The Summer NABC was in Las Vegas where is was hot and dry. The Fall NABC was in Providence, where it was cold and wet. The weather was little problem since the hotels were all close to the playing site and you could walk from Convention Center to hotel to shopping mall without stepping outside. The highlight of the non-bridge activities was the Water Fire show, an event seemingly unique to Providence. The river basin in the revitalized downtown area has many large steel baskets filled with firewood which are lit at sundown on special occasions. The flames grow and the fires heat the surrounding walkways; there is the scent of burning cedar in the air. The show was quite impressive and most comforting on an evening in the low 30’s. Luckily Rhode Island, which has its own Narragansett Bay, doesn’t have a Bay Area Air Quality Board imposing no-burn laws. They do have ‘no drinking in public’ laws though, so you couldn’t have fire-water during the Water Fire show.
The Board of Directors meeting was slightly shorter than the summer meeting; there were fewer motions to consider. Even so, a number of items should be of interest to D21 members, from board motions, Board of Governors actions, and CEO reports. The details are arranged by subject.
As reported in December’s editions of the Forum , Roger Smith has won the run-off for D21 District Director; his 3 year term starts Jan 1, 2015. Roger was present at the Providence board meeting as the district director elect, so he is up to date on the board’s activities. Roger, of course, has served many years on the board before, so he is very familiar with the board’s procedures. Please give him your full support; being a district director takes a good deal of time and energy to do an effective job.
ACBL Goodwill Committee nominations:
One of the privileges of being district director is nominating deserving district members to a lifetime membership in the Aileen Osofsky Goodwill Committee. For 2014 there are two well deserving nominees, and it is my honor to welcome:
Bob Garret. Bob is our current D21 president. He also is co-chairing the 2016 Reno NABC hospitality committee. Each in itself is a major task, yet Bob is tackling both simultaneously and with his ever-present good cheer. Bob also developed the highly praised video presentation on the history of bridge in Northern California and Nevada that grabbed the attention of passers-by at the 2012 NABC in San Francisco. Players who were walking to or from their games stopped in their tracks to watch this video unfold. He has taken this material and developed a live presentation that he has given at various tournaments.
Marilyn Minden. Marilyn has worked for over 7 years with Sally Wheeler-Valine to provide the best hospitality for our D21 regionals. She keeps our hospitality suite buzzing with activity and food for each of the four regionals we have every year. Sally was presented with the ACBL Goodwill award just a couple of years ago, and now we can honor Marilyn as well. Our hospitality suite is the primary facet of D21’s contribution to goodwill among all bridge players.
ACBL elections: uzi Subeck of Chicago, IL and District 13 was elected ACBL President for 2015. Suzi said she would make every effort to visit a D21 regional next year, although Monterey is doubtful due to family commitments.
World Bridge Federation (WBF) representatives: there were two positions up for election as an ACBL representative to the WBF; elections are staggered over three years for the five positions. Nine candidates filled the ballot for these two slots. Georgia Heth, an incumbent WBF representative and a current ACBL board member, won on the first ballot. Howard Weinstein, president of the US Bridge Federation (USBF), won on the second ballot.
ACBLScore: As expected, the subjects of ACBLScore and the former ACBLScore+ project were still contentious topics in Providence. The Board of Governors meeting was especially vociferous, with a few very vocal individuals calling our CEO to task for the loss of $1.5M on the ACBLScore+ fiasco. Robert Hartman remained calm and unflappable under these withering challenges of his handling of the problem. Probably anticipating the clamor, Robert did announce the formation of an External Technology task force to study the direction management is taking with ACBLScore, the decision to drop ACBLScore+, and other technology considerations. The task force consists of 3 staff members, 3 board members, and 3 outside experts. Greg Humphreys, a Bridge Winner founder and lead programmer, and Uday Ivatury, the lead software developer for Bridge Base Online, are two of the outside experts already chosen. The three board members are Merlin Vilhauer, Russ Jones, and Jay Whipple; all have expertise in software and information technology.
ACBLScore enhancements continue with ACBL Live, wherein your session results are sent to your phone or email within minutes of finishing the session. We saw Live Results in action at the Providence NABC and it does indeed work well. Plans for 2015 include wireless scoring for Swiss and KO events, a utility to quickly start KO events, and preparation to sunset the DOS version of ACBLScore and incorporate all the DOS functionality into the Windows version. More functionality is planned for 2016 and beyond. The capital budget for this project is $600K for 2015.
Financial: The budget so far this year is tracking very closely to the 2014 forecast. Revenues are 0.6% higher and operating expenses are 1.4% lower. Operating expenses do not include capital write-offs. Now here is where the big bucks appear. Write-offs for ACBLScore+ total $1.9M. The actual expenditures on the ACBLScore+ contract are actually close to $1.5M, with the difference including external pre-contract studies and external pre-termination evaluation. However one accounts for it, this is a major loss. Another big item was the termination of the employee pension plan, allowing employees to take a lump sum or convert to an outside annuity. This required an additional funding of $1.16M plus a balance sheet adjustment of $596K, which was due to federally required overvaluation of the plan’s interest potential. Despite this write-off, the board determined it was best to terminate the plan now rather than do so in the future because the plan liability would only increase over time. A third write-off of $169K was required for back travel pay, primarily due to labor rules that determined part-time TDs should have been paid for previously unpaid travel expenses
All told, the bottom line write-off resulted in a reduction in net assets of $4.13M. Probably the worst year since the great flood. Oh wait, the flood happened in September. At least insurance covered all but a $50K deductible of the approximately $500K in damages.
Membership and activity: Membership as of the end of October is 167,808, which is 3 less than at the beginning of 2014. Yes, 3. We can safely say membership levels are constant! Our CEO noted that every year we lose about 10K members and gain about the same number of new members. A study of my own shows the average age is 71.2. 1/8 of all members are non-seniors (under 60), 1/4 are under 66, 1/4 over 79, and 1/8 over 84. Thus half are between 67 and 78. This is based on July 2014 numbers.
Regional total table count is nearly flat at 156K tables because of 4 more regionals, but average regional tables are down 3%. Sectionals are down 4% in total with 130K and 6% on average. STaCs are down 3% in total with 90K and 4% on average. Club tables are up 1/2% in total. However, face-to-face club tables are down 3% to 1.3M, while online tables are up 6%.
First time new members may turn in receipts or references to masterpoints won at tournaments or clubs up to a maximum of 20. There was previously a one year limit on this allowance. A motion passed by the board removes the one year restriction, so now the only limitation is the 20 point maximum. The rationale was that students who play occasionally but have limited resources can wait and have an incentive to join the ACBL once they have 20 MPs.
As discussed in my Las Vegas report, the board had a series of motions that modified regional events and masterpoints (MPs) in many categories. These motions all required a seconds reading in Providence. As expected, all passed with effectively no opposition. They now are in effect as of Jan 1, 2015.
To summarize the major aspects: For all games, all pairs events now pay 25% more MPs. Sectional MPs are increased 10%, while sectionally rated events that do not have an ACBL TD present are reduced 10%. Regionals can now have a 2 flight event with 3 strats in each flight. This will allow those who have graduated from the Goldrush events to play in the top flight and be in a strat of 750-1500, for example.
For MP calculations, regionals will no longer count the subordinate tables of lower flights, but have a fixed multiplier to compensate. This corrects a problem when regionals with a small top flight and large Gold Rush flight paid enormous numbers of MPs to the A and X winners. We do not see that problem in D21 but it has been prevalent in other areas of North America.
New board motions affecting tournaments that were passed In Providence:
All events: sanction fees are increasing 2% and TD session fees are increasing 5% starting April 1.
Regionals: regionals are now permitted to hold two session gold-point events on the first day, making full 7 day regionals possible; previously they were 6 1/2 days. The first day events must start no earlier than 1pm, to allow time for TDs to travel between tournaments. The first session must support one of the charities or funds as before; the second session must support one of the same set of charities/funds or a local charity.
Sectionals: Non-Life Master sectionals have been modified. Even the name has been changed to protect the innocent ..… literally. There are a small number of low-life non-life masters who have thousands of points. They just never satisfied a black or silver point requirement. So they were eligible to play in a NLM sectional. A few did. A motion was passed to correct this. I’m a district director. I voted for it. Dum-de-dum-dum! NLM sectionals will now be called Limited Sectionals and the masterpoint limit will be up to 500. It doesn’t matter if you are a life master or not, you just can’t be over 500. As before, this type of sectional can be run by a director who is not an ACBL employee.
Progressive sectionals: We do not see these events in D21 but they do exist in small numbers elsewhere. Some units find it impractical to run a sectional due to small size or costly rents. Briefly, a progressive sectional is one or two weeks of qualifying at club games, followed by a single final session run as a sectional and with an ACBL TD. These events award silver points just like all sectionals. The final session pays masterpoints as though it were a two session game, the club qualifier counting as the first session. To avoid overuse of this event, a motion was passed that limits each unit to no more than one per calendar year. Although Progressive sectionals were virtually unknown until now, this publicity garnered by this motion might just make them a popular item, especially among small units looking for a way to satisfy the requirement they hold at least one sectional every two years.
Charity: The final tally for the Longest Day 2014 was just under $600K, nearly $20K more than 2013. June 21, 2015 falls on Sunday and Father’s Day. Consequently, dates for the Longest Day will include June 21 and Monday, June 22. Participation in either one or both Longest Days will be included in the fundraising.
Juniors: The board passed a motion that greatly simplified the how funds are provided for juniors and youths playing in international events. These events are held every two years with the intervening years used for coaching and preparation, making expenses alternate from high to low every cycle. Rather than requiring the US Bridge Federation (USBF) and Canadian Bridge Federation (CBF) to submit detailed requests for funds each year, the board has determined the USBF will receive $50K and the CBF $25K each year. They can spend the funds as they see fit, and only have to provide a report on their junior and youth activities each fall.
The 2016 Youth NABC will be held in conjunction with the 2016 Summer NABC in Washington, DC. The expected cost will be $20K less than previous Youth NABCs based on average attendance, mainly due to a reduction in food provided. There has been an ongoing effort to reduce the cost per player since its inception in 2009. Such costs were as high as $323 per player in 2011 and have been reduced to $68 per player in 2014. The event has no entry fee, but now requires all participants be ACBL members.
Lifetime Achievement lists: A Board of Governors motion from Las Vegas proposed that lifetime masterpoint lists should report face-to-face and online points separately. The Board of Directors modified the motion with the consent of the BoG chair, so that the current lifetime lists would be printed with an additional column showing online points earned. It was impractical to print two separate lists due to the large number of pages it would consume in the ACBL Bulletin. An online utility is in production where anyone can view masterpoint leaders in any subset you choose, such as district, unit, point pigmentation, male/female, etc. The board decided there was no need to put any of these subcategories in print as well.
District 21 Support: Normally I wouldn’t report on board motions that are withdrawn, deferred, or fail. However, there is one motion that requires noting. In a poll of D21 board, a large majority were in favor of getting a fifth regional. 2014 is the last year that D20 will be running the Reno regional and we sorely need a 5th regional allocation before committing to continue the Reno regional in D21. ACBL regulation do not permit us more than 4 unless we have over 9000 members for more than 3/4th of a year. Even if we did get another 270 members and go over 9000, it would likely be 2016 or later before we have a qualifying year. That would not be recognized by the ACBL until March 2017, after which we could have a 5th allocation for 2018. That’s a long time to wait for true bridge aficionados.
I made a motion that any district with over 9000 total regional tables for 4 regionals should get a 5th allocation. D21 consistently has over 9500 tables. The board felt strongly that there were already too many regionals crowding the calendar across the whole ACBL and defeated the motion. The board plans to have a committee review the overall regional allocations in 2015, and was very reluctant to address any changes in 2014.
Even though my motion failed, there are still other options available for holding a 5th regional, primarily involving co-sponsorship with another district. Whether this option can be brought to fruition or not is yet to be determined. With Reno holding the Spring 2016 NABC, Northern Nevada will not be at a loss for major events any time soon. Our district board has to determine if holding a new regional is feasible given the upcoming NABC and the short time available to choose a date, secure a playing site, get a sanction, and advertise a new regional, even if we indeed can secure a co-sponsored regional allocation.
Conclusion: Providence is my last Board of Directors meeting and this is my last director’s report. Although my tenure as your district director was brief, I did manage to contribute to the workings of the board, get to know the other board members, making many friends and reputedly no enemies. I observed firsthand the dedication and hard work the board members make for the improvement of bridge. All 25 members do not always agree on what to do or how to do it, but they all have the interest of bridge at heart. From the outside one can easily be cynical about the board’s decisions, but it is nearly impossible to satisfy 167,808 (give or take 3) members from every level of bridge, all at the same time.
The vast majority of bridge players just want to play bridge and not worry about management and governance of the game. Without the few who step up to the task of running the organization, we wouldn’t have tournaments of any kind. If you think you have the capacity and time to volunteer, do consider serving on your unit or district board.
Even though I am stepping down from the Board of Directors, I will continue to serve on my unit board, the District 21 board, and if re-elected as first alternate, on the Board of Governors. Thanks to all of you for your support and kind words. May you play winning bridge, play ethically, be courteous, and above all enjoy the game.