31. Bridge: The ACBL exists to manage master points?

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I came across this bridge joke on a new-to-me website about the ACBL and master points– http://acblmasterpoints.com/mpr.htm.

“What does the ACBL call a bridge player who doesn’t care about master points?”
Answer?  “A non-member.”

The website then goes on to declare–“Bottom line, the ACBL exists as an organization primarily because it manages master points.”

Following that depressing message I learned ACBL’s Bridge Bulletin staff had awarded William McKinney,  inventor of master points, 3d place in the organization’s 75th Anniversary list of people most influential “in the organization’s history”–and left out  Vanderbilt!

It was enough to throw up my hands and quit blogging.

It turned out acblmasterpoints.com is a website advocating for reform of master points. The writer makes a persuasive case–he sees disillusionment and disenchantment with current practices that he estimates exists among a third of those engaged in building up masterspoints.

I also came across an old New York Times article which somehow got loose from my research files, “Bridge Nuts, Doubled and Redoubled” by J. Kirk Hale, 1966. It  describes master points back in the 60s. Not a  pretty picture!

I don’t pretend to understand anything about master points and how you earn them–I’m purely a sociable bridge player myself–but just reading the 1966 account of what went on earning master points would surely have disillusioned me!

The article describes “The Chase” after master points in less than flattering terms. Players traveling about seeking easier games, hiring paid partners,  businessmen who put an expert on their payroll just to have a great partner. They quote one saying his Life Master cost him $1000 a point. “Bridge Bums” and “Point Pimps” are terms used.

In 1966, it says, the ACBL recognized 7,236 Life Masters “of which perhaps only half a hundred are truly in the expert class. 99 per cent of the tournaments are won by .05 per cent of the Life Masters.” The summing up in 1966? “If you’re a Life Master you can’t be a very bad player. But you don’t have to be very good either.”

I’ll bet that disillusioned one-third of masterspoints seekers are those who resent when the system gives awards without merit, because it devalues their own.

How much of that 1966 article on masters point is still true today?

And is that all the ACBL is today?  An organization that exists primarily to manage masterspoints?  I always thought it existed as heir to the American Whist Club as well as the traditions and lineage of a couple centuries of whist and bridge-whist.

If it’s truly true–the ACBL’s primary function IS to manage master points–it’s about time some bridge establishment types with vision–great players and teachers–form a parallel bridge organization that represents and promotes and rejoices in aspects of bridge beyond duplicate bridge and master points.
*Fortunately, I’m too old to say disillusioned about anything too long–can’t waste the time! Instead, I dealt at the time of writing this blog with temporary disillusionment by skipping the writing of 2. Sociable Bridge, 3. Ladies Bridge Lunch, and 4. Nonagenarian Notions for blog #31.



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