MINNESOTA TABLE TALK

April 14 2024
UNIT 103 AWARDS GAME HELD
18 tables of players showed up to honor the Unit 103 Awards winners at the Bridge Center of St Paul on Saturday; a shout-out to Terry Beckman [Brooklyn Park] and John Koch [St Cloud] who bested all comers to win the open crowd.  You can check out all the scores and contracts for the open crowd by clicking here.  In the 499er game, it was Virginia Hughes [St Paul] and Judy Lipovetz [Stillwater] that came in 1st overall.  Scores and results for the 499er game on Saturday can be found by clicking here.  Amy Dutton [Mendota Heights] provided the spread and Sue Greenberg [Byron] oversaw the presentation of the awards.  (Thanks to the BCofSP for hosting - and next up would be Unit 178's Awards, that's on May 11th.  Details in an earlier item below.)  A few snapshots from the game (including the new Diamond Master, Warren Nelson [Cloquet]):
 
 


April 12 2024
GRAND NATIONAL TEAMS FINALS INFO
Keith Thompson [St Paul] has issued the D14 instructions for Grand National Teams play going forward (and heading to Toronto's NABC).  The really good news is that even if you haven't already qualified to play in the semi-finals next month, you still have the opportunity to compete!

The D14 teams semi-finals are on May 4th or 5th, depending on your flight.  There are three ways to qualify to play in these semi-finals on BBO.  Here is how you can get a team together and get in on the action:
 If you played in ANY Grand National Team game, you've qualified to play online the first weekend in May.  Minnesota clubs are also allowed to hold additional GNT games through the end of this month, and if they do, play in it!  You'll be qualified regardless of your finish.  And finally, there is a "buy-in" option.  For an additional $10 per player, even if you have not qualified previously to play in this year's GNT games, you will be allowed to participate online in May.

If you can't remember playing in a GNT game, look for your name on the ACBL's D14 qualifier list by clicking here.
THE NEXT STEP IS REGISTERING YOUR TEAM TO PLAY:
The entry fee to play in D14's GNT Semi-Finals is $120 per team for the two-session contest (or $30 per player).  Send this check, along with any additional $10 buy-in checks (if needed), to:
    Keith Thompson
    1544 Minnehaha Avenue East
    St Paul MN 55106
Be sure to include the names, ACBL numbers, and BBO handles of all team players with your checks.

THEN - THE FUN TAKES PLACE
There are four flights in the Grand National Teams.  Saturday, May 4 at 10am would be the Open Flight (that's open to any team) and the Flight B Swiss (no player with more than 2,500 masterpoints as of November 1, 2023).  The following day, Sunday, May 5 at 10am is the Flight A Swiss (no player with more than 6,000 masterpoints as of November 1, 2023) and the Flight C NLM Swiss (no player with more than 500 masterpoints as of November 1, 2023).

To check out the D14 GNT Conditions of Contest and Keith's original document with the detailed information, click here.  We'll hope to see YOU and your teammates in Toronto at the NABC.

April 9 2024
GOPHER CREW FINISHING STRONG
  Your Gopher Regional crew (headed by Patti Stuhlman [Minneapolis]) met for the "penultimate" time Tuesday afternoon on a zoom meeting call to go over everything in advance of the fun next month.  All of the "i"s are properly getting dotted and all of the "t"s crossed, so everything is "doing pretty well" according to Patti.  Mentioned in the meeting were items including finalizing caddies (paying $100/day), who is likely to be making boards for the tournament, a special appearance at the Gopher this year by Dennis Carman (the head of Region 5!), and the set up of the tables for the big event.

Our DIC (Matt Koltnow) for the Gopher let everyone know the ACBL's COVID policy has completely changed starting May 13th.  No longer will masks be required, no longer are covid vaccinations required, you cannot require your opponents to wear a mask, nor can you put anything on the tournament flyers about COVID, and Safety Event Coordinators (which were required by the ACBL) are no longer.  Hand sanitizers will still be available in the playing area, and people who are not feeling well will still hopefully do the right thing and stay home!  One more meeting next month is scheduled and then the Gopher Regional takes place.  Thanks again to everyone who is helping to put this week of tournament bridge together - it takes a lot of volunteers (and their time) to pull it off.

April 7 2024
SERIOUSLY
How often is the combined ages of the other three players at your bridge table still less than your own age?

(That's Cecilia Ehrlichman [Northfield] as your LHO, Sarah Wahl [Minneapolis] as your partner, and Kyra Helmbold [Northfield] as your RHO, combined ages at the time of this round of bridge: 68.)

April 6 2024
RESULTS FROM THE ROCHESTER SPRING SECTIONAL
110 tables, that's up 1/2 table from last year's Spring Tournament.  109 different players earned some silver masterpoints, and a special shout-out goes to Cindy Balderson [Eden Prairie] and Carole Miner [Rochester], your 2024 Rochester Tournament Co-Champions (their limo back to the Twin Cities escorted them out before we could get a photo - but next time!).

If you would like to see any or all of the results from this tournament, please click here.  And a few photos of the fun from this past week:





April 5 2024
TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD
For players at the Rochester Sectional, two days out of three is showing 97 (!) different players earning masterpoints - with two sessions to go tomorrow.  Here's a look at the "top 40" masterpoint earners so far. 

April 5 2024
UNIT UNIFICATION UPDATE: IT'S ON HOLD
Following separate Unit 178 and Unit 103 board meetings last month, a joint meeting on Unit unification was held yesterday afternoon in Rochester.  Present were Steve Gaynor [Inver Grove Heights], Sue Greenberg [Byron], Tom Botten [Prior Lake], Rajiv Kapadia [Mankato], Matt Belau [Rochester], Keith Thompson [St Paul], Jane Schmidt [St Paul], and Kim Hayward [Bayport].  From the meeting notes: Each unit has the opportunity to dissolve itself and create one unit across all of Minnesota, but at this time neither unit is willing to do so - which means any (offical) unification of the units is on hold.

Despite agreeing to keep the units separate, the consensus among those in the joint meeting was that communication and cooperation between the units has vastly improved over the past couple of years, and it was decided to continue to build on these cooperative efforts.  There is still more work to be done - and while many bridge players may not fully understand (or even care) about these discussions, that's okay as long as it doesn't interfere with their enjoyment of this great game of bridge.  Going forward, that will continue to be the blueprint for your two Minnesota units. . .not to interfere with keeping bridge players happy.  

Here's a friendly reminder if you'd like to get involved with your unit, check with either board president (Steve or Sue) or just let one of your current board members know.  Open board positions are available to be filled - and unit elections are just around the corner.

April 4 2024
SOMETHING OF A PLAYER OUTREACH PROGRAM
Day 1 of Rochester's Spring Sectional is in the books, and already the map of attending players extends into three neighboring states.  Players that competed on Thursday came from North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, in addition to a couple dozen players from the Twin Cities metro area - and of course the locals at the tournament bridge table.  Tables today were up slightly over last year (up +4.1%) - and so far everyone having fun.  To the right is a look at where these day 1 players came from to earn some silver points at the tournament.

One day into the tournament, Tom Botten [Prior Lake] and Joyce Johnson [Prior Lake] lead the pack, having earned 11.70 masterpoints.  Among the Non-Life Master crowd, Arylce Anderson [Mankato] and Judy Jackson [Mankato] are in 1st place with 3.02 masterpoints, and that's with lots of bridge yet to come.
 

April 3 2024
READY TO RECEIVE
A quick tip of the hat to everyone, at every club, that works so hard to keep our bridge games going - and that means clean-up.  Not just post-games, but the seasonal deep clean (as those sticky bidding boxes don't clean themselves).  Here's a few photos of some Rochester DBC members who spent a couple of hours today getting ready to receive players from all over for their sectional tomorrow. . .but this scene isn't limited to Rochester.  Wherever you play bridge, don't forget to thank those that do the hard work (and if you feel so inclined, they'll probably love for you to volunteer and help).


April 2 2024
MILESTONES MILLED IN MINNESOTA'S MARCH
In addition to the two big milestones resulting in two new Diamond Life Masters (see next item below), lots of Minnesota players made achievements this month to keep moving forward.  Here is a look at what our local players achieved in March:
New JUNIOR MASTER:
Aydn Math [Northfield]
Ethan Lynch [St Anthony]

New CLUB MASTER:
Bob Friedhoff [Rochester]
Bridget Gallagher [Blue Earth]
Bob Jessen [Rochester]
Scott Hoversten [Woodbury]
Alan Kasdan [Tucson]
Robert Stark [Mankato]

New SECTIONAL MASTER:
Dennis Hoidal [Columbus]
Teri Kratoska [Rochester]
Marc Anderson [Burnsville]
Robert Engstrom [Minneapolis]
Gary Falkenstein [Rochester]
Stephen Polski [Ham Lake]
Richard Trachy [Golden Valley]
  New REGIONAL MASTER:
Elaine Neithzel [New Ulm]
Dan Ganter [Maple Grove]
Bill Sozansky [Duluth]

New NABC MASTER:
Alicia Dettling [Cannon Falls]
Thomas Kiemen
    [Cottage Grove]
Dan McElroy [Burnsville]

New BRONZE LIFE MASTER:
Catherine Wehrman
    [Shoreview]
Tom Botten [Prior Lake]
Todd Flowerday [Coon Rapids]
Rolf Hubmayr [Minneapolis]
 New SILVER LIFE MASTER:
John Woog [Rochester]
Jerry Bartlett [Lindstrom]

New RUBY LIFE MASTER:
Gerry Keith [Lino Lakes]
Mike Salscheider [Rochester]
Kathleen Bredlie [Surprise]

New GOLD LIFE MASTER:
Andrew Caranicas [St Paul]

New DIAMOND LIFE MASTER:
Warren Nelson [Cloquet]
Jean Boettcher
    [Inver Grove Heights]

April 2 2024
MINNESOTA'S NEWEST SPARKLING DIAMONDS
Congratulations to both Jean Boettcher [Inver Grove Heights] and Warren Nelson [Cloquet] who went over the 5,000 masterpoint level this past month!  Let's get some cake ordered and make the party reservations - as these two both have achieved a terrific milestone on their bridge journey.  Of course, it's not just their regular partners that contributed to their achievement, but all of their opponents had something to do with this IYKWIM.  Well done, Jean and Warren - and when you see either of these two at the bridge table, be sure to give them a thumbs up.
 

April 1 2024
GOODBYE GIRL
By now, many of you have heard that our own Kim Hayward [Bayport] is heading to warmer climes (Scottsdale AZ!) - how hard is it to say goodbye to our favorite ACBL director!?  TERRIBLY hard.  We had some questions for our favorite club manager as we find it difficult to consider the future of Minnesota bridge with the departure of the very glue that holds us together - so we sat down over lunch to chat a bit about how she is doing and her plans for the future:
 
    [Table Talk:] Well, the news is out.  You must be aware that nobody is going to be happy about this.
    [Kim Hayward:] (Laughing) Hey, I'm happy about this!  But I understand how people will react to my departure - it's going to be hard for me to leave Minnesota.  The Bridge Center of St Paul is doing great and the people have been so wonderful.
    [TT:] We know this is something you've been considering for awhile - but it's still got to be tough for you.
    [Kim:] Of course it is.  For awhile now, my partner and I have been considering a warmer climate, and as it turns out, some opportunities just happened to work out that made a move now the right thing for us.
    [TT:] You know this is one of those situations where it's going to be terrible for the rest of us, right?  While at the same time we do hope the best for you.
    [Kim:] Thank you, that's nice of you to say.
    [TT:] You know it's true!  What is your plan for bridge in Scottsdale?
    [Kim:] Besides playing more?  Both Bridge on Shea and InTempo Bridge clubs are looking for directors, and I know a few people at each of those clubs - so I'll probably start at one or both directing some games.  But it will be a nice break from being in charge of running an entire club.  Also, did I mention that it would be warmer?
    [TT:] Right - even though we just had the warmest winter on record in Minnesota!
    [Kim:] I've been here through plenty of winters, but it does seem ironic that this move happens to be taking place following such a mild Minnesota winter.
    [TT:] Tell us more about the timing, and when we will see you again.
    [Kim:] Nothing is happening until next month; I'll be at the BCSP through mid-May, and of course I have a few sectionals to direct before then - and the Gopher!  I'll definitely be at the Gopher this year.
    [TT:] And the goodbye parties?  When do they happen?
    [Kim:] Well. . .I'm trying to discourage any big productions for a party, but Larry [Huiras] is planning something at the club.  Patti Stuhlman has asked me about a reception at the Gopher.  I'm really not that comfortable with people making such a big deal.
    [TT:] That's too bad, since you're such a terrific person and everyone will want to make a big deal out of your departure.  If there was something you wanted to tell bridge players across Minnesota, what would it be?
    [Kim:] (Laughing) Oh, there are a LOT of things I could say right now.  But I guess people should know I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had here - and that there are some really wonderful people in our bridge community.
    [TT:] It won't be the same - I don't suppose we could guilt you into staying in Minnesota?
    [Kim:] Ha! You can try.
    [TT:] Seriously, though, everyone wishes you the best, and we know that our loss is Scottsdale's gain.
    [Kim:] Thank you.  It's definitely been a bittersweet process to come to this decision.  But I'll be around for awhile yet.  And Minnesota bridge (and players) will always have a place in my heart.
Once plans for a farewell get-together are put in place, we'll post them here.  And can we just add our appreciation for everything Kim has done for bridge and for us over the years?  For more details on Kim's departure and a bit more Q and A, click here.

[Ed: If clicking on the link embedded just above is not clue enough, please do take note of the date of this news item at the top.]



March 30 2024
IT'S THE UGLY SIDE OF BRIDGE
The ACBL has gotten their EDGAR program ("Everyone Deserves a Game Above Reproach") up and running which is being used to screen players for cheating (as unfortunately, cheating is a part of this game).  EDGAR got started with a "soft launch" phase (allowing the process to be refined and streamlined) on February 1st of this year.  Having run six weekly runs, EDGAR found that 96 players out of 7,226 were clearly cheating beyond a reasonable doubt.  That doesn't sound like much (less than 1.5% of the screened players), but even 1 cheater out there is 1 too many.  The first 40 cheaters identified were of all masterpoint levels (some 299ers, some with 10,000+ masterpoints, and everything inbetween) - we will see what happens as EDGAR continues to be improved and hopefully, cleaning up this great game you love to play.  You can read more information on this initial launch of EDGAR by clicking here.


March 27 2024
MINNESOTA TOP 100 MASTERPOINT EARNERS
Having gotten a few requests for the "Top 100" players in Minnesota, the ACBL has provided the information for players across our state.  Here are the top masterpoint earners in the latest 12 month period (ending February 6) for 2023:

       

March 25 2024
APRIL SHOWERS BRING BRIDGE PLAYDATES
April is the ACBL's "Charity Fund Month", where lots of games will have extra masterpoints to be earned - plus there's the Rochester Spring Sectional next week, and a Non-Life Master Sectional in St Cloud the last week.  Here's a look at some April schedules from around Minnesota, so you can get out that date book and pencil in a few boards.
  

(And your two tournaments in April that are coming up:)
 

March 22 2024
NOT REALLY MISSING OUR LATEST SPRING SNOW AT ALL
There might still be some snow around for those Minnesota players taking on the rest of the bridge world at the NABC in Louisville KY when they get home - but for now, our recent snowfall is the last thing on their minds!  Minnesota players having fun at the NABC include (going clockwise from the top left photo below): UPPER LEFT:  Gerry Keith [Lino Lakes], Stephanie Steele [St Paul], Amy Dutton [Mendota Heights], and Gregory Dorr [Little Canada] take a break from plotting strategy at this spring's NABC.  UPPER RIGHT:  That's Sandy Johnson [St Cloud] and Nancy Balfanz [St Cloud] checking in at the Galt House in Louisville as they get ready to represent Minnesota in the D14 NAP "C" pairs tomorrow.  LOWER LEFT:  Jim Schnepf [Avon] and Connie Nelson [Avon] taking on "all comers" in the NAP Flight "B" this weekend.  And it's not all playing bridge - there's discussing bridge, as frequently happens when friends get together for dinner out.  LOWER RIGHT:  A mostly St Cloud contingent enjoying dinner out.
 
 

March 18 2024
ACBL: TOURNAMENT COVID INFO NO LONGER RELEVANT
The ACBL's Board of Directors has just voted to eliminate all COVID information for ACBL tournaments (and their flyers) as of May 13, 2024.  What this means for tournament sponsors is that no longer will their schedules have any COVID information on them (vaccination recommended/required/not required, etc).  According to Crystal Mann at the ACBL, tournament flyers that are submitted with any COVID information on them will be asked to remove that information before tournament schedules are approved.  What this means for Minnesota bridge players is that anyone can play in any tournament (although if you're not feeling well, you should still stay home) - and that when tournament sponsors put together their plan for a bridge tournament, keep in mind that masks can still be worn (and available, should a player request the table wear one) - but that COVID vaccinations and their requirements will not be part of the promotion.  (It seems like it's so hard to keep up with their changing policies on COVID, but this sounds like the last change - for now.)

March 15 2024
MINNESOTA PLAYERS REPRESENTING AT THE NABC  [UPDATED]
The NABC is underway at Louisville KY, and Minnesota players are there to "represent"!  Here's a look at masterpoint awards for Minnesota players thus far who were in attendance:

March 12 2024
LONGEST DAY CLUB REGISTRATION DRIVE
Our friend Maura Studer [Minneapolis] with the 2024 Longest Day sends a reminder to Minnesota bridge clubs that now is the time to sign up and participate in the Longest Day games this June.  These games support the Alzheimer's Association; last year ACBL bridged games nationwide raised over $1,000,000.  Closer to home, one of our Minnesota bridge clubs was in the top 40 fundraisers!  Currently, the Mankato, St Cloud, and Rochester clubs have already registered to hold games and fundraise for this very worthy cause in 2024.  Maura's Global Team would like to see more bridge clubs participating in the MN-ND Alzheimer's Association Chapter with the Longest Day - so think about it, and then register your local club by clicking here.

March 12 2024
A FOURTH BRACKET FOR NAP/GNT?
The ACBL's Competition and Conventions Committee is looking at it.  Originally, their proposal was to add a 4th flight to the North American Pairs competition beginning with the NAP season this June; however "IT issues" will prevent this from taking place in 2024.  The current plan sounds as though the new brackets will be Open/6000/3500/750-NLM - which may also be applied to the Grand National Teams competition as well.  The Committee will discuss more on this at the Toronto NABC summer meeting - but with the success of Mid-Flight events (both at a local level and tournament level), a 3500-masterpoint bracket could be a very positive development for these events in encouraging player participation.  Stay tuned.

March 11 2024
NEXT UP: ROCHESTER'S MED CITY SPRING SECTIONAL
  For those of you not heading to the Louisville NABC, you've got a bit of a break in the tournament action here in Minnesota for a couple of weeks - and then it's Rochester's Med City Spring Sectional coming up on April 4 5 6.  The Spring sectional in Rochester features the popular Pair/Team games all three days - along with 499er pairs twice each day.  It'll be held again at St Luke's Episcopal Church on the north side of town - and should be fun.  Click on the flyer to your left to check out more, and we'll see you "down south" in just a few weeks.

March 11 2024
INFLATION HITTING F2F TOURNAMENTS - AGAIN
The costs to host a bridge tournament continue to go up - and not just for the coffee and snacks and other hospitality.  The ACBL is again raising fees for holding a tournament, so if you're planning to have a tournament in the future - your budget will look a bit different.  And if you just plan to show up to a bridge tournament down the road, keep in mind card fees may well be going up to help cover the costs that keep going up.  Here are just some of the latest from the ACBL, effective as of April 1st, 2024 (and that's no April Fool's joke):

    Regional Tournament Sanction Fee:  $5.50 per table (up +7.4%)
    Sectional Tournament Sanction Fee:  $4.00 per table (up +12.4%)
    Surcharge for Sectional Tournament:  $225.00 (up +18.4%)
    Tournament Director, per session:  $240.00 (up +3.9%)

March 10 2024
UNIT 178 AWARDS PARTY SCHEDULED
The West Metro Unit has elected to hold their annual Awards Party at the Bridge Center of St Paul's Roseville location on Saturday, May 11.  There will be a luncheon served, along with the awards presentation, and then a game of bridge (which will be at no cost to the top 3 finishers in each category).  Mark your calendar for the fun and what might be considered a nice warm-up to the Gopher Regional less than two weeks later.

There were lots of close races in Unit 178 this year - you can check out the top 3 players in each category by clicking here.

March 10 2024
LATEST BRIDGE CALENDAR OF EVENTS
A special shoutout to Steve Gaynor [Inver Grove Heights] for updating his latest bridge calendar of events.  Click on the image to the right to enlarge the calendar and open it in a new window - and then get scheduling!  

March 8 2024
BEST OF LUCK TO OUR D14 NAP FINALS PLAYERS
They're heading off to Louisville KY and the NABC next week - to represent D14 in the North American Pairs.  With D14 covering the much of the upper Midwest (the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota), it's impressive that more than half of the D14 finalists heading to the NABC are Minnesotans!  Here is who we'll be watching next week as D14 NAP Finalists:
    Flight "A"
          Richard Freeman [Peru IA] and Peter Wityk [Des Moines IA]
          Jade Barrett [Elk Point SD] and Anne Beaurivage [Lincoln NE]
          Michael and Slywia McNamara [Horace ND]

    Flight "B"
          Mary Wescott [Lakeville] and Kathy LaMere [Minneapolis]
          Gerald Burdeski [Moorhead] and William Swenson [Minneapolis]
          Connie Nelson [Avon] and Jim Schnepf [Avon]
          Gregory Dorr [Little Canada] and Gerry Keith [Lino Lakes]

    Flight "C"
          Rolf Hoyer [Des Moines] and David Nelmark [Urbandale]
          Nancy Balfanz [St Cloud] and Sandra Johnson [St Cloud]
Here's hoping for the best for all the D14 Finalists as they start NABC tournament play on Wednesday.

March 6 2024
GOPHER PR COMMITTEE MEETING UPDATE
  Just 2-1/2 months to the Gopher Regional in Bloomington, and your Gopher Public Relations Committee met again today for a progress update.  In addition to the Gopher PR Chair Connie Nelson [Avon], in on the Zoom meeting were Matt Belau [Rochester], Patti Stuhlman [Minneapolis], Jane Schmidt [St Paul], and Bob Balderson [Eden Prairie].  The upshot from today's meeting is that everything is a go - and all is on track - for successful promotion of the upcoming Regional.  Pianola blasts, an update to the Gopher website, upcoming Lunch 'N' Learn topics (and teachers!) and reaching out to Canadian clubs along with newer players everywhere all were topics covered today. All bridge players across Minnesota should be grateful for these volunteers, working together to promote the May tournament, and by all means if you can give them a shout-out at the Gopher, do so.