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All comments by Frank Stewart
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“Our system notes are incomplete,” Tom said listlessly.
“There was an earthquake during the tournament,” Tom said shakily.
“We’ll eat between sessions, and I’ll bless the meal,” Tom said gracefully.
Sept. 18
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“Ever played bridge in a cemetary?” Tom asked gravely.
“Accidents will happen,” Captain Hook spoke offhandly.
“I bid that hand well,” the Venus de Milo said disarmingly.
Sept. 17
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Edgar Kaplan — and I think everyone would agree that he was a capable bidding theorist — disdained Keycard Blackwood. Two of his points were, first, that the king of trumps is not an ace, no matter what anybody says, and sometimes you want to be at slam if that king and an ace are missing; and, second, that various misunderstandings, such as what suit is trumps, are all too likely. Kaplan’s tournament reports in TBW often cited Keycard-related disasters. Whether his objections would have as much validity today, I can’t say.
Aug. 26
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To consider deal submissions, write up what is deemed acceptable, edit, double-check the analysis, write other copy, proofread, make up the pages, and end up producing a Daily Bulletin that is organized, accurate, comprehensive and interesting, all under deadline pressure in the wee hours … that is no easy task. I speak from my own NABC experience. Paul and his colleagues who provide such a service deserve to be commended.
July 29
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A couple of years ago, “AARP The Magazine” or one of its sister publications did a story on competitive bridge. They interviewed people who had won major Seniors events. At that time I contacted AARP with a proposal for a bridge column. After some difficulty, I spoke with a senior editor. She said they were not currently interested but would keep it in mind. My impression, doubtless colored by optimism, was that the situation was not hopeless. Maybe I will try again. I agree that AARP’s focus is on political activism and on offering certain services to its members (such as insurance), not on promoting mind games.
July 20
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In 1984, prior to the Summer Nationals in Washington, Justice Stevens played in a Congress-Parliament match that I helped cover for the Bulletin. The deals and play had been recorded, but the account of one deal I wanted to use was incomplete. I called the Supreme Court, got a law clerk on the phone and asked if Justice Stevens could call me. That same afternoon, my phone rang, and I had the remarkable experience of talking bridge with a member of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was gracious, engaging — and helpful. He remembered the deal at issue and answered my questions!

Justice Stevens was an extraordinary jurist. He was also an excellent writer. I found his book “Five Amendments” to be cogent and well executed. Rest well, Mr. Justice. You lived a good long life,
July 17
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I have never had the pleasure of meeting Fred Gitelman, but I am well aware of the extraordinary impact he and those who supported him have made on the game. His vision and resolve have changed the face of bridge, and for the better. You can take your retirement, Fred, knowing that you have given a great deal of pleasure to a generation of players and earned an honored place in the history of our game.
July 16
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Mr. Clayton,
I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I routinely report some deals from every NABC. A year or two ago I ran an entire week of columns touting the many rewards of playing duplicate bridge and the benefits of ACBL membership. I have also made occasional references to BBO and OKbridge.

Whether any of that has had an effect, I don’t know. I have gotten no feedback, much less reinforcement, about it from the League’s marketing people. Nor am I ever asked to publicize an upcoming NABC where the host city’s paper carries my column, even though I have daily access to the type of people the League would like to attract. (I certainly don’t expect a deluge of new players to appear just because of me, but still…)

I would like to treat competitive bridge more, but I have a fence to straddle. By my estimate, close to 90% of those who read a newspaper bridge column are casual, social players, many of whom are content to stay that way. What they want from me is a little light instruction and light entertainment, not an emphasis on tournament deals.

F.S.
July 11
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I agree with Mr. Jacobs that word-of-mouth is far and away the ACBL’s most effective marketing tool. Please refer to my post near the end of this thread.
June 4
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In my opinion, the ACBL’s most valuable marketing tool, by a lot, is the proactive support of its current membership. It has been said that if every member recruited one new member, the membership would double, and I think that statement, though trite, contains some validity. If the figure were even one member in ten, the impact might be far greater than anything an outside marketing company could generate.

This Thursday, the Birmingham Duplicate Bridge Club will host a “social bridge game.” Members have been asked to invite someone who has never tried duplicate. Members and non-members will be paired up for an easy-going game: SAYC in use, no masterpoints, but a lot of food and social interaction. I will be delighted to be there to deliver some opening remarks and play.

Perhaps this is an initiative other clubs would consider trying.
F.S.
June 4
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I recall an experience in a Regional Open Pairs in Mobile more than 40 years ago. I found myself at a table with three legends. I was playing with “The Elephant” – Lou Bluhm – and we’d had a 219 in the afternoon qualifying. I had basically sat in my chair and watched as Lou was flawless, as usual.

We started the final against Tom Sanders, who was known, with no small amount of respect, as “The Bald Eagle,” and Barry Crane, whom Tom – and others – called “The Wiz” (or maybe it was the Whiz; I’m not sure). If ever there was an intimidating pair of opponents, it was Crane-Sanders. Tommy was an extraordinary player, and Crane was the best matchpoint player alive. The only reason I wasn’t scared shaking was that Lou was my partner. In all the sessions we played together, I never saw him make a clear error.

On the first board, neither vulnerable, I opened one of a minor, Lou responded one heart and Crane, in accordance with his style, overcalled two hearts, natural, on something like A-9-8-x-x. After two passes, Lou doubled for penalty, and we beat it two for +300. Crane matter-of-factly announced that we could make no game.

Sanders’ great skill was matched by his volatility. He didn’t like bad results, as I found out when I played with him. (One year in the Trials, his partnership took an expensive phantom save, and Tommy picked up the duplicate board and hurled it against the wall. Cards went everywhere.) If Tommy had been playing with anyone except Barry Crane, he would have turned purple. But he said nothing. I think that was indicative of how much he respected Crane’s game.

I don’t remember the second board, but Lou and I somehow got a top on it as well. We had other good results, but we didn’t win the event. We were nosed out, alas, by Bobby Wolff and Jack Kennedy. But I will never ever forget that first round.
May 15
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I must acknowledge that Ron Garber first cited S.J. Simon’s words in an excellent article about Barry Crane in the January 1975 issue of The Bridge World. Garber closed by writing that “Barry Crane is a Natural.” I am sure the Garber piece was familiar to me when I wrote about Crane’s death 10 years later, and I borrowed from Garber and added the observation about not seeing Crane’s like again. After all these years, I had forgotten that.
F.S.
May 12
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The sentiment comes from one of a series of articles I wrote in 1985 for the ACBL Bulletin (as its co-editor) about Crane’s achievements and persona. In discussing his unique style of play, I offered this: “S.J. Simon wrote that there are two kinds of bridge players, the Parrots and the Naturals. Barry Crane was a Natural. We shall not see his like again.”
May 10
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Not so many years ago, one of AARP’s magazines had a feature article on bridge. They interviewed a couple of players who had won major ACBL Seniors events. At that time, I contacted AARP with a proposal and after some difficulty I corresponded with a senior editor. She was cordial but said they were not, at that time, looking at running a bridge column. My impression, doubtless colored by optimism, was that the situation was not hopeless.

I confess that I never considered the thrust of AARP’s lobbying and member-service activities, extensive though they are, but only the content of their publications. I continue to believe that at some point the editors might come around to the idea that a bridge column would be appropriate for a significant part of the membership. Perhaps I will give it another try.
April 30
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Indeed I could try, but the outcome might parallel the AFDA’s effort to market glass caskets: Remains to be seen.
April 30
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A newspaper bridge column is primarily an instructive feature, but in my opinion it must strive to be entertaining as well. The column often resides on the comics page, and readers — typically casual, social players — want a little light instruction and a little diversion. But it is difficult to achieve both when I have 150 words a day to work with, and given the state of the print media, I am fortunate to have that.

When I began to work with Sheinwold in 1986, our Sunday columns were much longer and discursive, and we could treat deals, and the players, in more depth. A few years later the Sunday columns were shortened to the same length as the dailies after papers complained about the length. Now, some of my papers kill the byline, the daily bidding question or even the first graf of the text, where I usually have a humorous lede, to save space. It’s disconcerting, but I can do nothing about it.

Articles in magazines such as The Bridge World are less space-constrained. As to non-bridge magazines, I have tried more than once — with no success — to get AARP to run a bridge column in one of its publications. I agree that it’s a regrettable state of affairs.
April 30
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I rarely post on BW about controversial issues; I am reluctant to have people tell me, with varying degrees of acerbity, that if my brains were dynamite, I couldn’t blow my nose. But if my friend Bobby Wolff, one of the game’s great players and personalities, can put his neck on the block, I guess I can also.

My understanding, based on contact with prominent players prior to Memphis, was that if Lanzarotti showed up for the Vanderbilt, there would be a protest of some kind. As far as I know, nothing happened. The sponsored team that had the misfortune to draw his team in the first round chose to play. Had they refused after having entered the event, they faced suspensions. This is an undesirable effect of professionalism; players must sacrifice either their principles or their livelihood.

Many players felt that Lanzarotti had paid a due penalty and was entitled to compete. Others may have been mollified by the BoD’s vote, prior to the tournament, to make lifetime expulsion the penalty for cheating. (That motion passed narrowly -– the chairperson of the Appeals and Charges Committee opposed it – and in a somewhat watered-down version. A second and related motion was tabled until Las Vegas; my guess is that it may not be heard from again.) Some players may have been uncaring or unaware of the Lanzarotti situation, and a few, I suspect, were simply willing to sell out for money. In any case, the genie is now out of the bottle, and if Lanzarotti comes to Las Vegas, his presence will be regarded with resignation. People can rationalize that, well, he played in Memphis, so …

I can understand the different opinions as to the seriousness of Lanzarotti’s transgressions and the appropriate disposition of his case. My concern is not so much with him as with the precedent that was set in Memphis and the slippery slope it portends.

Last year, the A&C Committee (chaired by one Georgia Heth, who is also involved in World Bridge Federation matters) took the unusual step of re-admitting Lanzarotti to ACBL membership in good standing. It appears that A&C has adopted a policy of “negotiated settlements,” based on expediency and tending to favor re-admission. A&C’s actions are being approved by the full Board with no oversight.

I do not know, though I am fearful of, what motivated A&C’s action. Perhaps the committee is primarily concerned with avoiding costly litigation at a time when the League is financially stressed. But sooner or later they will find themselves dealing with other players and pairs convicted of cheating. The motion passed by the BoD is not retroactive, and the prospect of “negotiating” a reinstatement of, say, Fantoni-Nunes is abhorrent. (I do not know Georgia Heth, but how an attorney with no particular standing as a player became able to profoundly influence the state of competitive bridge is beyond my understanding.)

In my opinion, the only way to minimize cheating is to remove the incentive to cheat. I have read on BW posts about the psychological makeup of habitual cheaters. I have yet to see anyone pinpoint the root of cheating at bridge, which is money. Bridge used to be played for the thrill of intellectual achievement. There were scandals when the game was populated mostly by amateurs, but nothing approaching the scale of the past several years, coinciding with the advent of “sponsors” and the influx of pros from outside the United States. I have written that the rise of play-for-pay is a symptom of socio-economic changes in the U.S. There are more people with tons of money, more people with little.

The recent cheating cases are an inevitable consequence of “sponsorship.” It is an evil state of affairs. With the financial incentives getting ever greater, I agree that there will always be people willing to risk expulsion to get a piece of the pie. With advances in technology, they may devise methods that are undetectable – even, I daresay, in events conducted in an electronic environment.

Professionalism is out of control, and draconian measures such as banning play-for-pay appear to be impossible. Unless we institute an amateurs-only tournament policy, the only remedy I can see, imperfect as it would be, is to attack the source of the money by bringing social pressure to bear on sponsors. They must retain only pairs whose reputation is above any reproach.

Meanwhile, the ACBL Board and A&C must be made aware that we will not tolerate convicted cheaters in our tournaments. I personally admire and endorse the action of the Harris pairs. Somebody had to find the courage to get that ball rolling. Who will stand with them?
April 25
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Extremely proud of Mark and especially of my old friend and former ACBL colleague Richard. He checks my syndicated columns and regularly saves me from error. Mary’s decline has been difficult and stressful for Richard, but he has handled it with extraordinary courage and grace and has been the epitome of a loving and caring husband. Rich, you have earned my deepest admiration.
Congratulations, guys, and good luck going for the three-peat in the Fast Pairs.
March 30
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Stan,
When my colleague/mentor Alfred Sheinwold died in 1997, a brief obituary appeared in no less an august publication than Time magazine. Time referred to Freddy as a noted authority on contact bridge. I don’t know whether they canned the copy editor, but I would doubt it.
F.S.
March 28
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I regret that I have had to cancel my commitment to deliver an I/N lecture in Memphis on Sunday evening. (Thanks to Dave Caprera, who I believe is subbing for me.) I enjoy doing those lectures and am honored to do them, but I am needed at home due to my daughter’s hospitalization. She came home yesterday after three difficult weeks in Children’s in Birmingham.

Hope everyone has a most enjoyable and successful NABC.
F.S.
March 23
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