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All comments by Karen Walker
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“Some of the people that played at night were as old as the people who now don't want to play at night.”

Very true. Back when I started, people of all ages played in games that ended at 11 pm, then they went and closed the bar.

Bridge was a lot more fun back then, and talking about hands after the game was one of the reasons. I learned a lot listening to the better players.

Now, our club games end at 9:45 and even the younger people rush out as soon as the last card is played. They go home to study their results alone, in front of a screen, instead of discussing the hands and socializing with other players.

It's a cultural change that has crept into other aspects of our daily lives, but it's an especially sad development for bridge.
Oct. 20
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You can vote your Board director out. It just has to be done indirectly, through the Unit Board members who cast the final votes.

It starts with identifying a good (and willing – not always easy) candidate to challenge the incumbent, then enlisting supporters throughout your District to lobby their Unit Board representatives. Those Boards are supposed to be accountable to their members. If you have enough players supporting a candidate – and an articulate argument about why change is needed – those voters should do their jobs and choose the candidate their members want.
Oct. 19
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You're shooting at the messenger.

I doubt that Jay was happy about having to make this plea, but he's trying to reduce the potential damages of a decision that was made seven years ago by a Board he wasn't even on. If this convinces anyone to give more consideration to booking at the host hotel, it was worth posting.

If nothing else, give him credit for being brave enough to sign his name – a refreshing change from the past when the mysterious “ACBL Official” tried to be anonymous.
Oct. 19
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I attempted to talk to a Board Member about the decision to hold the meeting in Hawaii. It went like this:

ME: Why did you vote “yes” to meet in Hawaii?
BM: Because we have so much important business that cannot wait until spring.
ME: It can't be done by teleconferencing?
BM: It's important to be able to interact in a face-to-face meeting.
ME: Then why not have the meeting in in Memphis?
BM: Because it's important that we meet at the NABC site.
ME: Why?
BM: I think my phone is ringing. Gotta go.
Oct. 18
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I'm late to the discussion, but I'll confirm that Barry is right. Although the Bulletin editors don't “officially endorse” what their columnists write, they review every article for content, accuracy and clarity.

The editors are accomplished players and are very thorough. If I write that “most experts” would interpret an auction a certain way, they're on the phone, calling players to confirm. They regularly use DeepFinesse to test writers' analysis of the play.

And no, no one is ghost-writing my articles.
Oct. 13
Karen Walker edited this comment Oct. 13
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I learned bridge from “Five Weeks” and have recommended it to many people. Its only disadvantage is that it teaches 4-card majors, but it's relatively easy to adapt the principles to a 5-card major system.

Bridge for Dummies is excellent, too – as is just about anything by Kantar. His Introduction to Declarer Play and Introduction to Defender's Play are classics that would be good companion volumes to “Dummies”.

Two other good options that offer sound advice and engaging writing styles:
Learn to Play Bridge by Gary Brown (ABTA's 2007 Bridge Book of the Year)
The Fun Way to Serious Bridge by Harry Lampert
Sept. 8
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There always seems to be a hint – or sometimes a bludgeon – of ageism in these discussions.

Is the age of other players really that much of a deterrent? When I started playing, I enjoyed “hanging out with a bunch of old people”. I had just spent four years with 35,000 people my age and I liked meeting people who had more life experiences (and bridge experience) than college students.

Our shared interest made all these “old people” ageless to me. The 70-year-olds were part of our group at the bar after the games, and the socializing did not include discussions of their health problems. One of my partners was a man old enough to be my father and we became lifelong friends.

I'd like to think that today's young people aren't such snobs that they are rejecting bridge solely because they want to be surrounded only by people who are just like them.

Maybe I'm just a dinosaur who should accept that young people really are turned off by the thought of spending time with seniors. Whether that's true or not, it's really not fair to describe older players as curmudgeons who shush their opponents and whine about their sciatica. There are plenty of dinosaurs on bridgewinners who may not care for that characterization, either – and cringe at the suggestion that we should “just die already”.
Sept. 6
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I'm sorry this happened to you, Amir, and doubly sorry that some questioned the accuracy of your account.

I have no idea whether or not you were exaggerating. What I do know is that this woman's feelings are not unusual. She just happened to be louder and more obnoxious about expressing them than most people.

I've seen her counterparts more and more often in recent years. If she's like the players I know, the source of her resentment isn't really your bidding system. And the silly speculation about her “coded racism” aside, it certainly isn't about that, either.

It's that by winning – or more generally, just being more skilled than she is – you are damaging her self-esteem. No matter how polite and friendly you are, her perception is that you think you're better than she is.

The evening game at my local club has always had a good number of strong players. For years, they and pairs of lesser ability enjoyed playing against each other in open games. That began changing a decade or so ago when some long-time, intermediate-level members started playing exclusively in the afternoon games, which typically have weaker fields.

Some of these players told me they stopped coming to the evening game because it had too many experts and it was too hard to win. I was disappointed that their priorities had changed, but at least I understood their decision.

Others, however, claimed that they left because the players were intimidating and arrogant, even nasty. They told stories about local experts who had had bullied them, ridiculed their play and gloated over their own good results.

The alleged offenders were people I knew would not do this and they denied it. I even observed a few of the “incidents”, and what happened was nothing close to the ways the offended people described them.

Like the woman at your club, they didn't want to admit that they just didn't like playing against better players. They were looking for an excuse that placed the blame elsewhere. In their minds, your innocent comment will always be a veiled insult, any attempt to be friendly is “patronizing”, preempting is intentionally taking advantage of them.

This sort of hyper-sensitivity is pervasive in almost all aspects of our society. Some blame it on the child-rearing trend that emphasizes building self-esteem and giving out trophies for coming in last. At bridge, though, it's multi-generational.

Running a club used to be more fun. It was a community of competitive people who enjoyed the game whether or not they were the best players in the room. Now, it's more like being a kindergarten teacher, and if you're one of the better players in the game, you have to be the teacher's aid to fit in.
Sept. 5
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You don't need to read the whole thread. Here's the gist of it:
This is the Crime of the Millennium.
We are outraged that we've been duped, stolen from, injured by Horton's sins.
He is a corrupt human being who should be fired and boycotted.
We demand a groveling, public apology so we can start another 700+-post thread about how insincere and inadequate it was.
Aug. 3
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The ACBL's technology shortcomings can be partly blamed for many of these problems.

In a qualifying event a few years ago, we knew we had qualified but didn't get an email from ACBLDead until the next morning. The board scores had a bottom-to-top error in our favor (our North had scored +650 for himself instead of for us). I went to the playing site early and talked to the directors, but they said too bad, the correction period had expired last night.

Meanwhile, my friends, who had checked the paper recap sheets that night and found they did not Q, took the day off without checking their email. A late correction had given them a qualifying spot, but they didn't show, so the directors had a half-table problem.

I can understand why the directors wouldn't adjust my score, since we could have been more vigilant (assuming the score wasn't changed after we left the table) and it surely would have affected other qualifiers. If I had received the email results right after the session, though, this wouldn't have been an issue – I could have made the correction immediately.

Or, better, the scoring software could flag obvious anomalies – such as a whole string of +620s for EW and one +650 for NS – so the directors could fix them during the game. If the software can't do that, then maybe the directors should be watching the incoming scores for this type of error.

Otherwise, the only way to be sure your score is correct is to wait around after the session, fight the crowds and check every board on the recap sheets. Even then, you'd better not make any plans for the next day before checking your email that morning.
Aug. 2
Karen Walker edited this comment Aug. 2
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What would be wrong about it? Claims and concessions can be withdrawn. Fred gave back a trick that he could not have possibly won by any normal play of the remaining cards. What would be wrong would be to realize that and do nothing.
Aug. 1
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Fred Hamilton did something similar for me years ago. The round was being called before I finished declaring a hand, so I made a somewhat rushed claim for four of the last five tricks.

While Fred was writing up the score ticket for the waiting caddy, I asked him if he held the diamond jack. When he said yes, I muttered something like “Well, too bad,” and moved to the next table.

About 30 seconds later, he came over and said my question made him realize he was squeezed, so I deserved another trick. Then he sprinted away to catch the caddy and change the score. Very classy.
July 30
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What is most unsettling is that some contributors to this thread seem to believe that Horton as a person is the one who should be stamped on – hard.

He made a mistake. Calling that mistake “heinous” or “corrupt” is overly dramatic in my view, but implying that it defines him as a human being is downright vicious. Like you, Gwynn, I am wondering if I should even try to contribute to a group that can become so nasty, so fast.
July 26
Karen Walker edited this comment July 26
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I agree, Barry, about the bridge teachers' plagiarism and about the common misconceptions about what's legal to grab from the Internet. That's why I didn't make a big deal of it, although I think replacing my name with their bylines goes a bit beyond simple cribbing.

The bridge columnist is another matter. Like Horton, he is a professional who should have known better and he actually made money from my work. I wasn't outraged about that, either, and it never would have occurred to me to publish his name and “crime” on a public web site. I gave him a chance to explain, he apologized and that was the end of it.
July 25
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Bridge plagiarism is much more common than most of us would believe.

I have a lot of experience with plagiarists, having spent three decades teaching a college-level course in writing research papers. I have also been a frequent victim, if that’s the right word.

Bridge teachers have posted word-for-word copies of my articles on their own web sites, replacing my name with their bylines. A foreign bridge site removed my name and copied and uploaded my entire site (120+ files) to their domain. A nationally syndicated bridge columnist published a hand, the auction, analysis and blocks of copy from an article he found on my site.

These were all discovered by accident or by someone else who notified me. If I started searching, I’m sure I would find more.

In some cases, I’ve contacted the web masters and “writers” and asked them to either remove the articles or add attributions. A few were contrite and complied, confessing that they didn’t realize that what they did was wrong. They thought anything on the Internet was “fair game”.

Most, however – including a couple of professional teachers/players who should care more about their reputations – didn’t even reply. Although I felt taken advantage of, they didn’t really take anything of value from me, so I let it go.

I don’t excuse their thefts, but I can accept that they did not have evil intent. Most plagiarists are motivated by laziness, not larceny. Some lack confidence in their own writing skills and decide that they couldn’t say it better, so they don’t even try.

Their mistakes are breaches of ethics, not evidence of an unredeemable character flaw, and hardly deserving of the outrage and hyperbole in this thread’s comments. Calling plagiarism as serious as bridge cheating is like comparing shoplifting to the Lufthansa heist. Even hinting that it’s as heinous as racism and child molestation is downright disturbing.

Horton’s readers deserve to know what happened, but why did it have to be a public shaming? I don’t understand why Bridgewinners is involved, nor why the poster felt it necessary to go to any “authority” instead of contacting Horton directly. Horton should have been given the opportunity to admit his mistakes and apologize instead of being ambushed and defiled on a public forum.
July 25
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Here is the structure that I have long thought would be an effective way to reduce the size of the Board. If it can be an official motion, maybe it would at least get people to think about the problem.

Reduce the Board to nine voting members -– eight zonal representatives and one from the Board of Governors.

There’s no need to redistrict. For purposes of electing Board members, current districts would be grouped geographically into eight zones -– seven zones of three districts, one zone with four. Population could be considered when assigning zones, but it's more important that each zone comprise contiguous districts.

Each zone has one voting director and two alternates (one from each district), all elected to three-year terms. A type of term limit is built in, with the first alternate becoming the voting member after one year, the second alternate assuming that role in the third year.

Alternates can attend Board meetings at their own expense (or be subsidized by their individual districts). They would not vote, but would be available for committee work.

The Board would have one meeting at one NABC per year, with all other business conducted by email and online meetings.
July 23
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When you say it's incorrect that ACBL schedules regionals, are you just quibbling about the word “schedules”? Is “sanctions” the right term? Or “gives permission for”?

Or are you saying that the national organization actually has no control over how many regionals can be run on any given date – that district tournament coordinators make all those decisions? If so, then “sanctions” is the wrong word, too – and it's no wonder there are so many complaints.

I have to fill out a sanction application every year for my tournament and get approval from ACBL. If they can never disapprove, I'm wondering why that's necessary.
July 22
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Just one person has to “entirely own” ALL the shortcomings when a tournament doesn't get big attendance and run perfectly? That is harsh.

If I believed that, I would quit right now. And no one else would take the job, either, if they thought they would be judged by those standards.

I take plenty of blame when my tournament attendance goes down. I will not, however, “entirely own” it when ACBL schedules nine regionals east of the Mississippi – plus a sectional within 150 miles – all on the same weekend. That was their blunder.

Neither is it all my fault that the pool of potential tournament attendees is getting smaller and older every year. I've spent most of my life promoting bridge in my “realm”, but my reach and influence are limited. The Board of Directors is supposed to be helping by marketing the game nationwide – “to promote, grow and sustain the game of bridge”, as stated in their mission – and they aren't doing it.
July 20
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That is good news. We are envious of that turnout here in the backwater, although I don't know what we'd do if that many showed up here, as our hotel can't fit more than 90 tables a session. Congratulations to the organizers in Reston.
July 19
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Thanks for your comments. I didn't take them as being overly critical, but you may have misinterpreted my main point.

I didn't mean to imply that Steve wasn't entitled to his opinion or his use of a “disapproving expletive” regarding Choice Pairs. I was interested in his reasons, which he explained in another post. I agree in large part with most of his observations.

My view is that the customer is always right, so I take complaints seriously. I have modified the schedule many times to accommodate those who make gentle suggestions as well as those who rail that I'm the devil for forcing them to play in their non-favorite events. Although I know it's impossible to make everyone happy, I keep trying – and perhaps that's part of my problem.

I assure you that I am not in denial about our lack of success in maintaining attendance. I consider it a failing on my part, although it's probably some combination of that and ACBL scheduling, gold points at clubs, demographics and some other factors I haven't been able to identify.

Yes, there are too many tournaments, scheduled too close together, but there are not easy solutions. In the Midwest, we don't dare try any dates in November through March.

Maybe ACBL should eliminate some of the spring and summer regionals here, but I'm not convinced that would significantly increase attendance at the others. We had almost 60 locals at our tournament and not one of them went to Chicago or Coralville. It wasn't because they were already “played out” or couldn't afford to go to a second summer regional. It's because most just don't travel. If we didn't have a local regional, many of them would never play in one.

I don't know what double message might have been suggested by my comment that our tournament was “doing fine”. Maybe I should have said “surviving”. My point was that small tournaments meet a need for important segments of our membership. As long as we aren't losing money or reducing the attendance at other tournaments, eliminating our regional is unlikely to solve the bigger problem of declining attendance everywhere else.

Your comments and observations are appreciated, and if you have other ideas, I promise I won't take them as criticisms.
July 19
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