It’s my blog and I get the last word, don’t I?

March 30, 2009 at 11:04 am 40 comments

I really want to put some bridge in my bridge blog, but this morning I woke up with thoughts on selection that I felt were worth mentioning….

(1) I have played a sport in which national teams are selected. I was lucky that selection for those two Olympiad teams I played on in chess were pretty clear cut. But selection in general in that sport has had some very sad outcomes including, in Australia, a High Court of Australia challenge and an impact on a murder-suicide. And this is in a sport of relative integrity. Players who apply have all the chess they have played available for scrutiny. They have meaningful ratings. Bridge has nothing approaching that on which selection can be based. There would be few players in Australia who couldn’t submit a hand or two which made it look like they are world beaters. We seem to have established that WINNING bridge doesn’t count for much.

(2) Is it interesting that nobody has mentioned Oz 1? We had a million dollars a year, hand-selected players and what came of it? NOT MUCH. Except that it created a clear rift between those that were selected and those that were not. Of those who applied and were rejected, they immediately set about doing notable things. David Appleton went to NZ and won their premier event and is now on the Australian team. Peake and Green (surely they weren’t rejected, surely they didn’t apply?) immediately qualified for the Australian team beating the Oz 1 selected team in the process. Chua-Hinge easily won what was touted to be the strongest Butler ever. I’ve never had so many people barracking for me. Eveybody wanted to see the Oz 1 bunch fail. It was nothing personal. Selection does that. I dare say others spoke with their feet after being rejected by the selectors for Oz 1 but I mention just a few I know about.

There seems to be this impression in the talk about selecting, not that we are going to get a slightly better team that way – a team which will come 13th instead of 14th – but that this is how Australia is going to win. Surely those in favour of selection don’t think that.

The path forward to doing as best as possible at world championship level (let’s say winning a world championship, for the sake of the argument) is by IMPROVING OUR BRIDGE. It is pretty obvious that our bridge isn’t good enough and that this is the way forward.

(3) A few weeks ago on this blog I spent a while trying to convince one and all that the administration of bridge in Australia has to do more for the players at the top. Providing them with as much bridge as possible which is of integrity would be one step in this direction. Providing them with expert guidance is another. Why is it that the bridge administrations organises teaching tours etc for weak players and not for expert players? Why not provide expert assistance and make it open to all good players who wish to avail themselves of it, not some selected group picked to be THE ONES? We don’t have to improve the selection process, we need to improve our bridge.

(4) Those who count the successes of teams at w/c level who are selected don’t seem at all bothered by the failures. Do they not count for anything? Do we not think, for example, that Italy and the US would have won quite a lot of world championships whatever the route to selection? Please don’t respond to this by saying that at least they have won something….I don’t think anybody reading this has the gall to suggest that selecting an Australian team at the moment would result in a world championship win.

England has had selection since the beginning of time for exactly one open world championship win: 1955. (Well, I assume this team was selected?) Meanwhile, there are a large number of players in England who quite rightly feel that they should have been given an opportunity to play for England and haven’t. What is the point of that? Why create misery for 80 years for one measly result?

(5) The Icelandic team that won the world championship didn’t win because it was selected. It won because it spent 6 months preparing single-mindedly for it. However the team was gotten together, with this preparation it had to be a chance. Maybe even an Australian team would be a chance if it worked on its bridge for 6 months before the world championship. But this isn’t going to happen, is it?


Entry filed under: thoughts on bridge.

Yawn….is it over yet? What do you lead?

40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jason hackett  |  April 12, 2009 at 10:10 am

    hello i stumbled upon this post by accident , and in my opinion it is right on the money, we have the same problem in england, a series of weak events rarely lasting more than a day rarely played in by the top players, some changes have been made to the good , but fortunately those who make the effort luckily have the european continent right on our doorstep

    as for the business of when you pick the team a year beforehand is about right and that team needs to be playing strong events for some time before a major championships

    look at the teams who do well and look at what they play in

  • 2. Clifford  |  April 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Some of Cathy’s ‘facts’ about selection in the chess arena are misleading – an Olympic selection was once unsuccessfully appealed to the ACT Supreme Court, not the High Court, and selection had little or nothing to do with a murder/suicide (given the influence if illness and isolation in the case).
    In fact, selection in the chess arena has been relatively uncontroversial over many decades, thanks in part to the use of 5 or 7 selectors analysing the data independently, thus reducing the influence of bias. Close races will always have an unhappy loser but selection eliminates the chance factor in qualifying for a team or event based on a single result.
    However as Cathy notes, accurate and fair selections can only be done when there is complete information about the candidates and, while sensible ratings and performance ratings are easy to establish for chess, this seems to be almost impossible in bridge.

  • 3. david appleton  |  March 31, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    First, I suggest we consider the purpose of having representative teams. So far, it has been tacit that it is to “do well” internationally. Perhaps there are other purposes too. Certainly, the chance of working hard enough to maybe make it one day is a big inducement to many players. Some might suggest this of many of the current two teams. Should we want to make it so exclusive as to disenfranchise such? So, the question is, “Is winning everything?” Or perhaps, “Is it Australian?” (thanks Bill).

    Second, having purely selected teams when there is an objective measure of partnerships (the base bridge unit, I hope) is a queer concept. Yes, it must be done when comparison is not appropraite, for example, cricket, but isn’t done in sports where there is objective comparison, such as swimming. That justice is done, is also that it is seen to be done.


  • 4. Khokan Bagchi  |  March 31, 2009 at 4:48 pm


    Oz-One used to run two forums. One was open to everyone and discussed general bridge issues, similar to this blog. the second was for Oz-One players, only, and this forum included team issues such as selection for various events, bonuses etc.

    It’s not clear (to me, anyway) what your real gripe is with Oz-One. Is it that you didn’t agree with the principle (ie pairs were chosen, rather than having to qualify), or you disagree with the pairs chosen? I’m guessing it’s the latter, as you mentioned that you applied. On the actual selection of pairs, I would go along with Phil Markey, in that those selected seemed to have the best records at that particular time, and were committed to playing together (with some allowance made for youth). That some pairs not selected went on to do good things later doesn’t necessarily mean that the wrong pairs were selected. If a similar selection process was held today, however, I’m sure that different selections would be made – that’s just the way bridge is played in Australia, where we don’t have many long-term partnerships.

    With regard to selection vs qualification, I think one model that might be worth studying is Indonesia. Although Indonesia has (had?) some excellent players eg Lasut, E Manoppo, Sacul, Paneleween, Karwur and Tobing, I think that Australia always had more depth. However, the Indonesian Government sponsored a selected group over some years. This group won a number of Far East tournaments, came second in an Olympiad, and generally performed well in world play over a number of years. Having said that, I find the thought of doing something similar in Australia to be wrong for the reasons a number of people have already mentioned with the two major ones being that (1) it’s not fair and (2) I don’t believe there are three clear-cut picks to make the Australian Team – there are at least a dozen that could perform creditably in world competition on their day ie make the quarters of a world championship.

    • 5. cathychua  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:54 pm


      (1) I was wondering when somebody would mention Indonesia. If Sartaj’s judgment re Iceland is correct, ie a flash in the pan, then that is certainly not the case in Indonesia, which has had a group of thoroughly world class players for a long time. As you point out, however, that in itself doesn’t seem a satisfactory argument in favour of selection….is it also worth mentioning that Indonesia’s great success at world level has That said, there is presumably something unsatisfactory about a country which has virtually no players whatsoever, even though they have that success. Does that prove my argument wrong that looking after the players at the top will automatically have a trickle down effect??? Or can we simply not make conclusions about a highly unstable third world country….

      (2) Re Oz-1, from what I observed of the operation of it, it looked to me a monumental waste of money which never figured to achieve the objective. I would have set about achieving the objective completely differently. I also would have had a very different attitude to the composition of those chosen. Of course, that is only an outsider’s view, who really, as I’ve already stated, took little notice of it until wishing to learn what I’d done wrong on a hand….we will look forward to Sartaj’s observations at some point, no doubt, being the insider who has a penchant for the analytical, not to mention the odd opinion!

      I hope I make clear there, not that I wouldn’t have picked different players or some different players because the ones picked were wrong, but because I would have wanted players that fitted into the grand plan. That would necessarily have meant different players. Well, may I be given $1,000,000 a year to prove my point!!!!!!

    • 6. cathychua  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:08 pm

      I think I’m making a mountain out of a relatively easy point….oz-1 pretty well demonstrates the problem with selection, doesn’t it? If it works, everybody is thrilled, I no less than anyone else would have been. If it doesn’t work, then what is there for the rest of us but to feel except left out for no good reason. Add to that $1.000,000 a year and, well, enough said? When Pauline Gumby won the playoff against Oz-1 that took her team on to a great result in Shanghai, she wrote to me that night that she felt sorry for the people she’d just beaten. I realise that is a measure of what a delightful bunch they are, but still. What was she saying? That she felt sorry for a team which had all the advantages and still couldn’t win. Nothing could demonstrate more ably the inappropriateness of selection than that playoff.

    • 7. Ben Thompson  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:25 pm

      How did OzOne teams actually go?

      I was playing almost no bridge at the time, didn’t apply, and didn’t pay much attention to what was going on.

      My feeling from random discussions with bridge friends and occasionally looking at results was – not very impressive. It seemed to me that the selected team (ie OzOne) had a few successes, but less than I guess they would have hoped.

      And at the crunchiest moment there was (ie the final of the playoff), OzOne couldn’t quite do it. I rate that very highly. Tiger Woods wins a lot of tournaments from behind. Greg Norman won a lot, but he lost a lot from in front. I like players who win at the crunch.

      To me it looks like we’ve tested selection vs play and selection doesn’t do particularly well.

      Why would we do it when it annoys almost everyone and doesn’t actually seem to achieve anything?

      By the way, it doesn’t disturb me in the least that a private operation (in practical terms) selected the players & pairs it thought best. I say good luck to them. Open market, individual choice and all that. Remember the Aces.

      But for a national body to take that approach is irretrievably wrong.

  • 8. andrew webb  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:39 am

    So, Cathy Chua says “Improve our bridge”. Sartaj Hans says “Top international players are a lot meaner…” (pp). Khokhan Bagchi says “We make too many mistakes”.

    I’m thinking that the selection mechanism is a red herring. Let’s get back to it when we’ve solved the quality/consistency problem.

  • 9. Simon Hinge  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Who selects the selector?

    • 10. andrew webb  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:30 am

      We can have a selection tournament for the selector. Perhaps it will restore interest to the Individual as a tournament format.

      • 11. cathychua  |  March 31, 2009 at 8:08 am

        It would be great if we could revive respect for the Individual – do they still have those great invitation Individuals in Europe? It seems to obvious that the player who can do well with a lot of different partners is a better bridge player than the one who can only play within the comfort of his partnership….

    • 12. phil markey  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:16 am

      well i think having 1 selector is a bad idea

      how about this

      the abf appoints a 3 man (where i use the male gender assume i mean both genders) panel – they do this after advertising for expressions of interest

      the 3 man panel appoints a chairman to oversee the workings of the panel and break ties – the panel makes its decisions free from any input from the abf but is ultimately answerable to the abf for the results it achieves

      there are a set of rules as to how the panel operates – ie the selectors serve a fixed term of say 3 years with an option for a further term at the discretion of the abf – the principle being that the members of the panel are changed from time to time to ensure that fresh ideas and perspectives are always being introduced

      the panel document their workings and decsion making process for the selections they make which is used as a historical reference point for all future selection panels but is of-course confidential to the members of the panel

      each selector is obliged to closely monitor the performance of australian players here and overseas – each selector maintains contact with any player of interest to the selection panel – the internal workings of the panel remain confidential as that ensures a full and frank discussion but each selector can certainly debreif with players as to the broad criteria and reasons for selection adopted by the panel

      so who would the selectors be ? – there is a vast body of people in australia with some or all of the skills neccesary to be a selector – there is an issue about what to do when a selector thinks he may merit selection – thats awkward but you could make a position on the panel subject to that person not being considered for selection or have a reserve selector for that eventuality

      in short its possible to set up a selection process that is diverse in the range of issues it considers and has protocols and procedures behind it that minimises the risk of favouritism and inappropriate bias – except for the final decision making process it can be transparent and open to scrutiny

      i’m sure that setting up such a system could greatly benefit from considering how other sports have set about this task – these are simply my off the cuff ideas

      i feel backed into arguing for selection – i still waver at cathys original point that its about playing bridge and so just as you dont select the world champions you dont select the team that tries to become world champions – i think that bens point is a little different but much the same thing – when mired in the subjective trust the scoreboard – thats the only decent argument i have heard for not having selectors

      everything else i have heard in this debate from the anti selection lobby seems like self interest driven nonsense in my world

  • 13. Ben Thompson  |  March 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    In the un-bridge world, I work in strategy. I frequently see business cases, and heated arguments that come down to “the market is wrong and I am right”.

    Here’s some economic reality. The market is right. Always. People looking at financial markets right now might not like that, but the market is most definitely right. As an aggregator of fact, opinion and analysis, the market is unbeatable.

    The selection vs play debate comes down to the same thing. What is more likely to be right? The market (playing) or one man’s opinion (selection)? Despite all the protestations and alleged safeguards, at the end of the day, selection is one man’s opinion.

    The market is right.

    • 14. sartaj  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:20 pm

      Have you read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.
      The book was a revelation for me overall.

      One of the items he discusses would be very relevant to the case you are making. A short summary would be something like “The market is right, except when a revolutionary event is involved. That takes time to be understood and absorbed”. Try the book for a better explanation.

      • 15. sartaj  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:50 pm

        I think the book covering the bit i mentioned above is “Outliers” by the same author, and not Blink.

    • 16. Ben Thompson  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:53 am

      I liked “The Tipping Point”. Why did the Berlin Wall come down, and when it did? The Tipping Point argument is that a small shift in opinion by a small number of people tips the aggregate view from “run with the status quo” to “knock the wall down”.

      Interestingly, at times of high volatility, markets are still very good pricing mechanisms. In fact, the market arguably has its greatest advantage (over individual experts) at times of high uncertainty. The market price incorporates the aggregated view of risk.

      Some people do better than the market in uncertain times. These are outliers. Good luck to them, but their performance is often more due to circumstance rather than inherent market-beating talent.

      Related question: Which of the 3 lifelines on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is the most valuable? (refresher: the lifelines are phone a friend, 50/50, and ask the audience)

      • 17. cathychua  |  March 31, 2009 at 8:06 am

        So what’s the answer to this? I’d feel best up there getting to ring a friend assuming I got to pick somebody who knew a lot.

      • 18. Peter Gill  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:04 pm

        “Ask the audience” did best when I watched.

      • 19. Ben Thompson  |  April 1, 2009 at 9:18 am

        I asked “which lifeline is most valuable?”

        The answer is “ask the audience”. I don’t have a good data source handy, but the audience is almost invariably right. Much more often than the friends (even with Google, because of the time limit), and even on the tougher later questions. 50:50 obviously just leaves you with a 50:50 guess. It’s definitely worse than the audience, and hopefully worse than the friend.

        Why is that?

        Some (or many) of the audience don’t know. They will either not answer, or answer at random. There is no reason for any particular choice (A/B/C/D) to be favoured over another by this group, although there will be some random variation. In other words, these guys just wash each other out.

        The members of the audience who do know will answer correctly. Therefore, the audience’s overall choice is likely to be a true reflection of the view of the audience members who do know.

        It’s just another example of “the market is right”. The market aggregates the views of the clueless, the careless and the cognisant. On balance, the market answer correctly extracts the hidden knowledge of the crowd. Asking one person, even an acknowledged expert, is much more exposed to the vagaries of specific knowledge, recall and calcified opinion.

        Next time you’re on Millionaire, use your friend early when it’s not too tough for them, and save the audience for later.

  • 20. phil markey  |  March 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    “Eveybody wanted to see the Oz 1 bunch fail. It was nothing personal. Selection does that. I dare say others spoke with their feet after being rejected by the selectors for Oz 1 but I mention just a few I know about.”

    thats probably right cathy but what do you think of that attitude ?

    i think its disgraceful

    i got rejected by oz-one which didnt make me happy but i was content to look through the list of who was selected and see that they were pretty much all committed players with results (i did bitch to marston when i next saw him that they should of selected more youth but he assured me he agreed and that hardly any applied)

    i dont think oz-one got everything right but thats hardly surprising – i definately think they didnt have enough time to achieve what they set out to acheive before the whole thing got wound up

    personally though i felt obliged to applaud someone actually doing something about australias continued poor record in international bridge rather than constantly complaining about it and pointing the finger at whos fault it is

    • 21. Khokan Bagchi  |  March 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

      Firstly, it’s good to see that there’s a forum for bridge discussion, again. Oz-One did establish that, at least for a while.

      Secondly, it seems clear that those who do well in international bridge are, by a large majority, professional bridge players ie they play bridge for a living. Given this, the idea of Oz-One seems rational in that it was supposed to free the financial burdens of playing top-level bridge with peers, rather than sponsors. However, there simply wasn’t enough money in it to allow Oz-One players to forsake all else for bridge. As for Oz-One becoming self-sustaining in the future through business opportunities for sponsors, i think that that was a silly notion. I don’t recall any overwhelming feelings of ill-will towards Oz-One players.

      Having said the above, I think it’s a pretty tall order for an Australian team to do super-well in a world championship ie 1st – 4th. I reckon that the best of Australia’s top players are pretty close to the best in the world, but their worst is a lot worse, and the bad episodes happen more often than to world-class players.

      On the issue of selection, I personally don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it will generate significantly better results, for the reasons stated earlier.

      Anyway, the results of the last Playoff show just how good the winners are – it’s is a just reward for sticking together as partnerships.

      • 22. cathychua  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:12 pm

        Yes, it was a massive problem for Oz-1 that it didn’t have – or wasn’t prepared to give – appropriate money to those in the program. If you can’t give the players the opportunity to play proper bridge without financial concerns, you are right back where you started. As for there being a forum for bridge discussion again….I wasn’t aware that Oz-1 was an open forum. Maybe I missed something there. I got given somebody else’s password to take a look at it, but assumed that I wasn’t supposed to be there.

    • 23. cathychua  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:09 pm

      I’m more ambivalent about the attitude of those that missed out. I gather at the time that Oz 1 took some credit for non-Oz 1 results, an interesting idea….did you read much of their online discussion? If so, I can’t say at any point that it inspired confidence in the program. Absolutely the program didn’t have time to prove itself, but when, how long, do the rest of us have to wait for that? It took Iceland six months and, I’m guessing, a much smaller budget!!

      • 24. sartaj  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

        And why has Iceland been a non-entity in the bridge world ever since ?

        I’ll try and write in detail about the Ozone experience some time.
        But can say this much for now, the game that the big boys playe is a lot tougher than Oz games. Its a lot meaner, and its a lot tighter.

        For australians to aspire to be world beaters playing natural-ish methods would take a fair time; creating some additional volatility via some action methods increases the odds of a short term result or two.

      • 25. phil markey  |  March 31, 2009 at 10:51 am

        my biggest criticism of oz-one which i voiced to several of its members was that it didnt consider the need for it to gather support from all players carefully enough – this concern arose for me because the bridge world quickly became full of oz-one bashers

        to do that it should of always had on its agenda “does this make us look like an inclusive organisation or an elitist organisation”

        the idea that it should be inclusive is right and i think the organisation knew that – achieving the perception that it was inclusive was equally right – but i sensed that the later was dismissed too easily as pandering to the majority which it probably was but like i said it doesnt mean it wasnt valid and neccesary for the success of the organisation

        • 26. cathychua  |  March 31, 2009 at 12:11 pm

          How on earth could an organisation which was selected to be elitist and to be given all sorts of privileges which others weren’t possibly be seen as inclusive????

          Also, Phil, just because some of us were critical of Oz-1, why not? Maybe we were right. It’s a bit like ‘just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me’. Just because Oz-1 set itself up to be bashed doesn’t mean ‘bashing’ it had no validity. In fact I ignored it until I received a comment some time from one of its members referring to Oz-1’s online discussion of something my partnership had done wrong in the bidding. That made me sneak in by stealth to take a look at the discussion. I was gobsmacked by its inadequacy in regard to the particular hand. It made me had a bit of a look around and I was really surprised by how much junk there was being discussed on the site.

          My personal feeling about Oz-1 is that if I’d been given a million dollars a year to produce a team of Australian world champions I would have come an awful lot closer even in the given – it arguably inadequate – time period!

          I hope, Phil, you don’t think that those of us who were rejected by Oz-1 aren’t allowed to be critical of it!!!

          • 27. phil markey  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:53 pm

            “How on earth could an organisation which was selected to be elitist and to be given all sorts of privileges which others weren’t possibly be seen as inclusive????”

            i agree in as much that it was a big challenge

            take the forum thingee you have referred to several times – they could of widely publicised it and openly posted details about how they operated and what the plans were so that the wider bridge community might of bothered to check it out and could have input – they might of gotten 2-3 ideas worth using and discarded the other 57 but they would of at least involved those left out

            an example might be this forum right here – put some issues out there – post some controversial but thought provoking ideas – engage the stakeholders – all good stuff that allows everyone to hear the other views and consider them – might not agree might not change any aspect of your own view but you end up richer for the process

            “I hope, Phil, you don’t think that those of us who were rejected by Oz-1 aren’t allowed to be critical of it!!!”

            of-course not – like i said i was critical of them – you get that i love to take a contrary view right ?

            i listened to the bashers and i debated the merits of their views – the ones i knew i could trust i pointed out that it would be human to feel rejected and insulted or at the least a bit of the tall poppy about oz-one – then we discussed thier views some more

            i like debate – i dont like small minded

    • 28. Peter Gill  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:12 pm

      I’m told that about 17 or 18 pairs applied to join Oz-One. My application to join was rightly rejected, but at my Sunday tennis game at the time, I told one of the selectors that I thought it was
      a disgrace that pairs such as Gold – Ebery and Markey – Mill
      were rejected. Yes, the selecting of pairs by Oz-One was
      just as unsuccessful as our Open Pairs Playoffs have been.

  • 29. sartaj  |  March 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Ok guys, here’s a shameless plug to a blog that i am going to write

  • 30. Bill Jacobs  |  March 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    And one more thing. Selection is contrary to Australian culture.

    Don’t underestimate the importance of culture: it’s what caused all 7 teams in the Playoff 2nd level to symbiotically discard the STOP cards, even though we were instructed that they must be used. STOP cards are a fit for American culture, but a misfit for Australian culture.

    • 31. cathychua  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:07 pm

      Bill, I do so like this explanation. The stop card is ‘anti-Australian’. I love it.

    • 32. andrew webb  |  March 30, 2009 at 3:53 pm


      Not that I want to dispute the underlying point of the piece. Culture is important. Australian bridge culture probably will have to change if Australia wants to produce a WC winner – even a runner up.

  • 33. Ben Thompson  |  March 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Perhaps we could think about performance in the World Pairs versus performance in teams world championships.

    Suppose a country (eg Australia) had some excellent individual pairs, who were cruelly denied the opportunity to play together on their national team (eg by the vagaries of a selection method that required them to win some selection event).

    Wouldn’t we expect these pairs to perform very well in the World Pairs while the national team did poorly in the teams world championships?

    Different form of the game, maybe different lineups, etc etc, but allowing a bit of room, shouldn’t there be a bit of visible performance difference?

    Just eye-balling it, I’d say three things:
    * There are some well-performed English pairs who have never really played on the national team (eg Bakshi-McIntosh)
    * There is not a standout collection of 2-3 Australian pairs who perform much better than every other Australian pair; nothing like it in fact, and our Pairs performance is not all that different from our Teams performance
    * Chagas must be one helluva pairs player, as must Branco

    • 34. cathychua  |  March 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

      I guess there is the issue of Pairs being such a different game. It would be hardest of all for Australians do to well at Pairs as we never get to play that form of the game. It is pretty much formally dead here, while still important elsewhere. You’d have to say this much is true, though. It is impossible to do well at Pairs without being good bridge players. I could imagine winning a world teams c/ship without being a good bridge player. I can’t imagine winning a world pairs without having the skills to match.

  • 35. Bill Jacobs  |  March 30, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Adding to all Cathy’s excellent points:

    1) Suggesting selection is just another case of “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Street” syndrome. You see it all the time.

    2) Selection is just a way to lock up-and-coming players out of progressing.

    3) The selected pairs will get worse, through complacency. It was interesting to note Sartaj’s healthy response to his failed Playoff: back to the system desk.

    All in all, the whole idea is one of the most monumentally stupid concepts ever.

    • 36. phil markey  |  March 30, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      bill i cant believe what i’m reading

      certainly its the first time i have read something you have written and felt comfortable with a view that its nonsense

      “1) Suggesting selection is just another case of “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Street” syndrome. You see it all the time.”

      so when an alternative is put forward to a problem it can always be dismissed as “grass is greener” – i think its completely right that people make the grass is greener mistake all the time but asserting it in this fashion is meaningless and really i can only take it as a bias you have towards change

      “2) Selection is just a way to lock up-and-coming players out of progressing”

      its the opposite – if you had selection then a competant selector would be able to spot fresh talent and give it a shot without that talent having to jump through a bunch of hoops

      “3) The selected pairs will get worse, through complacency. It was interesting to note Sartaj’s healthy response to his failed Playoff: back to the system desk.”

      if you dont perform your not selected – if your complacent your not selected

      so much of what i read as non-sensical responses to this debate are predicated on the notion that you will have an incompetant selector – it wont be an incompetant selector – it will be someone who knows about bridge who knows about australian bridge players and who knows about what is required to make australian teams perform better

      • 37. Bill Jacobs  |  March 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm

        The grass is always greener syndome occurs when something is not going well, and you automatically assume that an alternative must be better.

        It happens when people jump jobs, or switch governments, or change business strategies. It really is very common.

        It can be avoided by thinking through the situation in a logical vulcan-like manner. That’s what Cathy has done here – I am merely supporting her, and adding further arguments.

        When Peter Gill presented his idea to me in Sydney, he stated, without drawing breath (of course!) that he could name the team he would select. It was Del Monte – Fruewirth, Hans – Nunn and either Burgess – Marston or Gill and partner.

        Most would agree with his evaluation of the 3 best pairs in the country, but in naming them like this, he absolutely destroyed his own argument. It would be a clear recipe for stagnation. And moreover, as I pointed out to Peter, as the selector, he would need to hire a bodyguard.

        It’s a bad idea. There are many compelling arguments against it. You have seen them here.

        And in case you think I’m just knee-jerking against change, I would merely note that I was the original author of the points system that was brought into being as an alternative to qualifying playoff teams via the winning teams of particular events. I am not against change per se, but I am against change that doesn’t stand up to analysis.

      • 38. cathychua  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:07 pm

        Why will our selector be competent?

      • 39. phil markey  |  March 31, 2009 at 10:26 am

        “I am not against change per se, but I am against change that doesn’t stand up to analysis.”

        this is going on my tombstone – “Progress , far from consisting of change depends on retentiveness. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”

        i completely agree with your statement bill – what we dont have to argue about is that the past hasnt been great – australia has sent sponsors to represent it – our playoffs have thrown up some teams that simply werent close to the best team but were good enough to win a playoff – decisions about who plays and on what team are left to the vagaries of the playoff point system

        all of these things are fact and have been to the detriment of australias performance in representative bridge

        for what it is worth bill i think the playoff point system is rooted in sound concepts and does ensure some fairness but its results arent good

        changing to a selection method would be radical change – but there is no point describing to someone who hasnt eaten a walnut what a walnut tastes like – you will fail miserably – only way is to eat the walnut

        love a good walnut

      • 40. Bill Jacobs  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:46 pm

        As far as I can tell from your walnut metaphor, you haven’t eaten one either.

        But I have attempted a chemical analysis of your walnut – seems sensible before biting in – which suggests that it will taste awful.


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