Guest Blog — By Invitation

Canadian Team Trials

The Canadian Bridge Championships concluded in Toronto in early June. In the three team events (Open, Women and Seniors) teams competed to earn the right to be named “Team Canada” in the upcoming world championships, an honour that also includes a small subsidy.

How we determine our representatives in world championships is often a subject of great debate. This is not unique to Canada as when it comes to choosing their representatives, countries generally follow one of two methods; a selection process, or a “winner takes all” style team trials (the autocratic and democratic methods as John Carruthers called them).

In the autocratic selection method, a committee or an individual is elected or appointed to select the team. This method is utilised by countries such as Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Israel and Japan. Since players/pairs have to demonstrate consistent high performance over a significant period of time, serious partnerships are motivated to participate in as many high level events as they can to build a resume of achievements. This in turn elevates their game and increases their experience level against top competition. A major  advantage of the autocratic method is that it provides for team stability as the core of the team stays the same from one year to the next, thus allowing a small group of players to accumulate valuable experience at the world championships. On the other hand, this method relies heavily on the subjective judgement of an individual or a committee, and many safeguards have to be implemented to avoid possible conflicts of interest which can arise when prospective players are also involved in the selection process.

The democratic team trials method is used by several countries including the US, Canada, India and South Africa. It relies on the assumption that in a sufficiently long contest usually the best team emerges as the victor. Therefore this method selects the best performing team at the time of the trials. However, that does not mean that the team consists of the country’s best pairs as stronger partnerships may have been members of other teams. To overcome such deficiency, some countries use pair trials instead of team trials. The main argument against pair trials is that they create teams with no chemistry or where pairs may not get along.

I personally favour our current team trials approach, especially after the Canadian Bridge Federation eliminated the geographic restrictions on team composition (previously teams qualified to the national final as representatives of one of the six CBF zones, and the majority of the team members had to be residents of the zone they represented). The current trials are open, fair and rigorous. They avoid conflicts of interest, favouritism and politics. Having said that, I would like to see us try pair trials at least in one or two of the 4 year WBF cycle (e.g. for the World Knockout Teams also known as the Rosenblum, McConnell and Rand Cups). A sufficiently long pair trial would adequately minimize the luck factor that is inherent in IMP pair events. For example, if we replace the 8-day open team competition with an 8-day IMP pair event (with elimination after the 3rd and 6th days), the top three pairs at the end would have truly earned their position, largely on ability, having passed a test of 400-500 boards against their peers.


Michael RocheAugust 20th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I think that a Pairs Trial is worthy of consideration for the Rosenblum year.

Fow the Women’s and Senior’s events, it’s not clear there are enough participants to change the format.

LindaAugust 20th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I really like the idea of a pairs trials in the open but why for the Rosenblum year? It seems like it would be good for other events too.

I am not a believer in team chemistry. I have seen great teams where the pairs didn’t like each other. Pair chemistry is different of course.

I like the idea of a team trial some times but I would do that in the Rosenblum year. Even if we do a pairs trial the resulting team doesn’t have to play together anyway and some people play in the CNTC that year with no plan to plan in the World Championships. So we can have the fun of winning a championship and it doesn’t really effect how Canada does at the world level.

Maybe we should give a pairs trial a shot in the Olympiad years and see if it makes a difference.

But it seems to me that another problem is coaching.

LuiseAugust 20th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I too like the idea of a Pairs trial, for all events (I don’t really know what the “Rosenblum year” is).

Not being a serious bridge player (yet), I know my opinion doesn’t carry much weight. But the reason I like the idea of a Pairs trial is that it opens up the team event to a much larger audience. Because Canada is so large, and there are so few of us spaced out over this large area, I believe it puts really great players who are in a small city at a disadvantage to those in the larger cities. It’s much harder to put together a team of 6, or 4, but 2 is easier to manage in a small populated area. And it’s cheaper to raise money for 2 plane tickets than it is for 6 tickets, so it will be easier to get to the trials as well (assuming you have a bridge club which would support you, etc.).

I would support the move from a team event to a pairs event.

I do not like the idea of the autocratic selection method, for the reasons you have already stated in your post above.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 21st, 2010 at 2:45 am

Too many conflicts of interest can intervene when the autocratic system is in force. Very few people are totally objective — and who is the best judge of who is really qualified to make that decision? It is almost virtually impossible to be that totally unbiased. Records of partnership consistency should speak for themselves but things don’t always work out that way.

The primary advantage with a Team Trials, at least here in the States (which most do not like to discuss) is the Sponsor issue. Since professionalism has changed the complexion of the game and the majority of top teams have at least one sponsor on it, why should the players want a Pairs Trials? They’d have to be crazy to be in favor of it. Many would be collecting unemployment.

Seven years ago I attended an ITTC meeting with Bobby and I can still envision it like it was yesterday when one of the top guns stood up and defiantly stated he was against Pair Trials because there is no camaraderie. Total B.S.!!!!!!!!!!!!! With no sponsor on the team, the party is over.

What is in the true interest of a nation? It should be sending the three finest ethical partnerships who give their country the best chance to win. But, it doesn’t work that way because life just ain’t fair sometime.

Ross TaylorAugust 21st, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Sponsorship at the international level is a luxury the Canadian bridge environment does not sustain, so in our case, the point is moot.

Assuming it is true the vagaries of imp pairs can be smoothed out if the event is long enough, it seems reasonable for the CBF to experiment with the pairs trials format, and see what transpires. Why not try it one year at least?

My sense is it will not be a popular approach. The camaraderie issue should not be understated. The reality is that almost all participants at the Canadian Team Trials and beyond do so at their own expense – time and money.

Many teams build themselves with the comfort they will enjoy the total experience – the fellowship, the comparisons, the social aspects, the work effort, the practise, etc. Historically participants have gone to the Trials as team members, prepared to do battle as teams and team mates – not as individual partnerships. There would need to be a mind set change.

I can also envision a scenario where the three winning pairs do not feel enthusiastic about each other as Canada’s national team – perhaps there may be a history of poor play or poor sportsmanship between a couple of pairs. This could lead to instant dissent or indifference.

And not all go with the expectation they can win – rather they simply enjoy the event for what it is, and harbour hopes they can perform with distinction; perhaps knock off a favourite or two, and have a good run in the round robin and then a chance in the KO portion; all as a team.

Take all that away and you might actually reduce the number of willing participants.

We may end up with the strongest in-form team to represent Canada, but the Trials themselves will never be the same – for what that is worth.

eric kokishAugust 22nd, 2010 at 3:19 am

Those who advocate pairs trials are usually those who do not have a solid team composed of players with whom they are comfortable and confident. That’s human nature, of course, and there is no doubt that a pairs trials could produce a decent team. I might even advocate giving it a try in a Rosenblum year, but not in a Butler format. Instead I’d want to see each pair play with each other pair as teammates in matches with duplicated boards, keeping track of Butler scores as a secondary indicator. I would have the top two pairs guaranteed a spot, with the third pair likely to be chosen but subject to a vetting based on Bultler sores, and a possible veto for cause by the other two pairs. Butlers alone really are awful.

Apart from the Rosenblum year I would consider PT a total disaster waiting to happen. On the other hand, I believe our qualifiers from Bridge Week need to prepare far more seriously than most teams have in the past. Seniors in particular have not shown any interest in coaching or demonstrated a strong work ethic on their own. Representing your country, no matter which country that happens to be, is a privilege and it’s sad to me that CBF might have to encourage its reps to do what’s necessary to make a strong showing in the BB, VC, Olympiad and Senior events. Team chemistry can be a big plus factor but we’ve too often seen the other side of that coin. I’m still optimistic enough to believe a happy team will do better than three random pairs thrust upon each other, and I’m counting on our players to prove me right. Any thought of a PT for a non-Rosenblum year leaves me feeling awfully cold.

As there are no geographical limitations preventing pairs from forming a team, PT advocates can’t rely on that argument any longer. If you’re a good pair you will soon find good teammates. And it doesn’t hurt you to deport yourself like a gentleman either

Jonathan SteinbergAugust 22nd, 2010 at 3:19 am

Greetings from the Sault Ste Marie Regional where my All Canadian team of Mike Cafferata, Dave Colbert, David Sabourin and I just won a one day compact KO! The International field included Americain experts Mike Cappelletti (Jr) and Jacob Morgan. We are ready to carry the country’s flag.

I have witnessed the pairs VS team trials debate for the last 30 years. The debate never ends. Mike C remembers that the US used to have team trials and it was a “horror story”. It didn’t work in practice.

Young Mr. Sabourin believes team chemistry is critical. Mr. Colbert is against selection committees and doubts the reliability of Imp Pairs Trials.

The current CNTC format is a highly popular event among the players who participate. I agree with my teammates that there is no reason to experiment.

My team is unanimously opposed. Besides, the real impediment to a strong Canadian team is that many of our top players have always and will continue to move to the USA where they can make a living as bridge professionals.

Good night from Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. I’ll have photos posted on my website within a few days!

Jonathan SteinbergAugust 22nd, 2010 at 3:22 am

Oops! That should have read “The US used to have PAIRS trials that didn’t work. It was a horror story.”

John GowdyAugust 22nd, 2010 at 3:57 am

Why not go all out and run a 6 day individual.

That way we can get the 6 best players on the team and let the captain worry about partnerships!

Who knows this just might start a trend.

Mike Dorn WissAugust 22nd, 2010 at 4:19 am

Leaning to the democratic rather than the autocratic comes natural to me. I might even lean far enough to fall on my side. That being said, there is something inherently appealing about an extended IMP pairs event – whether in place of a team event or totally besides one is a matter of opinion.

I would add that I believe team chemistry to be exceedingly important. Ross’ point of the likelihood of poor history or acrimony between some players is more than possible; over a period of time it is inevitable. And should one individual, or pair, feel another on the same team is not carrying their load it can and will greatly affect the team performance, and not in a positive manner. I can think of one good player whom I do not even like to be in the same room with, let alone on the same team, and there is probably more than one who feels the same way about me.

Nevertheless, an IMP trial IS appealing, and I concur with Michael that experimenting with the format in a Rosenblum year is best, since that is the one year in four that the world championships are truly open to all.

Perhaps the top six pairs from such an event could blend to form the two most compatible teams, and they could play a knockout match to determine a single representative.

DarrenAugust 22nd, 2010 at 7:31 am

Hi all.. here is my 2 cents.

1. Imp pairs is considered one of the most random events at nationals. The reason for that is there is no “field protection” as anyone is allowed to play in the event. Yo can play the weakest pair in the event when they miss two easy grand slams or you could play the same pair when there are two absolutely flat boards. I know this is obvious to most but it needs to be said. This luck factor is essentially eliminated in the current team format. I for one would not be comforted that the imp pairs event will be five days instead of two. Imp pairs works nicely in a Cavendish quality field that is extended to 5 days. In Canada we simply do not have that kind of depth. There can be an argument made that a worse team would be selected using this method.

2. The US has greater depth than us not only because of the population size difference but also because of the ability to make a living playing bridge there. Indeed this has never happened in Canada (yet) but if we switch to the pairs trial the one thing we can say for sure is it never will.

3. Eric’s suggestion (re format of the pairs trials) makes a lot of sense but it still seems somewhat complicated, time consuming and there is the possibility of subjective issues factoring into the selection of the third pair.

4. I would also suggest the top teams are always trying to get the best pairs on their team (does anyone disagree with this point?). The only reason they wouldn’t is there is a serious real conflict of personality’s on the team. Which I would guess is the exception rather than the rule. In any case do we really want to force those pairs to be playing together regardless?



Gavin WolpertAugust 22nd, 2010 at 1:01 pm

This pairs trials idea has been a problem we had to deal with in juniors. In the junior team pairs trials our biggest problems were the size of the field and the length of the event. When you run an imp pairs format with too few tables and not enough boards the variance is way too large for it to be a fair format. Not only do your opponents decisions at your table have too much weight, you also run into situations where some of the comparison table results cost you imps through no fault of your own.

I believe very strongly in team chemistry. I think that knowing your teams methods is very important. Judging a tough situation based on what you know will happen at the other table is something that comes up a decent amount. Fitting systems together (i.e. dont need 3 pairs playing swingy methods) us also quite important imo.

Lastly, one of the biggest problems with Canadian Bridge is that all the top players have limited time to play bridge because there is no pro work. The Team Trials format is their one opportunity to play in a tough team tournament similar to that of the world championships.

I feel pretty strongly that the CBF should consider the possibility of opening the team trials up to players of other countries. Since most Canadian Experts have to work for a living outside of bridge they have limited opportunity to compete against the best players from around the world. If Canada could have their trials in conjunction with an open team event with some incentive to players from other countries to come and play. The most important thing is location, getting players to fly in to a tournament with a major international airport like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver is more enticing to foreigners than Winnipeg, Regina, Ottawa, Penticton… etc.

I see no reason why they would change a successful method of team trials. Eliminating the zone qualifications for this years tournament was an amazing idea. Restricting people to have to play with people from near their city (or force them to qualify not as a whole team) definitely harms the better players from outside high population zones.

I feel like my opinion shouldn’t carry much weight given that I jumped ship but I do still care a lot about Canadian Bridge, I hope they don’t make the grave mistake of changing the format to pairs trials.

Peter GillAugust 22nd, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Here in Australia, we have alternated Teams Trials and five day Pairs Trials for most of the last decade.

Last year I did an extensive study (available on request) which showed that the international performance of Aussie teams from Pairs Trials was considerably worse than from Teams Trials. My opinion is that Pairs Trials are good if you want to be seen to be democratic AND you want to produce teams which perform worse.

Keith BalcombeAugust 22nd, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Team Chemistry is very important, so I do not particularly favour pairs trials.

However, there is the issue of teams in the CNTC who only play with 4 people and then add a pair that might change the nature of the team. Perhaps all teams should play as 6 or the CBF control the extra pair in a IMP pairs trials format.

Perhaps in a World Championship year that features the Rosenblum Pairs, a pairs trial should be considered

John CarruthersAugust 22nd, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Of the 3 methods for choosing a team, a) team trials, b) selector and c) pairs trials, I believe pairs trials to be a distant third in its ability to produce a decent team. Nations with a great depth of talent, such as the USA and Poland, can produce contending teams whichever method they use, and certainly whichever of their teams wins a team trials simply because the trials are designed to give the weaker teams no chance. The length of the matches ensures that a strong team always wins (Nickell, Fleisher, Welland, Diamond, and Meltzer, for example, in the US).

In Canada, we do not have such a depth of talent, so it can be argued that a pairs trial will produce the 3 top pairs, whether or not they could ever get together to form a team or not. This is arrant nonsense, as anyone familiar with pairs trials can attest. IMP pairs scored across the field is the most luck-prone event in bridge (the Cavendish Pairs results notwithstanding). It is even more luck-prone than matchpoints. Look at it this way: a bottom at matchpoints is a fixed amount, and represents only about 4% of your total available score (1 board out of 26 or so) for a single session, whereas one bad board at IMP pairs (say a 13-IMP loss due to a poor slam bid and made against you) may account for as much as 25 or 50% of your total IMP score.

Pairs trials were not really the disaster in the US that others seem to think, since the pairs in the trials were carefully vetted. Essentially, one had to do well in the Spingold, Vanderbilt and/or Reisinger to get an invitation to the pairs trials. Of course they produced incompatible teams, but with obnoxious players such as Roth, Mathe, Stone, and Rubin at the top of the game, that was inevitable. But they were balanced by the good guys like Kay, Rapee, Schenken and Kantar.

In the 50’s the US won with teams composed of pairs trials winners, and the team trials concept was introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to the Blue Team’s beating them all the time. Eventually, it worked (the Blue Team got old, the Aces came on strongly, etc.). Did that happen because they switched to team trials? I seriously doubt it. Some of those pairs-trials-produced teams were very good indeed (Murray-Kehela, Kaplan-Kay, Hamman-Mathe, Jordan-Robinson were on some of those teams).

Sweden does a good job ‘selecting’ its team – they have what they call “observation trials” for the top pairs to display their games. The npc (not himself a candidate) has the final say in team selection.

I’d be totally against a pairs trials in any but Rosenblum years. And since the team produced will be random, it will need a powerful inducement to get them to compete together in the Rosenblum, such as a big subsidy. Is the CBF willing to go that route? Otherwise, the pairs will simply play with whoever they want in that world championship, if they even go.

My suggestion would be to make the CNTC tougher to win – that way, we’ll have the best team possible (not the best possible team necessarily). It’s pretty good now – a stronger team will nearly always win the 128-board final. If the semis and quarters were longer as well (96 or 128 boards), then the strongest team would just about always win.

Unfortunately for Canada, we have entered an era where a lot of our top players (especially those who desire to make a career of bridge) will move to the USA (much like comedians and actors), where the pastures are definitely greener. That is something we can do little about with no financial inducements to keep them here.

John Carruthers

paul thurstonAugust 22nd, 2010 at 2:04 pm

While the urge to experiment with a Pairs Trial may seem healthy, you’d first have to make a case in theory that the experiment might produce results superior to the current method and I doubt that case can be made. Team spirit, knowledge and cohesiveness and randomness of IMP pairs are the factors weighing in favour of the status quo and I can’t see corresponding weight on the other side. Post-CNTC prep, as per EOK, may have a lot more going for it than changing the format used to select those who would get prepared. On a personal basis, I would vote with my feet and not compete in a Pairs Trial although I have rarely missed a CNTC in 30 years (on occasion, of course, to my teammates’ regret!). As usual, John Gowdy’s vision may be the clearest – a Pairs Trial is hedging ever closer to an Individual after all.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 22nd, 2010 at 6:49 pm

It all seems strange, not to mention surreal, that no one has mentioned professionalism as it applies to the discussion between pair and team trials.

It is one thing for that practice to not concern Canadians since they do not appear to be conflicted with sponsor consideration, but for anyone (Canadian or American) to not discuss the disadvantage to American professionals to consider Pair Trials is a subject conspicuous by its absence.

LuiseAugust 23rd, 2010 at 2:53 am

Most of the above posters have made a convincing argument against a pairs trial: randomness of a pairs event, team chemistry, lack of sponsorship (which I agree is really a moot point in Canada, but worth mentioning), etc. Consider my earlier statement to be revoked completely. The above comments have swayed me to believe that a pairs event would produce a worse outcome than a teams event.

Bob ToddAugust 23rd, 2010 at 4:16 pm

The discussion is good and it appears that the feelings are strong. Our team agrees strongly with the team concept for many of the reasons already well stated.

We are opposed to pair trials particularly since the method is so poor (IMP pairs). Other pair methods may work with tweaking and observation – but I think Canada with its large area and small number of occupants is not suited for this.

Jim PriebeAugust 23rd, 2010 at 11:14 pm


Judy Kay W has an interesting important point: sponsorship.

Why does the US or Italy (two major contending teams every time a world championship, bermuda bowl etc rolls around: the paying sponsor keeps them together.

How many paying sponsors do we have in Canada?

We might ask Eric M how he feels. I believe he q’d a couple of times (with Coon and Kehela) to represent ACBL.

Team chemistry is (how u spell it?) bologna.

I like a few years of team trials.

I defer also to EK views, but how long did their great team (with wonderful chemistry) stick together.


NaderAugust 24th, 2010 at 3:29 am

Many comments mention the team chemistry issue, but what is team chemistry? If it is as Gavin defines it (knowing your teammates’ methods and the compatibility of these methods with yours), then it is an important issue but one that can be addressed as part of a team’s preparation. I would also hazard a guess that not many Canadian pairs (if any) consider system compatibility before asking other pairs to join the team.

But if team chemistry is whether or not you like your teammates, like to compare with them, and would want to go to dinner with them, then I agree with Jim, it is baloney. Does anyone want to tell me that if you have a chance to play with Meckwell on your team that the first question on your mind would be “do I really want to go to dinner with these guys?” Are we so spoiled (or weak minded) that if we do not like the teammates at the other table we cannot concentrate and play our best? How about countries that employ the selection method, do selected players say “no thank you, we do not like the other selected pairs”? I do not think so, and yet teams like Sweden and Norway do very well thank you. It would also be hard to convince me that professionals first consider team chemistry before they accept a good paying job. That is perhaps one of the biggest differences between our teams and sponsored teams, professionals have a job to do and that is all they focus on.

By the way, team chemistry is not guaranteed when you get to form your own team. I have been on teams where partnerships broke up before the world championships; do you think that was good for team chemistry? I can also give several examples of teams that did not appear to have good chemistry but yet did well.

One final comment on pair trials; everyone mentions the luck involved in IMP pairs events, and there is no denying that. Also the point that Carruthers makes regarding the disproportionate impact that one hand can have, is very valid. However, over a long enough IMP pairs event (8 days in our case) the impact of both is minimized. Strength of field is also important in making an IMP pairs event fairer as you get better field protection (hence the suggestion to have two eliminations during the 8 days to eliminate weaker pairs). One has to only look to the Cavendish, which is only a 5 session event, to see that because of the calibre of the competition, we do not hear that the winners were “very lucky”, otherwise Levin and Weinstein must be the luckiest people on earth having won this tough event 5 times (7 in the case of Weinstein).

LuiseAugust 24th, 2010 at 12:12 pm


The team chemistry issue for me really boils down to a question of whether or not there is bad blood between a few members of a team. If you won a pairs event and your EX-partner with whom you had a nasty break-up (or someone with whom you just don’t think pulls their weight and won the pairs event because they “got lucky”), are you really going to be able to put all of that behind you and play your best?

You can try. You can say to yourself that it doesn’t bother you, and to try to make the best of it. You might even be able to manage it quite well. But it can be VERY challenging to have to put aside strong emotions like I outlined above. Being logical about the situation (you have a chance to represent Canada, after all) isn’t going to help you to cope with powerful emotions. Emotions, by their very nature, are NOT logical and they can’t just be reasoned away.

I don’t want to put words in other people’s mouths, but that’s the kind of situation that I envisioned when I talked about team chemistry.

Ray LeeAugust 24th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I have written several articles about this topic, mostly around the time I was NPC for the Women’s team in Shanghai. Many of the points I made then have been made above, so let me try to add something new.

The US system of Team Trials, and allowing teams to form themselves, works for them because they have the depth to send their 3rd, 4th, 5th best teams etc. and still be contenders. We don’t. (Even in a sport where we do, like hockey, do people really think it would be good idea to let teams form themselves based on ‘chemistry’ and then have a playoff?). We don’t have enough good pairs to risk our three top pairs ending up on different teams. Assuming, that is, that our objective is to do as well as possible at a WC, not just to go and be good sports.

How much more is this true in the case of selection of Women’s and Senior teams, where we have far fewer players.

We cannot ignore our issues of population and geography. either. Over the last few years, some pairs and players have been outsiders at our Women’s events simply because they were not sympatico with whomever was putting the ‘top’ teams together. And it’s very hard for good new pairs to get a look in. The women I talked to about the idea were actually very enthusiastic about an ongoing ‘team squad’ coaching program, with teams for WC events being selected from the squad.

I wrote at the time that the Open players would never accept this kind of method (and I’m not talking trials format, I’m talking about not letting teams form randomly of their own accord, however you do it) until it had been proven to work with the Women, who seemed willing to try it. Why not start there and see what happens?

And a final word on team chemistry, from baseball great Leo Durocher: ‘Nice guys are ten a penny; give me someone who can hit.’

BOBBY WOLFFAugust 24th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

There would be different aspects between having a high-level pair trials determine the International Team for Canada and the USA.

Universal Qualities:

1. Although it has been years since Zone 2 has used a Pair Trials to determine its team(s), it could easily result in qualifying 3 of the top 8 to 10 pairs in the event with the top 5 pairs each having a positive bias to finish among the top 3.

2. The event should be conducted in 3 stages, each about 4 days (perhaps 3 depending on the numbers entering).

3. Spirit of the Competition should include responsibility to play one’s hardest, and without frivolity, realiziing that every pair’s scores do effect the entire event. Obviously all results will be recorded and eventually reviewed by an accountable committee for both evaluating all pairs entered and for the future in extending invitations. ALL BUSINESS WILL BE OPEN FOR ANALYSIS AND INSPECTION TO ANYONE SO INTERESTED.

4. A three person Captain’s committee will be formed with the intention of overseeing that event and future pair trials events with the winning pairs to meet and choose their Captain from that committee. The chosen Captain after consulting the team should then choose a coach from his country. It will then be the Captain’s responsibility, in consultation with his players, to make the logistic arrangements, choose the training methods, liaision with the countries governing body and conclude with a complete report dissecting the entire experience, pulling no punches and helping charter a winning course for that country to follow in the future.

Differences in what to expect:

1. The intention of the selected 3 stage pair trials contest is to allow lesser experienced (and less talented) pairs to be eliminated in the first trimester, but by doing so getting the experience of a high-level event and learn what it might take to eventually succeed. There figures to be a significant difference in the talent level of the two NBO’s, but perhaps that difference will markedly decline in the near future as both countries better pairs participate and acquire important experience.

2. Entry fees for the event should be substantial enough to:

A. Pay for holding the event

B. Contribute to expenses for the winners at the WC site.

C. Eliminate frivolous pairs who were only planning to have a good time

D. In effect having all pairs entering at least contributing to the financial burden of those who carry the countries flag to the championship level.

3. My experience of having played in pairs trials in the distant past is:

A. The team will be significantly better than most expect it to be.

B. The much talked about comradery is an illusion since all pairs rally around having a chance to do well at a WC and in some respects there is nothing more exciting and stimulating than first time anticipations.

C. Instead of only dreaming an impossible dream, many younger pairs will either get a wonderful learning experience or better yet, hit the lottery and sally forth to what might become future stardom. Without the pair trials this will never happen since, especially in the USA it, under the current setup, would be virtually impossible to overcome all the barriers set up by our qualifying for seeding, very long elimination process, and most importantly not being able to begin to get the teammates necessary to even get out of the batter’s box. In Canada you will find that (especially because of the immense talent which has consistently come out of your Junior ranks) your younger pairs will not have as much depth of competition to overcome and thus will have a much greater chance to have immediate success.

D. In the USA, the professionals in many cases will have one less pay day, but in return, they have the blessed chance to show off their talent for all to see, the USA itself can feel that three pairs, not just two will represent our country in a superior way, and from the sponsor’s viewpoint they will finally have a chance to crack the big-time without benefit of being carried and then lay solid credentials to be elected to the Hall-of-fame justiifably which they all covet. Also from the WBF standpoint, they will not have to obfuscate sponsors winning World Championships and proudly proclaim to our Olympic friends that what they see in action is, in toto, the best the world can offer. Since Canada does not seem to be dogged with the same problem they can proudly display their best and brightest and, at least in my opinion their results will improve by bounds and leaps.

Obviously by so resurrecting Pair Trials there will be much static coming from high-level sources, threatening everything that can be threatened, but by overcoming those objections both Canada and the USA can proudly feel that they are doing what is best for bridge, what is best for both countries and though many will make less money, only their International income will be affected and most importantly the image of worldwide bridge will be significantly improved. Also I ask all the unbiased high-level players and administrators to realize that 2010 is quite different than 1965 in that, with the unbelievable improvement in bridge bidding, making use of so many available but heretofore meaningless bids, the level of play has improved so much that our middle age or younger aspirants should be granted their place in the sun without having to overcome all the poisoned flowers now in their paths which tends to make The Emerald City unreachable.

Join in to make the Yellow Brick Road a path to glory for those who seek it.

Fred GitelmanAugust 24th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I find it remarkable that anyone can claim that team chemistry is not important when the overwhelming majority say “it is important to me”.

Luise is by far the least experienced bridge player who has contributed to this thread, but (as usual) she gets it: some bridge simply do not like each other (and some truly hate each other). Of course these people will not want to be teammates and naturally, since these people are not Vulcans, they will not be able to simply discard their emotions, their egos, and the many years of baggage they carry, especially in the heat of intense competition (which tends to bring out the worst in many people). IMO it is not at all unlikely that a team consisting of enemies will implode at some point during the course of a grueling 2-week long event. I have seen this happen more than once.

As someone who has played a lot of bridge in both Canada and the USA, I can tell you that there are very strong players in both countries that I would never want to have as my teammates for various reasons. Being a professional and being someone who is better than most at controlling my emotions when I play bridge, I suspect I could force myself to deal with this without destroying the team, but I would not want to be forced to be in this position and I am certain that it could only be bad for my bridge.

And the chemistry issue goes beyond the fact that some of the very best players dislike or hate each other and that some have a strong tendency to behave like assholes when they play (strangely, nowadays this is more of a problem in Canada than it is in the USA – maybe a benefit of professionalism?). For example:

– My regular partner and I have been told “we like you guys and overall your results are excellent, but we do not want to be your teammates because your style of play is too volatile for our tastes”. It doesn’t matter if you think this is unreasonable from a bridge point of view. The fact of the matter is that such considerations are real to some people and they create animosity, even among friends. Animosity away from the table invariably filters through to the results that are achieved at the table.

– Plenty of strong bridge players question the ethics of other strong bridge players. One would hope that such players would not want to be each other’s teammates and one would think that putting such players together as teammates might not be conducive to those with suspicions playing their best.

– For many bridge players of all levels, especially those who are not professionals and who are not super-hungry to win the World Championships, the social aspect is one of the major reasons that they continue to play bridge. Hanging out in the bar with their teammates (who also happen to be their friends) and going over hands (or not) at the end of the day is a big part of what bridge is all about for these people. For most people, if they don’t enjoy the bridge experience (and especially if that experience is costing them money), it is hard to bring one’s best game to the table.

My advice to Nader: Give the players what they want (whatever that turns out to be – good work by you for trying to find out).

Fred Gitelman

Derek WardAugust 24th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I find it quite humourous that Bobby Wolff is so against professionalism. A quick browse of the WBF website shows him competing in the Open Championships with Brachman, Deutsch, Cayne, Nickell and Morse from 1984 to 1998. Makes me want to take any of his comments with a grain of salt. It would be interesting to know what his position would have been if Pairs Trials were suggested during those years. To me it all sounds like sour grapes after being let go by the Nickell team.

BOBBY WOLFFAugust 24th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hi Derek,

I am not now, nor have I ever been against professionalism. In many ways it enables bridge to retain its best players by keeping them involved in the game by being able to make a living playing it.

I am only interested in making bridge the best it can be, by having all countries, especially Zone 2 ones, being able to send their best players and therefore teams to represent them. My experience in administration suggests to me that it is too much to expect the players to make administrative decisions which are best for bridge rather than what best fits what the players want and when they want it.

My long years of being a player as well serves as a reminder to me of what various mindsets leads one to do. While I opted for some things selfish, it would have been difficult for me to have gone a different path and because of that I do not have many regrets.

I have been in favor of Pair Trials for long before I lwas fired from the Nickell team and am disappointed you think the motives for my thinking is what you say they are. BTW, both Cayne and Nickell play at a World Class level, and if not, very close to one and Dan Morse is my friend, not a sponsor and I have played with him for around 45 years, recalling playing with him in my first Pairs Trials in 1967 and finishing very respectably.

Perhaps Derek, rather than speculating,it might be wise for you to be sure of your facts.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 24th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

To Derek Ward:

Your name is unfamiliar and I tried to look you up but found no reference.

Are you a bridge player?

LindaAugust 24th, 2010 at 11:27 pm

I think Fred made a very articulate case for the value of team chemistry.

I have been on a few teams (albeit not playing in the same class of events as Fred) where the pairs didn’t like each other, do anything together or talk to each other. I don’t think they particularly respected each other either. But we did fine and I don’t think that it much affected the game.

Maybe on a team with real spirit the players could build each other up. But I have never really seen that happen. In a way the NPC is more important than maybe we consider in making sure that partnership or team difficulties are handled and the players come to the game in the best mental state possible.

So all in all I am not convinced that team spirit is that important.

I guess the bigger question is in a country like Canada what do we have to do to get a team that can consistently be a challenger? Is it how we pick teams? Is it training? Is it because the best players go to the US? Is it something else?

I wish a selection committee would work but I have my doubts. I think it is worth an experiment with pairs trials to see how it goes.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 25th, 2010 at 1:08 am


Pairs trials may work well in

Canada and I think it is a super idea!

However, although it may give us our best shot in the States, it won’t make for happy campers because four pros might find themselves out of work (plus a captain and a coach).

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 25th, 2010 at 2:49 am

Autocratic selection systems, and of all places (on the bridge scene) are not my cup of tea (or poison). No one (at least anyone I know) is that knowledgeable or unbiased to hand pick teams. Thus we are relegated to Teams or Pair Trials. However, Canada is blessed that they don’t have to contend with professionalism and though it does put food on lots of tables in the States (and foreign countries), does not really go a long way toward trying to insure that the best three pairs will comprise the representative team.

I find some of the above blogging pure gibberish — wavering and grasping at straws. I have watched world class bridge for over fifty years. I kibitzed thousands of competitors from many continents (warm, friendly, honorable, ethical, personable, charming as well as rude, sarcastic, obnoxious and intolerable not only to their partners but sometimes to their opponents as well). Perhaps the newfound Zero Tolerance would have changed all that — but so be it.

Professionalism (though not openly discussed in some circles back then) took place quietly and surreptitiously in a minor sense when money (or the equivalent) exchanged hands. Yes, we had forms of sponsors fifty years ago but the word was never used and perhaps the big sport would casually pick up entries and dinner tabs. Unethical behavior and cheating, YES CHEATING, existed at the ultimate level in world championships and my wonderful country did not all have clean hands as witnessed by some of our electees to the Hall of Fame. Those who have read my blogs, without any uncertainty, know I call a spade a spade regardless of the target. And for those looking in from afar, I guarantee you this game is not all peaches and cream replete with the rah-rah team spirit.

It is nice for people who have jumped ship and live in the United States and play on professional teams to want to enjoy the companionship of their victorious teammates over dinner or in the bar (and admittedly some of our recent sixsomes are delightful). However, others on professional teams have the same responsibility to the sponsor to partake in the amenities of dinner and pleasant repartee whether they finish first, second or out of the money– like it or not. It goes with the territory. Of course, it is preferable to have the best of both worlds, but in real life it does not work that way.

To me the administration of the Zone should be charged with a UNILATERAL OBJECTIVE (though sometimes politics rears its ugly head): By giving the top three twosomes the chance to strut their stuff and qualify over a substantial number of days in the heat of battle, the emerging winners figure to afford their nation the BEST opportunity to bring home the bacon. Each partnership should have perfectly etched understandings of their system; practice, practice, practice; study the styles of their upcoming opponents; and be in tip-top shape when they confidently board that plane for the World Championship.

WINNING WITH INTEGRITY AS A PAIR IN SOME TYPE OF ORGANIZED TRIALS SHOULD BE THEIR ONLY OBJECTIVE AND WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED and SCORES ARE TALLIED, THEY WILL KNOW THE NAMES OF THEIR TEAMMATES. To me, after many years of witnessing this contrived team rigmarole, the bottom line should be the TOP THREE BEST-PLAYING PAIRS — not their social compatibility at the wine-sipping session after the game or the green stuff that glues them altogether. And, for non-professional partnerships who have made the cut, money should be raised or donated (with increased card fees or charity games) to pay the basic expenses of the winners who have earned the right to represent his or her country.

The bottom line should always be about SENDING YOUR BEST!

Jim PriebeAugust 25th, 2010 at 4:21 am

further opinion

EOK says “Those who advocate pairs trials are usually those who do not have a solid team composed of players with whom they are comfortable and confident. ”

This describes Canada perfectly. We very seldom have teams that stick together for more than a year or two.

Fred G (our Canadian hero) is passionate about team chemistry. Is he referring to sponsored teams that stick together for several years and become consistent winners? I could agree with that.

In Canada, we have ever changing teams and partnerships.

Plus, anyone who thinks we have removed the element of luck with our current format of a good RR plus some KO rounds is not living in reality.

So, is imp pairs better? Long matches? Good play is always a factor. Ask Levin and Weinstein.

The only Canadian team that has stuck together over decades (more power to them) is the Gartaganis team who won again this year.

They are the real exception in Canada, but maybe an example also.

In any case, pairs trials would produce a set of 3 “hot” pairs to represent us.

As for chemistry, anyone winning a spot in a pairs trial who could not overcome dislike of co-winners when representing his country needs more help than —

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 25th, 2010 at 5:04 am

Well said, Jim:

Bridge is not (or should not be) about a bunch of prima donnas, as you say “who could not overcome dislike of co-winners when representing his country…”

I guess I am just spoiled as I remember the glory days of your sensational Canadians Murray-Kehela, Roth-Root (later Root and Pavlicek) and Kaplan-Kay where they made beautiful music together which produced a large string of team victories and long-lasting genuinely beautiful relationships. Perhaps the term that best described it would be Betty Kaplan’s favorite word — ‘serendipity!’

Fred GitelmanAugust 25th, 2010 at 7:23 am

Actually Jim, my comments were written with non-sponsored teams in mind. IMO chemistry is also important for sponsored teams, but the dynamics are different (I will spare you the details as I do not think that sponsorship is especially relevant to this discussion).

Putting chemistry aside, there is still the question of the effectiveness of pairs trials. I will go with the flow and consider Levin-Weinstein and the Cavendish – an example that some have used to trumpet the wonders of IMP pairs.

Levin and Weinstein are certainly one of the very best pairs in the world and their remarkable achievements in the Cavendish have been truly historic in nature, but IMO it would be wrong to conclude from this that luck does not play a huge factor in the results of any IMP pairs event (even when the field is extremely strong and the event is very well run, as is the case with the Cavendish).

Suppose, for example, that in each of the 5 sessions of the Cavendish Pairs, there are 3 boards in which a lot of IMPs will be won or lost by every single pair in the field as a result of something completely random (like a vulnerable game or slam on a finesse that is bid at half the tables).

Now suppose you are lucky and 12 of those 15 swings happen to go in your favor. If I did the math right, this will happen to you about 10% of the time – hardly a miracle. You will win about 150 IMPs 12 times and lose about 150 IMPs 3 times. Your net plus for those 15 boards will be about 1350 IMPs.

Similarly, about 10% of the time you will be unlucky and 12 of those 15 swings will go against you. This time your net minus for those 15 boards will be about 1350 IMPs.

So the difference between being lucky and being unlucky is roughly 2700 IMPs. Being +2700 is sometimes enough to win the Cavendish (this year Levin-Weinstein won with a score of +2623) and being -2700 IMPs is sometimes enough to finish dead last (this year -2205 was enough for that distinction).

Even if my math is correct it may not convince you about the importance of the luck factor. However, since I am someone who has finished both first and last in the Cavendish Pairs, maybe you will take my word for it:

Luck is very important!

So even if you don’t think that chemistry matters (and even if you don’t care if most of your potential teammates disagree with this), it is not if as a pairs trials offers anything close to a guarantee of producing a “better” team than a team trials would (IMO).

Fred Gitelman

LindaAugust 25th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Maybe we are focusing on the wrong things in trying to improve the performance of Canadian teams. Maybe we should work more on coaching and building then on just picking a team. Maybe we could try something radical like have a trials early (even go back to the year in advance approach) and then have a coach work with the teams and at the end have a playoff or have the coach pick the best team.

Or as another alternative have Canadian bridge training camp where top teams from the previous CNTC all train in the hopes of letting people build more relationships and building a corps of good players.

Jim PriebeAugust 25th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I agee with Fred’s statement that “Luck is very important.”

Over the years that I have competed in our trials I can remember two cases where single hands had massive influence in determining the winner.

In one case, in the RR, my partner and I coughed up a (ridiculous) number to the eventual winners. Without that number on a single board, they would not have qualified for the KO segment.

A few years later, playing in another RR against the eventual winner, my partner and I reached a game with a trump suit of




The game got what it deserved – down one.

Had we held the 109 of trumps, the game would have made, we would have won that RR match, and the eventual winners would not have made the KO segment.

There is plenty of luck floating around in our current format.

Nick L'EcuyerAugust 25th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

This is an interesting and valid debate. I think both formats have pros and cons but I think that overall team trials have more going for them. We have to remember that this competition (CNTC) is done to select a team that will be competing in a team event and that team event (being the Bermuda Bowl, Olympiads or Rosenblum) is very close to the format we are using in our CNTC right now. This is a good thing because we want our team to perform in that kind of a team event.

I do understand however that our recent results in international competition is not up to what Canada should be able to do (therefore we should be asking ourselves if we are truly sending our best players) – or has done in the past. What is happening, I think, is that other countries are sending better and better teams – most of them full time bridge players – and this is causing the competition to be better and better. It is even true in the NABCs where Vanderbilt/Spingold etc… are better and better.

I still think we have a lot of talent here. Just a matter of having our talent playing together and practicing AND playing NABCs or other international competitions. This is a difficult game and it needs our talent to be dedicated.

Best regards,

Nick L’Ecuyer

LuiseAugust 25th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I think that Linda makes an important point when she talks about the non-playing captain and/or coach of the team, and what an important and crucial role they play in managing the team, the personalities, preparation and readiness for the world stage, etc. The coaches and the NPCs have a HUGE job to do, and it really needs to be done by paid professionals who can get a decent wage for the time and work that they put in.

The truth of the matter is that there just isn’t enough money to go around right now in Canada. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed. I know that Linda is working the CBF to start doing more in this regard with fundraising and to get some national events going to help raise money for this purpose. I think this is a great start and I am excited to see if it makes a difference in raising funds to help pay for travel expenses, coach/NPC wages, etc.

Jonathan SteinbergAugust 25th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I commend Fred Gitelman for his excellent posts on this topic.

In 2005, I was NPC of a team where one pair despised each other and despite expert training and advice from Eric Kokish, all bets were off once we left Canada. The team won a medal despite all the distractions, but that pair did implode, and to the best of my knowledge, while both have advanced in the world of bridge, they have not spoken to each other since 2005.

By virtue of Canada’s small bridge population and the reality of the lure of professionalism to move to greener pastures in the USA, most of the teams that play in the CNTC are there to have a good time. As Fred wrote so well:

“For many bridge players of all levels, especially those who are not professionals and who are not super-hungry to win the World Championships, the social aspect is one of the major reasons that they continue to play bridge. Hanging out in the bar with their teammates (who also happen to be their friends) and going over hands (or not) at the end of the day is a big part of what bridge is all about for these people. For most people, if they don’t enjoy the bridge experience (and especially if that experience is costing them money), it is hard to bring one’s best game to the table.”

That describes the Canadian Bridge Championships for the overwhelming majority.

Further the complete round robin and long KO matches (128 board final) are somewhat unique in North America. Unique in a positive way. The players love it, it is seen as democratic and fair where everyone has an opportunity to excel and win.

Why would anyone want to change a format that is so popular? Clearly there is LUCK in every form of bridge. IMHO, all a Pairs Trial would do is produce a different Canadian team. It would not be popular decision and I strongly doubt if the team’s performance at a World Championship would be significantly better or worse than the current Team Trial format in use.

Canadians delude themselves if they believe we would produce World Champions just by changing the method of selection. We won’t. But we might kill one of the best events (and fun weeks) that Canada has — the Canadian Bridge Championships.

BOBBY WOLFFAugust 25th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Everyone of the recent blogs have very valid points. Linda’s blog has struck a chord with me essentially about qualifying a team early and then spending a full year in training them.

It has been done earlier on our side of the pond by the training documented with the Juniors in the very early 1990’s. It worked like a charm in 1991 at Ann Arbor, Michigan when the three Zone 2 teams finished 1st, 2d,and 4th, especially since the juniors from the USA had never finished higher than 5th.

Also a few years before that I was asked to speak in London (was already there playing in what then was called the London Times Invitational) at a bridge training week-end (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) where all of the UK’s teams (open, women and juniors, no seniors yet), would gather together for a disciplined well coordinated three days devoted entirely to bridge partnerships and getting their teams ready for combat. I am not prepared to guess whether it worked or not, but, no doubt, while there observing, was very impressed at the dedication, effort, and enthusiasm which went into it.

Having been a party to that time and other well thought out training periods I would wholeheartedly endorse what Linda suggests. Only good things usually come out of it, including togetherness of mind and spirit which is very necessary between partners and seems to flow over to teammates in developing what Fred and many others might call teamliness and seem to crave.

Raising money, Luise’s principle theme, is, of course, also critical. Back then, all well known world bridge players, at least to my knowledge, donated their time pro bono in order to keep expenses low, but whether that is still possible remains to be seen. My opinion, certainly not shared by everyone, is that the parent bridge organization should contribute financially since doing well at the WBF level should be an incentive country wide and also help to make bridge more electric and therefore more popular. More money for that and possibly less for charity seems logical.

In any event, there now exists an opportunity for one or more creative people to take off with the idea and run.

Fred GitelmanAugust 25th, 2010 at 9:08 pm

I think the discussion is going in the right direction. Nick L’Ecuyer’s post was especially pertinent in my view.

My guess is that, notwithstanding chemistry issues, there does not rate to be much difference between pairs trials and team trials in terms of the quality of the teams that is likely to emerge. Of course I could be wrong about that, but trying to find out by doing a multi-year experiment would be most unwise in my view given what a great and popular event the CNTC is (as Jonathan Steinberg points out).

That is a big part why my advice to Nader was to give the players what they want. It is not the case that the only purpose of the CBF is to select the best possible team and, besides that, nobody really knows how to select the best team – to screw with something that is working on a lot of levels amounts to playing with fire.

The bottom line is that, regardless of how the team is selected, Canada will get a team that was either playing well or (much less likely) had an extraordinary amount of luck during a particular week several months before the World Championships.

Trying to ensure that the winners utilize those several months to ensure that they play as well as possible in the World Championships is a worthy goal, of course, but IMO it is only a small part of the answer for several reasons:

– A few months is not a very long time.

– Many players have things like jobs and families that grealy limit the amount of time they have to spend on bridge. Just being able to get away from their jobs and families for both the CNTC and the World Championships (to say nothing of practice-time) is a real problem for a lot of people.

– Experience playing against top-level players in high-pressure situations in important events is critical to success at the World Championships in my view. This is not something that one can acquire over the course of a few months.

I am not advocating trying to solve these problems by going back to running the CNTC more than a year in advance of the World Championship in question. That, like running a pairs trials, would just be another likely pointless and quite possibly destructive experiment. IMO the only way to really solve this problem is this:

Try to ensure that the CNTC winners do most of their preparation BEFORE the CNTCs actually start.

If a talented team can manage to do this (and, yes, I know that is much easier said than done) it will have the added benefit of increasing the likelihood that such a team will actually win the CNTC (and, if that doesn’t happen anyway then, barring a great deal of luck in the World Championships, all bets for Team Canada are basically off).

So the key is to do what Nick suggests: at least a few Canadian pairs (ideally those who are happy to play as teammates) have to commit themselves to take bridge very seriously over an extended period of time. This means going to all the NABCs, playing in only the main events, developing extensive system notes, going over all the hands they play, working with EOK, studying the moves of the stars (by reading World Championships, watching vugraph, etc.), practicing online against the best opposition they can find, making at least some effort to take care of themselves physically (especially during tournaments), etc.

The “extended period of time” is important – I am talking about several years. It is not realistic to expect serious change overnight and there are going to be plenty of setbacks along the way (like normally losing in the round-of-32 in the Spingold and Vanderbilt before the team starts to come into form).

In my opinion, if Canada is to significantly improve its performance in World Championships, it is absolutely necessary for pairs of young players to get involved in what I describe. There are several reasons for this:

– Talented young players tend to have the ability to dramatically improve their individual skills while almost all strong players who are at least my age (45) will never get much better than they are already (sorry to have to break that news to you guys!).

– Young players tend to have fewer job and family constraints and in that sense can afford to spend more time and energy focusing on bridge.

– Young players tend to be hungrier for sucess and thus more likely to be willing to put in the necessary effort to make it happen.

Some good new is that Canada apparently has the abilty to produce a never-ending supply of talented young players (including an impressive batch of them that exist right now). I am not blaming anyone for this, but some bad news is that Canada has not done a very good job of leveraging the good news – a lot of those talented young players either end up moving to the USA or end up never developing into anything close to their full potential as players.

Trying to find some way to address this problem is mission critical in my view. Canada simply does not have the horses right now to compete effectively at the world level (sorry again guys). You need to breed some new horses and hope to develop at least one superstar pair that you can build an effective team around.

In the end, as several people have pointed out, money is going to be very important. So is patience – nothing is going to change in the short term no matter how much money the CBF has to throw at the problem.

OK – I will shut up now and go back to the USA 🙂

Fred Gitelman

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 25th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

It has become more and more apparent that this is an ultra-sensitive and ticklish Canadian Issue (and a well written provocative blog by Nader Hanna) as evidenced by so many sincere opinions, observations and suggestions, mostly from caring Maple Leafers.

As far as the luck and talent theory, history has proven that since luck always evens out, talent is left to rule. And I will go one step further in adding, that in Bobby’s opinion former Canadian, Geoff Hampson, has an incredible upside potential in that his various qualities could one day make him one of the best players in the world. That is quite a mouthful from someone with Bobby’s track record!!!!!!

In the past, Eric Murray’s overwhelming persona, considerable bridge prowess and insatiable desire to win PLUS Sami Kehela’s world class bridge knowledge, skills and application (also his ability to sublimate his ego to Eric’s) combined to make them, as a whole, greater than it’s two parts, resulting in one of the world’s most HONEST, SUPREME BRIDGE PARTNERSHIPS EVER.

Canada presently has other excellent players, not to overlook sound partnerships. However, in all other forms of competition, teams must have stars that rise above their opponents’ abilities. Because of important personal obligations and the tantalizing lure of professional bridge to other climes, these conditions will cause the paralyzing loss of players necessary for Canada to become a recognized super power in bridge in the near future.

Neither Eric, Sami nor Geoff are left for Canadians to actively lionize. Murray and Kehela are long since retired and Geoff has flown the coop.

David ColbertAugust 28th, 2010 at 12:01 am

I have been playing in the CNTC since 1981, and I always enjoy it.

I feel that the evolvement of professionalism, especially in the U.S.A., has really altered our bridge landscape. First, many of our top players have left Canada to play, work and reside there. Second, the CNTC champs are now finding that the level of play in the top quartile at the world championships is much higher than it used to be. This is totally because of the ubiquitous professional players who are able to devote their full time working days to bridge.

The issue that has been raised is worthy of debate and input, but I feel that if the objective is to compete at the world level, then that can only be achieved by some kind of extensive training, funding and lifestyle change by the winners after they are declared. If the objective is to provide the best possible Canadian team, then there are grounds for discussion. But I think our representatives will not be unsatisfactory no matter what method we choose.

I enjoy a team format much more than a pairs format. If our team plays well, we do well. I have not had the same experience in pairs events. And the team game makes you play better, as at least 3 other people are depending on you. It raises your level of concentration and discipline. If you go for 800 you have involved 3 people in your adventure.

In summary, I feel that we should continue the present format, as it is enjoyable and fair. The best team that week has been found. That should be our emphasis, not what happens to that team later.

BOBBY WOLFFAugust 28th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Hi David,

I found your comments quite compelling, honest, right to the point, and representing a mainstream view.

My only additions are a type of fill in the blanks mode without prejudice.

1. Will Canada be able to hold on to its most favored position of entry into the Bermuda Bowl and the Venice Cup without upgrading its performances?

2. While not discounting general pairs competition into the random category, is it possible that a relatively long pairs trial (probably two cuts), especially with better partnerships participating and realizing their responsiblities to the field, be more efficient than is currently being credited to that form of competition? The main result, of course, is that the winners of the CNTC then does not furnish Team(s) Canada.

3. If the team selection (CNTC) is chosen, what specific training methods, if any, should be chosen and where, again if any, would the funding come from?

4. Should a specific entity (players or administrative group) have any choice in replacing any of the winning players or partnerships, ostensibly at least, for improving the chances of doing better at the World Championship?

5. Is it Canada’s desire to keep the selection process as informal as possible, allowing whatever happens to happen, without scrutinizing or undue influencing what could be thought to be in Canada’s best interests to finish as high as possible in World events?

If these questions are answered in a straightforward unbiased manner, at least in my opinion, it is likely the majority answer (as long as this survey includes enough bridge mature, thoughtful participants) will be the direction Canada should go. An alternate method, of course, is for the CBA to choose who answers the questionaire, which could be similar to the above or one which Canada thinks is more appropriate.

Respectfully submitted.

Michael RocheAugust 28th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Mr. Wolff:

1) The under-current of your repeated comments concerning Team Canada’s performance on the International stage continues to cloud the issue being discussed. My question to you is ” Who and with what authority would move to take away Canada’s current ability to participate in the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup?” We have previously been subjected to the Olympiad “test” wherein our BB and VC spot was contingent on performance. For the record, the last time Canada lost their BB spot, our team was arguably the strongest in years, and consisted of “name” players. So much for your assertation that Canada doesn’t send their best players.

Why is there this continual thinly-veiled threat to take away our spot?

2) You wrote “The main result, of course, is that the winners of the CNTC then does not furnish Team(s) Canada.” What does this mean?

The issue being discussed is twofold. Should we consider changing the selection methods for Canada’s teams? Do we think that a new method will improve our performance at the International level?

As a sidebar it looks like keeping the status quo is about 4-1.

3) Training methods? Coaching? All well and good, but where does the money come from? Funding? Now you have to be kidding. We can barely provide adequate funds to send our teams to the site and pay entries. There is no bang for the buck with respect to corporate sponsorhip, except perhaps in a philanthropic way. Personal sponsorship as is evident in the USA requires a playing sponsor (another topic, another time)Perhaps you can convince the ACBL to open their purses.

4) A masterful turn of phrase and use of the word “ostensibly”. So we hold trials, produce a winner, and then allow an entity to change the results? Why bother to hold trials in the first place?

5) “Is it Canada’s desire to keep the selection process………. without scrutinizing or undue influencing what could be thought to be in Canada’s best interests to finish as high as possible in World events?”

What exactly are Canada’s best interests to finish as high as possible? Is there an incentive I and the other CBF players don’t know about?

As I have written before, bridge success does not relate to National Pride. To the majority of players (all?) success is a relative measure of their own abilities to compete. If (when?) Fred, Geoff, or Gavin win a World Championship, do you really think the world bridge community is going to congratulate the USA or Canada? No – they will congratulate the players on a well-done performance. Geography and birthplace have nothing to do with it.

Derek WardAugust 29th, 2010 at 4:34 am

To Michael Roche

Your name is unfamiliar and I tried to look you up but found no reference.

Are you a bridge player?

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 29th, 2010 at 5:46 am

To Derek Ward:

The only mention of a two-legged creature I could find with the name of Derek Ward belonged to the famous Tampa Bay Buccaneer who may know more about bridge than you do — or else you would not have made such erroneous and asinine statements to Bobby about professionalism without knowing the foggiest about the background and details of the circumstances.

It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

And, regarding your sarcastic

statement above to Michael Roche (mimicking my remark to you) — you must have been looking in all the wrong places.

Obviously, he is a bridge player.

Are you?

Furthermore, for YOUR information (and anyone else reading this), Bobby is MORE QUALIFIED to supply the background of the past and present conditions of contest and international bridge competition than anyone else in the world since he has been living the part as a competitor, administrator, official, recorder, lawmaker, etc., etc., etc. for over half a century.

So, don’t be so fast to judge when you are wet behind the ears.

Mr. Roche’s comments will be addressed tomorrow.

Derek WardAugust 29th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

To Judy Kay-Wolff

To continue this little flame war. I joined the ACBL in 1968, became a life master in 1971, and have won over a dozen open regional events with limited playing and long absenses from the game. I stopped playing in tournaments in the early 90’s but I was relatively well known on the west coast prior to that time. I have served on the boards of both the Victoria and Vancouver units for many years and have represented District 19 at the Board of Governors meetings at two nationals. Admittedly nothing to compare to Mr. Wolff, but the description of wet behind the ears does not really apply.

My original comment was to point out that although you and Bobby are so against sponsors at the world championships, Bobby has played in many world championships with playing sponsors. This fact is indisputable, so you belittle me.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 29th, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Mr. Ward:

Would it not have been simpler for you to mention you are a retired player — and not been on the scene for many years?

Perhaps had you responded immediately, no reference would have been made to your ridiculously inappropriate remarks.

Before you attacked Bobby and playing on “sponsored” teams, perhaps you should have done a little more homework into the backgrounds. Nickell and Cayne could play rings around some of the so-called experts and Dan Morse was not a sponsor, but a partner since the 60s. Get all your facts straight before you blurt.

And, by the way, do you really think paying sponsors of mediocre ilk should be representing your nation at a world championship because they paid their way onto a team? I don’t. I’d like to think of world championships representing the supreme players every country has to offer. Maybe I am old fashioned. That is how it worked in my day before sponsorship corrupted the game.

LindaAugust 30th, 2010 at 4:17 am

Some of the comments made in response to this blog are personal and off topic. I would appreciate it if those who comment stick to the issue and stop making personal remarks.

I think the discussion is interesting and important. Future comments which are attacking somebody whether a commenter or not will be removed.

BOBBY WOLFFAugust 30th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Mr Ward,

There are better things to do (any and every thing I could dream of) than have to answer critical remarks by someone who is totally off target, but to not do so might leave one or more people thinking there is substance to the criticism.

Before 1995, if one was to play in important events, especially those team games whiich qualfied the team for the ITT, one was locked in with that team, with possible additions (up to 6 players) but no subtractions. In every case you mentioned I had won a major team game with Deutsch, Brachman, Nickell, Cayne and Morse.

Since I already explained that for my dime, Nickell and Cayne are very close to world class and therefore capable of holding theiir own against the world’s best. Dan Morse is my friend and as I already explained, he is not a sponsor and a former expert partner of mine. In both Brachman’s case and with Seymon Deutsch we won major team games and played the trials and won that too. How was I supposed to get rid of them but instead, in the case of Seymon we went on to win the only World Team Olympiad ever won by the USA in Venice in 1988. Four years later Seymon added Hamman and me to his trials group in the WTO year of 1992 and we then again won the trials and came in second, losing to the French. For what it is worth Seymon in 1994 then played on another American team and won the Rosenblum at the WC in Albuquerque making him the only player in the history of bridge to ever have won both of those events. He and I have been great friends since we played together the first time at Triinity University where we graduated college together in 1955.

Because of what you mentioned I, too, then in 1995 broke off the trials from the ACBL (with the ACBL’s blessing) in order to encourage the best teams, particularly younger experts to form teams with the idea of continuing to get better and with the tremendous incentive to be able to then play in the trials with a chance of winning and representing the country.

It hasn’t turned out as productive as I had hoped, but under Mike Becker’s aegis (He took over from me in 1997 with my blessing) the ITT has been very functional, although the proliferation of professionalism has hurt more than it has helped.

With a very heavy heart I write this blog for you and others and only wish that you would just begin to do a minimum of research instead of insulting who you are writing to with no regard to being right and obviously not caring who gets the brunt of your ill advised misslves.

Whoever you are, perhaps it is time you improve your personality. It needs it.

Bobby Wolff

Linda LeeAugust 30th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Bobby has the last word on this subject. Now back to the topic at hand please.

This is about the Canadian Bridge Federation and the best way to pick our teams. A lot has been said about pairs trials and team trials and selection committees.

I think we all agree that we need more money for training and coaching but there are innovative ways to help each other with less money.

We need people who are willing to put in the work and dedicate themselves to the game all year even as amateurs.

We do need to raise money and I am going to try to do that. It may take a while but perhaps in a few years we can set up a stream of funding.

Master Point Press is already the only major sponsor for teams.

Cam FrenchAugust 30th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

This has been a thoughtful and lively discussion. It is great to see so many top Canadians (transplanted or otherwise) adding to the discussion.

I find it amazing that so many people feel the team dynmaic is “baloney” or moot. Fred, Jonathan and others have demonstrated why it is more than a hidden intangible.

Imagine if Sontag discovered I was to be his team mate! He would (justifiably) be aghast and I suspect we would need a third party just to compare scores.

We all have people we like and dislike, that we would never entertain as partners or team mates for a variety of personal or other reasons.

Now I have a lottery ticket for this upcoming draw for gazillions. When I win, I will quit my day job, divorce my wife, ask Elin out for a date, sponsor the French School of Bridge, The French Open, The French Pairs, the French Teams and the French Invitational.

With Nader’s endorsement, I will accept the appointment of Canadian Bridge Czar, and select the best team in an arbirtary and unilateral fashion, accept the role of NPC and lead the chosen few into the promised land of international competition. There we will dine on Russian caviar, sip French champagne and enjoy the spoils of international cuisine.

Off the top of my head I think team French might see Fred, Geoff, Gavin, Nick as a nucleus, with a compatible pair added. Kokes could coach, Litvak would be “opening lead coach”, Silver “tactical” coach and Kehela/ERM honourary Captains.

I think I better go check that ticket right now.



Mike HargreavesAugust 30th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

As a former CNTC winner and occasional competitor, my view is that we have to stay with a team trials rather than imp pairs or selection.

A pairs contest with a possible role for slectors re the 3rd pair won’t work, for the same reason that a pure selection method won’t work.

We are a huge country with the somewhat thin talent spread thousands of miles apart. Only a small handful of the top players can afford or choose to travel to the US to play. Any selector(s) will be from a list of players who don’t want to be on the team… who are they, where are they located and how in the heck can they actually know the abilities of pairs from other parts of the country? We are not like the European countries that use a selection process, where all the good players play repeatedly in the same events and are all known to each other and to anyone likely to be chosen as a selector.

As for the importance of team chemistry….I agree with those who feel it to be very important. I don’t have anything else to add, other than that, as usual, I was very impressed by Fred’s comments and have no disagreement with anything he wrote.

Linda LeeSeptember 1st, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I am going to go along with Cam here. If I had money to burn I would probably sponsor a team. I wouldn’t play on it but I would pick the players and see if I could get the best team possible. I would pay for lots of coaching and make sure that they played in a number of major events all year in preparation.

And since I paid for it I would make Ray the NPC. He would do a great job and he would deserve it if we were coughing up all that money.

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