TRIALS. 10th November

Hi all,

After a fairly unsuccessful year at the zonals held in Egypt, it was felt that we needed to look at our trials format. As a result a 'trials committee' was formed under the chairmanship of Carol Grunder. They were tasked with finding a format that would produce the best possible teams to represent S.A at the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup as well as the Mind Sport Games(Previously known as the Olymics) and the Commonwealth Games. In fact a four year plan is what we had in mind.

The proposal in this PDF file is for eveyone's consideration. I look forward to all your thoughts and comments but the closing date for such interaction is the 30th November 2009 as trials for the Commonwealth games would have to be run at the beginning of February so time is of the essence.

Please take this opportunity of voicing your concerns or suggestions.

I look forward to hearing from you,



  1. Hi Helen

    I object strenuously to the method of selection of the open teams for Bermuda Bowl
    1. The trials committee has proposed a method that allows them to select themselves for the tournament
    2. There is no proposal as to who should select the 'preferred' players list. The trials committee has elected themselves to form this list and then made a proposal that is highly advantageous to themselves.
    3. Bridge is partnership game and there are only 3 established partnerships on the list. Will the players be able to mix and match and still be eligible. There is a serious flaw in the assumption that 2 good players will form a good pair.
    4. Although not stated, there is an idea that some players cannot afford the time off to play in trials. I do not feel that this is valid. None of us is a professional and we have to make sacrifices if we wish to play for our country and use up our vacation leave to do so if necessary. If players do not have the time, they must not represent SA. With BBO it may be possible to play trials over the weekends.
    6. If we are going the route of selection, it would be more transparent and agreeable to aspirant players if a selection committee could be appointed each time to select from those who have entered the trials. Currently the selection panel consists of eligible players only which is manifestly unfair.
    7. I am strongly against relegating the mind sports games to an inferior position where the good players may elect not to represent their country to allow weaker players a chance. We need to consistently show the world that we take bridge seriously and will always produce the best team possible to represent the countrty.

    Bernard Donde

  2. A possibly insurmountable difficulty with the proposed method is determining the 'preferred player' list in a fair and transparent way. To do this, only members who are no longer interested in playing bridge at an international level and who have sufficient bridge skills with continued interest and knowledge of players in local tournaments should be eligible to sit on such a committee so that the selection process can be seen to be fair. I, personally, can only think of 1 or 2 people who might be suitable for this job and others may disagree with my choice. None of those players on the current 'preferred player' list are eligible for this task as they cannot be be impartial. Failure to appoint a fair committee to select the preferred players could lead to accusations against the SABF of racism and favouritism and extreme discontent in the bridge playing community.
    Most of the players on the current 'preferred' list are getting on in years (age 50+ and medically classified as oxygen thieves). There are a few young players waiting in the wings. They need the experience of playing against the 'preferred players' but without there being trials there are very few opportunities for them to do so. It is difficult to assess how good they are and when they will be ready to compete at an international level if they are never given this opportunity. They also need have the opportunity to see how much they need to improve before they will be able to compete at an international level. Most improvements in bridge playing ability occur when we play against players who are better than ourselves. I think young players will be excluded with the current suggestion and will become despondent and possibly give up the game. We need to keep them interested to ensure the future of South African Bridge internationally.

    It is a lot easier to just hold a knockout teams trial than to try overcome these obstacles.The reality is that in some years only 1 team will enter and this will address the time availability problems. This occured in the 1990's and there were no complaints. The best team represented SA and trials were not contested. Availablity problem can also be addressed by giving the selected team a 2 or 3 year tenure, so trials only need to be held every 2nd year or 4th year.

  3. Hi Helen
    Any suggestion involving selection will be long and acrimonious with nearly everyone being right. My understanding of the reason that this process started is because some players do not want to go to World Championships with pairs they consider to be below par. I find it difficult to argue with this as I am in total agreement with them.

    Thus the committee (which I was not invited to join (comment included in case you publish Tim Cope’s “A reasonable point but the committee was available to any/allto serve upon and only a few put their name forward. Am a great believer in “if you want to have a say. Be prepared to serve,else shut up’ with which I agree)) has tried to pick players they consider do not fit into this category. However, as their decisions are subjective, they will always, in someone’s opinion, fail.

    Clearly team trials are the answer. Currently we know one team which will enter, and who the likely winner will be. However, I suspect that their ties to each other are formed by their belief in what the best team will be. Let them play trials against a pair who performs to their standards and those ties will loosen.

    If there are players who will not play in the same team for reasons not related to bridge, it is best that the SABF does not require them to do so. The best players do not necessarily make the best pair and the best pairs do not necessarily make the best team.

    Gordon Driver

  4. Hi all

    I agree with Bernard totally. I cannot understand this nonsense of a "preferred list" and that humans (and not statistics) determine whether you are a regular pair and if you are "good enough" to be eligible.

    What tripe!

    If Castelein wishes to play with Hughes in the trials, let them! Americans, Norwegians, and everyone else forge new partnerships. Why are we different?

    About the "poor performance" in Egypt recently, the answer is so simple: That is how strong South Africa is! "Better" players didn't enter the trials and one pair felt that the Seniors' was the way to go.

    Cross-Imps trials, as we have it, is the best method for S.A. - forget the Australian Butler and other intricasies. We have a small field, and our players can relate to cross-imps.

    Short and sweet: The trials committee must advertise trials, motivate better players to enter, and in that way get the best team to represent S.A. There must be a trials and selection must be done on performance in the trials, as we have it. NO PREFERRED LISTS.

    As Bernard said, the tenure term can be 2 or 3 years. That I don't have a gripe with.

    Finally - what's this about a "coach"? Get the Captain to do what he is supposed to do.


    Sid Ismail

  5. Is any "preferred" player allowed to play with somebody outside of the list? I am ofcourse referring to the 4 'odd bods' out of the 10-or are they forced to make up 2 partnerships? For example, there are 2 players on this list who do not play at a high level at present. If they decide to play trials surely they would be allowed to restart their bridge careers with whovever they choose as partners. And I'm not particularly delighted that the players who have selected themselves could not find one lady player to put on the list!
    All things considered, the best method for TRIALS FORMAT and this is the issue under discussion- we are not discussing the best method of SELECTION - is Team Trials. The 3 pairs who have selected themselves must give up the time to prove that they are our best team & in so doing will stimulate current lesser & younger players not to lose interest so that they may take-over once the 'oxygen thieves' can no longer play.
    Regards Tas Nestoridis

  6. Dear Helen,

    After the fiasco of the ’09 Open & Senior Trials as well as the spectacular lack of success of our Women’s Team in Egypt, it seems to me that the whole question of Representative Teams needs to be addressed from first principles rather than the “same old” ideas put forward by Carol’s “Committee”.

    So first some background, or rather my understanding of the background: -
    1. Two of the best pairs in SA were not prepared to enter the ’09 Open Trials because of financial & time constraints.
    2. Another of the top Pairs was (completely understandably) not prepared to make up a Team with the other entrants in the Trials.
    3. The SABF did not have the guts to cancel the Open Team and instead sent rank beginners.
    4. The SABF allowed themselves to be blackmailed by SASOC on the question of who was eligible to represent SA.
    5. The SABF did not understand that the Systems played in Club, Trial or even Congress are not suitable for International Competition and did not provide appropriate training for any of the first-time Representatives.

    Bearing the above in mind, what therefore are the first principles that I am talking about? They are: -
    1. The need for the best possible Teams in each Category irrespective of financial status.
    2. The need for strong competition for places in each Team.
    3. The need for bringing on future contenders.
    4. The need to coach new Springboks

    It is this last which is the only point proposed by Carol’s “Committee” that I agree with.

    Frankly, I don’t care as to the format of the Trials, as long as there are Trials and they are between Pairs and not between Teams. Let’s admit it, one of the main reasons for the lack of development of top level Bridge in SA is that nobody was able or prepared to challenge the incumbent Team in the days when Trials were held on a Team basis. Team Trials are fine for the US and other major Bridge playing nations, but we just don’t have enough good players to create 2 or 3 competitive Teams.

    Also, I have huge reservations about the use of BBO. Surely every player will have to have an “independent” monitor or observer, and who will monitor the observer or observe the monitor?

    So, what is left? Unlike your other correspondents, I have no problem with the existence of a preferred pool of players for the Open Team, or even with the majority of Carol’s “Committee” putting themselves in that pool, BUT has anyone noticed that there are only 3 Pairs in the Pool and that the other members (except for Donde/Driver) have never even wanted to play with each other? Also, 10 players, of whom 2 are not currently playing, is too small a number. The list is of course, subjective, and I would remove some names and add others, but again Carol does not address financial & time constraints, or the necessity to expand the Pool.


    A. Confirm Trials will be held for all Teams on a Pairs basis, and nobody will be allowed to represent SA without participating.
    B. Expand the Pool List for the Open Team via a Suggestion Box with the final decision resting with the SABF.
    C. Allow the players on the List to play in the Open Trials with anybody they want to irrespective of the number of Masterpoints held by that person.
    D. Cancel entry fees for all players on the List, BUT request those that can to make a voluntary contribution of R1000/R2000 or whatever. Partners of players on the List must pay entry.
    E. I have no answer to the question of time constraints. If you want to represent your country, surely you can give up your holiday.
    F. All entrants to the Trials to be provided with free accommodation by SABF members.

    George Rahr

  7. @ George re BOO. Yes, the observers need observing. If a player wants to play on BBO, then it must happen at a "centre" where there is a tournament director as well as observers.

    I can envisage a tournament similar to the Pioneer played on BBO; or the Medwin. Tacking the Medwin on to another tournament is less satisfactory than playing it on BBO. If the SABF arranged for some non-participants to become very familiar with every pairs system and to commentate when their match is on vu-graph, I think the Medwin would suddenly become a very popular tournament.