caffeine is not on the WADA prohibited list.

For more (on chess, not me):

The main thing is that drugs do not make people smarter. If these drugs worked that way, I would be lacing the water supply in an attempt to end most of humanities idiocies. The authors of the study write: “This suggests that neuroenhancers do not enhance the quality of thinking and decision-making per time unit, but improve the player’s ability or willingness to spend more time on a decision and hence to perform more through calculations.”

The benefits – without time pressure – were “obvious” between the drugs and the players on placebos. However, when players had less time to play, the effect of the drugs showed reduced effect. It was only when there wasn’t enforced time pressure that the chess players displayed enhanced performance.

I am sure that someone taking methylphenidate or modafinil will feel more focused. That increased confidence will likely be a positive factor. It might be helpful in later stages of a long event to combat fatigue. But I doubt, given to how carefully most top-level players play in tough matches, that we would see much performance increase in a carefully controlled study, given normal time considerations.

On the other hand, if we now let the drugs dictate the pace of the game (since no one seems to know how to actually keep time) that would be deleterious on several levels.

As to the question of whether these drugs should be allowed, I have no strong opinion. I see either no harm in banning them and testing – as FIDE does, or allowing them to be used with the proviso that we keep time limits.

Banning a bridge player for taking essential medicines under the care of a physician that would have absolutely no bearing on bridge performance is brainless beyond measure.
March 6
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This square peg hand fits into whatever round hole most closely fits. Depending on texture, it could be a 1NT opening. It could be a 2 rebid (14 and semi-solid hearts). Most of the time it will be a 2 rebid over the forcing NT.
March 5
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South is supposed to treat 4 as a slam try. With 10 HCP for the splinter and just 4-cards, it is OK(*) to sign-off. Is that what South was thinking? Of course, because we all play bridge in Perfectville. So even when that is not the reason, the only damage is to N/S reputations. No damage to E/W.

(* it might not be if they have highly sophisticated slam agreements. But I rather doubt from the failure to make a negative double that they do.)
March 4
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Start with 1 room full of bridge players
Two 9-card major suit fits for N/S
Mix in:
Two 9-card minor suit fits for E/W
Top off with:
Favorable vulnerability for one side

Sorry Rohit, this is not a recipe for sanity.
(Just fun!)

BTW, Alan Ducasse teaches that 60% of great cooking is quality of the ingredients. This recipe was doomed from the start, probably.
March 3
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I think its actually vodka money in Latvia.

I believe that the affordability of booze is an important issue. The brouhaha surrounding peripheral issues like IOC affiliation is a strawman.

The cause of some of the recent misadventures is not the goal that the WBF was tasked with achieving. The cause was thoughtlessness and carelessness in the process.

Abandoning goals and objectives does not fix stupid.

P.S. If anyone thinks Latvia is like Elbonia, Mairis Briedis wants to have a “talk” with you out in the alley.
March 2
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The answer is it will not matter.

The problem is not “competing” interests of subgroups. Divide them into two groups and each new group will then divide into different camps. (Humans are really just more complex amoebas)

The problem with the ACBL, WBF or ____(name the bureaucracy) is that group is often non-responsive and never capable of a comprehensive world view on their best day. On normal days, the bureaucracy concerns themselves with themselves. On good days, they might be responsive to some vocal faction. But on no day will a bureaucracy ever think about what a non-vocal faction might want. And the most significant “non-vocal faction” that we should be concerned about is what people who are not bridge players might be seeking. If we split the ACBL, we merely have two groups ignoring the obvious.

A business thinks about expanding its customer base. Always. When a company stops doing so they are surely doomed. A company like Toyota becomes successful by tailoring products to different groups. Toyota makes buses, vans, trucks, pickup trucks, SUVs, sports cars, sedans, hybrids. Cars for the American market look nothing like cars for the Japanese market.

The first car Toyota sold in the US was the Crown. No one remembers it, but later the Corolla took off. Meanwhile, GM had a diversified product line. So did Chrysler. However, the approach for both companies was to become low-cost producers and make platforms the same. These companies did not care about what the consumer wanted, they cared about their short-term interests. And it turns out that while “what is good for General Motors” may be “good for the USA”, it wasn't even good for GM. They went bankrupt along with Chrysler.

Toyota listened to all the consumers. GM and Chrysler listened to themselves. The ACBL spent at least the last half-century listening to themselves. They will go bankrupt eventually. Splitting the ACBL into two groups that will still only listen to themselves will not change this outcome.
March 2
David Yates edited this comment March 2
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The problem is not the goal. The problem is the actions – or perhaps lack thereof.

The first bridge Olympiad was in 1960 – won by France – and the planning with the IOC goes back a few years previously. What everyone gets wrong is the cart and the horse. This should be easier than the chicken and the egg, but apparently not.


For some reason (likely half-baked comments on Bridgewinners contributes) people imagine the WBF is some organization that went rouge and got in bed with the IOC. This has no resemblance to history. The bridge world already had governing bodies. We already had a “World Championship” since the Americas and Europe adopted the Bermuda Bowl for that purpose. In order to be recognized by the IOC, the bridge world needed an overall world governing body. And the WBF was formed for the purpose of IOC recognition after the European Championships in 1958.

This recognition is meaningless only because NO ONE actually uses this recognition as a marketing tool because NO ONE actually markets bridge. Though that is a different matter.

The problem with the WBF and other RAs is that they are bureaucracies. There is no accountability in a bureaucracy. Spend a million plus on software, nothing to show for it? Ho hum. Lose a pile in Hawaii? We can always raise fees. Fire the CEO and get stuck with the contract? That happens in all the time in business.

And in business, lots of people get blamed for problems for which they were not truly responsible. But at least people TRY to avoid something becoming a problem if for no other reason that becoming the scapegoat. With a bureaucracy, the fault will always lie outside. Bureaucracies can sail into icebergs because in this world, the captain and crew always survive. Everyone outside is expendable.

When the WBF was created to follow the Olympic idea, there was not much of a drug issue. WADA did not exist. Hell, most of these drugs did not exist. Then, seventeen years ago, Disa is randomly selected for a drug test. The upshot is she was stripped of an Olympic medal and the press made fun of the bridge world.


So if you are going to let Disa take the fall for no one at the WBF actually communicating with the IOC and saying: “nearly all of this stuff does not matter to our sport”, that is not right, but OK, I am willing to mindlessly chant: “rules are rules”. (Even though I mock people for reciting “second-hand low”). But only THIS TIME. Plus it was the IOC's medal, nothing much we could have done.

So SEVENTEEN YEARS roll by. Does anyone give a thought to the problem? No. because to a bureaucracy, problems they create for others do not matter. Hence, they never solve anything. Ever.

The WDA prohibited list contains some drugs considered by the WHO to be essential. Clomifene is an essential medication but it is PROHBITED AT ALL TIMES – not just in competition. Technically, Geir did not have to be tested. If someone saw him with his prescription six months earlier, he could have still be sanctioned for the “crime of medical care”.

What does the WBF do? They voted unanimously to toss Geir under the bus because “rules are rules” no matter how idiotic, asinine and irrelevant. Once again, the only thing that matters is the bureaucracy. The effect on our game, the relevancy of the rules, the benefit of the players, the bad publicity, none of that EVER matters to a bureaucracy.

Had it been up to me, I would send a communication to the IOC:

“It has come to our attention as the result of a test, that some essential medications that have no bearing on performance in our sport of bridge are on the WADA prohibited list. We have elected not to sanction this particular player as he was under a physician's care and the medication – other than being essential to this person's overall health - could not possibly be considered a performance enhancer for contract bridge.

Since different sports are impacted by different drugs in different ways – beta blockers for archery for instance – please let us know going forward how to best handle the issue of WADA listing essential medications as banned substances that impact some sports, but have no bearing upon ours.

We at the WBF would like to continue contributing to the “Olympic spirit “…which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”. We believe the WBF applied that Olympic Spirit to this particular case and would like to work with the appropriate authorities at the IOC to provide better written guidance to our players in the future.”

But no. That is way beyond how a bureaucracy thinks.

And people do not think much better. The WBF (or any other bureaucratic RA) is never going to be held accountable. The only leverage that you have is the money you feed them. But people think they can change a bureaucracy without leverage. (Fools!)

As long as you financially support these organizations, the bureaucracy will not care about what you think or much else. Including, unfortunately, the very Olympic spirit that the WBF was formed to promote: mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
March 2
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Larry hit the nail on the head.

Announcements are not full-disclosure, nor are they intended to serve as that function. The announcement simply serves the purpose of not introducing unintended UI into auctions.

As Ray and the ACBL pamphlet indicates, a simply plus/minus indicates a proclivity up “upgrade” or “downgrade”. If a player wants to know specific tendencies, he can certainly inquire. However, I doubt there is any hand that would enter or not enter the auction over 1NT based on whether an upgrade would be possible.

The time to inquiry about “plus or minus” possibilities - if it matters - will be in the play of the hand. Incorporating either flourishes in announcements or questions about tendencies before calling would be inappropriate, IMO. (One might have a problem later in a highly competitive auction, but while one might feel a need to know, that question could create UI.)
March 2
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Ray, proper evaluation is inverse-eyeballs. This is because the one-eyed jacks are in & and everyone knows they are way better than the minor-suit jacks.
March 2
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OK, I'll say it: thank goodness for common sense at the ACBL.

(Hopefully, I will be able to repeat this in the future.)
March 2
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Since throwing gas on a discussion can be fun, it should be noted that the ACBL convention card uses the word(?) “offshape”.
March 2
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This was my suggest and Kit was there first. It works better coming from someone with Kit's reputation since he won't later get fired because the client thinks his pro is a chump :)
March 2
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Since you don't have sensible RKC agreements (and you don't) then South is at fault for not bidding 4NT RKC. If it then turned out you were off two-key cards and down, then it is probably the fault of both for bad agreements.

The basic principle is that over 2, if I had just one bid for my life, it would be 6.

It is possible that North might have the somewhat common proclivity these days to bid 2 without values. So perhaps South was scared by previous actions not in the record. But I still want to be in game opposite a nonsense 2 call. And 4 will not get me there.
March 2
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“We really DON'T need bad publicity.”

Very true, but is kind of hard to avoid it when stupidity reigns.
March 2
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Good point that the vulnerability should indicate that you already bid 4 to make. So I guess you don't really need double to say that.
Feb. 28
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Nothing is going to improve until the bridge playing population demonstrates that they are willing to hold R.A.s accountable. The only thing real vote that you have is control of their revenue.

Here we have a fairly straightforward matter. In order to be considered an Olympic Sport, the WBF needed the PED policy. This policy (the PED policy, I am in favor of IOC recognition) was kind of stupid in that nearly all of it did not apply to us. And we already knew that from what happened with Disa nearly SEVENTEEN years ago. (

Yet nobody does anything about it as nearly two decades roll by. That would be too much like thought, work and effort.

In the meantime, Geir tested positive for “banned substances” that might increase his poll vault skills, but have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do bridge skills. And rather than state the obvious – that this test had nothing to do with the results – the WBF voted UNAMIMOUSLY to sanction him. Because god forbid that the people tasked with fixing problems would actually admit this is THEIR PROBLEM when they can just blame Geir and go on ignoring the issue.

If this is how they approach their jobs, how exactly are “we” going to make it “better?? I would love to hear exactly what we are going to do to make this “better”. Because for me, making things better means not screwing someone as a byproduct of organizational stupidity.

BTW, does it bother anyone that while Geir gets suspended for clomifene, lots of players in our trial stage will be taking modafinil or methylphenidate - which might improve bridge skills AND are on the banned list – but apparently that is “OK” because the USBF will not be testing anyone at that stage? The whole policy is stupid, but no one wants to address it.(*)

I am sure we can be more stupid about our policies. (Hard as that might be.) At the end of the day, the only fix for stupid is death or threat of death. Threatening to cut off money is your only real vote. Meantime, I am open to hearing about other ideas to fix what is broken. But it has to be policy and a way to implement that, not platitudes.

(*) edit/add I don't have a problem with that. (Other than it slows down play) But I do have a problem with hypocrisy.
Feb. 28
David Yates edited this comment Feb. 28
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Best event I ever played in is USBF. Jan is the real Wonder Woman. But they are our reps to WBF.

I will reconsider USBF if they try to do something.
Feb. 28
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Another TO-X left in and the problem was? (yet again)
Feb. 27
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No, not puzzled by the AC adjustment. I am puzzled by why anyone thinks the law revision for weighted scores was rational.
Feb. 26

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