Bobby Wolff


Quite often a relatively unimportant event may trigger a positive turn which, to some, may affect their specialized world. On this possible full sea on which we are afloat, we must take the current when it serves, or instead — continue to veer far off course.

In this case, the specialized world is the game of worldwide tournament bridge and the full sea is the just completed Team Trials to determine who represents the USA in the upcoming Bermuda Bowl, to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil the end of August, through the middle of September, 2009.    The USA, because of its mighty tradition in bridge and its uncanny depth of very top players is the only country in the World Bridge Federation (WBF) to be granted two teams.  In the recently completed Open Team Trials, held in White Plains, NY, the Steve Robinson Team came from almost nowhere to dominate the event and finish First, an unlikely upset which has not happened often during the Trials History.

The second team which qualified, however is the prime subject of this discussion and it is the tried and true Nick Nickell team (composed of two professional pairs)  by every standard, four of the very best players in the entire world.  Further, one duo is probably considered the best partnership in the universe and the second newly formed pair heading toward eventually challenging for that hallowed reputation.  The third pair, Nick Nickell and Dick Freeman are a very good pair and have been the namesake for this dominant team for around 18 years. 

Nick, the President of Kelso & Co., an ultra successful leverage buyout firm located in New York City, also serves as the sponsor of the team seeing to it that his teammates are happy — providing the financial support necessary to enable his group to think only about how to play bridge in the most effective world class manner. It needs to be added that Nick is one of the most respected members of the bridge community, being highly ethical and conducts himself in as close to a perfect manner as possible.  Not long ago he was asked by the current WBF President, Jose Damiani of Paris, France, to succeed him as President of the WBF, but Nick declined because accepting would take far too much time out of his already crammed schedule not to mention his devotion to his family.  It would not be a stretch for me to suggest that Nick is revered in the Bridge World as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (coincidentally both enthusiastic bridge players) are in the Financial World.

Having said the above, it is time to get into the nitty-gritty issues at hand.

The Nickell team, having been granted a bye into the semifinal round of the Trials by virtue of their year long, excellent qualifying performance, lost their first match sending them into the repechage (an opportunity for a losing team to get back into the event) which is used to determine the Second USA team.  They then won their next two matches which led to them playing in the Finals of the repechage and creating a rematch between them and the Fleisher team, the team that beat them in their opening match.

Dick Freeman, Nick’s partner, who was suffering from pancreatitis was too sick to continue playing and departed for home.  This left the Nickell team with only five players and Nick without his favorite partner.  Their team then decided to play only four in the final. Nick had in the past played often with Bob Hamman, one of the front four players, but their team decided that their best chance was to continue to play the original two partnerships in the Finals.

That did not bode well for the upstart Fleisher team and although the match was virtually tied at the end of 60 boards (out of the total of 90 to be played) the Nickell team broke it open and wound up winning handily.

Now to the problems caused by the sudden change of team composition. 

Bridge is not like other professional games where in team sports, teams have many more players on their team than are required to be on the field during the actual playing.  In the NBA, each team has twelve, although only five at a time are on the court; in Major League Baseball each team has 25 active players — although only nine are on the field at a time;  and in Football each team has 50+ although only eleven are legally allowed on the gridiron at any one time. 

All substitutions are at the behest of the Coach or Manager.  In bridge, most teams have three partnerships (even though only two are playing at any one time), because of the lack of spectator interest (which in turn denies TV coverage, the source of most of the rather large amounts of money associated with the major sports).   It has caused sponsorship in bridge to be created consisting of two expert pairs and usually the third pair is composed of an experienced top player who plays with the sponsor.  In effect,  the sponsor buys his or her way onto a particular team, in order to play the required number of boards to be eligible to be declared part of the group in the event of emerging triumphantly.

Now to the rub ……………….

Sponsorship serves as an enabling mechanism to bridge pairs who soon find out that in order to compete effectively, they must devote more time than expected to develop and hopefully keep their partnership world-class.  For club games, followed up-the-line by sectional, regional and then national games, no one should care much about who plays with whom or, for that matter, who eventually wins.  Although all of the above events are hotly contested and very competitive, the country’s bridge reputation and nationalistic feelings matter not.    Sure, there are many foreign (usually top-class sponsored) players who come to our three annual Nationals to compete, but in those events no one looks on the competitive side as crucial similar to foreign players in the major TV sports who join US teams as full fledged players.  However, when the WBF puts on their annual world tournament similar to the Davis Cup (Tennis), Ryder Cup (Golf), America’s Cup (Yachting) or the various Olympiads — competitive blood runs hot and we, like other countries around the world, all strongly pull for our home country.

In world bridge, very simply, we do not send our very best three partnerships.  Usually, with a few exceptions, every team represented, whether it is the Open Division, Women’s Division or even the Senior Division, showcase many players of less than world-class stature who have earned the right to represent their country (almost always accompanied by two World Class partnerships). 

While Nick is partnered by Dick and together are way above average for a sponsor and his partner, there are many sponsors who are way down the list in ability and frankly should not be remotely considered to be trusted to play well enough to have a decent chance to win, nor, of course, even to have deserved the honor to represent our great country.  It is imperative for our administrative heads to have at heart the best interest of fielding a USA winning team.  In those other sports mentioned, at least to me, and currently illustrated by the Ryder Cup, it is extremely competitive with our best golfers bonding and going out as a team in search of making the USA proud and defeating their worthy European opponents.

After all — what are world sports all about (symbolic in our Olympiad competition, and for more years than many of us have been alive), except rooting for one’s home country and hoping for glorious victories from our world class individuals and teams. For that matter, when we are glued to our seats watching the Olympics on TV, isn’t it inspiring to watch gold medal winners whether or not it is one’s home country or not?  Is that not one of the thrills of living in this day and age of seeing who is supreme at what he or she does?

World competition should be about superlatives!!!!

With all of the above in mind — you may ask, what is the problem and, if so, what is the solution? 

First of all, our administrators (in charge of the team selection process and the validation of our players) CANNOT have a conflict of interest.  Being a sponsor, per se, is a conflict since being a sponsor may well entail writing and enforcing the rules for lesser than world class players still being in the running for international team selection.

Professional players should also not be in on the selection and validation part of the process since their mere relationship with their own sponsors (plus possible ones on the horizon) is too much to overcome.  Obviously, there are quite a few on the periphery of both taboos and must be ruled off-limits.  Our current USBF BOD is unfortunately made up of almost exclusively these classes of people with only one or two exceptions.  What happens reminds everyone who knows, just how awful the current political process has become. Being part of the tabooed majority is a real power move by the individual doing it.  He or she not only rule for himself or herself, but becomes a good person for almost everyone in the process to know and with whom to cultivate a friendship.

What, then, is a possible solution?  How about setting up a Commissioners Office where all topical conversations and actions are always clearly transparent!  Open votes and no secrets!  The primary objective for international selection and play is to create as good a team for the USA as can be selected while at the same time doing everything possible to fund the event and provide the necessary props (coach, logistics, training procedures and TLC) to give our teams the tools to be as good as they can be, keeping in mind that the players are not starting from ground zero … far from it.

Some of our better players would no doubt drop out claiming poverty.  If so, what have we really lost?  The good news is that everyone worth their salt will want to play for the USA which has always been, at least for me (and I’d be surprised if not for everyone), the thrill of a lifetime.  Also the right amount of pressure will be brought to bear, by making each individual responsible for his/her own actions which, no doubt, will be his/her resume for future championships. 

Younger players will get better much more quickly since our attention should always concentrate on our youth.  They require experience to be the great players of our coming generation — seeking out a compatible partner of their choice.  It is time that the zoo becomes run by a well intentioned wise, animal-loving zookeeper rather than turning it over to the resident mammals.

The decision made here will have a powerful affect on the game in the future.   I caution those who may be optimistic to not expect miracles.  Most leopards do not change their spots and politicians, at least to me, are even more predictable than leopards.  What we should all hope for is eventual change, but in order to have a chance for that to happen most of the readers must be unabashed to join in with their comments, suggestions and involvement in a timely fashion before any irreversible decisions are made.  We should all want what is best for bridge!

Before closing, I would appreciate your attention to the pertinence of the following……..

1.  Selecting the best team possible to join with the winning Robinson team to complete the roster of our two teams. Keep in mind that the team which defeated Fleisher in the USA2 final was significantly different from their proposed team for Brazil.

2.  Keep in mind that the Nickell team did not try and mitigate the playing circumstances after Freeman’s departure, by having Nickell play with Hamman (a former partnership) at least some, trying to validate Nick’s presence on the current team.

3.  Consider the very unlucky plight the Fleisher team had to overcome, through no fault of their own, playing straight through against two of the best partnerships and four of the best players in the world. Caveat #2 above may have served to reduce the advantage the Nickell team had accrued, to which many may think that they did not deserve.

4.  The strong character, table ethics, and behavior of both Nick and Dick should be given every possible positive consideration. Just knowing who they are — would immediately preclude any of what happened being thought of as bogus.  Not so with many others.

5.  Above all — whatever happens will automatically create an important PRECEDENT which will not go away.

6.  Regardless of any other relevant factors, those who are totally indoctrinated with the theory ONCE A TEAM — ALWAYS A TEAM should urge them to reinstate Nick and Dick.

7.  Seek candid responses from the professionals how they would feel playing without their sponsor (should that be the Committee’s ruling) and how this decision will affect U. S. bridge over the next large number of years.

8.  Administrative decisions often have much more meaning than the playing results of any competition.  The goal here is to make not only the players have confidence in what is being done for them and with them, but face the reality that all the caring bridge players in the ACBL who help fund the teams, have at least some stake in what will be done.

9.  Let objectivity rule and we’ll all be happy with the result.  Deny it and we will forever be in a political hand tying morass.

Real life politics takes many shapes and forms such like in bridge when a person in the important decision making process seeks to be a future Captain or Coach of a certain team or teams.  If one thinks that doesn’t influence his decision on where he distributes the largess, there is a well-known bridge I would like to sell you.


Ray LeeJune 18th, 2009 at 1:10 am

As I said on Judy’s blog at greater length, it would shock me, given the history, the circumstances, and the people making the decision, if Nickell and Freeman were not approved to be part of USA 2. If the USBF saw its duty as being to add the best available third pair, however, it would surely be two different people. This is in no way to denigrate the ability of N & F; merely to observe that the team that won the final did not include them (ask Fleisher if they think that might just have made a small difference), and there is an argument that the USBF needs to consider an appropriate process for augmenting the 4-person team that did win.

JuanitaJune 18th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

I would not be surprised if a complaint were not lodged with the IRS that the USBF, a tax-exempt organizaton, is using funds for the benefits of its board members.

LenJune 18th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Great post. I hope Danny Kleinman doesn’t complain about your capital letters.

BTW, if you were in charge, and Nick/Dick were out, how would you pick the third pair? Another trials? Past performance? Lottery?

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2009 at 4:53 am

Hi Len,

After narrowing the suggestions to several (approximately 3 to 5 or 6 pairs) I would then go to the front four of the Nickell team (remaining nucleus) and give them a few days to choose who they want. If somehow they were split and wanted me or us to decide I would go to both or all three of the possible pairs and try to get the biggest commitment I could for them to practice, making sure that all of the possible choices do not have other encumbrances on their time. The pair who figured to be able to devote the most quality time and effort would be my choice. Nothing more, nothing less.

This description reminds me of an inscription on a grave in Tombstone, Arizona which I will always remember:

Here lies Les Moore, 4 shots from a 44, No Less, No More!

LenJune 19th, 2009 at 8:53 pm


If I understand correctly, you’re saying that of the top 3-6 pairs you suggest, you’d let the remainder of the Nickell squad pick? So if one pair offered to pay and the others didn’t, that wouldn’t disqualify them in any way?

Bobby WolffJune 20th, 2009 at 6:06 am

Hi Len,

This needs to be very clear. Money has NO bearing on a selection I may make. In addition, if I think that the remaining pros chose a pair because of either more money being paid to them or some money being paid while other potential pairs are not offering it, it would make me turn against the remaining pros rather than favor their selection.

You are hitting at the real problem. Professionalism and being paid are fine, but not when our country is being represented by one of the people being paid. Representing the country should stand alone in importance and until prize money comes into play it should be a No factor.

Otherwise, at least to me, the players are really only mercenaries not patriotic bridge players.

I am disappointed that I have to say such things but money and bridge playing are oil and water to me. That said in spite of my past where I have been paid handsomely at times, but never in my quest for a World Championship.

Luise LeeJune 20th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Hi Bobby,

In response to your point #2 — I thought that the “Conditions of Contest”, as I read in Judy’s last post, states that “The partner of the pair who is unable to play for health reasons is also considered to be unable to play for health reasons” — Therefore, since Nick Nickell is Dick Freeman’s partner, why should they break up a perfectly good and reasonable partnership, just so that Nickell could play with Hamman, when the rules, or “conditions of contest” state he doesn’t have to?

I’ve read most of Judy’s thread, and this one as well, and I’m still confused. I’m wondering, if Nickell wasn’t a sponsor, and if the Nickell team were the favourites over the Fleisher team, then would we even be having this conversation?

I sing in a Choir every Monday night. We have a rule in the choir: If you miss the dress rehearsal for the concert, then you don’t sing in the concert. One of the members of our choir has been diagnosed this year with Breast Cancer and has been undergoing chemo treatment throughout the year. As a result of her latest chemo treatment, she was quite ill for the dress rehearsal and could not make it. The executive met and she was granted an exception, and was still allowed to sing the concert the following week when she had recovered from her treatment.

We have that rule for a reason — if you miss rehearsals, then you won’t know your music as well as others, and it hurts the performance as a whole when people don’t know their music. However, even after I stood beside her and heard her sing several wrong notes in performance, I did not for one second question the judgement of the exectutive for allowing her to sing. It had been her goal ever since she was diagnosed to sing this concert, and I was proud to stand by her side, mistakes and all. My empathy for her and the illness she struggles with was plenty of reason for me to give her a pass.

Why would ANYONE even question Dick Freeman (and his partner’s) right to play in the final event (should he be well enough) when he had a perfectly legitimate reason for not meeting the playing “requirements”? As far as I can tell, the “conditions of contest” were met, so what’s the fuss about?

Am I missing something?

JuanitaJune 22nd, 2009 at 2:16 am

Luise, Everyone wishes the best for Dick Freeman, that is not the issue. With all due respect representing the USA in the WBF is not likely the same as your choir performance. If playing for the USA in the WBF is the same, then the ACBL should not be subsidizing — nor is the USBF meeting the spirit of its tax exempt purpose. Had the tax exemption been applied for with the following —

1. Contests will be held for team events. Teams can consist of 4-6 players, but only 4 will play at once. Most teams will be paid by a sponser. The sponsers are generally excellent bridge players, but not necessarily the same calibre as the rest of the team.

2. In the event a player is unable to play, if the team qualifies, the player and his partner can rejoin the team, subject to meeting the CoC.

3. Various people on the board are connected with sponsers and professionals receiving payment from same.

Does anyone really think that should not have been included in the IRS submssion? The by-laws, which were submitted, only talk about finding the most qualified, by contest, participants.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 23rd, 2009 at 11:39 pm


Our computer in the hotel is not working and between the bridge table and the sports book,

Bobby wouldn’t be caught in the Business Office, answering blogs — so I felt compelled to stand in for him and explain about my reference below:

“The partner of the pair who is unable to play for health reasons is also considered to be unable to play for health reasons” (apparently from COC).

You say — Therefore, since Nick Nickell is Dick Freeman’s partner, why should they break up a perfectly good and reasonable partnership, just so that Nickell could play with Hamman, when the rules, or “conditions of contest” state he doesn’t have to?

Forgive me for being facetious above — but the reasoning is bizarrre — and they are presently taking measures to re-write that reference and others. You have to learn not to take me seriously. I kid alot on the level and the situation was so ridiculous, I was afraid if I didn’t laugh,

I would cry.

You are still the best!


M BlumenthalJune 24th, 2009 at 2:45 am

Bobby – Maybe I should disqualify myself because I know and like Nick, but I’m going to argue against his being eligible to play on the team because of an established precent. When the Aces won the first roud of the Grand Nationals in 1974 we easily defeated the other teams in the next round. Ira had not played in Texas. From what I understand he had been ill though I had not known that at the time. We asked the other teams in kansas for permission to allow Ira to play, and they agreed. After the matches had been completed, the captain of the Kansas team, Ron Anderson, then protested. We were already qualified for the trials so nobody but me was too upset. As things turned out I only had a few real chances to play in the important team games after that Ron’s protest was upheld.

If you are going to argue some pairs are clearly better than others, what’s the point of having trials?

JuanitaJune 24th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I’ld put it the other way — whats the point of trials when some pairs don’t really play. It just adds fuel to the fire when it is the sponser pair that doesn’t play.

M BlumenthalJune 24th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Juanita – I think a sport requires some physical skill so bridge is a game and not a sport. However, Bobby has compared it to a sport. In team sports a member of a team is considered part of the team even without having participated. Even in such events as relays a lesser runner is still considered a member of the team even though he just ran in a qualifying heat. I think To qualify to be on the American team an athlete must do well enough to be aded to the team. I think there have been exceptions in the past though. It very well may change in different years. The ACBL instituted minimums to qualify because it wanted to make it difficult for a sponsor to buy winning and a qualifification.

JuanitaJune 25th, 2009 at 11:54 am

Mr. Blumenthal — the problem here is that the runner participated only minimally in the qualifying heat. And in all other team situations, the COACH decides who plays in the world series, the super bowl etc. Not the player. Or a coach paid by the player.

M BlumenthalJune 25th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Juanita- First of all, the cach in this case the coach is paid by the sponsor not by some committe. so he (I think Eric Kokish is the coach.) is subject to the wishes of the sponsor. In bridge it is a given that the sponsor will play the minimum required to qualify as a member of the team, In Olympic relays it is a given the better runners will run in the finals. The lesser runners are used in qualifying heats to to gove the better runners more rest because they are good enough to win or at least qualify, in those heats.

The situation is not ideal, but until bridge has enough people willing to pay enough to just watch the to watch the tournaments I don’t think it has a solution. When Ira Corn founded the Aces. he thought he could raise enough interest from companies and observers to more than cover expenses, but he couldn’t.


Bobby WolffJune 26th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Back, for a few days only, from my bridge tournament and have much on my plate to do, but before I leave, and for the time being, let me offer an analogy to ponder:

1. For bridge to become what all the highest level bridge players, as well as all the enthusiastic, patriotic fans of the game should want, is a fair and effective method of selecting our best and most deserving partnerships to form USA teams to compete for World Championships in order to reverse a distinct downward trend in our country’s recent performances.

2. In order to accomplish such a thing, our administrators need to be realistic enough to change our mode of qualifying, keeping in mind that too many (but not all) of our top players have had their bodies (and minds) snatched by the filthy green.

3. When love is not present in romantic life, it perhaps can be conscientiously said, that a union between the two in question will probably not endure. Likewise, when the highest level bridge players, succumb to money rather than the best quality International teams possible, we are not being fair to our country, to our bridge loving fans, to the people who pay for our country’s participation, nor to the game itself.

4. Consequently we need our administrators to demand that they, not the players nor their aberrant or entwined supporters, should adversely influence their views nor their selections.

5. Without following where the above caveats will take us, will eventually, if not before, lead us to the destruction of the game as we have come to know and love. If the game of bridge is worth it, and I, and hope a ground swell of many others also believe, will agree that now is the time to require important, strong willed benefactors to come forth and lead the way.

6. To either deny reality or to kid ourselves as to what we are doing, is not the American way.

Let us hope that it is not already too late for us to recover. The game itself cries out to us for help. Please, let many of us answer its call.

Bobby WolffJune 26th, 2009 at 6:16 pm


Sorry for the delay in responding to your blog about the Nickell-Freeman (NF) trials controversy.

The analogy you described about the cancer stricken voice in your choir being allowed to be a singing member despite her missing time from practicing because of her chemotherapy and the

NF matter are not an apples and oranges comparison but rather apples and elephants.

While I suspect that church choiring has a significant nostalgia in your life, similar to sports and cards have had in mine, but having said that, let me describe what I, at least, think are the important differences. While I hope to understand the good reasons for the rule in favor of practicing for each Sunday’s choir in order to be eligible to be an active singer, to not be disciplined in requiring practice, would at least eventually undermine the whole choir performance, causing either criticism or possible unhappy musical moments during certain Sundays.

However when one either learns what your choir’s love represented to the recovering victim or hopefully finds out how your group responded to her plight, chalk it up to a great positive in human relations, especially so where it happened, in Church, and exemplifying what religion is supposed to represent. At the very least a very thoughtful and ultimate loving gesture.

The above is the apples, so let’s now get to the elephant. Professional bridge, a salvation and cure for the financial plight of a talented top player, has its pluses and minuses. The largest plus is that it enables the pro to not have a 9 to 5 job thereby freeing him to develop a bridge partnership to take on the top players in this great big wide wide world. Becoming, and do not forget continuing, to be able to competitively play excellent bridge is a demanding exercise and playing sponsors make that all possible. The minus is represented by the difference between a playing sponsor and a non-playing one. There have been some and still are, around the world, non-playing sponsors Madame Lavazza of Italy, Chen Yeh of Taiwan, the late Ira Corn and the late CC Wei both of the USA to mention the more famous ones. Perhaps the most famous ones are currently Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the most successful and wealthiest people in the world who have contributed well over a million dollars in order to help finance bridge education with special emphasis on our Junior players.

Back to the future and the discussion about playing sponsors. In order to allow lesser than world class players to represent our country there has to be certain rules to follow:

1. Recognition of the necessary roles which are followed.

2. Trying to make as fair a qualification for international representation as possible taking into consideration the many factors involved.

3. Not allowing unethical machinations which will always arise when money is involved (not unlike the unparalleled current economic recession which has taken over the whole world, particularly the USA, probably due to overwhelming greed and unbelievable financial excesses).

4. Please remember that most of the players participating in our qualification trials are well aware of their competition which includes both professional teams (overloaded at the high end of the competition) and amateur ones which, although paying all of their own expenses to play still try and estimate their rather small chances of making the team.

5. The playing requirements for each player (usually thought of as a pair) are carefully determined so as to insure everyone is both to be treated evenly, but predictably as well.

6. Until the recently completed trials in White Plains, NY to determine the 2009 Open team for Brazil the USBF and before that the ACBL had never had to deal with what happened this year in New York. Might the rules have not influenced certain teams to both attend this year but also, especially those with some asperations for success, to decide to play.

7. The team, Fleisher, who played Nickell in the USA 2 (USA gets two teams) final was just such a team. How would you feel, after first defeating Nickell sending them into the losers brackett but then after they lost in the USA 1 final having to play Nickell again when Nickell won several matches to arrive for the USA 2 final. All well in good and in the spirit of competition, but alas the Nickell team was no longer really the Nickell team and you, the Fleisher team, instead of only being a 2 to 5 underdog (if my odds are close to right and I think they are) jumped to a 1 to 15 underdog instead because of the unfortunate sickness of Dick Freeman on the Nickell team. Isn’t the trunk waging the elephant?

8. Because of the very high character and ethics of both Dick and Nick Nickell no one (especially me) has even considered a possibility of any hanky-panky, but what is to stop some other less well thought of competitors to feign illness and let that team’s front four do all the playing instead of the sponsor himself.

Luise, please understand that I do not mind your comments one bit, even look forward to them, because of your recent involvement in bridge causes me to understand that you would have some different thoughts than mainstream. However to compare bridge with a church choir is quite a stretch and deserves both a descriptive update and a resolution.

M BlumenthalJune 26th, 2009 at 9:52 pm


I As far as I know know the trials at first were limited to pairs in the sixties when they were first started. I remember Goldman had to play with Charley Coon with whom he had qualified. Do you think that that method would be practical economically and be able to determine the strongest team in IMPs today?


Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2009 at 6:10 am


You ask a very good question, so let me begin to answer it. If held today, I think the conditions could be constructed to improve the process 60 to 70% over what it was in the 1960’s. During that period I played in two pair trials (1967 and 1968), certainly noting the problems.

1. Like it is often done in golf’s major world events and also with the selection of the US Davis Cup tennis team and the Ryder Cup golf team exemptions into the bridge trials should be given to our top partnerships. However the exemptions should only apply to partnerships not individual players, and in that way we can be sure that it will be no problem for say at least 10 to 15 world class US partnerships to be invited.

2. In addition by winning or highly placing in our top National Team Games as well as possibly events like the Cavendish pairs and the six session National Pair games, others will be also invited. All decisions will be transparent with reasons given for all to see and judge. At least to me there will be NO possibility that a pair who would turn out to be a credit to our country to not be invited. However the athelete (aka animal) will not be running the selection zoo, but rather a commissioner and his staff would, with (the 3d time) for all the country to see. We would wind up with perhaps 24 to 30 pairs (some consisting of professional and sponsor, but always an above average experienced playing sponsor).

3. With the current technology available it would be easy for all hands played to be recorded and any and every one interested can go over all the hands played by any pair chosen to watch and see, or at least get some idea, of how that partnership stacks up. This process would work very well for future judgment for invitations and be the beginning of what I dream of objective valuation of all pairs real standing.

4. I can envision the pair trials taking up to two full weeks to determine with some pairs falling out in the form of perhaps two main cuts. The average stay would be around one week but in order to win the right, it, of course would take the full two weeks.

5. The transparency gained will be a watershed event whereupon hundreds of hands can be used to determine rather than the very illusory, not to mention camouflaged method, which we now have to endure.

6. It is likely we can then use an old Aces method of evaluation whereup we can assign different hands into an average of 3 or 4 different categories; (a) slam bidding (distinguishing suit slams from power NT ones); (b) Preemptive tactics and judge which pairs are hardest to play against; (c) Technical ability wherein we would like a possible winning choice for the team to at least perform at a satisfactory level; (d) High-level competitive judgment (which in my opinion) rates right up with the most important quality necessary; (e) Partnership judgment, which is another way of saying that the blending of the two partners is more important than bidding or playing against par; (f) A judged adequate system, but again the transparency will be there for all to understand that the system chosen is either world class adequate or it isn’t; (g) Other high level plays, quick witted brilliancies, inspired opening leads and other individual special characteristics play some part for just having everyone see what the other roosters and hens are doing. Other tweaks will be apparent as we get into this, but I hope many can see that prospects for success, especially in the near future, are very high indeed.

If we only had one word to use to determine what this would result in for our future and even the world’s future in bridge that word would be creating a MERITOCRACY!

Is it worth one year out of our schedule to attempt such a thing? Obviously my answer is, Of course it is! And perhaps the result would even be a forerunner to bettering the professional and sponsor world since we might have found a true way to have a bridge player common denominator which might be more accurate than even numbers of master points. Please laugh!!!

I would even volunteer not to be considered to play, but rather administrate and oversee such an ambitious enterprise. The satisfaction of a winning venture in this area could be more important to me than winning the next 10 World Championships.


Cam FrenchJuly 5th, 2009 at 1:58 am

Bobby, Mark, and voyeurs,

This is a compelling thread, with some sound debate therein.

One thing troubles me. Sadly, my talent level almost assuredly precludes me from representing Team USA – or my native Canada for that matter. Therefore, if I ever hope to be on the podium, shaking hands with my team mates Zia and Hamman – it will only come as a sponsor. I confess I am yet to win the lottery that might provide the financial wherewithal to hire top flight professionals, but I can’t consider that door closed.

I look back to Clarence Goppert who essentially bought himself A McKenney title if memory serves. I recall some controversy where he was playing at an international event (Burmuda Bowl perhaps?) and Edgar, writing in The Bridge World looked critically at some of his bridge decisions. I think Bob Hamman countered with the fact that the team apparently had better results with Goppert in the lineup, although clearly he was not of a Dream Team calibre. Not sure what that means except that there is a precedent, and the sponsor’s contributions, may be more than just pecuniary.

I don’t know Nickel or Freeman on a personal basis. I do know I see their names as they win title after title and often defend them successfully. If Kokish as NPC felt that the two pairs offerred the best chance to win, then that is his call to make. I guess I don’t see the problem.

If Nickle or Freeman or Goppert or French is on the team that qualifies to represent America – perhaps that is who should go. Most of us play with people we like, it adds to our pleasure. If we remove a partnership like (N/F) from their team, to substitute an allegedly superior pair, it corrupts the process and almost certainly the group dynamic.

Either they qualify or they don’t. Even your benchwarming second-string catcher who might not have an at bat in his team’s World Series win still gets a ring and rides in the parade. if you are on the winning team, you were a contributor in some way shape or form to its success. That you should be denied the fruits of your team’s victory because you are not (allegedly) at their rank seems unfair and arbitrary.

That said, as Edgar predicted, sponsorship and money have proven to be “an inducement to the unscrupulous”. I applaud your efforts to explore the issues within sponsorship while trying to maintain the quality and integrity of our great game. We need lively debate on this and like issues. Thank you for your leadership therein.

Now, I am off to buy a few lottery tickets.

Warmest regards,

Cam French


JuanitaJuly 9th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I am clearly the least knowledgable person on this blog, but why can’t USA1 be chosen on the basis of team competition, and the USA2 be reformatted, and be on the basis of pairs?

Bobby WolffJuly 15th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Hi Juanita,

Of course, it could but the professionals and sponsors would be against, since the pros, if paired up with a sponsor (harder to do than to form a team including only one sponsor) would be not as likely to show good results and hence to be subject to being replaced, and the individual sponsor would not be likely to be successful since he has fewer pros to help. All reasons but primarily selfish and not conducive to what is good for the country to produce its best team.

The proposal mentioned, instead of as above, being every year, would only at least start out by being every four years. Our group asks very little, but still is denied. Sometimes greed knows no bounds. Ask Bernie Madoff. Go figure!

Cam FrenchNovember 5th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Dear Bobby,

I almost forgot.

I offer my services as Commissioner of Bridge for which my qualifications are:

1) I know precious few of the principals on a first name basis, thereby minimizing my chances of being influenced by any high level friendships. I did ask Eric Murray and Sami Kehela to autograph their book (Canada’s Bridge Warriors) for me.

2) I have a day job, so I don’t need a fat pay-check.

3) I am a teacher by training. So, given access to the right personell and resources I am sure I can help “train” the elite players to be the best they can be. This will include not only system development, but learning alien bidding systems, developing effective countermeasures and some daily physical activity to keep the body in top physical shape. I was thinking surfing, para-sailing and snorkeling.

4) I am not afraid to ask for help, so I am most willing to call upon Bobby Wolff and others to advance the cause.

5) Finally, I don’t need an office, a secretary, a computer or page-long list of support staff. We will do some video hook ups, and meet in a sunny spot (I was thinking Hawaii) for fine-tuning our minds and bodies.

I trust you will give my application every consideration.

Warm Regards,


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