Australian Playoff concludes today

March 25, 2009 at 9:17 am 28 comments

What a shame that we weren’t able to watch the last 16 of the semi between the Gill and Thompson on BBO. Could somebody please explain to me why we had a women’s match on which virtually nobody watched – and I include blood relatives of the players in ‘nobody’ – while there would have been a large audience for the 16 which saw if Gill could pull of a major coup.

The final of the Open is fascinating for its composition. There isn’t one Sydney player in the two teams!! On the one hand we have 5 ACT players and a Queenslander. On the other we have – well, you might say 3 NSW players and a Victorian, but the sentiment of the situation is different. Ebery, Simpson and Antoff are more or less outsiders in their own town.

For my money Delivera-Robinson have been about the best pair in Australia for a long time…why they haven’t been sort as teammates by all the best players in Australia is beyond me.

Thank heavens, however, that the teams in Australia are decided by bridge play and not somebody’s opinion. I don’t think for one moment that if we had selectors instead of bridge deciding our teams that Delivera-Robinson would be picked for a team. Wrong address, if nothing else.

What we are going to hear, however, for the nth time lately is that we need methods which will select the ‘right’ team. Sorry, but if the ‘right’ team can’t do it at the bridge table, I don’t understand why another method of selection will be preferable.

It does make me wonder, though. If it were preferable to pick the team to play for Australia instead of having it decided by bridge competition – if we really don’t think that actual bridge competition results in an appropriate winner – surely we should logically skip the world championships too. Why doesn’t a panel of selectors pick who is the best team in the world this year…and let’s leave it at that!

By the way, David Thompson must be thrilled at this result. He thinks that the reason Sydney players, aka Australia’s best players, don’t perform at their best is lack of partnership. Well, here today we have 5 very hard working partnerships, all of whom have been together for a long time, fighting it out. Food for thought…


Entry filed under: 2009 Australian Playoff, thoughts on bridge. Tags: .

The sex bidding scandal continues Final of the Australian Playoff

28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ian Thomson  |  March 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    The above has been an interesting read.

    The Thomson team was always a chance (not favourites) in this event because
    1) it understood the terms of the contest; and
    2) was appropriately prepared for those conditions.

    Basically an number of players in the team require to “warm up” before being able to play bridge at anywhere near the level required to win selection. The terms of this contest where we had a place in Division A allowed our team 2 days to warm up.

    If the terms of contest had been different we would of prepared differently.

    To be critical of our performamnce over the first 2 days fails to fully understand what our team was trying to achieve. To put it in cricketing terms “time in the middle”.

    The third day was still poor by a few of the team, but luck was on our side and we survived.

    The 4th and 5th day are history.

    None of us claim to be best players in Australia, but the record should record that the event was won by a team of 3 pairs (long-term regular partnerships) who understood the terms of the contest and who used the conditions to ensure our performance when required was the best we could do. On this occasion it was good enough.

    On the method of selecting a team, if I were a selector I would look at the value of the team rather than the individual players. Teams have to be able to perform and this occurs when the atmosphere within the team is right.

    • 2. phil markey  |  March 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm

      congrats and well played thomo – its a great result

      i see that your doing some fence sitting re selection or trials

      i’m assuming your not one to overstate recent events so when reading this – “if I were a selector I would look at the value of the team rather than the individual players. Teams have to be able to perform and this occurs when the atmosphere within the team is right.”

      i’m reading that you think selection better enables team atmosphere cause thats something a selector can validly consider – not something thats considered when the team is formed after a pairs selection event or when the playoffs involve a bunch of sponsors and tricky playoff point issues

      hows my reading ?

      • 3. Ian Thomson  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm


        More in favour of trials, but when putting together teams to enter trials I focus on compatability and atmosphere in additionn to bridge strengths.

        My belief is that some form of trials and every few years it needs to be a pairs trials is warranted. This enables up and coming players to enter and to achieve recognition.

        A selection method the ABF could adopt was to give automatic entry to the selection event to a number of pairs for say a 3 year period ( a dream team or 2). There would need to be criteria that these pairs would have to satisfy to continue having exemption. Others enter via playoff points or an open event.

        Not a difficult concept and if the so called dream team could not win the event, then maybe they are dreaming.

        The selection event needs to go for 5 or 6 days. Most years this will produce the best team.

      • 4. Ben Thompson  |  March 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

        Thommo offers an option for combined selection/play:
        “give automatic entry to the selection event to a number of pairs for say a 3 year period ( a dream team or 2)”

        I kind of don’t mind this.

        It’s an absolute must that at the end of the day, somebody must win something to be on the Australian team. And if you don’t win, you aren’t. If you can’t win when it’s all on the line, you don’t deserve to be on the Australian team.

        Actually, we already have something like selection-plus-play in place. If you do well in one year’s playoff, you get a bunch of playoff points. Not quite enough to guarantee you a slot in the next playoff, but a pretty good head start.

  • 5. sartaj  |  March 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I’m against selection.

    I think this year’s playoff format was one of the best in recent times. One could play with one’s chosen teammates in a format that had enough scope to demonstrate one’s superiority.

    My team failed miserably in proving ourselves to be the best. So we are off to the bench.

    Thats how it should be.

    I’d rather cope with the random luck element of a 5-day playoff than the whims of some random selector.

    • 6. sartaj  |  March 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm

      Hmm Thinking some more about this, the idea of the winning playoff team playing a long match against a selected team over 128 boards is probably a good one.

      Two issues though
      a) administrative hassle of having two playoffs. There has to be a time interval between the playoff and the post-playoff match.

      b) professional players. Would the “selected” team really want to play together? With the pulling out of Rothfield, the other four had a chance of playing together but professional considerations dictated otherwise.

  • 7. Peter Gill  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Phil Markey:
    “if the scoreboard isn’t good enough to pick the team that plays for a country, why on earth is it good enough to pick the winner of the world championship? Please do explain.”

    You’re joking, surely? You really are comparing
    a 5 day shootout with a two week marathon? Seriously?

    In case this brief answer is insufficient to explain to you, here’s a fuller (very very long) explanation …

    Let’s look at the 2008 Open Playoff:
    The pairs seeded 8, 10 and 12 out of 16 made the team for Beijing. The 4th placed reserve pair was seeded 14. Two of
    the best pairs in the country Delmonte – Gosney and Marston – Burgess were excluded from the 16 pair Playoff for technical reasons. A member of one pair in the Beijing team wrote in his newspaper column of how lucky his pair was to be favoured by the datums in a vital late match. Only two of the five days counted full-time; the other three days were used to eliminate four pairs and provide some carryover. A detailed analysis of the hands on the vital last two days showed that luck was an extraordinary factor in the make-up of the team.
    I can post this analysis here if you want me to (analysis not done by me).

    That’s how Trials work in practice. Year after year.

    I’m quite sure that a team selected by selectors would have done better in Beijing than we did in 2008. Australia has a choice – democracy with results like Beijing, or the unpopular but successful method of selection used by teams such as the Grand Finalists of last year’s women’s World Champoionship: China and England. All but six contending players might be expected to protest against the latter method, with it not being in their self-interest.

    Back in 1993 I remember playing in a week-long Playoff in Melbourne. In my opinion, even this was not long enough to separate the teams accurately – my team won an upset
    semi-final from the best team and went on to Chile and failure.

    And those were times that I was on the winning end.
    Do I have to go on? And on?

    My team played badly in this Playoff and did not deserve to win. The Thomson team produced a scoreboard over five days of minus 139 imps (Sat/Sunday), minus 11 imps (Monday), +19 imps (Tuesday) and +74 imps (today) for
    a total scoreboard of minus 57 imps over 308 boards,
    an average of minus 0.54 imps per board. Phil, is your point that producing this five-day scoreboard is much the same
    as doing well in the two week WC?

    If selectors, perhaps people like Richard Grenside, Neville Moses, Ian McCance, David Lusk, George Bilski (if willing to contend only as a Senior?) or whoever, just to name some possible people, selected a team of
    Delmonte – Fruewirth, Hans – Nunn, Marston – Burgess
    (or Delmonte – Fruewirth, Hans – Nunn, Robinson – Delivera,
    or even Delmonte – Fruewirth, Markey – Mill and Gosney – Gill) to play a long match against the winners of a Playoff open
    to everyone else in Australia, I would put my money on the Delmonte team. As you surely know, the form in the
    Yeh Cup of the first-named team was outstanding. Not
    a 64 or 32 board match, a real match of 96 or 128 boards.

    I don’t think a team that scores minus 57 imps over 5 days bridge will win the WC. To win the WC this year, you need to:

    – average about 15.6 VPs or more over 7 days’ bridge,
    i.e. a small plus, then
    – win a 96 board Q/F, a 96 board S/F and a 128 board G/F.

    If the Playoff is a two week event, then the Markey comment makes some sense. But it isn’t and never has been.
    To compare a 5 day Playoff with a two week WC is bizarre. Truly extraordinary.

    The Thomson team has done well to win the Playoff.
    None of the other teams in the Playoff deserved to win, but we don’t know if a line-up that was not in the Playoff might
    not have been better.

    Summarising, Trials are not fair unless the Trials are long enough. Selection by a selector is not fair either. So which
    of thse two evils should one choose? The latest IBPA Bulletin editorial and the latest NZ Bridge editorial (fairly jocularly) discusses this issue. For comparison, let’s look at how long the most successful countries’ Trials are, compared to Australia:

    Successful teams in recent years, with Beijing positions:

    Italy Open (1st) – no Trials, sole selector (npc)

    USA Open (=9th)- in 2008, 112 boards then 90 bd R16,
    then 120 bd QF then 120 bd SF then 120 bd GF, a total of
    562 boards, much longer than Australia’s, so not comparable.
    In 2009, 133 then 60 then 90 then 90 then 120 boards I think, so will be only 493 boards, but I might be wrong.

    Norway Open (3rd) – no Trials, sole selector
    Netherlands Open (=5th) – no Trials, selected
    England Open (2nd) – Trials then selection but like their Women – see below.
    China Open (=5th) – no Trials

    China Women (2nd) – no Trials
    USA Women (3rd)- similar to Open as above
    England Women (1st) – Trials, then selection. EBU has a meeting soon to discuss dropping the Trials part of the process I think. (As an aside, regarding the Michelle Brunner issue, I think that due to having to include some players from the Trials in the team, the selectors had to select between World Champions Sally Brock and Nicola Smith and World Champion Michelle Brunner (not easy), so the selectors’ restrictions were due to the existence of the Trials, but I might be wrong).

    Ok, so you think my selection of which countries to show is biased. Yes it is – perhaps USA , the only listed country that uses Trials like Australia, should not really be there, being
    the only country above to miss the last 8 in Beijing?

    Paul Hackett’s comment to me at the Gold Coast: “There’s
    a choice, democracy or success. Alas, democracy fails.”

    So you can compare like with unlike, as Phil Markey did, or you can accept the reality of what is happening. We don’t like it, but it is happening. Give the power to the players to select their own pairs and teams for Trials, and in Australia’s case putting some limitations on which pairs can play together, or trust some officials. Cathy seems to prefer to put the power in the hands of the players. If success overseas is the aim, there’s a case to do the opposite. Or to combine the two, via
    a post-Playoff match between a selector’s team and a Trials team.

    Peter Gill.

    • 8. cathychua  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:28 pm

      Let me see if I’ve got this right….am I to understand that if the US and the Italian teams, for example, were picked by having to play well in a competition at home, rather than by selectors, they would – what, not win any more? Eg, if the Australian team were selected and the others weren’t, suddenly – mysteriously – we’d become a strong bridge team? Well, Peter, many thanks for your detailed response….I’m going to have to sleep on it!

    • 9. phil markey  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:47 pm

      “Phil, is your point that producing this five-day scoreboard is much the same
      as doing well in the two week WC?”

      i never said that – dont think i implied it

      but to answer cathy’s issue

      i have some sympathy for the view that the best way to select the team is by the team doing what it does – but there are plenty of bridge events that the competitors will play in and the selectors can consider those results – indeed they can apportion what weight to give what result much better than some ABF rule view of the world – so its not like by not having a playoff event the players dont know how to play a big event

      i’m not sure about everything peter says but i agree with his point – if your going to have a playoff you should make it like the thing you need to win

      i dont know so much about the structure of the playoffs being a “raffle” – that seems like hyperbole – but its splitting hairs when i know that just getting to the playoffs in this country is a capricious process

      in short we wouldnt be giving up a heap to not have the playoffs

    • 10. Ben Thompson  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:07 am

      Peter has mounted an excellent criticism of the Australian playoff methods, but not of playoffs per se.

      If the playoff isn’t long enough, then play longer. By the way, it doesn’t all have to be at once. If a series of trials does a better job, then let’s do that.

      If the format includes a lottery, change the format to eliminate, or at least reduce, the lottery.

      Upsets are a magnificent feature of sport. It’s how new champions arise. It’s skill and preparation and determination defeating memory and ego and reputation.

      Peter’s playoff win in 1993 was an upset, but it also showed the pundits that they had over-rated his opponents, and under-rated him.

      I have to comment on Peter’s sample selection of selectors and “best” teams.

      I wouldn’t select Peter’s selection panel in a pink fit (and I’m wearing a very loud pink shirt right now). I wouldn’t trust the majority of them to even recognise the names of all of the leading players in Australia right now, let alone have any idea of how well they play.

      It was helpful of Peter to outline 3 “best” Australian teams, but if the arch-proponent of selection, and arguably a member of Australia’s best 6, can’t confidently name the one pan-Australian best team, how can we ever expect anyone to correctly select the best team?

      • 11. Peter Gill  |  March 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm

        Pardon my error – 54 imps in 308 boards is 0.17 imps per board – I divided 308 by 54 instead of vice versa.

        Cathy – yes, Italy would still be a force unless their top team got knocked out in a short match of perhaps 32 or 64 boards.
        USA in my opinion would be more of a force if
        instead of having Trials, they selected a team of say
        Meckwell, Levin – Weinstein and Zia – Hamman.
        Compare that line-up to their last Bermuda Bowl USA1 squad of Meckwell, Hemant Lall- Hamman, Nickell – Freeman.

        Phil – capricious is a good word to use. A good example is 2007 when a team entered at 4-01pm (after the 4pm deadline) was allowed by the ABF to play – otherwise, based on results in the 2007 Playoff, either Mill – Markey or Thomson – Brightling, De Livera – Robinson would have played for Australia that year. As an aside, if East had not have opened 3C on Bds 5 and 6 at our table at
        then perhaps the outcome would have capriciously changed.

        AIso, in 2007 the Neill team that produced Australia’s best performance of the last two decades (5th in the world in Shanghai) capriciously sruvived a too-short 64 board knockout match by just one imp – otherwise that good international result might not have happened.

        I played in an Australian Team that was not good enough
        to represent Australia well in Beijing last year, and while
        it would be nice to think that we will win in Brazil this year,
        I doubt it. My argument is that the status quo is to keep on keeping on like this, and the radical extreme at the other end is to do what the successful countries overseas do, and that it is a simple fact that such a radical method would be unpopular but would be the best chance of successful outcomes overseas.

        Ben – are you implying that Richard Grenside’s seedings of National events were not accurate? Mmm- do you remember the days when he used to seed the national fields and the final finishing order would be almost identical to his seeding?
        I know – that doesn’t usually happen now that he is not involved in the seeding. People like Neville Moses are masterful at finding out the information they need but lack,
        in order to make a good decision, by consultation and the like. The selectors do not have to know it all as long as they are good at finding out the relevant information. The other names
        I included were shown for geographic balance so that I didn’t offend Nick Beaumnont by omitting Victoria or SA.

        Poor old Nick Beaumont. Just when he is about to present
        his case to the ABF, the Victorians such as Leigh Gold,
        Jamie Ebery, Eva Caplan, Helen Snashall, Cathie Lachman, Felicity Beale and Di Smart go and upset all his so-called “facts” by making the Australian team. How unfortunate for his case this Victorian success story must be.

        Am I allowed to congratulate the VBA on not only increasing the number of players in Victoria, but also at finally breaking down the long-term Sydney dominance of Australian bridge?

        Ben – I clearly think that Delmonte – Fruewirth, Hans – Nunn and another pair, probably Marston – Burgess (but after consultation by the selectors as appropriate, e.g. no good to pick a pair if we do not know if they are a partnership)
        would be the team to pick. I included the other two teams just to show that even if the selctros (like the Trials) decided to be capricious, even the capriciously selected 2nd and 3rd listed teams would do just fine.

        The Thomson and Ebery teams will both be better suited by the vastly different conditions in Brazil and Macau from those that applied in the Playoff. For example, there are many more minutes per board overseas (so Ebery would not have to suffer the slow play fines they received in the Playoff). The ABF was told this a long time ago but prefers to make the conditions of our Playoff completely different from the conditions of the PABF and WC. Other differences overseas include Blind Computerised Seating, which requires some competence with computers.

        Peter Gill

      • 12. Peter Gill  |  March 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm

        But Ben, I deliberately criticised the longest ever Aussie Playoff (1993) as being ineffective.

        Peter Gill

      • 13. Ben Thompson  |  March 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm

        Cricket provides many many examples of selectoral “triumphs”.

        Mark Waugh is a good one. How did a guy who finished with an average under 42 manage to play 128 Tests? It’s not like the Australian batting cupboard was empty, and we couldn’t find a better batsman. For example, Damien Martyn was a near-contemporary who averaged more than 46.

        The usual contention is that Mark Waugh was a great stylist. He had beautiful technique, and looked like God’s gift to batting when he was on song. This is all true. I loved to watch him bat. On the other hand, he got out a lot in surprising ways. The harsh reality is that Damien Martyn was a materially better player, and played much less Test cricket than he should have.

        A recent example. Last summer, the Australian selectors persisted with a number of out-of-form players (eg Matthew Hayden). And lost the series.

        After retirements and injuries, the selectors were forced to choose new and in-form players (eg Phil Hughes) for the immediate return series in South Africa. And won the series.

        What does this mean for bridge?

        The temptation is always to pick the player who is the beautiful technician. The one who plays the game in a way that the selectors approve of.

        The temptation is always to continue to select the tried and true, the proven champion.

        The best way to establish who is the best right now is emphatically NOT to gather expert opinion.

        The best way is to actually play.

      • 14. phil markey  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm

        the more i read the more i get convinced selection is the way to go

        mark waugh was a match winner thats why he got selected – so martyn had a slightly better average – hardly tells you that he would of been a better contributor to the team – when you say martyn should of played more well that is a silly statement in that how much he played is always going to be dependant on who else is playing

        that we will disagree with a selectors viewpoint is an utter given but is irrelevant to the simple question of whether a selector could pick a better team than a trial of some sort

        “I’d rather cope with the random luck element of a 5-day playoff than the whims of some random selector.”

        ummm – it wouldnt be a whim and it wouldnt be a random selector – of-course if we had a selector you would worry that his views were whims and that he was not competant to do his job – anybody in the firing line would but thats simply not relevant if the object is to get the best team

        every person who hates the idea of selection should ask themselves if they could select a better team than the playoffs have in the last say 20 years – if your answer is no then i’m calling you a liar

        selection rules if you want to send the best team – anything else is a compromise that your opponents arent making

        • 15. cathychua  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm

          Phil, Don’t you think it counts for the least bit that of the selected teams there would rarely if ever be any agreement that it was the best team. I daresay selection should produce a reasonable team. It might or not select the ‘best’ team, but so might any method. If a team WERE so obviously and meaningfully the best team, as Sartaj points out, that team would win a selection playoff even here. You say Waugh got selected because he was a match winner. Well, your opinion. There are some that would say it was because he had a twin brother, or because he came from Sydney or…..We all know there are Australian players who have been unjustly treated by the whole selection method in cricket…but unfortunately in cricket it is hard to see what other way can work.

      • 16. Ben Thompson  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:44 pm

        Phil Markey says:
        “every person who hates the idea of selection should ask themselves if they could select a better team than the playoffs have in the last say 20 years – if your answer is no then i’m calling you a liar”

        You’d better call me a liar.

        There are some years I have no doubt I could have selected a better side than the one that one the playoff, and I’m confident that general consensus was with me and that we were all correct. There are other years where I would have selected what I thought was a better side, but I was wrong.

        Here’s the real problem. How can you tell at the time which year I’m right and which year I’m wrong? If someone thinks they can get that right every time, they are out of their mind wrong. If someone thinks they can get that right “just” a majority of the time, they are just plain wrong.

        I think Sartaj’s point of view this year is instructive. He and Tony would be the consensus first pick in the side. He blames no-one but himself, and I say “kudos”. Play well, and figure out how to play better if you don’t. That’s the path to greatness.

        And back on cricket, Phil says:
        “mark waugh was a match winner thats why he got selected ”

        That’s a half-truth. Yes, Mark Waugh won 5 man-of-the-match awards in his 128 match Test career, 4 of them in victories. So technically, he was a match winner.

        But 4 awards in winning sides in 128 matches? That’s not the performance of a real match winner.

        Now ODIs, there’s a different story. Mark Waugh was a genuine ODI match winner, and was the star in Australia’s charge to the 1996 World Cup final.

        Now how did Damien Martyn go? He won 3 mom’s in his 67 Test matches, all in victories. That’s not particularly match winnery either, but it is about 50% proportionately better than Mark Waugh. And remember that Damien Martyn played in the same champion Australian sides as Mark Waugh – so he had the same stiff competition for mom awards.

        Mark Waugh the Test cricketer was an overplayed myth.

    • 17. Peter Gill  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm

      I’ve just decided to retire from bridge – but see also the last line of this post.

      That was quick – the ABF just appointed me as sole selector of the 2010 team. I know some people say they’ve got rocks
      in their heads … Here’s what happened …

      Roy Nixon of the ABFMC and I , with advice from several
      top players, constructed the ABF Victory Plan (ABFVP).

      Item 1 of the ABFVP: I rang Nunn and Hans to check whether they both intend to play together for years to come.
      The answer was affirmative, so we selected them in the 2010 National Team, 16 months in advance. They have made
      4 of the last 6 Aussie teams, and missed out in 2009 mainly because the other two pairs in their team had a Black Tuesday. I discovered this by going through the hands on the ABF website in some detail (following item 6 in the ABFVP).
      I thought it was excellent that they had not hinted at that fact, that I had to find it out for myself.

      I rang a Sports Psychologist, the one who has been working with the Gellong AFL team for three years now, and she agreed to the ABF’s terms of part-time employment.

      I rang Ish and Rob and explained the ABF’s new plans in detail (alas, the ABFVP is not explained to the world in this post, spies from overseas might be reading). Ish said he would devote himself to the new ideas, and liked item 15 of the ABFVP about the sports psychologist. Rob said he would get back to me, he had to check with his family.

      With age as part of the criteria, I offered the following pairs
      to join the new ABF Training Squad (ref Item 5): Appleton – Reynolds, Mill – Markey (based in part on their win over the Bermuda Bowl winners in Canberra), Robinson – De Livera (based on their good form in weaker events such as the Playoff, SWPTC and GNOT), Howard – Hollands, Green – Peake and Gold – Ebery, not necessarily the best pairs in Australia, but ones with potential for the future.
      Richman told me that his partner had just retired from bridge so he would have to get back to me. Several of the older players I contacted were interested in the coaching
      concepts in item 9 of the ABFVP.

      As Roy had said, we could always add extra players to the squad whenever we want. Amongst others, we had
      N Edgtton – Hung in mind but not until their studies finish in November, and players such as Gosney and Dyke would
      be added once they had clarified who their long term partners would be. The sports psychologist was helping them with this decision.

      I asked Rob Fruewirth if the new ABF framework (details not available on this post) would make him more likely to play more bridge and realise his full potential. He said yes. The sports psychologist spoke to him and told me that this time he and his family really meant it. We now had two incumbent pairs more or less in the 2010 team, and their participation in events suich as the new regular Watermark all-star $15,000 bridge weekends which started in late June 2009, would, as you know if you have read item 10 of the ABFVP, determine whether they stayed in the top team, or were replaced by squad members.

      The ABF still was holding a Pairs Playoff in March 2010,
      with the top 3 pairs to play a 128 board match on an April weekend against the selected team in order to preserve the integrity of the Playoff Points system, for now.

      The sports psychologist confidentially asked each squad member to say what they thought the bridge weaknesses of each other squad member were. She then worked on rectifying these perceived problems, discovering along the way that some of these problems werer real and needed to be addressed, if success was to come. I asked her about
      the 2008 Grand Final and she explained that her twin sister
      in 2008 took a job as sports psycholgist for Hawthorn. Collingwood has just offered them both a job, I think.

      I woke up from my slumber and found that I had been sacked from my ABFVP selector role due to excessive talking and overlong posts on blogs. Now that I was unretired and eligible once again to play bridge, the sports psycholgist advised me that x would be the best long term bridge partner for me. Being me, I was surprised.

      She did not break any confidences, but in her memoirs written in 2049, I found that every single squad member had described one of my faults as being excessively long posts on Cathy’s by now famous website.

      Right then, I awoke from my dream.

      The phone rang. It was George Bilski, He had just retired from Open Bridge, was going to play only Seniors Bridge with Barry and had just been appointed sole selector of a brand new process that Roy Nixon and the ABF had come up with, called the ABF Visionary Policy.

      I logged onto the internet, to the swatchless wordpress home page that every bridge player now called home, and read about Nick Beautymountain’s ABF Victorian Promotion, but the phone rang again …

      It was some female sports psychologist I’d never heard of, telling me that the ABF had hired her. She began “Dreams can often resemble reality …”

      And then I woke up completely from my dream and discovered that I had not retired at all.

      Peter Gill.

      • 18. Michael Phillips  |  March 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

        Well done Peter for draging the argument away from the singular point of selection v’s play to show the evolution that is necessary to create professional teams.

      • 19. sartaj  |  March 27, 2009 at 12:35 pm

        Go back to sleep, peter !

    • 20. Ben Thompson  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:20 am

      It’s occurred to me that some reading Peter’s ardent exposition of the case for selection might sense some sour grapes – after all, Peter would be on everybody’s short list for a selected team, but his team “fell at the last” as they say.

      I can assure everyone that Peter most definitely is arguing with a clear mind. He brought up selection-vs-play, and argued just as passionately, at the playoff on the weekend, when his team was busy winning their division.

  • 21. Michael Wilkinson  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    The decision to show all the women’s final on BBO was Sean Mullamphy’s – one which I objected to vigorously – but to no avail

    • 22. cathychua  |  March 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      So, it isn’t true that it was an obligation in order that the play of the women’s final be preserved?

  • 23. phil markey  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:03 am

    well i’m sympathetic to all this but i think you need to consider the positives for selecting the team – true that your at the mercy of the selectors but if the selectors know what they are doing then i think your likely to get a better team

    issues that ben raises such as who selects the selectors – it being a political process – no-one being happy etc etc would of-course all happen – but that doesnt really comment on how good having selectors would be – i mean the process doesnt have to be one that makes everyone happy as long as it selects better teams

    if you consider the selection of the australian cricket team then i think there are obvious advantages to selecting a team – mitchell johnson was close to a laughing stock maybe 18 months ago – he enjoyed a crappy record in international cricket yet the selectors picked him for the potential – the judgement to stick with him is now paying off – its common that a player makes the australian cricket team for a bit and then gets dropped only to flourish at national level and then become a regular in the national side – again all power to the selectors for showing that player the challenge and rewarding them when they meet it

    selecting the team allows an astute judge/s the flexability to mould a formidable team

    i’m with you guys – if i was a selector then delivera robinson would of gotten a game a year or 2 ago and i would of tried very hard to blood reynolds appleton before now as well

    • 24. cathychua  |  March 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm

      But Phil, of course selectors get some things right – but they get lots wrong too, don’t they? And that is the point. The scoreboard is fair and equal. Selection isn’t. England is full of bitter players who should have had a chance to play for their country and haven’t. At least if they could play for the right they have only themselves to blame for failure. England has the worst of all worlds. They make the players compete in a selection event…and then select according to the opinion of selectors instead of according to what the scoreboard says. That bitterness is NOT worth it. I imagine it is absolutely forced in cricket due to the size of the teams etc, but in bridge it isn’t. In chess, they have selection. At least in chess there are accurate ways of doing so, but even so, there is much often justified unhappiness and for what? NOTHING.

      The scoreboard might get it wrong, but at least it has been fair. And, like I say, if the scoreboard isn’t good enough to pick the team that plays for a country, why on earth is it good enough to pick the winner of the world championship? Please do explain.

      • 25. phil markey  |  March 25, 2009 at 1:30 pm

        machiavelli rules

        i’m reminded of a dispute re bridge administration – in that dispute you advocated that its right that bridge administration look after the top end of the bridge world to the percieved detriment of the vast majority of the bridge world

        your point was that it was ultimately in every ones best interests because looking after the top would ultimately benefit the majority albeit that in the shorter term they felt unfairly represented

        if australia had more competitive international teams then i’m sure that this would benefit all players – particularly the top end

        now i’m getting “its all so unfair and everyone will be bitter” – which may be right but doesnt address the merits of acheiving the goal of sending the best team away

        i dont want to press the point because really i am always happy for the scoreboard too – i would probably be cross and bitter about the decisions the selectors make like you – but then again we are the people in the firing line – stupid machiavelli

      • 26. Ben Thompson  |  March 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm

        I don’t think there’s any prospect a bunch of selectors would actually choose the best team. A well-designed selection tournament is much more likely to choose the best team.

        So looking after the top should include designing the best practical selection tournament.

        • 27. cathychua  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

          Most recently in England, Michelle Brunner applied to be on the English Women’s team for Beijing. Her application was denied. Now it is hard to prove the selectors wrong since England went on to win the Women’s. But at the time it looked like a serious prejudiced mistake – simply because she is extremely ill the selectors assumed that she wasn’t capable of playing. Well, she did the only thing she could do under the circumstances. Went on to qualify for the Open team. Has she been denied the ‘right’ to join that team too? I dare say some reading this will think it is quite appropriate that she isn’t allowed to play. Me, I find it quite remarkable that a player can win the bridge but that isn’t considered sufficient.

          And my question remains. What possible meaning has winning the world championship got when apparently the winner should be selected…..somebody in favour of selection please explain.

  • 28. Ben Thompson  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Peter Gill pointed out to me in Sydney that the best performing teams in the world at the moment are selected (think Italy, Norway, England). I would say that the correlation between selection and success is a recent random phenomenon (selection-by-play USA and France dominated the 90s, and also have a look at recent Women’s and Senior’s world championships).

    I agree with Cathy that Delivera-Robinson are just about the best pair going around at the moment, and it’s great to see them prove it objectively at the table. When it counts.

    Ignoring for the moment whether or not selection by opinion or by play produces a better team, selection by opinion is irretrievably flawed.

    Who selects the selectors?

    The people who would be selectors are almost by definition unfit to select. If they’re good enough to be in the selection pool, they can’t be selectors, and if they’re not good enough to be selected, then they don’t have the playing strength required to judge who should be selected. This is not cricket, where former greats can remember how to play but can’t do it anymore.

    The reality is that if we had selection by opinion, 95% of experts would hate the ABF, the selectors, and whoever is selected. If you institute a political process, you wind up with a team of politicians, not a team of players.


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