Mark Blumenthal

My ideas about the Past and Future of Bridge

I was reading in  Linda’s blog about the future of bridge. In The first regional open pairs I won I played Swith Sidney Aronson. He told me that in the forties the most prestiguous event was the life masters individual pairs. The winner of that won two masterpoints. Second overall won one. Those were all the masterpoints the event awarded.  There were no section tops and no other overall awards.   I joined the ACBL in  the early to  mid early sixties. I was somewhat aware that the ACBL had just changed its overall and section awards by increasing the number of masterpoints for finishing overall or doing well in a section. I met Ed Lazarus at a Philadelphia tournament. He asked me how many masterpoints I had.  I think I had about fifty then. Ed knew how I played so he asked me why I wasn’t a life master. I told him I hadn’t been playing long enough. 

This has continued. The last national, excuse me, NABC, I played in was  2003 I was introduced to the president of the ACBL at the time. He asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I said  there was–  stop masterpoint inflation. He  said, “I can’t do that. ” There is no good way to compare  presernt players to those of the past.The top players know who is at their level, but there is no easy way to truly rank players. I guess we could rank players as they do in golf  by keeping track of how many majors they have won. That is complicated by bridge being a partnership game  and the presence of professional players and sponsors.

We have seen drug and cheating incidents in major sports. Policing any irregularities by ultimately relying on committees of players who ofen may be intimidated by one of the protesters does not seem ideal.

As for the future of bridge, a game manufacturer I knew told me Americans don’t like to have to think. Add to that the popularity of  working out or playing sports or and computers and video games,  It seems more people would rather have something in which they can be active. They know participating in physical activity is important for their health.  At least we don’t have to play in smoke filled rooms anymore.


Chris HasneyMay 16th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

I wonder if we could develop something for bridge akin to orienteering or poker runs or barhopping. It’s a duplicate game, but you only play two boards in one place. Then you have to use a map or a clue or something to move (on foot, not taxi) to the next location for the next round. Slow play is heavily penalized; a full board when someone catches you up. Let’s get creative!

Oh, cool, just as I was about to hit send, I thought of doing this on a national or international scale as one of the TV reality show things. Maybe for the Travel Channel, in affiliation with ESPN?

Mark BlumenthalMay 17th, 2009 at 6:37 am

Chris – The trouble is with bridge you have to guard against collusion. the whole alert structure has been built to prevent this. Bridge is not unique in this. There have been incidents in basketball, baseball and other competitions. Even in marathons competitors were found to have taken taxis.

Chris HasneyMay 17th, 2009 at 10:45 pm


It’s not about the bridge. It’s about the fun of the event, with bridge being the unifying factor. We have to find some way to get young people back into our game (and back into social events in general without cell phones, Ipods, laptops, X-boxes, etc.) Once we get them we can do what Judy and Bobby have been discussing. Teach them the ethics they are not often taught at home or in church or in school. By teaching the ethics of our game we can extrapolate that to ethics in general. And we simply MUST have events where everyone with more than 49 masterpoints has to play in mixed competition in a seeded field, so they get the pleasure of playing some boards against the best players attending the event. (And those players need to be identified with a name tag or something.) Being able to play against the best in the world for the same entry fee was one of the cool things about bridge. Now it’s almost impossible to do without being at a tremendous disadvantage because one’s peers are in the minnows game.

p.s. It’s terribly upsetting that we have to guard against collusion. Yes, it goes on (“On board 13 the king is stiff.” ) but in the “good old days” there was very little of it and anyone found out was shunned and/or run off. Apparently it is now getting out of hand. Pity.

Mark BlumenthalMay 18th, 2009 at 10:07 am


You still had top players breaking tempo as a matter of course and giving their partners information. I started a little before alerts, but I can name some of them. There have been numerous cheating incidents.

I agee with you abou doing away with most of the stratified events, My son has never played in a tournament. He would be willing to play in on with me, but it’s hard to find an event we could play with with each other. Playing with no incentive has little appeal to me. Many of the people I’ve mentioned in my stories went to my college when I did. At first we played for the sake of doing so, but most of the bridge players switched to hearts instead. The stakes were nominal, but at least we were playing for something.

I could rarely get people to play at even those stakes because I was clearly better than they were.

Chris HasneyMay 18th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

That’s never been my problem, lol

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