Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Fund raising for Canadian Bridge and a thought or two about team selection

First let me say, as I think many others have, that Nader Hanna is doing a terrific job as President of the Canadian Bridge Federation.  This organization has many challenges starting with an unclear mandate.  In the US the responsibilities of the ACBL and the USBF seem to be fairly well defined.  But in Canada while the CBF role is certainly to select and “nurture” Canadian teams the role is really larger than that.  The CBF is the face of Canadian bridge and takes on duties that in the US would have been handled by the ACBL.  Sure the ACBL is still important to Canadian players, running and organizing tournaments all over North America, providing tournament directors, the Bulletin and other local magazines and newsletters, and issuing master points among other things.  But there is a gap.

The current CBF Board has been trying to fill that gap.  But they don’t have a lot of visibility doing it despite the fact that they provide a magazine which is sent to non CBF members periodically, run a website, a new Bulletin Board, run a Rookie-Master event, manage charity funds, and run national events beyond the team trials, run some tournaments,  set up the Canadian Bridge Hall of Fame and so on.

They appreciate that they need to win the support of Canadian players to be effective and to do that they need to continue to do things for Canadian players beyond the star players who will form the international teams.

Which brings me to fund raising…  I talked to Nader about my willingness to help the CBF a few months ago.  Pamela Nisbet and Mike Yuen joined me as we discussed approaches to fund raising.  The current plan is to try to come up with events and other things that will not only raise money but add value for our players.  We would also like to reach out to non ACBL affiliated clubs (there are a lot in Canada) and make them a part of “Bridge Canada”.   Yesterday I attended a Board meeting and the reception was wonderful.  So our little committee with I hope lots of additions will start to develop our first event with the help of the CBF.  If you are interested in helping send me an email  Believe me we can use all the help we can get.

There was quite a lot of discussion at the Board lunch about Judy and Bobby Wolff and the discussion around team selection.  Most of the current board with one or two exceptions has no realistic chance of being on a Canadian team.  But they and probably most Canadians like the event.  They like giving everyone a chance to form a team, enter an open competition and try to win.  It may be true that team selectors could do a better job but it hasn’t really helped in many of the countries that have tried that approach.  I think the best way to improve Canadian teams is to work to find the money to provide coaching and training of the players we have and perhaps in this way provide incentives to play for Canada.  Maybe the other approach would be to find somebody with a lot of money who would sponsor a team, like Mrs. Lavazza, as NPC.  It is hard to compete with full-time professionals from a country which by and large only has amateurs.


Ross TaylorMay 30th, 2010 at 7:10 am

Hey Linda – Yesterday during day one of the CNTC round robin, one of our players could not attend during the day as he had to work on Saturday, so we fielded an unfamiliar partnership for half the day, and the guy came to play in the evening having been working since 6 AM. (He played very well !)

Same thing will happen to another team member during the coming week. These things probably don’t happen to most sponsored teams in other country’s trials – but I doubt our team is the only one thusly affected during this week’s CNTC.

I applaud your group’s initiative – it’s harder to walk the walk than it is to talk the talk. GL.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 30th, 2010 at 2:39 pm


Regarding your fund raising interest:

Of course, logistics is most likely a problem, but I can tell you what I did back in ’88 in my hometown of Philadelphia. There was a young divorced school teacher, living alone, who was suffering from MS, badly in need of a new handicapped equipped van and motorized wheel chair — among other things, including insurance funding. Desperate and unabashed, he asked the Unit for help but was refused, claiming they felt they could not show favoritism. However, I got wind of it and together with many close friends and some total strangers, the challenge was accepted!

I enlisted the aid of about twenty people who comprised this labor of love. We decided to hold a dinner/duplicate at a modest little country club in a convenient and easily reachable suburb. The CC was very cooperative and gave us great food and very fair rates. It was a sellout (55 tables) — having to turn people away. We sold tickets as a package (dinner and duplicate), charged $50 a head, sold raffles and auctioned off the top players.

The raffles were a big hit (something like $10 each and 3/$25). It was an easy way out for someone who did not want to play but was too embarrased to say No. In fact, a couple local experts offered a hundred bucks not to have to attend. No fools were we! We took the money and ran. Our raffle sales hit the roof and were by far the easiest part of the project.

We had crews approaching all the very best, popular restaurants (and top merchants) in Philadelphia and the suburbs — explained our plight — and you’d be surprised how happy the owners or managers were to offer two complimentary dinners or a gift certificiate (in exchange for the advertisement). Then I personally wrote to some wealthy bridge players all over the country and was greeted by checks averaging about $200-$300 (and believe me, it added up).

The piece de resistance was auctioning off our superstars (of course, including my late husband Norman) plus at least a dozen local stars and popular heroes and heroines.

The “big boys” went for $500 and the other talented more-than willling participants were sold for $100-$200 — and a bargain at that! I recall right off the bat Marty Seligman (of Soloway/Seligman fame) coughed up half a grand to partner Norman.

We called it Project Wheels (written up later bt Truscott, Stewart and Sheinwold) and the bottom line was the incredible amount of $25,000 which went toward Larry Hoffman’s much needed van (which I arranged to get wholesale through a local bridge player who owned a repair shop) and a specialized wheel chair, plus money to spare for future insurance.

Of course, times are different and the current economy is terrible — but bridge players (when push comes to shove) have huge hearts — especially if it involves the game they adore.

Your cause (though not as heartfelt and personally emotional) is nevertheless of tremendous importance and this would be a great opportunity for all Canadians to show their patriotism for the Maple leaf and their love of the game.

Hopefully that money would go, as you suggested, toward training and coaching juniors especially (as Bobby did in the nineties) — which certainly paid off. One day soon, I am going to do a blog on the youngsters in that group and where they are today. It would boggle your minds — how some have reached such great heights!

It is apparent Canada has a mind set as to how to handle their own operation. It is a wonderful, fair, democratic approach to staging one’s own Conditions of Contest with no one looking over their shoulders and calling the shots. True, it is ‘just a game’ and everyone is entitled to try out for the much-coveted representation. However, it becomes more difficult later when facing tough, experienced world class competition. I know Bobby plans to respond to the issue, trying to bring that particular situation into focus.

As to fund raising, give some thought to the above. I can testify to its success with a determined person (YOU) organizing and overseeing its operation! If you need any help or have any questions, you know where to find me. Good luck.



Bobby WolffMay 30th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Hi Linda,

It is of course, pleasing to get some hoped for positive attention from your leaders.

Ross refers to the less formal nature of the Canadian approach, primarily because of the absence of bridge professionalism which, in turn tends to be enabling to the players by allowing them to spend more time perfecting their bridge partnerships, but at the cost of having a usually lesser playing sponsor being able to win the right to represent the country as one of the six eligible players.

Recounting recent bridge history, there is no doubt that professionalism has measurably encouraged and succeeded to develop players with talent into forming very effective world class partnerships as witnessed by some of Canada’s finest opting to defect their beloved country to the USA for the opportunity to perhaps play bridge for a lifetime instead of a 9 to 5 job.

Needless for me to say that, of course, Canada should have the right and does to select their methods of qualifying International bridge teams who will represent their country. If winning, or at least being fiercely competitive, is also important then

some care is necessary in your planning. Playing world class bridge, being defined as being able to compete reasonably at the highest world level, requires:

1. Some innate talent.

2. Developing disciplined partnerships, keeping in mind the ever changing world bidding philosophies, usually nuances making use of heretofore passed over bids which certainly in the earlier years of bridge had no useful meaning and were overlooked for the opportunity to have more room to exchange contract deciding information. I am not suggesting incorporating these possible improvements, only that competing players need to be aware of the philosophy involved.

3. Experience gleaned by the opportunity to play against the world’s best in a serious competitive environment. Sometimes a Captain, but usually a Coach, can arrange to artificially create that environment, even if logistics make it almost impossible to accomplish it in the flesh.

4. Yes, properly preparing to play in a Bermuda Bowl requires time and hard work, but, if intelligently planned, is easily fit into a working bridge player’s schedule and, in reality, is nowhere near a hopeless daunting task. The important thing is not to waste time with various lesser details, but rather cut to the chase of what is important.

5. Canada has a double digit number of players, all eligible to play for Canada right away to fall back on, but I am not even suggesting that this is necessary for success. Of the above qualities in my opinion the experience of already having played high-level bridge is perhaps the most important, but once done it will continue to get easier every year as long as the tradition established will continue to grow.

6. This whole process needs total emotional backing by a large number of would-be Canadian players, together with necessary enthusiasm by the Canadian administrators involved in the project. Some of the current Canadian competitiors might feel threatened, but in reality, and for the benefit of the Maple Leaf, all involved will be set on the right course and I predict the results will please everyone.

7. I think I can speak for all Canadians when I say that if one word could only be used to describe what I envision, that word would be a MERITOCRACY! And ironically, that particular word could possibly be applied to Canada more than any other nation I could imagine.

To conclude, this type of plan would probably entail a:

1. Fund Raising Group (Judy is my representative). I do not expect that the necessary money would be off the charts.

2. A group of administrative decision makers who would choose:

A. A financial person(s) to be in charge.

B. A small number (2-5 people) who would be in charge of the overall endoctrination period and supervise the necessary training.

C. A coordinator with access to media who would keep interested parties aware of the scheduling and progress.

D. An enthusiastic whole country, at least the bridge players, rooting for its success.

Further questions to be answered and details to be worked out.

LindaMay 31st, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Thank you both for your advice. It is truly inspiring. I am sure that anything Judy undertakes she does brilliantly. I know nobody else who could raise money better than she could (among many other talents).

I hope I can call on her for advice and suggestions.

I know that the CBF will be ready what you wrote here and I am sure they will consider your ideas. I expect Nader Hanna, the President to respond after he finishes playing in the championship of course.

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